The Brothers Karamazov

The Brothers Karamazov

by

Fyodor Dostoevsky

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The Envelope and the Three Thousand Roubles Symbol Analysis

The Envelope and the Three Thousand Roubles Symbol Icon

The envelope initially occurs to the reader as a symbol of greed, but it crystallizes into a symbol of pursuit of truth. The three thousand roubles that it contained is the supposed motive for Fyodor Pavlovich Karamazov’s murder. However, no one has ever seen the inscribed and pink-beribboned envelope that he promised to Grushenka, and Ivan Fyodorovich has only heard about it. It’s an elusive and vaguely understood object that remains fundamental to understanding what led to Fyodor’s murder. Fyodor’s son, Dmitri Fyodorovich Karamazov, coveted the three thousand roubles. It was well-known that Dmitri was always broke, that he felt cheated out of his inheritance by his father. He also needed exactly three thousand to pay back money that he had stolen from his fiancée Katerina Ivanovna, so that he could break off their engagement with honor and run away with Grushenka. Three thousand rubles is the key, it seems, in facilitating Dmitri’s escape from his hometown and his unhappy family life, and in allowing him to create the life that he wants. For Katerina, giving Dmitri the money was a test to reveal his true character—would he be so dishonorable as to take money from her to go be with his mistress? According to Alexei Fyodorovich, the money was a point of obsession for Dmitri, a reminder of how their father had “cheated” him, and evidence, it seems, of a lack of paternal love.

However, it was Smerdyakov, not Dmitri, who took the money out of the envelope. Instead of running away with it, as planned, the former “lackey” and illegitimate son gives it to Ivan. By committing suicide, Smerdyakov ensures that he’ll never be discovered as Fyodor’s true murderer. He’ll never send “evidence from the other world […] in an envelope.” Without Smerdyakov to testify, Ivan’s crazed courtroom confession has no credibility and is further undermined by the contents of other envelopes—the three thousand roubles that Katerina entrusted to Dmitri, and Dmitri’s letter to Katerina, which declares his desire to kill his father. Ivan characterized the letter as “mathematical proof” of his brother’s guilt, and it stands as such because the truth about what occurred is not visible to the public and is too far-fetched to be believed. Dmitri, therefore, goes to prison for his father’s murder, condemned by a public that believes he murdered his father out of greed and lust for a woman of ill-repute. The three thousand roubles that Alexei, Katerina, and Ivan paid for his defense are not enough, in this instance, to free him. The truth about Fyodor’s murder remains as hidden and mysterious as the envelope holding the three thousand roubles.

The Envelope and the Three Thousand Roubles Quotes in The Brothers Karamazov

The The Brothers Karamazov quotes below all refer to the symbol of The Envelope and the Three Thousand Roubles. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Faith vs. Reason Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Farrar, Straus and Giroux edition of The Brothers Karamazov published in 1990.
Part 4: Book 11, Chapter 8 Quotes

“He ran there, went up to the window […] ‘Grushenka,’ he called, ‘Grushenka, are you here?’ He called her, but he didn’t want to lean out the window, he didn’t want to move away from me […] because he was very afraid of me [….] ‘But there she is,’ I said (I went up to the window and leaned all the way out), ‘there she is in the bushes, smiling to you, see?’ He suddenly believed it, he just started shaking, because he really was very much in love with her, sir, and he leaned all the way out the window. Then I grabbed that same cast-iron paperweight, the one on his desk […] and I swung and hit him from behind on the top of the head with the corner of it.”

Page Number: 629
Explanation and Analysis:
Part 4: Book 12, Chapter 5 Quotes

“‘The thing is that I am precisely in my right mind...my vile mind, the same as you, and all these m-mugs!’ he suddenly turned to the public. ‘A murdered father, and they pretend to be frightened,’ he growled with fierce contempt. ‘They pull faces to each other. Liars! Everyone wants his father dead. Viper devours viper…If there were no parricide, they’d all get angry and go home in a foul temper…Circuses! ‘Bread and circuses!’ […] Calm yourselves, I’m not mad, I’m simply a murderer! […] I have no witnesses. That dog Smerdyakov won’t send you evidence from the other world…in an envelope. You keep asking for envelopes, as if one wasn’t enough. I have no witnesses…except one, perhaps [….] He’s got a tail, Your Honor, you’d find him inadmissible! Le diable n’existe point!

