The Brothers Karamazov

The Brothers Karamazov

by

Fyodor Dostoevsky

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The Brothers Karamazov: Part 3: Book 9, Chapter 5 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Dmitri recounts the story of how he arrived at his father’s house. When he gets to the point of seeing his father leaning his head out the window, he says that he took the pestle from his pocket. The district attorney asks him what happened next. Dmitri offers that he smashed the old man on the head, and he’s saying this—not because it happened—but because it’s what the authorities want to hear. In his version, Dmitri ran to the fence. Fyodor saw him, cried out, and jumped back from the window. Grigory then caught up with him at the fence.
In the section of the novel that deals with the story of the murder, Dostoevsky highlights how there are multiple narratives and that all of the narratives are valid, in a way, because everyone experienced this event in their own way. This is a very modern technique, and one of many ways that Dostoevsky was such a literary innovator and influencer of other writers. Dmitri decides to contribute the narrative that the authorities would prefer, figuring that they will not believe in what he actually did.
Themes
Innocence and Guilt Theme Icon
The prosecutor Ippolit Kirillovich asks Dmitri if he noticed that the door to the garden was open. Dmitri says it wasn’t. He asks if the authorities found the door open, and they say they did. The prosecutor says that the murderer went in through that door and left the same way. It’s clear to the investigators that the murder took place in the room and not through the window. Dmitri is shocked because he distinctly remembers the door being shut when he was in the garden and 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.
The question regarding the garden door is key to the perception of Dmitri’s guilt, and helps to seal Dmitri’s fate. Grigory is the only one who expresses certainty that the door was open, despite being disoriented at the time of the murder. Smerdyakov counted on the old man’s stubbornness, which he knows well, to make it seem as though Dmitri is guilty.
Themes
Innocence and Guilt Theme Icon
Ippolit Kirillovich asks Dmitri what “signals” he’s talking about. Dmitri toys with them and says that he might not tell them. Then, he tells them that they 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 then asks if he suspects someone else. Dmitri doesn’t know of anyone else who would do it, but it’s certainly not Smerdyakov. They ask him how he can be so sure. He goes on to say that Smerdyakov is “a man of the most abject nature and a coward.” Secondly, he’s “sickly, epileptic, [and a] feebleminded chicken, who could be thrashed by an eight-year-old boy.” Finally, Smerdyakov doesn’t care about money. Anyway, he ventures, why would he kill the old man? He may, after all, be his son.
Dmitri’s coyness with the police is interesting. Though they have the power to have him imprisoned, he also asserts his power to withhold information. Yet again, prejudice against Smerdyakov prevents others from seeing him as he truly is. Dmitri, like Ivan, is fixated on the idea that Smerdyakov is helpless and stupid. They assume that his illness prevents him from being any significant threat. Smerdyakov is aware of these prejudices and uses them to his advantage to have Dmitri framed for a crime that he didn’t commit. Dmitri is also wrong about Smerdyakov’s supposed indifference to money.
Themes
Innocence and Guilt Theme Icon
Nikolai Parfenovich asks Dmitri how he could’ve gone to Fenya with his hands covered in blood. Dmitri says that he didn’t notice the blood. Ippolit Kirillovich mentions that such a thing is plausible. Dmitri then tells them that he decided to kill himself. He reaches into his waistcoat pocket and pulls out the suicide note he wrote at Pyotr Ilyich Perkhotin’s, while he was loading his pistol. Dmitri asks the authorities how they arrived so soon. They tell him that Perkhotin told them that, when Dmitri visited, he had a wad of hundred-rouble notes in his hand, and his hands were blood-stained. Nikolai Parfenovich asks where Dmitri got the money, when the evidence shows that he didn’t go back to his lodgings. Dmitri says that he won’t tell them.
The prosecutor thinks it’s possible for someone not to notice blood on their hands due to being in shock. Dmitri continues to be elusive with the facts, still not wanting to tell the authorities about his outstanding debt to Katerina Ivanovna. His secrecy on this matter reveals that this is the only thing about which Dmitri feels tremendously and truly guilty, because it is the only thing so far that he has not been willing to confess. However, without knowing the source of the money, all the evidence it suggests that he stole it from Fyodor.
Themes
Innocence and Guilt Theme Icon
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Nikolai Parfenovich then asks if Dmitri can at least tell them how many roubles were in his hands when he visited Pyotr Ilyich. Dmitri refuses to state that as well. Nikolai Parfenovich reminds Dmitri that he told Pyotr Ilyich about three thousand roubles that he got from Madame Khokhlakov. Dmitri doesn’t confirm that. He then briefly tells them, upon request, the story of how he arrived in Mokroye. Nikolai Parfenovich concludes the interrogation and asks Dmitri to empty his pockets. He has eight hundred and thirty-six roubles and forty kopecks. Nikolai Parfenovich figures that Dmitri originally had fifteen hundred roubles, given his expenses over the course of the evening. He tells Dmitri that they’ll need to search his clothes, too, so he must undress. Dmitri agrees to go behind the curtains.
Dmitri continues the testimony by withholding key information—once again clinging to a small point of honor that makes him seem guilty of murder. However, Nikolai Parfenovich is able to assess correctly that Dmitri had fifteen hundred roubles on him in Mokroye, not yet knowing that Dmitri spent the other half on another spree in the town with Grushenka a month before. Curtains reappear in this scene, for the very practical reason of providing the suspect with privacy while he undresses, but they could also be regarded as a symbol of how the truth about people can be hidden.
Themes
Innocence and Guilt Theme Icon