The Brothers Karamazov

The Mystery of Family: Human Truths and Personal Bonds in 'The Brothers Karamazov' College

Reading a Dostoevsky book doesn’t give us any insight into the mind of Fyodor Dostoevsky. Dostoevsky almost never makes a blanket statement in his books, and, in general, very few opinions voiced by characters in his novels can be traced back to the author himself. As such, we still don’t know what Dostoevsky thinks about family life, the father/son relationship and all its nuances, or even about the merits of Ivan’s worldview versus Alyosha’s worldview when we read The Brothers Karamazov. He doesn’t ever tell us what to believe, but this massive work by Dostoevsky does put us in a very uncomfortable place as it pushes us to consider the messiness, the sheer earthiness of a son’s relationship to his father, and of all the unspoken griefs and problems that, in this case at least, culminated in murder.

The relationship has Biblical connotations and connections. For example, to what extent is a son obligated to love a father? Must a father, in some way, “earn” his title to win the love of his children? Though the drunkenness and womanizing of Fyodor Pavlovich makes it easy to see in this book, what makes the father/son relationship naturally strained in all cases (i.e., what are the factors inherent in all father/son...

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