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The Brothers Karamazov
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Past Group Reads > The Brothers Karamazov: Book III

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Jenn | 413 comments Mod
Please discuss Book 3: The Sensualists.


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Chahrazad | 49 comments OK. I'm done with Book 2 and looking forward to some actual interaction between the brothers.


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Chahrazad | 49 comments just a question! Do you think that Smerdyakov is actually Fyodor's son?? If he is then Fyodor is more than just a buffoon, he's more of a scoundrel! I don't know why I find him capable of such an act. Any thoughts?


Neens Bea (neens_bea) | 42 comments My feeling is that Smerdyakov is Fyodor's son. I reckon that's why his mother climbed into Fyodor's garden just before giving birth...


Danielle | 55 comments But that does make him an awful man, less of the mix of wise and buffoon he was in the first two books. But what if he is just claiming Smerdyakov because he likes to think of himself as despicable, present himself that way? I think that's still possible at this point, if very unlikely. I just don't want to hate him...


Alana (alanasbooks) | 721 comments Somehow, I don't think he is, although he's probably more than capable of it. It's hard to say, because the way it's presented lends itself to much doubt, BUT, we don't know who the narrator is and how trustworthy or reliable the person is, so it a good representation of Fyodor or is it given by someone who admires and likes him? Fyodor's taking him in could be either him taking responsibility, trying to do something nice for the child and the adoptive parents, who lost theirs, or it could be just to stir up controversy because that seems to give him the greatest joy in the world. I'm not sure we're going to be told the answer to this but we may get more clues as the book goes on. I'm just starting Chapter 9 now, and listening to the arguments between everyone on religion and the way Smerdyakov seems to be seeking approval makes me think that at least HE thinks Fyodor is his father, but that doesn't' necessarily prove anything.


Alana (alanasbooks) | 721 comments After finishing Book III, what do we think of Katerina and Grushenka, as people and as foils for each other? Is Dostoevsky like Dickens in that he presents his characters with outward representations of their flaws and nature from the beginning, or are we going to see them slowly grow and change, some improving, some falling, as the novel progresses?

Also, did anyone notice how the narration changed in this section? I didn't see the places where the narrator mentioned that they found out something much later, or "our town" or "our" this and that. This section has lots of direct dialogue between the members of the Karamazov family and a couple close servants. Does this mean anything, or is it just a different style for the section?


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Chahrazad | 49 comments Danielle wrote: "But that does make him an awful man, less of the mix of wise and buffoon he was in the first two books. But what if he is just claiming Smerdyakov because he likes to think of himself as despicabl..."

Exactly! I just don't understand him... he's a very intelligent man. what really makes him behave the way he does is somthing beyond me, add to that that I don't trust the narrator's explanations since I don't know how objective he is.

He said himself: "I never thought a woman ugly in my life that's been my rule!" he really could be Smerdyakov's father after all.

Is Smerdyakov seeking Fyodor's approval or Ivan's?


Alan | 29 comments Concerning Smerdyakov's parentage, in chapter 8, "Over the Cognac," Fyodor makes what sounds to me like a confession while he is drunk. He speaks about the fact that in his life he has met no ugly women. Further on in that same speech he says, "The barefoot and ugly ones have to be taken by surprise, first of all...they must be surprised so that they are enraptured, smitten, ashamed that such a gentleman should have fallen in love with such a grimy creature." I took that as an admission by Fyodor that he had raped "stinking" Lizaveta.


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Chahrazad | 49 comments Alan wrote: "Concerning Smerdyakov's parentage, in chapter 8, "Over the Cognac," Fyodor makes what sounds to me like a confession while he is drunk. He speaks about the fact that in his life he has met no ugly ..."
That caught my eye too.
Alana wrote: "After finishing Book III, what do we think of Katerina and Grushenka, as people and as foils for each other?"

Grushenka seems to me to be a grotesque sort of woman, very intelligent but ignoble. I guess Mitya's interest in her stems from his conviction that the Karamazov are attracted by vice since they are what he calls "sensualists". I recall here his dialogue with Alyosha
"All we Karamazovs are such insects, and, angel as you are, that insect lives in you, too, and will stir up a tempest in your blood. Tempests, because sensual lust is a tempest worse than a tempest!"
so he's convinced he doesn't deserve someone as pure and respectful as Katerina Ivanovna!

