The Brothers Karamazov

The Brothers Karamazov

by

Fyodor Dostoevsky

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Pavel Fyodorovich Smerdyakov Character Analysis

The probable son of Fyodor Pavlovich Karamazov and the local “holy fool,” Lizaveta Smerdyashchaya, nicknamed “Stinking Lizaveta.” He is the probable half-brother of Dmitri, Ivan, and Alexei. His name, which means “son of the stinking one,” refers both to his mother, who was an unwashed itinerant, and to his father, who has a dishonorable reputation. He is attentive to his appearance, in what may partly be an effort to distance himself from his mother’s unsavory reputation. He suffers from epilepsy (like Dostoevsky himself) and works as Fyodor Pavlovich’s cook. Despite Smerdyakov’s lowly position, Fyodor is attentive to the boy, mainly due to his illness. He also trusts Smerdyakov and allows him access to a library that Fyodor has never used. After Fyodor’s death and Smerdyakov’s struggle with illness after a particularly bad epileptic fit, he moves in with Maria Kondratievna. Smerdyakov is misanthropic, devious, and spiteful, probably due to the rumors surrounding his birth and never having been acknowledged as Fyodor’s son. He is methodical and far more intelligent and perceptive than anyone, particularly Ivan, gives him credit for being. He confesses to Ivan that he was the one who murdered Fyodor after Dmitri had already run out of his father’s house. He bludgeoned Fyodor over the head with the cast-iron paperweight on Fyodor’s desk. Smerdyakov later hangs himself in Maria Kondratievna’s home.

Pavel Fyodorovich Smerdyakov Quotes in The Brothers Karamazov

The The Brothers Karamazov quotes below are all either spoken by Pavel Fyodorovich Smerdyakov or refer to Pavel Fyodorovich Smerdyakov. 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:
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). 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 11, Chapter 8 Quotes

“He ran there, went up to the window […] ‘Grushenka,’ he called, ‘Grushenka, are you here?’ He called her, but he didn’t want to lean out the window, he didn’t want to move away from me […] because he was very afraid of me [….] ‘But there she is,’ I said (I went up to the window and leaned all the way out), ‘there she is in the bushes, smiling to you, see?’ He suddenly believed it, he just started shaking, because he really was very much in love with her, sir, and he leaned all the way out the window. Then I grabbed that same cast-iron paperweight, the one on his desk […] and I swung and hit him from behind on the top of the head with the corner of it.”

Page Number: 629
Explanation and Analysis:
Part 4: Book 12, Chapter 5 Quotes

“‘The thing is that I am precisely in my right mind...my vile mind, the same as you, and all these m-mugs!’ he suddenly turned to the public. ‘A murdered father, and they pretend to be frightened,’ he growled with fierce contempt. ‘They pull faces to each other. Liars! Everyone wants his father dead. Viper devours viper…If there were no parricide, they’d all get angry and go home in a foul temper…Circuses! ‘Bread and circuses!’ […] Calm yourselves, I’m not mad, I’m simply a murderer! […] I have no witnesses. That dog Smerdyakov won’t send you evidence from the other world…in an envelope. You keep asking for envelopes, as if one wasn’t enough. I have no witnesses…except one, perhaps [….] He’s got a tail, Your Honor, you’d find him inadmissible! Le diable n’existe point!

Part 4: Book 12, Chapter 12 Quotes

“I visited Smerdyakov [….] His health was weak […] but his character, his heart—oh, no, he was not at all such a weak man as the prosecution has made him out to be. I especially did not find any timidity in him [….] As for guilelessness, there was nothing of the sort […] I found a terrible mistrustfulness in him, behind a mask of naivety, and a mind capable of contemplating quite a lot.”

Page Number: 738
Explanation and Analysis:

“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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Pavel Fyodorovich Smerdyakov Character Timeline in The Brothers Karamazov

