The Brothers Karamazov

The Brothers Karamazov Summary and Analysis of Book 8

Dmitri is desperate. He is obsessed with Grushenka, and even though she “loved him for an hour,” she often treated him “cruelly, and at times with complete ruthlessness.” He does not know what she wants. He wants Grushenka to marry him, and he is optimistic that she will be his. He muses that Grushenka is probably deciding whether to be with him or with Fyodor; the thought that she might want to be with another man does not cross his mind. Still, he feels that it is necessary to reimburse Katerina before doing anything with Grushenka. He decides to sell some of Fyodor’s land to a rich landowner named Samsanov for 3,000 rubles.

Samsanov does not want to receive Dmitri, but after Dmitri pleads with him, he agrees to meet him. Samsanov is hostile toward the desperate Karamazov, and he listens to Dmitri’s offer with cold indifference. Samsanov is widely considered a “wreck”; he was once a suitor of Grushenka, but his relationship with her is now more of a relationship between a father and a daughter. Finally, Samsanov says he will help Dmitri, who is overjoyed to hear it. He tells Dmiti to visit a man known as “the Hound,” who he says can help Dmitri.

Samsanov has no intention of helping this man whom he sees as competition for his former lover. Instead of helping him, he sends Dmitri on a wild goose chase to see a “cold, cruel, mocking man” named Lyavgeny. Samsanov says that the man is interested in the piece of land that Dmitri is offering, though he knows that the man will not be able to help Dmitri. Dmitri visits Lyavgeny, but he cannot do business with the man, for he is too drunk. Dmitri angrily tries to shake the man out of his drunken delirium, but it is no good. Dmitri is despondent and jealous, worried about Grushenka’s fidelity and imagining “God knows what horrors about her deceiving him.” Finally, Dmitri is forced to turn to Madame Hohlakov for the money. He realizes that if she will not give him the money, he may be forced to do something desperate. She plays with Dmitri, ironically telling him that she can offer him much more than 3,000 rubles. Then she tells him he should go to the gold mines. She tells him he should forget about women and come back only after many years. When Dmitri asks her again to lend him the money, she says she will not lend Dmitri a ruble.

Dmitri, now unsure of what to do, decides to visit Grushenka. When he cannot find her, he ascertains that she has gone to visit his father. He takes a brass pestle and goes to Fyodor’s house in a rage. A servant who sees him leave exclaims, “My God! He’ll end up murdering somebody!” Dmitri goes to his father’s house, but he does not find Grushenka. Fyodor is there alone. Grigory awakes, remembering he has forgotten to lock a gate. He has heard from Smerdyakov that this is a very dangerous time for Fyodor, and when he sees Dmitri, he yells, “You father-killer!” Before he can pursue the intruder, though, Dmitri hits Grigory with the pestle. After seeing his body lying still on the ground, Dmitri tries to wipe the blood from Grigory’s head. He is afraid he has killed the servant, but he realizes there is nothing he can do about it now, so he runs away. He goes back to Grushenka’s house to question her servant about Grushenka’s whereabouts, and he is horrified to learn of her rendezvous with her ex-lover.

Now hopeless, Dmitri reconciles himself to the fact that he cannot have Grushenka. He decides that she is his only reason to live, and he will commit suicide after seeing her one more time. Dmitri goes to reclaim his pistols from a man named Perhotin, who is holding them as collateral for a loan. Perhotin is suspicious of Dmitri, who is covered in blood, and he watches the man order a feast, planning to visit Grushenka.

Dmitri finds Grushenka with her gentleman friend and Kalganov. He walks up and says he would like to sit with them. He is very visibly upset, blabbering incoherently and excitedly. At one point, he even bursts into tears. Despite his agitated state, he surprisingly treats the whole party cordially. He is sitting and playing faro with them when the man begins to tell unsavory stories. He is Polish, and he insults Russia, much to Dmitri’s annoyance. The men begin to quarrel. Dmitri takes him aside and offers him money if he will leave, but the man is offended and tells Grushenka of Dmitri’s bribe. Grushenka is upset with the man for acting so callously, however, and everyone continues to quarrel. Dmitri cannot stand it when the man begins to mock Grushenka, who is greatly offended by his remarks. Dmitri locks the man in another room. Left alone, he and Grushenka begin to talk. Disillusioned by her former lover’s bad behavior, she says she cannot love him. She realizes that she loves Dmitri. At first, he is extremely happy. However, Dmitri’s elation is tempered by his difficult situation. In addition to his financial burdens, he thinks he may have killed Grigory, and as he is explaining to Grushenka his difficult situation with Katerina, there is a knock on the door. Policemen have come to arrest Dmitri for the murder of Fyodor.