Katerina Ivanovna on the other hand is more or less like Alyosha. She's always ready to see the good in people even if they haven't any!

I don't know whether I'm being naive, but is there a chance that Fyodor Pavlovitch wants to marry Grushenka to save his son Mitya, that is if he really intends to marry her?!! I don't know why I persist in hoping there's something good about him after all.


Alana (alanasbooks) | 721 comments Well, in my opinion, there is always a little good in everyone... except in books. Authors can make their characters completely evil through and through if they want to. Whether that's the case with Fyodor, I don't know, but I highly doubt it. He seems pretty despicable, especially if he raped a girl that didn't know any better. If you will sink to that level, you will do pretty much anything.

I'm not sure what the deal with Katerina is, but she's kind of obnoxious. She WANTS to play the martyr. Can't figure her out yet.


Cynthia Dunn Alana wrote: "Well, in my opinion, there is always a little good in everyone... except in books. Authors can make their characters completely evil through and through if they want to. Whether that's the case wit..."

I agree. I don't care for Katerina, even if she's supposed to be a sympathetic character. But Grushenka seemed so nasty in their scene together. I'm beginning to really like Alyosha as the book goes on. I don't know what Mitya's story is going to be. And I also think that Smerdyakov is Fyodor's son. He has a habit of letting Grigory help raise his sons.


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Phil (Lanark) Getting to the end of Book 3, I think that each of Fyodor's sons represents a sngle fragment of his personality. Dmitry is the drunken violence and anger within him, Ivan is his intelect and his mischief, Alexey is his deeply hidden spirituality (think of his masses for his first wife and his moments of doubt with zossima) and Smerdyakov would be his devious wickedness - as he's an unacknowledged bastard I'm thinking along the lines of Edmund in King Lear, determined to get revenge and recognition.

Another thing that struck me was that up until Mitya kicked his father in the face with his heels until he almost broke his nose I was largely reading this book as a comedy. I now assume that was not the tone that was intended. ;)


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Chahrazad | 49 comments Phil wrote: "Getting to the end of Book 3, I think that each of Fyodor's sons represents a sngle fragment of his personality. Dmitry is the drunken violence and anger within him, Ivan is his intelect and his mischief, Alexey is his deeply hidden spirituality (think of his masses for his first wife and his moments of doubt with zossima) and Smerdyakov would be his devious wickedness - as he's an unacknowledged bastard I'm thinking along the lines of Edmund in King Lear, determined to get revenge and recognition. "

I think you just hit the nail on the head Phil :)


message 15: by Margaret (last edited Dec 15, 2012 02:42PM) (new) - added it

Margaret Alan wrote: "...'The barefoot and ugly ones have to be taken by surprise, first of all...they must be surprised so that they are enraptured, smitten, ashamed that such a gentleman should have fallen in love with such a grimy creature.' I took that as an admission by Fyodor that he had raped "stinking" Lizaveta. ..."

I read that passage that way too, though I had always assumed Fyodor was Smerkyakov's father. The coincidences seemed just too... conincidental. This just seemed like confirmation.

Fyodor is getting more and more unpleasant to me as the story goes on.

I found chapter 7, "The Controversy" in which the 4 men discuss the sinfulness (or lack thereof) of renouncing one's faith to save one's life quite fascinating and entertaining.


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Alan | 29 comments Margaret wrote: "Alan wrote: "...'The barefoot and ugly ones have to be taken by surprise, first of all...they must be surprised so that they are enraptured, smitten, ashamed that such a gentleman should have falle..."

The debate in "The Controversy" goes all the way back to the persecution of Christians under the Roman Emperor Diocletian at the beginning of the fourth century, and the Donatist movement that grew out of it.

According to the endnotes in the translation I am reading, Dostoyevsky based the story of the man who would not renounce his faith on a true story that occurred on Russia's frontier. At the same time the United States was expanding westward and encountering hostile "primitive" peoples, Russia was expanding eastward and having the same experience with peoples in central Asia and Siberia. You get a taste of this in some of Tolstoy's short stories as well as in the writings of Lermontov and Pushkin.

