The Brothers Karamazov

The Brothers Karamazov

by

Fyodor Dostoevsky

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The Brothers Karamazov: Part 2: Book 5, Chapter 7 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
When Ivan enters the house, Fyodor appears in a 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 up, Fyodor starts wandering through the rooms, trembling in expectation of the secret knocks. Ivan goes to bed around two. He feels, however, an urge “to go downstairs, unlock the door, [and] go out to the servants’ cottage” for the express purpose of beating Smerdyakov. He feels the need to take revenge on someone and even feels hatred for Alexei, in recollection of the day’s conversation.
Fyodor wants to talk to Ivan about going to Chermashnya on his behalf, but he avoids the subject when Ivan enters because he seems vexed. Meanwhile, Fyodor is both anxious for Grushenka’s visit and worried about Dmitri possibly breaking into the house. Ivan’s anger toward Smerdyakov comes from feeling as though the lackey has found out some secret within him. He had this sense earlier, too, when he saw Smerdyakov by the fence.
Themes
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Ivan wakes up the next morning at about seven o’clock. He goes downstairs to have tea. He greets his father “affably” and announces that he’s leaving for Moscow in an hour and “for good.” Fyodor listens but expresses no grief or surprise. He then asks Ivan to stop off at Chermashnya again. Ivan says that he can’t because he has to catch a train. Fyodor insists that he go as a favor to him. He has a woodlot there “on waste lands.” A little merchant named Lyagavy, who calls himself Gorstkin, has come along, he says, and wants to offer eleven thousand for the lot. However, the priest at Ilyinskoye says he’ll only be in Chermashnya for another week.
Ivan’s affable manner seems to make up for his surliness the night before. Ivan resists going to Chermashnya, probably because he’s eager to return to his cosmopolitan life in Moscow and no longer wants anything to do with the chaos within his family. Fyodor’s “woodlot” is the same piece of property that Dmitri claims as his inheritance.
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Ivan suggests that the priest settle things with Lyagavy. Fyodor says that won’t work because the priest “has no eye for business.” Also, Lyagavy is a liar. Ivan says that he has no “eye” either, but Fyodor says that he’ll do fine because he’ll tell him Lyagavy’s “signs.” He tells Ivan to watch the merchant’s “red, ugly, thin little beard.” If it shakes and he looks angry when he talks, then he’s telling the truth. If he strokes his beard with his left hand and chuckles, he’s lying. He says that Ivan should never look into the man’s eyes, which are “murky water.” If Ivan is able to settle with him, Fyodor says, he should send a note “at once.” Ivan should insist on eleven thousand and knock no more than a thousand off of the asking price.
Fyodor figures that the priest, like Alexei, is too indifferent to material things to help him make a good deal. The left hand, or objects on the left, recur throughout the novel. They indicate dishonesty or an allegiance with evil.
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Once again, Ivan says that he has no time, and, once again, Fyodor asks Ivan to do his father a favor. Ivan says that he’ll decide whether or not he’ll go when he sets off on his trip. Fyodor scribbles a note for Ivan to present to Lyagavy. Then the horses are sent for and cognac is served “with a bite to eat.” Fyodor says goodbye to Ivan on 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. While Ivan sits in the carriage, Smerdyakov runs up to smooth out the rug and says that “it’s always interesting to talk with an intelligent man.”
It's possible that Fyodor wants Ivan to perform this task for him because he’s concerned about Dmitri trying to cash in on the property. Fyodor makes the matter seem urgent. Fyodor’s pleasant goodbye to his son is perhaps flattery, but also admiration for his son’s reputation. Smerdyakov’s obsequiousness seems like an attempt to ingratiate himself with Ivan. His last comment will, in hindsight, seem like a form of mockery. He has been assuming a subtext to their conversation—that Ivan is leaving so that Smerdyakov can kill his father—and mockingly compliments Ivan’s intelligence in also seeing this subtext (which Ivan clearly does not).
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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 and is surrounded by coachmen. He haggles with them over a ride to Chermashnya, which is eight miles away by country road. He’ll go in a hired carriage. Ivan then decides not to go to Chermashnya and asks one of them to see Fyodor and tell him that he didn’t go. Ivan gives the man, whose name is Mitri, a tip for this service.
Smerdyakov’s departing words tell Ivan what he wants to hear about himself. However, Smerdyakov will later prove to be much cleverer and more insightful about human character. Smerdyakov knows that Ivan will likely choose not to run his father’s errand. Here, Ivan contrasts with Alexei, who makes it his purpose to fulfill others’ needs.
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Ivan boards the seven o’clock train to Moscow, feeling as though he has left behind “the old world forever.” Then, a feeling of grief overcomes him and he feels that he has acted like “a scoundrel.” He recalls how 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 cry and goes to him. She sees that he hasn’t broken any bones, but he doesn’t regain consciousness and he suffers recurring fits. Fyodor sends for Dr. Herzenstube, who examines Smerdyakov and concludes that he suffered an extraordinary fit. Smerdyakov is put to bed in the cottage, in a small room next to Grigory and Marfa’s. Then, Fyodor learns that Grigory, too, is bedridden. His back has gone out.
For Ivan, it’s a relief to return to Moscow and to be far away from the intrigue in Skotoprigonyevsk. Ironically, his family life in a provincial town is no comfort; he prefers the more hectic nature of Moscow, which is a further indication of how unpleasant his family life is. At the same time, Smerdyakov is plotting the first step in his murder and frame-up. It’s clear that there’s little understanding about epilepsy if Smerdyakov is able to fake a fit and have it mistaken for a major episode. Again, Dostoevsky would have personal experience of this as well, as he himself suffered from epilepsy. Grigory becoming bedridden is then just a lucky turn of fate for the lackey.
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Fyodor still awaits Grushenka’s arrival that evening. He paces the rooms and listens for the knocks. However, he’s also on the alert for the possibility that Dmitri could be watching out for her to knock at the window. Fyodor’s heart is “bathed in [sweet] hopes,” for he is sure that Grushenka will come.
Fyodor’s emotions waver between anticipation of the object of his desire and fear for his violent son. It’s unlikely that he loves Grushenka, but his passion for her is also a life-giving force that contrasts with his imminent death.
Themes
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