The timeline below shows where the character Pavel Fyodorovich Smerdyakov appears in The Brothers Karamazov. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Part 1: Book 2, Chapter 6: Why Is Such a Man Alive!
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...elder’s hand and then apologizes for being so late. Dmitri says that his father’s servant Smerdyakov told him the appointment would be at one. Dmitri then turns to his father and... (full context)
Part 1: Book 3, Chapter 1: In the Servants’ Quarters
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...living there. Three servants live in the cottage: the elderly Grigory, his wife Marfa, and Smerdyakov, who is a young man. (full context)
Part 1: Book 3, Chapter 2: Stinking Lizaveta
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...baby and named him Pavel Fyodorovich, which Fyodor found amusing. Grigory then invented the surname Smerdyakov, after the boy’s mother, Lizaveta Smerdyashchaya. The child became Fyodor’s second servant and was employed... (full context)
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The narrator believes that he ought to say more about Smerdyakov but is “ashamed” to distract the reader with details about “such ordinary lackeys.” He assumes... (full context)
Part 1: Book 3, Chapter 5: The Confession of an Ardent Heart. “Heels Up”
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...a red ribbon.” The money is for Grushenka. Dmitri says that no one, other than Smerdyakov, “whose honesty [Fyodor] trusts like himself,” knows that he has the money. (full context)
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...staying in “a closet” that a former fellow soldier, Foma, rents out in a brothel. Smerdyakov knows that Dmitri is staying in the brothel and will tell him if Grushenka goes... (full context)
Part 1: Book 3, Chapter 6: Smerdyakov
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Fyodor notes that Smerdyakov, whom he calls “Balaam’s ass,” has started to talk and is quite a talker. Smerdyakov... (full context)
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Grigory taught Smerdyakov how to read and write using the Scriptures. During the second or third lesson, Smerdyakov... (full context)
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Fyodor also forbade further instruction. Then, one day, when Smerdyakov was about fifteen, Fyodor notices the teenager “loitering by the bookcase and reading the titles... (full context)
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Grigory and Marfa notice that, at dinner, Smerdyakov has become particularly discerning and studies his food before eating it. This prompts Fyodor to... (full context)
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Smerdyakov seems to hate women as much as men. He also seems to be having more... (full context)
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Fyodor is convinced of Smerdyakov’s honesty. Once, when he dropped three hundred-rouble bank notes in the mud of his yard,... (full context)
Part 1: Book 3, Chapter 7: Disputation
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Smerdyakov tells Grigory and Fyodor about a Russian soldier who was captured by Asians and forced... (full context)
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Smerdyakov says that, if he were taken captive, he would renounce his faith by his “own... (full context)
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Smerdyakov insists that renouncing his faith would be “a little sin” and “a rather ordinary one.”... (full context)
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Smerdyakov argues that no one in their time, “except maybe one person on the whole earth,... (full context)
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Fyodor shrieks for Smerdyakov to stop speaking so that he can ask him if he really believes that there... (full context)
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Smerdyakov agrees that faith may be “tantamount” and that, if one believes, it would be truly... (full context)
Part 1: Book 3, Chapter 8: Over the Cognac
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...sends the servants out. He goes on to say that, “generally speaking,” Russian peasants like Smerdyakov “should be whipped.” He concludes that peasants are “cheats” and unworthy of pity. Fyodor says... (full context)
Part 1: Book 3, Chapter 9: The Sensualists
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Grigory and Smerdyakov run back into the room, after having struggled with Dmitri in the front hall to... (full context)
Part 2: Book 4, Chapter 2: At His Father’s
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...find his father sitting alone at his table, “in his slippers and an old coat.” Smerdyakov, too, went out to buy groceries for dinner, so the old man is “quite alone... (full context)
Part 2: Book 5, Chapter 2: Smerdyakov with a Guitar
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...a verse “in a sweet falsetto.” Then, a female voice speaks. Alexei realizes that it’s Smerdyakov and that the lady must be “the daughter of the house” from Moscow, Maria Kondratievna.... (full context)
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Smerdyakov tells Maria Kondratievna how verse is “nonsense” because no one talks in rhymes. She praises... (full context)
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Alexei sneezes, causing Smerdyakov and Maria Kondratievna to go quiet. Alexei gets up and walks toward them. He asks... (full context)
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Smerdyakov says that Dmitri twice threatened him with death. Maria Kondratievna says that, the other day,... (full context)
Part 2: Book 5, Chapter 6: A Rather Obscure One for the Moment
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...of mind.” Glancing at the gate from some distance away, he realizes what’s bothering him: Smerdyakov, who’s sitting on a bench by the gate. Ivan looks at him and feels that... (full context)
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Ivan wants to curse Smerdyakov but, instead, asks him if Fyodor is “asleep or awake.” He’s asleep, Smerdyakov says. The... (full context)
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Ivan assures Smerdyakov that Dmitri’s threats are “just passionate talk,” and that he won’t kill anyone. Smerdyakov fears... (full context)
