The Brothers Karamazov

The Brothers Karamazov

by

Fyodor Dostoevsky

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The Brothers Karamazov: Part 4: Book 12, Chapter 6 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Ippolit Kirillovich talks about how the Karamazov case has resounded throughout Russia. However, there’s nothing particularly “horrifying” about it. He asks what the reasons might be for the public’s relative indifference. It seems that hourly they read similar tales. He tells the story of “a brilliant young officer of high society” who kills both a petty official and the official’s serving woman to steal a promissory document and some cash. This young man is a monster, but not “an isolated monster.”
The prosecutor contextualizes the case within its social and historical significance. He tries to show the court that, if Dmitri isn’t found guilty, the decision will reflect poorly on the nation, suggesting that there is a tolerance for theft and murder, and that familial ties aren’t enough to prevent such behavior. He admonishes the crowd’s spectatorship as well as the mundane nature of the crime.
Themes
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Ippolit Kirillovich says that the public is “horrified” by the Karamazov case or, rather, pretends to be, while actually “relishing the spectacle.” When the public one day regards itself “soberly and thoughtfully,” they will take a look at themselves as a society and understand their duty to each other. He asserts that all of Europe “respectfully stand[s] aside” for Russia, which he characterizes as a “troika galloping by at breakneck speed.”
The prosecutor imagines a future in which people, knowing better and having done better for society, will regard this prurience as a shame and a lesson of what not to do going forward. He says that Russia has the potential to lead Europe, if only it will appeal to the best side of its nature. The image of Russia as a galloping troika has become a famous passage.
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Ippolit Kirillovich then recounts the history of the Karamazov family, how Fyodor was born into nobility but pretended to be a peasant to collect his fortune, lived in dissipation, and behaved very poorly as a father. He says that, of all the sons, Ivan resembles his father most, due to his cynicism. Here, the prosecutor gets carried away, taking revenge against Ivan for having “publicly snubbed him once or twice in argument.” After calling the amulet with the fifteen hundred roubles a “legend,” he mentions everything from the investigation about the property dispute and relations between Fyodor and Dmitri. He then brings up the medical opinions concerning Dmitri’s obsession with the three thousand roubles.
The prosecutor gives a thorough history, which provides some insight into how Dmitri turned out the way that he is. However, Kirillovich gets side-tracked with a personal vendetta against Ivan. The prosecutor has no basis for saying that Ivan is most like his father, though this does echo Smerdyakov’s astute observations. He does make the good argument that there’s no proof of the amulet, which is essential to proving Dmitri’s innocence.
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