The Brothers Karamazov

The Brothers Karamazov

by

Fyodor Dostoevsky

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The Brothers Karamazov: Part 4: Book 12, Chapter 4 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Alexei is called to testify. He describes his brother to the prosecutor as passionate but also “noble, proud, and generous.” Regarding the rivalry between Grushenka and Katerina Ivanovna, he prefers not to say anything. He also says that Dmitri never said anything directly about wanting to kill Fyodor. He admits to believing, briefly, that Dmitri could do such a thing, but thought that a higher power would save him. Alexei insists that his prediction came 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 that he wasn’t lying.
Alexei is someone who can see the best in anyone. Even when he believed Dmitri was guilty, he sensed that his brother could one day atone for his crime. For this reason, the court finds it difficult to take seriously his testimony regarding Dmitri’s character. There is also the obvious bias that he would have as the defendant’s brother. He honorably doesn’t speak about the rivalry between the women because everything is known to the public already, and he doesn’t want to seem to show favor to one or the other.
Themes
Faith vs. Reason Theme Icon
Innocence and Guilt Theme Icon
Fetyukovich recalls an episode in which Alexei witnessed Dmitri pounding on his chest, but a bit below the heart. He then realized that Dmitri was gesturing at the amulet that contained the fifteen hundred roubles. Though he had the means to pay back half of his debt to Katerina Ivanovna, he couldn’t part with the money. Alexei clarifies that Dmitri didn’t so much pound; he pointed his finger at his chest. Dmitri confirms that he could’ve returned the money and didn’t.
The amulet was a reminder to Dmitri that he couldn’t truly be free to pursue his love with Grushenka until he had completely closed out his affairs with Katerina Ivanovna. He was torn between wanting to be honorable but also being unable to resist his urge to go on sprees and self-indulge.
Themes
Faith vs. Reason Theme Icon
Innocence and Guilt Theme Icon
Suffering Theme Icon
Katerina Ivanovna is next. The presiding judge speaks to her “with extreme respect,” afraid of causing her pain. She says that she knew about Dmitri’s disputes with Fyodor but didn’t hear any threats. She says that, if Dmitri had only come to her, she would’ve relieved him of the debt. She says that she, too, once owed him money. She recalls that whole episode to the court, even the “bow to the ground.” Dmitri believes he’s condemned.
Katerina Ivanovna is shown respect because she is of a higher social class. Her suffering is deemed more important than that of Captain Snegiryov, and she is perceived as more delicate and worthy of respect than Grushenka. Dmitri knows that the idea of such a noble woman bowing will result in the court’s contempt for Dmitri.
Themes
Suffering Theme Icon
Grushenka appears next. Regarding her relationship with Fyodor, she says “there was nothing to it.” She says that the whole thing is her fault for laughing at him and Dmitri. She heard from “the villain” about 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. Grushenka insists that it was Katerina Ivanovna—“that man-stealer”—who ruined Dmitri. She recounts how Katerina once sent for her and tried to charm her.
Grushenka, who, like Dmitri, is willing to admit unflattering things about herself, tells the court that she initially pretended to be in love with both father and son, contributing to the perverse relations between them. It doesn’t help Dmitri that the only people who believe he’s innocent are his brothers and his lover.
Themes
Innocence and Guilt Theme Icon
Jealousy and Envy Theme Icon
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Fetyukovich asks why Grushenka offered Rakitin twenty-five roubles for Alexei. Grushenka says it’s because Rakitin is her cousin, though he doesn’t want anyone to know. Everyone is surprised by this. It discredits Rakitin’s testimony and nullifies Rakitin’s earlier speech “against the civil disorder of Russia.” Grushenka leaves a bad impression on the public, who regard her contemptuously as she steps down. The next witness is Ivan Fyodorovich.
The novel reveals the specific familial relation between Rakitin and Grushenka: their mothers are sisters. Part of Rakitin’s resentment comes from being related to the most dishonorable woman in town, who had become the romantic object of two Karamazovs.
Themes
Family Theme Icon