The Brothers Karamazov

The Brothers Karamazov

by

Fyodor Dostoevsky

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The Brothers Karamazov: Part 1: Book 1, Chapter 2 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Fyodor abandons three-year-old Dmitri, leaving him in the care of his servant, Grigory. This isn’t out of malice but simply because Fyodor forgets about the boy. So, Dmitri lives with Grigory in the servants’ cottage for nearly a year.
Fyodor was never interested in being a father and left the task of raising his son to his servant simply because he could. Fyodor is indifferent to children probably because he can’t gain anything from them, and is too concerned with his own affairs.
Themes
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Around this time, Adelaida’s cousin Pyotr Alexandrovich Miusov returns from Paris. He has a splendid estate, valued “at about a thousand souls,” which lies just beyond the Karamazovs’ town and borders on the “famous monastery.” After learning of Dmitri’s existence, he expresses interest in taking responsibility for the child’s upbringing and tells Fyodor so. Years later, Pyotr would recall that Fyodor looked at him as though he had no idea there was a child in the house. It’s possible that Fyodor was play-acting, something he was fond of doing, even to his own disadvantage.
The “thousand souls” refer to the number of serfs on the Miusov property. It’s possible, based on what was previously narrated, that Fyodor genuinely had no idea that Miusov had found his son, Dmitri, on the property. Fyodor has no interest in children and, therefore, doesn’t think about them. In a way, it would also have worked to his advantage to play-act ignorance because he would show that he’s incapable of raising Dmitri, leading Miusov to take the boy away.
Themes
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Dmitri is the only one of Fyodor’s three sons who grows up thinking that he’ll come into some property. He never finishes high school and later ends up in military school. Later, he goes to the Caucasus, gets promoted, fights a duel, leads a wild life, and spends a lot of money. He gets to know his father only when he reaches the age of inheritance and tries to settle the question of his property with Fyodor. Dmitri dislikes his father and stayed for only a short time, but he manages to obtain a sum from him and makes a deal concerning future payments from the estate. Fyodor notices, however, that Dmitri has “a false and inflated idea of his property.”
Dostoevsky here establishes Dmitri as different from his brothers due to his sense of entitlement. His background will mirror that of the elder Zosima who, before his death, narrates his early life. Zosima is a parallel figure for Dmitri, highlighting that, under different circumstances, Dmitri may have become a radically different person. However, Dmitri ends up how he is partly as a result of Fyodor’s neglect and his penchant to lie to his son about money.
Themes
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Fyodor senses that Dmitri is frivolous and impatient. He exploits this to his advantage, giving him small sums until, after four years, Dmitri learns that he has received his entire inheritance in cash from Fyodor and might even be indebted to his father. As a result, Dmitri has no right to demand any more money. He is stunned and “suspected a lie or a trick.” This circumstance leads to the catastrophe which forms the subject of the first part of the novel.
Like the shrewd businessman that he is, Fyodor exploited Dmitri’s weaknesses to his own advantage. He gave his son his inheritance and, once that was squandered, provided what Dmitri didn’t know were loans, reaping a financial advantage for himself. Fyodor’s exploitation of his son reveals an absence of paternal love and a willingness to exploit anyone and everyone.
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