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Smerdyakov says that he told Dmitri about the signals when he threatened to break Smerdyakov’s legs... (full context)
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Ivan calls Smerdyakov’s speech “drivel” for how neatly he thinks everything will come together. Ivan then asks why... (full context)
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Ivan says that Dmitri wouldn’t steal money. Smerdyakov reminds Ivan that Dmitri’s broke. Furthermore, he considers that three thousand roubles to be his... (full context)
Part 2: Book 5, Chapter 7: “It’s Always Interesting to Talk with an Intelligent Man”
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...hurry to tell him something. However, Fyodor then turns and disappears back up the stairs. Smerdyakov says that he’s angry about something. Half an hour later, after the house is locked... (full context)
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...the porch and asks if he’ll return, because he’ll always be glad to see him. Smerdyakov, Grigory, and Marfa also come out to say goodbye. Ivan gives them each ten roubles.... (full context)
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The carriage races off. Ivan finds that he feels very good. He wonders what Smerdyakov meant with his parting words. The carriage pulls up to Volovya station. Ivan gets out... (full context)
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...happy his father was with his decision just hours before. Meanwhile, back at the house, Smerdyakov goes to the cellar for something and falls from the top step. Marfa hears his... (full context)
Part 3: Book 8, Chapter 3: Gold Mines
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...to a young official for ten roubles. Dmitri then goes to Fyodor’s gazebo, looking for Smerdyakov. Finally, he goes next door to Maria Kondratievna’s, where he hears about Smerdyakov’s illness. He... (full context)
Part 3: Book 8, Chapter 4: In the Dark
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...his mind. He reaches out and taps out the signal agreed upon between Fyodor and Smerdyakov: twice slowly and three more times, quickly. This signal means that Grushenka has arrived. Fyodor... (full context)
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Just then, Grigory wakes up, feeling a pain in the small of his back. Smerdyakov “lay in the next room without moving” and Marfa Ignatievna is also still. Grigory remembers... (full context)
Part 3: Book 9, Chapter 2: The Alarm
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...really was murdered and robbed at his home. Marfa Ignatievna woke up and rushed to Smerdyakov, who was “struggling and gasping horribly.” When she called Grigory, she realized that he wasn’t... (full context)
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...Fyodor’s home, with the object of doing an autopsy. However, he becomes more interested in Smerdyakov’s condition, noting how strange it is for “severe and protracted fits” to recur “uninterruptedly over... (full context)
Part 3: Book 9, Chapter 5: The Third Torment
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...when he ran out of it. Moreover, the signals were known only by him and Smerdyakov and Fyodor wouldn’t have opened the door for anyone else. (full context)
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...were signals to alert Fyodor to Grushenka’s arrival. The prosecutor then offers the possibility that Smerdyakov committed the crime. Dmitri refuses to acknowledge the possibility that Smerdyakov is guilty. Nikolai Parfenovich... (full context)
Part 3: Book 9, Chapter 6: The Prosecutor Catches Mitya
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...say that they didn’t find any money inside. Suddenly, Dmitri cries out that it was Smerdyakov who committed the murder and robbery. Dmitri asserts that he’s seeing the envelope now for... (full context)
Part 4: Book 10, Chapter 4: Zhuchka
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...Alexei the story of how he befriended Ilyusha. He also talks about how Ilyusha befriended Smerdyakov, who taught Ilyusha the nasty trick of taking a soft piece of bread, sticking a... (full context)
Part 4: Book 11, Chapter 1: At Grushenka’s
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What really torments Grushenka is what will happen tomorrow at Dmitri’s trial. She’s certain that Smerdyakov killed Fyodor but bets that no one has questioned him. Alexei says that he has,... (full context)
Part 4: Book 11, Chapter 5: Not You! Not You!
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...says he’s confident that Katerina will testify honestly. She says that she’s been to see Smerdyakov, whom Ivan told her is “a parricide.” Ivan prepares to leave, but she sends Alexei... (full context)
Part 4: Book 11, Chapter 6: The First Meeting with Smerdyakov
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This is the third time that Ivan has gone to talk to Smerdyakov since returning from Moscow. Ivan returned to town five days after his father’s death. On... (full context)
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Ivan asked if Smerdyakov foretold that he would have a falling fit as he was descending into the cellar.... (full context)
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Ivan then asked why Smerdyakov wanted him to go to Chermashnya. Smerdyakov said that he said it only out of... (full context)
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Ivan asked if Smerdyakov told the district attorney and prosecutor about the knocking signals. Smerdyakov said that he did.... (full context)
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Ivan rose and said that he didn’t believe that Smerdyakov committed the murder. He thought it ridiculous even to accuse the lackey. He bade Smerdyakov... (full context)
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...his brother began to shun and dislike him. Ivan then made his way back to Smerdyakov’s. (full context)
Part 4: Book 11, Chapter 7: The Second Visit to Smerdyakov
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Smerdyakov has been discharged from the hospital. He lives with Maria Kondratievna and her mother now.... (full context)
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Smerdyakov says that Ivan knew that Fyodor would be killed and “left him then as a... (full context)
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Smerdyakov says that he stopped Ivan at the gate to test him on whether or not... (full context)
