The Brothers Karamazov

The Brothers Karamazov Summary and Analysis of Book 9

Perhotin is determined to find out what Dmitri was doing when the two men saw each other. Agitated and restless, he retraces Dmitri’s steps the night of the murder, gathering bits of information from everyone he meets. He talks to Fenya, who tells him Dmitri grabbed a pestle when he ran off to see Grushenka. When he returned, he did not have the pestle and his hands were “dripping, dripping, dripping” with blood. Perhotin thinks of visiting the Karamazov household directly, but he does not want to cause a scandal if nothing wayward has actually transpired. He decides to do more detective work before resorting to a visit to the curmudgeonly Fyodor Karamazov.

Perhotin visits Madame Hohlakov instead. He shows up late at night and, after such a disturbing earlier meeting with Dmitri, she has a migraine and is very perturbed. He asks her if she lent Dmitri 3,000 rubles. When she admits that she did not, the two surmise that he must have robbed someone, and they fear it is Fyodor Karamazov. Since he has found such incriminating information, he decides to report it to the authorities. But when he arrives at the police inspector’s house, the place is in an uproar because Fyodor Karamazov has been murdered and robbed.

In the servant’s quarters in Fyodor Karamazov’s house, Marfa wakes up to hear Smerdyakov screaming, which always signifies one of his epileptic fits. She cannot find Grigory to come to help their adopted boy, and she begins to worry. She hears groans coming from the garden, and she remembers the night they found Smerdyakov with his dying mother. She finds Grigory covered in blood, muttering, “He’s killed his father.” Indeed, when she looks in on Fyodor, she sees that he is on his back, covered in blood. Confused and hysterical, she runs to their neighbor’s house.

After the neighbors hear all the facts, they go to the police inspector’s house to explain what has happened at the Karamazov house. Fyodor’s skull has been crushed, and the envelope that he kept clearly marked for Grushenka has been torn open and emptied. Perhotin tells the police inspector that Dmitri declared that he would shoot himself. While Perhotin is worried about Dmitri and wants to find him before he commits suicide, the police inspector is assured that Dmitri is a prime suspect—he says, “that’s exactly the way a desperate man of that type thinks: ‘I’ll kill myself tomorrow, but before I die I’ll have a wild time.’” The district medical officer who goes to the Karamazov household to examine the corpse takes a particular in Smerdyakov. He notes that the length and persistence of Smerdyakov’s seizures are unusual, and he specifically predicts that Smerdyakov will die by morning.

The police arrest Dmitri, who is flabbergasted by the charges. He says he “thought of killing him, but [he] didn’t do it.” Grushenka swears she will stay by Dmitri’s side, but this does not help his situation; she assumes he has killed Fyodor, and she lovingly says she is to blame for pushing him to do it. Her good intentions backfire when she says she will “follow him to the gallows.” No one, not even his beloved Grushenka, believes he is innocent. From his presence at the scene of the crime on the night of the murder to his animosity toward Fyodor to his admission that he needed 3,000 rubles—the exact amount Fyodor has set aside for Grushenka—the facts are stacked against him. He thinks he has killed Grigory, and when they tell him Grigory has recovered, he is overjoyed. His conscience is clear, and he tells the prosecutors this news has “made a new man” of him. He tells them to write down that he is “guilty of disorderly conduct, guilty of violently attacking and hurting a poor old man,” but that the idea of his murdering his father is “absurd, completely absurd!” He goes on to say that he understands why he is suspected of this crime. He acknowledges that he has threatened his father, attacked his father, and promised to kill his father in front of many witnesses. He laughs, “I cannot imagine who but me could have killed him!” When they ask who else knew the secret signals that Grushenka and Fyodor had agreed upon, he names Smerdyakov. Ironically, though, Dmitri says he does not think Smerdyakov is capable of such a crime.

When he is searched, the police find 1,500 rubles on him, and he must admit the embarrassing truth that he has used only half the money Katerina loaned him on his fling with Grushenka. He saved the rest. Dmitri thinks that since he did not commit the crime, anything he says cannot hurt him. This openness has led him to admit very incriminating facts, but now that the police have found 1,500 rubles on his person, his honesty is now in question. Dmitri stated many times that he spent 3,000 rubles on the fling with Grushenka because he would not tell anyone this deeply shameful fact about himself.

After all the witnesses are interviewed, Dmitri is detained. His lawyers promise that they will work hard to acquit him of the murder. They tell him they believe that he is a good man and a “victim of unhappy circumstances.” Dmitri gives a heartfelt farewell to Grushenka, who says she will remain by his side forever. In despair, Dmitri is carted off as many onlookers watch the murder suspect get taken away.


