The Brothers Karamazov

Nature of Crime in The Brothers Karamazov

Nature of Crime in The Brothers Karamazov

The central act in The Brothers Karamazov is the murder of father Fyodor Karamazov. As such, the novel could be thought of as a crime story, the purpose of which is to find out who committed the heinous act of parricide. Central to any crime story, however, are three important elements: first, is the process of finding out who perpetrated the crime, the “whodunit” part; second, is the determination of what that individual is responsible for or guilty of; and third, is the verification that the crime was committed under the individual’s free-will. This novel, however, does not fulfill any of the three elements of the traditional crime story. Instead, Dostoyevsky sets out to write in The Brothers Karamazov a crime where more than one person is guilty but where it is also unclear what each person is guilty of; it is a story that examines the assumption of free-will and the implication that has on our judgment of the crime. While the story starts out with the Ivan’s theory of “if there is no immortality of the soul, then…everything is lawful” (90), it ultimately swings to the other extreme of “every one is really responsible to all men for all men and for everything” (328). Dostoyevsky,...

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