The Brothers Karamazov

The Brothers Karamazov

by

Fyodor Dostoevsky

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The Brothers Karamazov: Part 4: Book 12, Chapter 8 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
On the subject of Smerdyakov, Ippolit Kirillovich says that Dmitri was the first to cry out that the lackey was the true murderer. The only other two to confirm this are his brothers and Miss Svetlov (Grushenka). The prosecutor then briefly outlines Smerdyakov’s character. He mentions the lackey’s illness and his reputation for cowardice. He says that people who suffer from “falling sickness” also suffer from guilt. This explains why Smerdyakov didn’t want Ivan, Fyodor’s sole protector, to leave for Moscow. After all, Dmitri had written in a letter that he’d kill his father, if only Ivan would leave. With Ivan gone, insecurity seized Smerdyakov, and he had his falling fit in the cellar.
The prosecutor claims that Alexei and Ivan are merely in step with Dmitri’s claim that Smerdyakov killed Fyodor. Kirillovich sees this as no more than familial loyalty and an attempt to pin blame on someone else. To further exonerate Smerdyakov of guilt, Kirillovich invents a superstition about epilepsy. The prevalence of misinformation regarding the disorder allows the prosecutor to turn Smerdyakov’s condition to his own ends (as Smerdyakov himself did by shamming a seizure).
Themes
Innocence and Guilt Theme Icon
Ippolit Kirillovich then encourages everyone to “lay aside psychology” and focus on the facts. How would Smerdyakov have killed Fyodor? Alone or with Dmitri? He says that it’s possible that Smerdyakov pretended to be sickly so that no one would suspect him, and informed Dmitri about the money just to tempt him into coming. However, when would Smerdyakov have killed Fyodor, whom the prosecutor insists was already dead, after the alarm had already been raised over Grigory?
In trying to dissuade the jury from believing that Smerdyakov is the killer, Kirillovich inadvertently stumbles upon the truth of what happened. However, Kirillovich’s timing is off because he believes that Dmitri had already bludgeoned Fyodor when Smerdyakov could’ve gone into the main house.
Themes
Innocence and Guilt Theme Icon
In regard to the money that Ivan presented, Ippolit Kirillovich insists that it’s no proof. Having the three thousand roubles doesn’t prove that it came from the same envelope. Also, having such information, the prosecutor asks, why wouldn’t he report it at once instead of putting it off until the next morning? The prosecutor figures that Ivan felt that a dead man could be denounced, particularly if it would help to save his brother. The prosecutor reminds the jury that the envelope was found on the floor. No sensible and calculating robber-murderer—what some are saying Smerdyakov was—would have left it behind. Finally, the prosecutor asserts that Dmitri didn’t check on Grigory’s condition out of pity, but to be sure that his only witness was dead.
Predictably, the prosecutor says that Ivan could’ve gotten the three thousand roubles that he presented from anywhere. In regard to Ivan’s delay in reporting it, the prosecutor doesn’t know that this was due to Smerdyakov’s unwillingness to go. Then, Ivan very quickly succumbed to the symptoms of his illness, making him unable to file a report. Much of Dmitri’s suffering and inability to clear his name will come as a result of turns of fate, suggesting that much in our lives is determined by chance or bad luck.
Themes
Innocence and Guilt Theme Icon