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Dostoevsky, Brothers Karamazov > Brothers Karamazov, Book 12

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message 1: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments We come now to the final Book (though there is still a final week for the Epilogue and discussion of the book as a whole).

I can't help noticing that the title of the book is a major spoiler. Since we know (assuming that we believe Smerdyakov's confession) that Dimitri is innocent, it pretty much tells us up front that he will be found guilty, doesn't it? (I wonder whether the title in Russian is as clear -- any Russian speakers?) That reduces significantly the suspense of the book, but has the benefit of allowing us to focus more on the process than worrying about the outcome.

As a now retired trial lawyer, I have a particular interest in this Book. I am assuming -- hoping -- that the description of the trial process is a reasonably accurate description of the trial process in Russia at the time. I particularly appreciated the perspective of watching the trial primarily through the eyes of the peasant attenders, rather than the judge, lawyers, or jurors. It's a perspective I never had the chance to experience.

I'll get to more specifics about the trial when I've had a chance to re-read the book and reflect on it, but I expect some are ready for the discussion now. So have at it!


message 2: by Theresa (new)

Theresa | 856 comments I found it interesting how famous the trial had become. They didn't have TV & Twitter back then. They didn't even have radio. Yet the idea of the trial had gripped the imagination of the whole of Russia and beyond.

Also, despite that it may be told through the eyes of the peasants, it also becomes apparent that the story is no longer about finding the truth of the crime but rather it is about the match-up between these two lawyers - this moment being the culmination of their lives/careers.


message 3: by Nemo (last edited Oct 20, 2016 12:47PM) (new)

Nemo (nemoslibrary) | 2456 comments The first part of the defense lawyer's speech is a good demonstration of reasonable doubt:
* Are the characters of the hostile witnesses trustworthy?
* Are eyewitness testimonies consistent with one another?
* Does the evidence lead to only one conclusion, or does it allow for alternative explanations / narratives?
* Are there other suspects who had both the motive and the opportunity to commit the crime?

The second part of the defence speech creates doubt about the concept of moral responsibility itself, which is the theme that runs through the whole novel. In short, the defense lawyer is arguing that Fyodor deserved to die, "Why is such a man alive?!" Of course nobody should be held guilty of murdering him. At that point, "Our peasants stood up for themselves".


message 4: by Theresa (new)

Theresa | 856 comments I am still not entirely convinced by Smerdyakov's confession, but I understand it doesn't really matter very much who did the actual killing. Perhaps Smerdyakov did it, or perhaps, in his sick mind, he constructed the whole scenario to bring down the family that disrespected him, and then ended his own life feeling victorious in some way. Perhaps Ivan, in his sick mind, imagined the confession. Perhaps Dmitri did it and is either blocking it out of his mind or is more concerned about the forgiveness and redemption of the living people who have been pulled into all this - Katerina, Grushenka, Ivan. In Zosima's story about the man who got away with murder, the children of the man were better off for their father having escaped justice. No doubt D has in mind some readers who themselves may have escaped the justice of the courts. The themes around individual conscience and collective responsibility seem to be the themes he wishes us to dwell on. So why wrap it up with any firm conclusion about who actually committed the murder?


message 5: by Theresa (last edited Oct 20, 2016 02:29PM) (new)

Theresa | 856 comments In the Bk 11 thread, Luiz mentioned that it seemed everyone was going crazy. I mentioned it seemed interesting to me that D ends book 11 in that way, then moves on to allow the state, as it were, to take command of the situation vis a vis The Trial. It is an interesting transition: we go from the broken down, morally confused characters mental state, to the melodramatic, theatrical show put on by the defense and prosecution. It is no wonder Dmitri seems so uninterested in the trial itself.


message 6: by Borum (last edited Oct 20, 2016 04:47PM) (new)

Borum | 481 comments Theresa wrote: "I am still not entirely convinced by Smerdyakov's confession, but I understand it doesn't really matter very much who did the actual killing. Perhaps Smerdyakov did it, or perhaps, in his sick mind..."

It's really weird but although this whole novel was built to reach its grand finale (or climax) in both the crime and the trial, for me, this was the most disappointing (or the most boring) book in the whole novel. Maybe it was the whole retelling of the events in just different perspectives, or maybe it was the sermonizing and verbose oratory of the prosecutor. Although this book centered on the crime and every Russian's attention was maxed out at this point, my own interest was diverted away from the question of 'whodunnit' to what is going on inside the verdict, the witnesses, the jury, etc. Not only was I not really interested in who was the actual guilty one or who ended up as being 'judged' as the guilty one in the juridicial system, I think the question of the guilt or cause or influence is constantly shifted and expanded and weighed against each other's guilt by Dostoevsky.
I also think that while the crime and trial seems to be the main 'plot' and center of the story and the story of Zossima or Ilyushka seem to be 'sidelines' at first, it is gradually gaining weight on me as the balancing alternative view on influence and judgement and responsibility.