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The Envelope and the Three Thousand Roubles Symbol Timeline in The Brothers Karamazov

The timeline below shows where the symbol The Envelope and the Three Thousand Roubles appears in The Brothers Karamazov. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Part 1: Book 3, Chapter 5: The Confession of an Ardent Heart. “Heels Up”
Innocence and Guilt Theme Icon
Suffering Theme Icon
...merchant, Samsonov, who’ll leave her a nice sum when he dies. He tells Alexei how three thousand roubles turned up, which he spent in Mokroye. (full context)
Innocence and Guilt Theme Icon
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...he will “at once.” Dmitri regards himself as a “thief” and a “pilferer” for taking three thousand roubles that Katerina Ivanovna entrusted him to send to her sister Agafya Ivanovna, who was in... (full context)
Jealousy and Envy Theme Icon
Suffering Theme Icon
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...before, Fyodor “withdrew three thousand roubles in hundred-rouble notes and packed them into a big envelope, sealed with five seals and tied crisscross with a red ribbon.” The money is for... (full context)
Innocence and Guilt Theme Icon
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...goes to Fyodor for the money. It was also Smerdyakov who told Dmitri about the three thousand roubles . Dmitri says that even Ivan doesn’t know about the money, and Fyodor is sending... (full context)
Part 1: Book 3, Chapter 10: The Two Together
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...and that she can still save him. She asks Alexei if Dmitri said anything about three thousand roubles . Alexei says that Dmitri mentioned it, and that this sum may be what’s “killing... (full context)
Part 2: Book 4, Chapter 2: At His Father’s
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...on Fyodor’s behalf, but suggests that the plan would be more successful if Fyodor offered three thousand roubles . Fyodor quickly changes his mind and says that he’ll not give Dmitri any money... (full context)
Part 2: Book 5, Chapter 6: A Rather Obscure One for the Moment
Jealousy and Envy Theme Icon
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...Grushenka doesn’t come. Smerdyakov thinks he’ll show. Also, Dmitri knows that Fyodor has “a big envelope prepared, and there are three thousand roubles sealed up in it, with three seals…tied round... (full context)
Innocence and Guilt Theme Icon
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...that Dmitri wouldn’t steal money. Smerdyakov reminds Ivan that Dmitri’s broke. Furthermore, he considers that three thousand roubles to be his own money. He says that it’s also possible that Grushenka will marry... (full context)
Part 3: Book 8, Chapter 1: Kuzma Samsonov
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...take her away. What he knows now is that it’s first necessary to return the three thousand roubles that he took from Katerina Ivanovna. He doesn’t want to start anew as “a scoundrel.” (full context)
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...Samsonov to take over all of his claims on the land and just give Dmitri three thousand roubles . He promises Samsonov that he can’t lose in this case. He’ll supply all of... (full context)
Part 3: Book 8, Chapter 3: Gold Mines
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...his clothes, gets dressed, and goes to Madame Khokhlakov’s. His plan is to borrow the three thousand roubles from her. The reason he didn’t go to Madame Khokhlakov first, given that he knows... (full context)
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...figures that, being so against his marrying Katerina Ivanovna, Madame Khokhlakov will give him the three thousand roubles to be rid of him. When he enters Madame Khokhlakov’s home, she receives him promptly—a... (full context)
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...him and says he can tell her about that later. She knows that he needs three thousand roubles , but she’s prepared to give him much more. (full context)
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...words. He then assures her that, though she has his “eternal gratitude,” he only needs three thousand roubles . Madame Khokhlakov asks him what he thinks about gold mines. Dmitri says he’s never... (full context)
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Dmitri implores Madame Khokhlakov once again to give the three thousand roubles , but she seems not to know what he’s talking about. She then says that... (full context)
Part 3: Book 8, Chapter 4: In the Dark
Innocence and Guilt Theme Icon
Jealousy and Envy Theme Icon
...that he has a present, and Dmitri thinks that his father is referring to the envelope with the three thousand roubles. Dmitri watches Fyodor from the side, feeling loathing for the... (full context)
Part 3: Book 8, Chapter 5: A Sudden Decision
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...in some kind of “ecstasy.” He also had a wad of cash, around two or three thousand roubles . Finally, he seemed to be in a hurry. (full context)
