The Brothers Karamazov

Major characters

Character names
Russian and romanization
First name, nickname Patronymic Family name
Фёдор Fyódor Па́влович Pávlovich Карама́зов Karamázov
Дми́трий, Ми́тя Dmítry, Mítya Фёдорович Fyódorovich
Ива́н, Ва́ня Iván, Ványa
Алексе́й, Алёша Alekséy, Alyósha
Па́вел Pável Смердяко́в Smerdyakóv
Аграфе́на, Гру́шенька Agraféna, Grúshenka Алекса́ндровна Aleksándrovna Светло́ва Svetlóva
Катери́на, Ка́тя Katerína, Kátya Ива́новна Ivánovna Верхо́вцева Verkhóvtseva
Илья́, Илю́ша Ilyá, Ilyúsha Никола́евич Nikoláyevich Снегирёв Snegiryóv
ста́рец Зо́сима stárets Zósima
An acute accent marks the stressed syllable.

Fyodor Pavlovich Karamazov is the father, a 55-year-old "sponger" and buffoon who sires three sons during his two marriages. He is rumored to have fathered an illegitimate son, Pavel Fyodorovich Smerdyakov, whom he employs as his servant. Fyodor takes no interest in any of his sons, who are, as a result, raised apart from each other and their father. The relationship between Fyodor and his adult sons drives much of the plot in the novel.

Dmitri Fyodorovich Karamazov (a.k.a. Mitya, Mitka, Mitenka, Mitri) is Fyodor Karamazov's eldest son and the only offspring of his first marriage, with Adelaida Ivanovna Miusov. Dmitri is considered to be a sensualist, much like his father, spending large amounts of money on nights filled with champagne, women, and whatever entertainment and stimulation money can buy. Dmitri is brought into contact with his family when he finds himself in need of his inheritance, which he believes is being withheld by his father. He was engaged to be married to Katerina Ivanovna, but breaks that off after falling in love with Grushenka. Dmitri's relationship with his father is the most volatile of the brothers, escalating to violence as he and his father begin fighting over the same woman, Grushenka. While he maintains a good relationship with Ivan, he is closest to his younger brother Alyosha, referring to him as his "cherub".

Ivan Fyodorovich Karamazov (a.k.a. Vanya, Vanka, Vanechka) is the middle son and first from Fyodor's second marriage to Sofia Ivanovna. He is a 24-year-old rationalist, disturbed especially by the apparently senseless suffering in the world, depicted as highly intelligent. He says to Alyosha in the chapter "Rebellion" (Bk. 5, Ch. 4), "It's not God that I don't accept, Alyosha, only I most respectfully return him the ticket." From an early age, Ivan is sullen and isolated. His father tells Alyosha that he fears Ivan more than Dmitri. Some of the most memorable and acclaimed passages of the novel involve Ivan, including the chapter "Rebellion", his "poem" "The Grand Inquisitor" immediately following, and his nightmare of the devil (Bk. 11, Ch. 9). Ivan's relationship with his father and brothers are rather superficial in the beginning. He is almost repulsed by his father, and had no positive affection towards Dmitri. While he doesn't dislike Alexei, he didn't have any deep affection for him either. But towards the end of the novel, his relationship with his siblings get more complicated. Ivan falls in love with Katerina Ivanovna, who was Dmitri's betrothed. But she doesn't start to return his feelings until the end.

Alexei Fyodorovich Karamazov (a.k.a. Alyosha, Alyoshka, Alyoshenka, Alyoshechka, Alexeichik, Lyosha, Lyoshenka) at age 20 is the youngest of the Karamazov brothers, the youngest child by Karamazov's second wife and thus Ivan's full brother. The narrator identifies him as the hero of the novel in the opening chapter, as does the author in the preface. He is described as immensely likable. At the outset of the events, Alyosha is a novice in the local Russian Orthodox monastery. His faith is in contrast to his brother Ivan's atheism. His Elder, Father Zosima, sends him into the world, where he becomes involved in the sordid details of his family. In a secondary plotline, Alyosha befriends a group of school boys, whose fate adds a hopeful message to the conclusion of the novel.

Pavel Fyodorovich Smerdyakov, the widely rumored to be the illegitimate son of Fyodor Karamazov, is the son of "Reeking Lizaveta", a mute woman of the street who died in childbirth. His name, Smerdyakov, means "son of the 'reeking one'". He was brought up by Fyodor Karamazov's trusted servant Grigory Kutuzov Vasilievich and his wife Marfa. Smerdyakov grows up in the Karamazov house as a servant, working as Fyodor's lackey and cook. He is morose and sullen, and, like Dostoyevsky, suffers from epilepsy. The narrator notes that as a child, Smerdyakov collected stray cats to hang and bury them. Generally aloof, Smerdyakov admires Ivan and shares his atheism.

Agrafena Alexandrovna Svetlova (a.k.a. Grushenka, Grusha, Grushka), a beautiful 22-year-old, is the local Jezebel and has an uncanny charm among men. In her youth she was jilted by a Polish officer and subsequently came under the protection of a tyrannical miser. The episode leaves Grushenka with an urge for independence and control of her life. Grushenka inspires complete admiration and lust in both Fyodor and Dmitri Karamazov. Their rivalry for her affection is one of the most damaging factors in their relationship. Grushenka seeks to torment and then deride both Dmitri and Fyodor as a wicked amusement, a way to inflict upon others the pain she has felt at the hands of her "former and indisputable one". However, after she begins a friendship with Alyosha, and as the book progresses, she begins to tread a path of spiritual redemption through which emerges hidden qualities of gentleness and generosity, though her fiery temper and pride are ever present.

Katerina Ivanovna Verkhovtseva (a.k.a. Katya, Katka, Katenka) is Dmitri's beautiful fiancée, despite his open forays with Grushenka. Her engagement to Dmitri is chiefly a matter of pride on both their parts, Dmitri having bailed her father out of a debt. Katerina is extremely proud and seeks to act as a noble martyr, suffering as a stark reminder of everyone's guilt. Because of this, she cannot bring herself to act on her love for Ivan, and constantly creates moral barriers between him and herself. By the end of the novel, she too, begins a real and sincere spiritual redemption, as seen in the epilogue, when she asks Mitya and Grushenka to forgive her.

Father Zosima, the Elder Father Zosima is an Elder and spiritual advisor (starets) in the town monastery and Alyosha's teacher. He is something of a celebrity among the townspeople for his reputed prophetic and healing abilities. His popularity inspires both admiration and jealousy amidst his fellow monks. Zosima provides a refutation to Ivan's atheistic arguments and helps to explain Alyosha's character. Zosima's teachings shape the way Alyosha deals with the young boys he meets in the Ilyusha storyline.

The character of Father Zosima was to some extent inspired by that of Saint Tikhon of Zadonsk.[17]

Ilyusha, Ilyushechka, or simply Ilusha in some translations, is one of the local schoolboys, and the central figure of a crucial subplot in the novel. His father, Captain Snegiryov, is an impoverished officer who is insulted by Dmitri after Fyodor Karamazov hires him to threaten the latter over his debts, and the Snegiryov family is brought to shame as a result. The reader is led to believe that it is partly because of this that Ilyusha falls ill, possibly to illustrate the theme that even minor actions can touch heavily on the lives of others, and that we are "all responsible for one another".


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