Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The Brothers Karamazov Part II

As part of a Readalong, this post will discuss details that might be considered spoilers if you haven't read this book yet.  However, I don't think anything here in Part II was even remotely spoiler-alert-worthy!  So read on, or (more likely), scroll right on past in your Reader. ;-).
I did not find Part II quite as captivating as Part I, as both the narrator and Fyodor Pavlovich move into the background and much of the comic element is on hold.  I'm wondering if there will be a return to the humor in the last two parts.  "The Grand Inquisitor" was an uphill climb for me--for some reason I felt very impatient with this part and wanted to move on.  When I hit the chapters about Zosima's history (I had to look twice to convince myself that the print wasn't actually smaller in this section!) I was a bit apprehensive, but ended up enjoying it and appreciating many of the quotes, like this thought about prayer:
"Each time you pray, if you do so sincerely, there will be a flash of new feeling in it, and a new thought as well, one you did not know before, which will give you fresh courage; and you will understand that prayer is education" (318).
And this one about materialism:
"They have succeeded in amassing more and more things, but have less and less joy" (314).
He did seem to get quite a bit more mystical towards the end of the things he shared with the other monks, and it was hard for me to read his optimism about mankind towards then end.  Perhaps I'm a cynic at heart.

Some of the characters were explored in greater depth in this section.  While I liked Alyosha in the beginning, I have more respect for him now.  He shows an innate understanding of human nature when he interacts with the boys who are throwing stones, and at times in his "relationship" with Liza, with the exception of the awkward betrothal scene.  I  admired his faith in the face of Ivan's atheistic ramblings.  Ivan seemed a little stand-offish to me in the beginning, so his warmth towards Alyosha surprised me.  His view of the world is pretty bleak, and his doubt in the existence of God seems to stem from the often asked question of how God could allow such suffering, especially when it comes to children.  He has arrived at the conclusion that there is no God, because it makes more sense to him. 

One idea that keeps popping up is the idea that as an individual, we should take upon us the guilt of all of mankind:
"There is only one salvation for you:  take yourself up, and make yourself responsible for all the sins of men. . .The moment you make yourself sincerely responsible for everything and everyone, you will see that it is really so, that it is you who are guilty on behalf of all and for all"(page 320)
This idea is just not sinking in for me.  I closest I can get to comprehending it is Jesus' teachings:  "Judge that ye be not judged" and "He that is without sin cast the first stone."  I'm going to have to think about this more, although the whole idea sounds like something that would send me right into therapy!

Stay tuned for more ramblings about Part III of this hefty specimen of Russian Literature.  


  1. I found Part 2 more than a little tedious (it made me smile when you said you had to check if the print didn't get a bit smaller!); Part 3 is much more exciting. Be on the lookout for who killed the father!

  2. I love this readalong; I've seen it on a bunch of blogs and it's so much fun reading all your thoughts about the book. :-)

  3. I quite enjoyed this when I read it in college. It made me feel all scholarly ;)

  4. I'm going to attempt this book later this year ... I'm sure I'll be back to "read along" with you when I do!!! : )

  5. Whew, I'm totally intimidated by this book!