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...pâté, caviar, fruit, and other delicacies. He says that it should all come to about three thousand roubles . (full context)
Part 3: Book 8, Chapter 7: The Former and Indisputable One
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...assuring Grushenka that they’ll be back momentarily. In the other room, Dmitri offers the officers three thousand roubles to take and go wherever they would like. He also offers to have his troika... (full context)
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...to forget the past and to forgive it. He tells her that Mitya offered him three thousand roubles to leave. Grushenka angrily asks Dmitri if this is true, if he really acted as... (full context)
Part 3: Book 8, Chapter 8: Delirium
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...now would be a good time to shoot himself. He commits to scrounging up the three thousand roubles . He doesn’t want to lose Grushenka. On the veranda, he runs into Trifon Borisich,... (full context)
Part 3: Book 9, Chapter 1: The Start of the Official Perkhotin’s Career
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...Pyotr Ilyich decides to go to Madame Khokhlakov’s to ask if she had given Dmitri three thousand roubles . If the answer is no, Pyotr Ilyich resolves to go to the police commissioner.... (full context)
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...into Pyotr Ilyich’s rooms carrying a wad of money. Dmitri said that he got the three thousand roubles from Madame Khokhlakov, in exchange for agreeing to go to the gold mines. Madame Khokhlakov... (full context)
Part 3: Book 9, Chapter 2: The Alarm
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...on the garden path. Nothing is disorderly in Fyodor’s room, but they find a big envelope on the floor. On it is inscribed a message to Grushenka, notifying her that the... (full context)
Part 3: Book 9, Chapter 3: The Soul’s Journey through Torments. The First Torment.
Innocence and Guilt Theme Icon
Jealousy and Envy Theme Icon
...thousand. The district attorney prompts Dmitri to write that he considered the contents of the envelope to be his own property. (full context)
Part 3: Book 9, Chapter 4: The Second Torment
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...went thirty miles out of town. He tells them he went to Samsonov to borrow three thousand roubles from him “on the best security.” Ippolit Kirillovich asks why he needed that amount. Dmitri... (full context)
Innocence and Guilt Theme Icon
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...that he had the thought of putting a knife into someone just to get the three thousand roubles . (full context)
Part 3: Book 9, Chapter 5: The Third Torment
Innocence and Guilt Theme Icon
...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,... (full context)
Part 3: Book 9, Chapter 6: The Prosecutor Catches Mitya
Innocence and Guilt Theme Icon
...a lie, though Grigory stands firm in his testimony. Nikolai Parfenovich then shows Dmitri the envelope with the three thousand roubles. They say that they didn’t find any money inside. Suddenly,... (full context)
Part 3: Book 9, Chapter 7: Mitya’s Great Secret. Met with Hisses.
Innocence and Guilt Theme Icon
...disgrace.” In his view, he stole it from Katerina Ivanovna, who entrusted him with the three thousand roubles “to send to her sister and some other relative in Moscow.” Around that time, he... (full context)
Innocence and Guilt Theme Icon
Nikolai Parfenovich mentions how Dmitri told everyone that he squandered three thousand roubles during his first spree in Mokroye. Dmitri says it was only fifteen hundred. Ippolit Kirillovich... (full context)
Innocence and Guilt Theme Icon
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...he was willing to offer to Samsonov and Madame Khokhlakov, she would’ve given him the three thousand roubles . Dmitri says that such a thing would be “base.” Nikolai Parfenovich reminds him that,... (full context)
Part 3: Book 9, Chapter 8: The Evidence of the Witnesses. The Wee One.
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During the interrogation of the witnesses, the investigators focus all of their attention on the three thousand roubles and whether Dmitri had three thousand or fifteen hundred during his first party in Mokroye,... (full context)
Innocence and Guilt Theme Icon
...man to go away. Pan Mussyalovich recalls that Dmitri said that the remainder of the three thousand roubles he would give were in his town. Ippolit Kirillovich thinks that some of the money... (full context)
Innocence and Guilt Theme Icon
Nikolai Parfenovich asks her if three thousand roubles were spent in Mokroye last month, and she confirms that they were. However, she claims... (full context)
Part 4: Book 11, Chapter 1: At Grushenka’s
Innocence and Guilt Theme Icon
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...his last falling fit. He adds that he, Ivan, and Katerina Ivanovna have put up three thousand roubles for the lawyer Fetyukovich to represent Dmitri. The lawyer would have charged more, but the... (full context)