This book focuses on the story of the Karamazovs from an outside perspective—the experiences of Perhotin, Madame Hohlakov, Marfa, police officers, and townspeople. Instead of presenting the Karamazov family firsthand, these chapters add a degree of remove. This slight distance makes the reader realize how guilty Dmitri seems to an observer with only limited information. Suddenly, the case of Fyodor’s murder has catapulted from a private matter into a public one. This section of the novel illuminates how the drama reaches beyond the boundaries of the Karamazov family. Not only is the Karamazovs’ story known to the other members of the community, but it affects them. Perhotin is suspicious and troubled by Dmitri’s desperation. He does not want a comrade to commit suicide, and he investigates Dmitri’s actions because he is worried about Dmitri. Marfa, Grigory’s wife, awakes to find her husband unconscious and her master slain. Grigory incoherently mutters something about how “he has killed his father.” The police question Dmitri (Dmitri is so forthright that he admits to wanting to kill his father), and everyone sees that the evidence is stacked against him. The Karamazovs are not an insular group; the entire town knows them, and the murder is quite a phenomenon. For the first time, the petty infighting of the Karamazov clan feels larger than a dispute between family members. The brothers have become quite a spectacle. This circumstance strengthens the notion of myth in the novel, and it makes the tragedy seem much more meaningful—after all, we readers are also on the outside, following the family’s moves.

Dmitri, curiously, has found love and direction in his life. He feels like a new man, and his feeling of invincibility may be what makes him speak so honestly with the police. When the police knock on the door to arrest Dmitri, his fortune has changed. Up to this point in the novel, Dmitri has had a strong motive to kill his father. After winning the affections of Grushenka, however, he has little reason left to murder his competition. This night, the night when Dmitri solves his romantic problem, thereby alleviating his desire for murder, is also the night when he acts the most erratically and desperately. It is a cruel trick of fate that this is this night when Fyodor is murdered. Even though Dmitri ends the night a changed man, his dramatic actions—leading to his epiphany—damn him in the eyes of the world. His newfound strength of spirit remains undaunted, though. He has remarkable faith in justice and the legal system. He is honest and open and, knowing that he is innocent, feels entirely confident that he will be acquitted. He has the utmost faith that the truth of his heart will be apparent to everyone.

Notwithstanding that faith, everyone pays less attention to Dmitri’s soul and more attention to the facts at hand, most of which point to Dmitri’s guilt. Dmitri’s fickle nature means that he can abruptly turn from a murderer into a harmless lover. The law, however, seeks a consistent story. Dmitri’s longstanding hatred for his father is more consistent than his sudden change of heart, and therefore it is a more salient indicator of his personality to others. People cannot easily know another’s heart. Often they know little more than what they see, which can be a better indicator of a man’s prejudices and preconceived notions than the things he says.

Strangely, the idea of sympathy for Fyodor never seriously comes up. No character expresses much sadness at his demise, nor does anyone say that the old man was misunderstood. His sons are not even very surprised, for they have expected this murder to some degree for the entire novel. In a book about morality and religion, one would expect that murder of a man would be treated a bit more humanely, but the clear lack of humane sentiments at this point illustrates the family’s sense of the perverse justice of the murder—somehow Fyodor was not innocent enough to escape what was coming to him. Dostoevsky even writes at the beginning of the novel that no one could feel bad for such a wretched creature, but can we really accept such a cold and harsh indictment?

The unassailable importance of human life is given more weight in other areas. Ivan talks about the desire to live and the tragedy of making an innocent suffer. He does not seem to feel remorse for his father, however. He only feels the burden of responsibility for a terrible crime. Not even Alyosha misses his father. He loved Fyodor while he was alive as Alyosha loves all creatures, but he feels no lasting connection to Fyodor aside from familial ties. Dostoevsky’s characters treat the character of Fyodor as practically inhuman; the only problem lies with the legal and spiritual effects of committing the mortal sin of murder.

Perhaps Dostoevsky hated his own father enough to leave Fyodor as a character who seems almost to deserve this treatment upon his death, so different from that of Father Zossima. Fyodor is presented mainly as a cancer to those around him, making life worse for them without contributing in any good way. This vice is at odds with the loving religious sentiments of the rest of the novel. Perhaps Dostoevsky intends such a contrast with his more powerful theme of love and understanding.

Ivan and Dmitri have no desire to see their father alive. In fact, it seems probable that both brothers want to see him killed. Smerdyakov, in hindsight, also obviously wants Fyodor dead. In the end, Ivan is driven crazy by his own guilt, Dmitri is convicted of the murder—his life ruined—and Smerdyakov commits suicide, presumably because of his own feelings of guilt. These three, who seem pleased to see Fyodor killed, are the ones who suffer most after his death. If this is poetic justice, Dostoevsky is condemning their lack of sympathy. If Dostoevsky is in some way using this theme in relation to his own feelings about his own father, we might read these developments as his way of faulting those who do not adequately respect or like their fathers. As in Crime and Punishment, the motives and effects of the murder are very complex, involving themes of nihilism, utility, and Christianity.

If one feels both love and disgust for one’s fellow humans, some murders might seem more justifiable than others. In Crime and Punishment, Raskolnikov feels guilty for killing a fairly innocent witness, but he never expresses guilt for killing the old woman, against whom he develops several reasons for the murder. In the present novel, would murdering Father Zossima have carried the same moral weight as the murder of Fyodor? The characters generally feel less upset over the murder of Fyodor, insofar as Fyodor has died, than over the natural death of Father Zossima. Feeling guilty over a death or a murder is not the same as feeling sympathetic.