The Brothers Karamazov

The Brothers Karamazov

by

Fyodor Dostoevsky

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The Brothers Karamazov: Part 1: Book 3, Chapter 8 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
After the dispute ends, Fyodor 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 that he “[stands] with the men of intelligence,” but that Russia is “all swinishness” due to the prevalence of vice. He talks next about meeting an old man in Mokroye—a sadist—who likes to whip young girls.
This is exemplary of Fyodor’s hypocrisy. Instead of taking responsibility for his vices and how they lead to social detriment, he places the onus onto servants. The anecdote about the old man, whom he compares to the Marquis de Sade, is exemplary of how the upper class abuses the vulnerable for their pleasure.
Themes
Innocence and Guilt Theme Icon
Suffering Theme Icon
Fyodor tells Alexei how he’d like to “put an end to that little monastery of [his].” He argues that there should be an end to mysticism and “all the fools” should be forced to reason. Ivan says that, if the truth is revealed to believers, Fyodor “will be the first to be robbed and then…abolished.” At this, Fyodor decides that it’s probably best for Alexei’s little monastery to stand so that the “intelligent people” (Fyodor is referring to himself and Ivan) can “keep warm and sip cognac.” He surmises that God must have set things up this way on purpose.
Fyodor diminishes the importance of Alexei’s monastery because he dislikes the power that it has both over his son and, formerly, over his second wife. Ivan then reminds Fyodor that the Church is necessary to keep the masses in line so that they won’t rebel against the upper classes (like Fyodor himself). Ivan views the Church cynically, as a necessity for maintaining his own privilege.
Themes
Faith vs. Reason Theme Icon
Morality and Modernization Theme Icon
Fyodor then asks Ivan if there is a God. Ivan says that there isn’t. He then poses the question to Alexei, who says that there is a God. Fyodor then asks if there is immortality. Ivan says there isn’t, while Alexei says there is. Fyodor concludes that Ivan is more likely to be right and that people have expended “energy of all kinds” on a dream. Fyodor then asks Ivan if there’s a devil, and he says that there isn’t one.
Fyodor seems to be intentionally pointing out the contrasts between his sons, perhaps even to instigate a conflict between the brothers for his amusement. Ivan’s response about the devil is a bit of foreshadowing, because later in the novel, he encounters the very creature in which he doesn’t believe.
Themes
Faith vs. Reason Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
Fyodor says that hanging would be too good for the man who invented God. Ivan insists that there wouldn’t be civilization without God. Fyodor apologizes to Alexei for being rude to the elder Zosima earlier, chalking his behavior up to excitement. He commends Zosima’s wit but proceeds to lie about how the elder doesn’t really believe in God and is actually “a sensualist.” Ivan announces that he’ll leave because “the drink is acting up” in his father. Fyodor then asks Ivan to go to Chermashnya “for a day or two” so that Fyodor can show him “a young wench there.” He insists that there’s “something extremely interesting in every woman, something that’s not to be found in any other.”
Fyodor establishes his atheism by saying that someone “invented God.” Ivan is also an atheist but, unlike his father, believes that the invention of God has a purpose. It seems, too, that Ivan might actually believe in God, but may choose atheism out of discontent with the world that God has created. Fyodor’s effort to tempt Ivan with a woman mirrors his alleged assessment of Lizaveta while watching her sleep with his drunken friends.
Themes
Faith vs. Reason Theme Icon
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Soon thereafter, a “clamor” comes from the front hall along with some “furious shouting.” The door opens and Dmitri rushes into the room. Fyodor goes to Ivan “in terror,” clutching at him for safety. He's afraid that Dmitri has come to kill him.
The father-son romantic rivalry is incongruous and somewhat incestuous, because both relations are sharing a love object.
Themes
Jealousy and Envy Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon