The Brothers Karamazov

The Brothers Karamazov

by

Fyodor Dostoevsky

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Lizaveta Smerdyashchaya (“Stinking Lizaveta”) Character Analysis

Nicknamed “Stinking Lizaveta,” Lizaveta is “a holy fool” and a mute. The mother of Smerdyakov, Lizaveta (who has no surname) is described as having been very short—“a wee bit under five feet”—with a “healthy, broad, and ruddy” face that looked “completely idiotic.” In the summer and winter, she went barefoot, wearing only “a hempen shift.” In every instance in which others tried to clothe Stinking Lizaveta, she went somewhere, usually to the porch of the cathedral church, and removed the garments they had given her. She had extremely thick hair, as curly as sheep’s wool, that was nearly black and always dirty “with earth and mud,” “little leaves, splinters, and shavings stuck to it,” due to sleeping on the ground. By the time she was twenty years old, her mother had been long dead and her father was a homeless and sickly failed tradesman named Ilya, who drank heavily and worked sparingly for “well-to-do middle-class families as some sort of handyman.” Stinking Lizaveta’s pregnancy resulted from a drunken encounter with Fyodor Pavlovich. She dies soon after giving birth to Smerdyakov.

Lizaveta Smerdyashchaya (“Stinking Lizaveta”) Quotes in The Brothers Karamazov

The The Brothers Karamazov quotes below are all either spoken by Lizaveta Smerdyashchaya (“Stinking Lizaveta”) or refer to Lizaveta Smerdyashchaya (“Stinking Lizaveta”). For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Faith vs. Reason Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Farrar, Straus and Giroux edition of The Brothers Karamazov published in 1990.
Part 4: Book 12, Chapter 12 Quotes

“I gathered some information: he hated his origin, was ashamed of it, and gnashed his teeth when he recalled that he was ‘descended from Stinking Lizaveta.’ He was irreverent towards the servant Grigory and his wife, who had been his childhood benefactors. He cursed Russia and laughed at her. He dreamed of going to France and remaking himself as a Frenchman. He used to talk about it often and said that he only lacked the means to do so. It seems to me that he loved no one but himself, and his respect for himself was peculiarly high [….] Considering himself (and there are facts to support it) the illegitimate son of Fyodor Pavlovich, he might very well detest his position as compared with that of his master’s legitimate children: everything goes to them […] to them all the rights, to them the inheritance, while he is just a cook.”

Page Number: 738
Explanation and Analysis:
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Lizaveta Smerdyashchaya (“Stinking Lizaveta”) Character Timeline in The Brothers Karamazov

The timeline below shows where the character Lizaveta Smerdyashchaya (“Stinking Lizaveta”) appears in The Brothers Karamazov. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Part 1: Book 3, Chapter 1: In the Servants’ Quarters
Suffering Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
...opened the door to the bathhouse and found the local “holy fool,” known as “Stinking Lizaveta.” She had gotten into the house, where she gave birth to an infant. She didn’t... (full context)
Part 1: Book 3, Chapter 2: Stinking Lizaveta
Suffering Theme Icon
Stinking Lizaveta was a very small girl, only twenty years old, with a “healthy, broad, ruddy” and... (full context)
Suffering Theme Icon
People made efforts to clothe Lizaveta and, after her father died, she became even dearer to the public. No one teased... (full context)
Innocence and Guilt Theme Icon
Suffering Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
...“bright and warm September night, under a full moon,” a bunch of drunken men found Lizaveta lying near a wattle fence, in “nettles and burdock.” One of them looked down at... (full context)
Innocence and Guilt Theme Icon
Suffering Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
...was that, five or six months later, the whole town was wondering who had impregnated Lizaveta. The rumor spread that Fyodor was the culprit. Grigory stood up for his master against... (full context)
Innocence and Guilt Theme Icon
Suffering Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
After giving birth, Lizaveta died “towards morning.” Grigory took the infant into the servant’s cottage. He saw the newborn... (full context)
Part 3: Book 9, Chapter 2: The Alarm
Innocence and Guilt Theme Icon
Suffering Theme Icon
...no answer, but heard some groans from the garden. The sounds reminded her of Stinking Lizaveta’s visit to the garden years before. Marfa saw that the garden gate was open. Suddenly,... (full context)