message 7: by Thomas (new)

Thomas | 4409 comments Isn't the trial a bit over the top? At times it seemed to me borderline satirical, with the defendant popping off every so often and the moribund prosecutor who drones on and on about how jaded society has become. I don't know how often a courtroom trial was depicted in Russian literature when D was writing, so maybe it isn't as mocking as it sounds to me, but I can't help thinking some of the drama is overplayed for effect.


message 8: by Theresa (last edited Oct 20, 2016 10:45PM) (new)

Theresa | 856 comments Borum wrote: "It's really weird but although this whole novel was built to reach its grand finale (or climax) in both the crime and the trial, for me, this was the most disappointing (or the most boring) book in the whole novel., ..."

I too, found myself getting bored.


message 9: by Nemo (new)

Nemo (nemoslibrary) | 2456 comments Just out of curiosity, if you were on the jury, what would be your verdict?


message 10: by Hilary (new)

Hilary (agapoyesoun) | 229 comments I can understand how people may have found this a little yawn-making. I am sure that that would have been the case for me had I not listened to the audio while reading. My reader was Constantine Gregory and he did a great job. In particular the defence lawyer's speech was very inspiring. I don't say that I necessarily agree with everything that he said but it almost reached the heights of King's 'I have a dream ...' at times! Doubtless this was not unconnected to Mr Gregory's excellent reading. (So far I have found the 'Audible' readers very professional and on a totally different level from those of 'Librivox', for example. It's true, of course, that 'Librivox' uses volunteers so I do appreciate what they do.)

Our defence lawyer certainly pulled on the heart strings when it came to Mitya's father. He emphasises the fact that Fyodor was far from a good father and elaborates on this in order that we take the accused's side. Perhaps this may have had the desired effect in softening attitudes toward him. Are we to say "Poor Dmitri! He didn't have a chance!"? Yes, probably. We ought to perceive quickly, however, that this is no excuse. Some may continue to think otherwise and that is their prerogative. It is not on any account fitting in a court of law. It doesn't appear that the French idea of the 'Crime Passionnel' forms any part of the Russian legal system.


message 11: by Hilary (new)

Hilary (agapoyesoun) | 229 comments My verdict would have to be 'Not Guilty', Nemo. There just isn't the concrete evidence to convict. My emotions also say this but that must have no bearing on my decision. Smerdyakov may well have murdered him and it is certainly tidier were that the case. Of course it has nothing to do with the case: the court case that is!

A certain number of you have decided that it doesn't really matter who murdered the senior Karamazov. My thinking is somewhat in the same vein. It is true that I tend to prefer that the loose ends are tied up, but it's clever that we are left hanging, at this point anyhow. This tactic helps us to see the bigger picture concerning individual and corporate responsibility as Nemo suggested. We may never know the real truth and maybe that's OK.


message 12: by Zippy (new)

Zippy | 155 comments Thomas wrote: "Isn't the trial a bit over the top? At times it seemed to me borderline satirical, with the defendant popping off every so often and the moribund prosecutor who drones on and on about how jaded soc..."

And the narrator keeps proclaiming that he's not going to go into too much detail! I laughed out loud.


message 13: by Zippy (new)

Zippy | 155 comments Nemo wrote: "Just out of curiosity, if you were on the jury, what would be your verdict?"

Not guilty. Like Hilary, I think the evidence was circumstantial.

Did any character in the book feel loss at Fyodor's death?


message 14: by Nemo (last edited Oct 23, 2016 04:21PM) (new)

Nemo (nemoslibrary) | 2456 comments If I were on the jury, my verdict would probably be "Guilty", because the circumstantial evidence is overwhelming. Surely many people have been convicted with far less evidence?

The defendant had a prior history of violent behaviour, he threatened to kill the deceased, he had both the motive and the opportunity, he was present at the scene of the crime and attempted to kill a witness there, and he couldn't give a plausible explanation for the large sum of money that suddenly came into his possession afterwards; whereas the only other suspect had previously proved himself honest and not covetous by returning the money he found, and was attested by many to be physically incapable of the crime.


message 15: by David (new)

David | 2621 comments Regarding the prosecutor's closing arguments: Its always amazing to me how a case for something may be expressed so well and so coherently from a patchwork of little bits of irrelevant truths and plausible but unproven presumptions making circumstantial evidence sound so compelling but ultimately false or unprovable and unworthy of acceptance. There is too much room for doubt. Not guilty.

I wonder if this is D's way of snubbing not only the civil courts, but also human accountability, which has been quite lost in any calls for being responsible to or for each other. Responsibility and accountability are two very different things that are often vaguely meant or understood to be interchangeable and they are not. It is one thing to vaguely suggest we are all responsible for each other. It is quite another to say an individual is accountable for something.