Part 4: Book 11, Chapter 2: An Ailing Foot
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...has a grown daughter. It mentions that two hours before Fyodor’s murder, she offered him three thousand roubles to go to the gold mines in Siberia. She’s certain that the article is about... (full context)
Part 4: Book 11, Chapter 6: The First Meeting with Smerdyakov
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...was worried that Ivan was abandoning Fyodor and that Smerdyakov could’ve been blamed for the three thousand roubles . (full context)
Part 4: Book 11, Chapter 8: The Third and Last Meeting with Smerdyakov
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...a bundle of papers. He places them on the table. He tells Ivan that the three thousand roubles are all there. Ivan sinks down into a chair and goes pale. He asks if... (full context)
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Smerdyakov wiped the paperweight off, put it back, took the money, and dropped the envelope to the floor with the pink ribbon next to it. He then went back to... (full context)
Innocence and Guilt Theme Icon
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...if Ivan confesses, Smerdyakov will deny having told him anything. Smerdyakov then offers Ivan the three thousand roubles , saying he took it thinking that he could start over in Moscow. He based... (full context)
Part 4: Book 12, Chapter 1: The Fatal Day
Innocence and Guilt Theme Icon
...Fyodor’s bloody dressing gown, and Dmitri’s bloodstained shirt and frock coat. The pistol and the envelope that contained the three thousand roubles are also there. The twelve jurors consist of four... (full context)
Part 4: Book 12, Chapter 2: Dangerous Witnesses
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...stubborn insistence,” that the door to the garden was open. When Fetyukovich asks about the envelope, Grigory confirms that he never saw it. Fetyukovich asks all of the witnesses about the... (full context)
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Trifon Borisich then testifies to seeing three thousand roubles in Dmitri’s hands. When Fetyukovich accuses him of taking one hundred roubles that Dmitri dropped... (full context)
Part 4: Book 12, Chapter 3: Medical Expertise and One Pound of Nuts
Innocence and Guilt Theme Icon
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...He speaks, too, about “mania” and the “fit of passion.” When the subject of the three thousand roubles arose, he says, Dmitri flew into “some sort of frenzy.” Varvinsky is the last to... (full context)
Part 4: Book 12, Chapter 4: Fortune Smiles on Mitya
Innocence and Guilt Theme Icon
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...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... (full context)
Part 4: Book 12, Chapter 5: A Sudden Catastrophe
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...pulls out a wad of money, saying it was the same that was in the envelope. The judge asks how he could’ve gotten that same money. Ivan says that he got... (full context)
Faith vs. Reason Theme Icon
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...has no witnesses, and that Smerdyakov won’t send any “evidence from the other world…in an envelope.” Ivan has only one witness, but the judge would find him “inadmissible.” (full context)
Innocence and Guilt Theme Icon
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...she says, proves that he’s the murderer. She then says that she gave Dmitri the three thousand roubles , saying it was for her sister, but she knew that he would take it... (full context)
Part 4: Book 12, Chapter 6: The Prosecutor’s Speech. Characterizations
Innocence and Guilt Theme Icon
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...Fyodor and Dmitri. He then brings up the medical opinions concerning Dmitri’s obsession with the three thousand roubles . (full context)
Part 4: Book 12, Chapter 7: A Historical Survey
Jealousy and Envy Theme Icon
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...He goes on to describe Dmitri’s “fatal passion for Grushenka.” The prosecutor says that the three thousand roubles wasn’t the point in itself, but that this inheritance seemed to be the key to... (full context)
Part 4: Book 12, Chapter 8: A Treatise on Smerdyakov
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...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... (full context)
Part 4: Book 12, Chapter 11: There Was No Money. There Was No Robbery
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...have pulled it out without messing up the bed at all? He then addresses the envelope on the floor—but, he asks, does anyone know that it contained money? If the envelope... (full context)
Epilogue, Chapter 1: Plans to Save Mitya
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...Dmitri fleeing abroad with “that creature”—Grushenka. Then, Ivan came again and brought Katerina a sealed envelope containing the details of the escape. She says that Ivan seemed to foresee his illness.... (full context)