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...insists that, if he had been “counting on” anyone to commit murder, it would’ve been Smerdyakov. Smerdyakov agrees that Ivan was counting on him and, for that reason, made his feelings... (full context)
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Ivan leaves Smerdyakov and goes to Katerina Ivanovna’s. He frantically tells her about the conversation he just had.... (full context)
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...Ivan the letter, proving that Dmitri was the murderer. She also claimed that she visited Smerdyakov, which prompts Ivan to wonder what the lackey told her. Ivan decides to go to... (full context)
Part 4: Book 11, Chapter 8: The Third and Last Meeting with Smerdyakov
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On his way, to see Smerdyakov, Ivan comes across a drunk peasant who is singing loudly. The peasant collides with Ivan... (full context)
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When Ivan arrives, Maria Kondratievna tells him that Smerdyakov is very sick. She assures Ivan that Smerdyakov isn’t “violent” but “very quiet.” When Ivan... (full context)
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Ivan goes cold and begins shivering. He asks if Smerdyakov killed Fyodor. Smerdyakov pulls his left leg up and rolls up the trouser leg. Underneath,... (full context)
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Ivan asks Smerdyakov for details about how he committed the murder. Smerdyakov admits that he faked the falling... (full context)
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When Smerdyakov heard Fyodor cry out, he laid in bed, waiting. Then, he went to Fyodor’s window... (full context)
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Smerdyakov wiped the paperweight off, put it back, took the money, and dropped the envelope to... (full context)
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Ivan says that he and Smerdyakov must go to court and confess everything. Smerdyakov refuses and says that, if Ivan confesses,... (full context)
Part 4: Book 11, Chapter 9: The Devil. Ivan Fyodorovich’s Nightmare
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...has disappeared. Ivan is now convinced that he wasn’t dreaming. It’s Alexei at the window. Smerdyakov, he says, has hanged himself. (full context)
Part 4: Book 11, Chapter 10: “He Said That!”
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Smerdyakov left a note, saying, “I exterminate my life by my own will and liking, so... (full context)
Part 4: Book 12, Chapter 1: The Fatal Day
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...including Pyotr Alexandrovich Miusov, who is in Paris, Madame Khokhlakov, Maximov, who is ill, and Smerdyakov, who is dead. Most people don’t yet know about his suicide. The prosecutor asks Dmitri... (full context)
Part 4: Book 12, Chapter 2: Dangerous Witnesses
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...him in the face, but he forgave him for that a long time ago. Regarding Smerdyakov, Grigory crosses himself and says that he was “a capable fellow but stupid and oppressed... (full context)
Part 4: Book 12, Chapter 4: Fortune Smiles on Mitya
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...true, because he’s sure that Dmitri didn’t kill their father. Alexei says that he believes Smerdyakov is the murderer, due to Dmitri’s words and the look on his face, assuring Alexei... (full context)
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...an envelope with money but never saw it. The “villain” to whom she refers is Smerdyakov. She insists that the lackey killed Fyodor, though she has no grounds for her accusation.... (full context)
Part 4: Book 12, Chapter 5: A Sudden Catastrophe
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...asks how he could’ve gotten that same money. Ivan says that he got it from Smerdyakov the day before. He then says that it was the lackey who killed Fyodor, on... (full context)
Part 4: Book 12, Chapter 8: A Treatise on Smerdyakov
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On the subject of Smerdyakov, Ippolit Kirillovich says that Dmitri was the first to cry out that the lackey was... (full context)
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...Kirillovich then encourages everyone to “lay aside psychology” and focus on the facts. How would Smerdyakov have killed Fyodor? Alone or with Dmitri? He says that it’s possible that Smerdyakov pretended... (full context)
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...the envelope was found on the floor. No sensible and calculating robber-murderer—what some are saying Smerdyakov was—would have left it behind. Finally, the prosecutor asserts that Dmitri didn’t check on Grigory’s... (full context)
Part 4: Book 12, Chapter 11: There Was No Money. There Was No Robbery
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...the money ever existed. People knew about the money but never saw it. If, as Smerdyakov claimed, the money was under the mattress, how would the defendant have pulled it out... (full context)
Part 4: Book 12, Chapter 12: And There Was No Murder Either
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So, who killed Fyodor Karamazov? Fetyukovich admits that Ivan Karamazov is ill. Still, he uttered Smerdyakov’s name, and the prosecutor doesn’t think that the lackey should be dismissed as a suspect.... (full context)
Part 4: Book 12, Chapter 14: Our Peasants Stood Up for Themselves
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...accused of inventing novels, but that’s just what the defense has done. Fetyukovich has turned Smerdyakov into a “Byronic hero,” avenging himself on society for casting him down and out. Also,... (full context)
Epilogue, Chapter 2: For a Moment the Lie Became Truth
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...for him to be placed apart from the convicts. He is in the same room Smerdyakov occupied. Alexei walks in and finds Dmitri sitting on a cot, wearing a hospital robe.... (full context)
Epilogue, Chapter 3: Ilyushechka’s Funeral. The Speech at the Stone
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...a handshake. He then asks Alexei if Dmitri is innocent or guilty. Alexei insists that Smerdyakov killed his father. Smurov is there, too, and says he agrees. Kolya says that he... (full context)