The Brothers Karamazov

Submission in The Brothers Karamazov

Often, authors develop a central idea in a novel by presenting it repeatedly in differing forms throughout the work. Fyodor Dostoevsky’s novel The Brothers Karamazov is a perfect example of this technique. Specifically, over the course of the work Dostoevsky speculates about the nature of submission with respect to major issues such as inter- and intra-personal relationships, freedom, and even happiness.

The theme of submission presents itself early on in the text. The father, Fyodor Pavlovich, along with his two older sons and some extended family members, visits the monastery where the third son, Alyosha, is studying. The monastery is characterized by its institution of elders: wise monks who are heralded almost as saints. The elder Zosima is the one who is responsible for teaching Alyosha the principles of the monastery and religion. The elders, and specifically Zosima, introduce the idea of submission with relation to one’s personal freedom. When describing the elders, the narrator states that an elder “is one who takes your soul, your will into his soul and into his will. Having chosen an elder, you renounce your will and give it to him under total obedience and with total self-renunciation” (Dostoevsky 27). Thus, it is...

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