I see Dostoyevsky setting up a dichotomy between characters who are sincere and committed to their faith (like the elder Zosima and Alyosha) and those who have only a superficial allegiance toward their faith (like Dmitri and Fyodor).


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In book III now.
I think Fyodor was Smerkyakov's father, like Margaret said, the co-incidences just pile up against him. I know that's not proof, but without any other confirmation, it seems likely to me.

I find myself liking Fyodor less and less.

I'd come round to viewing the 3 brothers as archetypal characters, the intellectual, the man of faith and the 9I'm assuming here) dissolute man of pleasure. Strikes mas a Dmitri is most like the image of Fyodor we've been presented with thus far. Strikes me that Zosima and Fyodor are extreme opposites, with Alexei & Dmitri as their respective disciples. Although Ivan distinctly sits in alignment with neither.

Of the two ladies in the chapter, I think they are both schemers, although Katarina has some scruples that Grushenka doesn't. Be interesting to see where they fit into the tale.


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Katrina (katrinasreads) I also think Smerkyakov is Fyodor's son, the scoundrel is likely to have knocked up yet another woman and allowed someone else to do all the hard work until the boy is of use to him.

I'm not too sure about the two girls, Grushenka seems nasty but I get the feeling Katreina could give her a run for her money.


Alana (alanasbooks) | 721 comments I think so more now, although I doubted it when I first read this section. It actually makes more sense with the title, considering it's about the "brothers." And Fyodor is just despicable enough to have done it. At least he's taking care of him, in his way.


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H | 2 comments Are any other stragglers still reading along?

I don't know if the women characters are particularly well-characterized, but I kind of like them anyway. The situation between Dmitri and Katerina intrigues me, if only because it is rather nonsensical (being blackmailed by some sleazy man = instant love??). The completely over the top dramatic introduction of Grushenka made me laugh. I don't really understand Lise's "I'm joking!"/"No I'm not!" antics, but whatever. It also amuses me that everyone in this town uses Alyosha to do their errands, which results in the poor boy wandering from one overwraught scene into the next.

I actually don't think Smerdyakov is Fyodor's son, because I can't think of a reason why the narrator would go to such lengths to throw doubt on it. And either way, doesn't it seem weird that Fyodor is relatively kind to him (training him, stopping Grigory from beating him,etc) when he totally neglected his other children?

I think my favorite part of this volume was when Fyodor got sidetracked during one of rants into talking about some horrible cruelty he did to Alyosha's mother, and Alyosha just broke down - and it was like Fyodor and Alyosha were so inured to his constant ramblings about mistreating women, that they were both sort of surprised! And then Ivan had some comment like, "Did you forget she was my mother too?" And Fyodor did.


Sheila | 16 comments H wrote: "Are any other stragglers still reading along?

I don't know if the women characters are particularly well-characterized, but I kind of like them anyway. The situation between Dmitri and Katerina in..."


Yes - I just started reading this one last weekend so at least you're not the only straggler!

I'm going back and forth on whether or not Smerdyakov is Fyodor's son, but I'm starting to think he is because it sounded like a confession when he talked about taking some women by surprise. It could still go either way though, and the mystery of that and the other characters makes me want to keep reading.

I liked that cognac scene too - especially when Dmitri came bursting in while thinking that Grushenka was there. The father's reaction in believing she might be there made me laugh.

It does seem strange for Katerina to be in love with Dmitri. I wonder if she somehow has ulterior motives or if she's just one of those unlucky women who love scoundrels. I'm not surprised that Dmitri fell for another woman though, since he never believed he was worthy of Katerina.

I'm starting to think one of the points of the book is to show a character who can't be corrupted, even when surrounded by the kind of characters who might usually corrupt someone. At least I hope Alyosha won't be corrupted by all these crazy characters.


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Dolores (Dizzydee39) | 342 comments Mod
H wrote: "Are any other stragglers still reading along?

I don't know if the women characters are particularly well-characterized, but I kind of like them anyway. The situation between Dmitri and Katerina in..."


And I am another straggler. I started it just at the end of December, so I hope I will be able to finish it but I will keep reading as I am enjoying it very much.


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