Welcome to the LitCharts study guide on Fyodor Dostoevsky's The Brothers Karamazov. Created by the original team behind SparkNotes, LitCharts are the world's best literature guides.
The Brothers Karamazov: Introduction
The Brothers Karamazov: Plot Summary
The Brothers Karamazov: Detailed Summary & Analysis
The Brothers Karamazov: Themes
The Brothers Karamazov: Quotes
The Brothers Karamazov: Characters
The Brothers Karamazov: Symbols
The Brothers Karamazov: Theme Wheel
Brief Biography of Fyodor Dostoevsky
Historical Context of The Brothers Karamazov
Other Books Related to The Brothers Karamazov
- Full Title: The Brothers Karamazov
- When Written: 1870s
- Where Written: St. Petersburg, Russia
- When Published: The first installment was published on February 1, 1879.
- Literary Period: The Golden Age of Russian Literature; Realism
- Genre: Realism, nineteenth-century fiction, psychological fiction
- Setting: Skotoprigonyevsk, Russia; Mokroye, Russia
- Climax: Fyodor Karamazov is found bludgeoned to death.
- Antagonist: Pavel Fyodorovich Smerdyakov
- Point of View: Third-person omniscient
Extra Credit for The Brothers Karamazov
Ecclesiastical Courts. In The Brothers Karamazov, Ivan Fyodorovich writes an article on ecclesiastical courts, which was popular in Russia in the 1870s. The responsibility of the courts, which held jurisdiction among “fallen Christians” in both the clergy and among the laity, was to identify a person’s sins, admonish the sinner, return them to a righteous path, and, if this failed, to excommunicate them. Ecclesiastical courts had only moral authority and could not withdraw political or civil rights. Such courts are found today among those of Jewish, Muslim, and Christian faith but they deal strictly with administrative issues, such as the maintenance of clerical property.
St. Isaac the Syrian. Ivan notices a thick, yellow book on the table when he enters Smerdyakov’s room at Maria Kondratievna’s home: The Homilies of Our Father among the Saints, Isaac the Syrian. St. Isaac was known for rejecting worldly possessions. In an ironically similar move, Smerdyakov gives Ivan Karamazov the three thousand rubles that he stole from Fyodor Karamazov, declaring that he has given up his dream of leaving town and, therefore, no longer has any use for the money. His action mirrors St. Isaac’s refusal of money to help him build a monastery. When asked why he declined the money, St. Isaac replied that “a monk who acquires possessions is no longer a monk.”