This section of the novel begins comically. Dmitri is on an odyssey to find 3,000 rubles to repay Katerina, but his potential donors are all humorously unhelpful. First, he goes to Samsanov, a man who hates him. Dmitri’s earnestness and urgency contrasts greatly with Samsanov’s aloofness. It is a triumph for Dmitri that the man will even meet him. He sends Dmitri to Lyavgeny, who he knows will be no help. Though Dmitri is desperate and Samsanov is depressed, the scene is not oppressively bleak. The reader is in fact excited to see what buffoonery will ensue. When Dmitri meets Lyavgeny, the man is drunk and surly, and Dmitri cannot talk sense to him. While Dmitri’s situation is getting more dire, his interactions only become more ridiculous. When he decides that Lyavgeny is worthless to him, he visits Madame Hohlakov, who is a quirky character. She cheerily greets Dmitri, and she leads him to believe that she will solve his problems once and for all. Notwithstanding that, her solution is for Dmitri to dig for gold. His exacerbation is tangible, and her delicate nature is offended by his gruff anger. He leaves in a huff, at a loss for a way to win the money for Katerina. This string of comic interactions between Dmitri and his possible benefactors is a reprieve from the mounting ominous tenor of the novel. Humor exists even in the most heavy situations, and Dmitri’s ineptness is revealed. He cannot solve his problems, and his attempts at ingratiating himself among his rich acquaintances make him seem pathetic.

The humor of this section soon turns grave, however, when Dmitri frantically goes to find Grushenka. Dmitri goes to his father’s house looking for Grushenka, practically mad with lust and desperation. He almost escapes without any misfortune befalling him or anyone around him, but trustworthy Grigory wakes up and assumes Dmitri has come to murder his father. With one swift blow, Dmitri dramatically changes the timbre of the novel. Dmitri hits Grigory with the pestle he has in his hand, and Grigory falls to the ground, motionless. The humorous interlude is over, and violence is no longer theoretical.

It is ironic that Grigory tries to stop Dmitri when Dmitri had no intention of harming his father that night. The irony is complicated, however, by the fact that Dmitri is entirely capable of murdering his father. In fact, when he goes to his father’s house, it is not unlikely that he will kill him. Not until he decides to leave peacefully does Grigory try to stop him, and Grigory’s suspicion of Dmitri’s violent tendencies turns out to be a self-fulfilling prophecy. When the police blame Dmitri for Fyodor’s murder, the reader knows that Dmitri did not commit the crime. It is difficult to feel indignant on his behalf, though, because it seems that Dmitri could have committed the murder. He is impulsive and angry, and he has even said he will murder his father. When Dmitri strikes Grigory, it becomes explicit that he is dangerous enough to kill anyone in his path, including his father, whom he loathes.

This is a turning point in the novel. The general sense of foreboding has led to this night. Dmitri has proven that violence is indeed in the future for the Karamazovs, and his attack on Grigory is not the only violence that is to come.

When Dmitri finds Grushenka in the company of other men, the ensuing spectacle is reminiscent of his humorous pursuit of the money. He is desperate and pathetic, and the people with whom he is talking are annoyed by his presence. The tenor of this meeting is graver than that of his previous meetings, however. This time, Dmitri has vowed to commit suicide after the meeting has concluded. His desperation is no longer funny. Earlier, Ivan commented that one thing all the Karmazovs share is a “desire for life.” Dmitri’s desire to commit suicide therefore comes as a surprise. It seems to compromise a fundamental tenet of his character. Is Dmitri’s earlier lust for life inconsistent with this new desire to kill himself?

Perhaps it is not lust for life that drives him. Maybe, like the superstitious Russian folk longing for a miracle, Dmitri has a longing for something remarkable in life. His orgies and affairs are his way of trying to break from his quotidian life. If he cannot have the romantic adventure he desires with Grushenka, suicide is another way to free himself from a menial existence. He does not have a desire for mere survival; he has a desire for an extraordinary life.

Since the beginning of the novel, the subject of Fyodor’s murder has been looming over every character. Finally, after much speculation and foreshadowing, he is killed. This is the central event of the novel, and, as everything to this point has led up to it, everything in the coming chapters is tied to it. Surprisingly, Dmitri is not his father’s killer. While Fyodor’s murder is the expected outcome after so much suspense, the killer’s identity is completely unexpected. During the preceding chapters, it was assumed that Fyodor’s murder was inevitable and Dmitri would be the killer. When Dmitri reconciled with Grushenka and avoided killing his father when he went to his house, it seemed that the impending disaster had been averted. Somehow the murder that was entirely expected came as a surprise.

The one event that was expected from the beginning of the novel has become the novel’s biggest twist. The structure of the novel sets up the plot in such a way as to suggest that fate is unavoidable, and no matter how characters change, their destiny is set. (Of course, the novelist does control the fate of the characters.) The strangest part about this fact is that, even though Dmitri did not commit the murder, he is still the one to blame. He is held responsible for a crime he seemed destined to commit even though he did not actually commit it. Father Zossima said that a man shares the responsibility for the sins of all other men. Perhaps guilt does not lie only with the criminal who committed a crime, and all those who are involved share in the guilt of the crime, as Zossima suggested. Perhaps Dmitri is not completely innocent of the murder after all.