It seems to me that with responsibility alone, everything is permitted and everything is lawful. Assign some individual accountability along with that responsibility and everything is still permitted, but not everything is lawful. Regardless of any belief or non-belief in immortality. But Dostoevsky's example seems to show he does not have much confidence in processes of human accountability.


message 16: by Theresa (new)

Theresa | 856 comments David wrote: "I wonder if this is D's way of snubbing not only the civil courts, but also human accountability..."

Interesting observation. I am reminded of the practice of scapegoating, Isn't that a way for humans to hold one person accountable for things that the whole group may be guilty of in some way? Isn't it a way of purging that guilt? No wonder the peasants have such a keen interest in the trial.


message 17: by Acontecimal (new)

Acontecimal | 111 comments Nemo wrote: "Just out of curiosity, if you were on the jury, what would be your verdict?"

I think guilty. Without having seen the confession it all points to Dmitri.


message 18: by Acontecimal (new)

Acontecimal | 111 comments Hilary wrote: "My verdict would have to be 'Not Guilty', Nemo. There just isn't the concrete evidence to convict. My emotions also say this but that must have no bearing on my decision. Smerdyakov may well have m..."

The main "proof" for me is the letter.


message 19: by Acontecimal (new)

Acontecimal | 111 comments Zippy wrote: "Nemo wrote: "Just out of curiosity, if you were on the jury, what would be your verdict?"

Not guilty. Like Hilary, I think the evidence was circumstantial.

Did any character in the book feel loss..."


Don´t think anyone missed Fyodor or Smierdakov


message 20: by Nemo (new)

Nemo (nemoslibrary) | 2456 comments Luiz wrote: "Don´t think anyone missed Fyodor or Smierdakov ."

The chilling thing is that the same can be said about a lot of us.

(Who hasn't read news stories about elderly people whose bodies were found after they had been dead for weeks?)


message 21: by Thomas (new)

Thomas | 4409 comments David wrote: "Regarding the prosecutor's closing arguments: Its always amazing to me how a case for something may be expressed so well and so coherently from a patchwork of little bits of irrelevant truths and p..."

In today's criminal justice system (in the U.S.) Dmitri could appeal based on the performance of his defense attorney. Fetyukov posits Dmitri's guilt as a hypothetical and asks the jury to sympathize with him. To my mind the only way this is okay is if there is no doubt that Dmitri is guilty; then a mitigation strategy might make some sense. But it seems that there is some room for doubt... in any case, the reader knows there is.

But it seems to me that the larger purpose is Dostoevsky's. (It's interesting that "the novel" and "the novelist" are used as tropes in these speeches.) Fetyukov throws Dmitri on the mercy of the jury, telling them,

...if you want to punish him terribly, fearfully, with the most horrible punishment imaginable, but so as to save and restore his soul forever -- then overwhelm him with your mercy! ... There are souls that in their narrowness blame the whole world. But overwhelm such a soul with mercy, give it love, and it will curse what it has done, for there are so many germs of good in it. ... And then he will not say, "I am quits,' but will say, 'I am guilty before all people and am the least worthy of all people.'

This phrase, "guilty before all," occurs a number of times in the book, but I associate it most closely with what Zosima expresses to Alyosha at the beginning of Book 4. The elder says that accepting this "guilt before all", understanding the truth of this guilt, is the "crown of the monk's path" because it leads to a "love that is infinite, universal, and that knows no satiety. Then each of us will be able to gain the whole world by love and wash away the world's sins with his tears."

It is a powerful and eloquent statement coming from Zosima, but it sounds strange when echoed by Dmitri's defense attorney. I guess this is one of the quirky things about Dostoevsky -- there is something Karamazovian about him, at least compared with a far more careful and refined writer like Tolstoy. Here he seems to use the words of the lawyers to convey something that goes far beyond the facts of the case -- to me it sounds like he is presenting a summary of his novel, the moral denouement, even more than the lawyers are making the case for and against Dmitri.


message 22: by David (new)

David | 2621 comments Thomas wrote: "It is a powerful and eloquent statement coming from Zosima, but it sounds strange when echoed by Dmitri's defense attorney."

It does sound strange coming from the defense attorney but even stranger considering the defense attorney is referring to a man who is not guilty to begin with.

What are we to make of the fact this plea by the defense attorney fails?


message 23: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments Nemo wrote: "The second part of the defence speech creates doubt about the concept of moral responsibility itself, which is the theme that runs through the whole novel. In short, the defense lawyer is arguing that Fyodor deserved to die, "Why is such a man alive?!"."

Good point. Yes, this is a major theme. I think the issue of moral responsibility in BK is mostly presented through the interactions of characters. How Fyodor treats, well, everybody shows his view of moral responsibility (not much). Zosima shows his by the way he treats others, especially the women who come to him for help. Alexis also by the way he treats others, especially the boys. Grushenka and Dimitri and Ivan and Katerina by their interactions -- what is their moral responsibility to each other? And so on.

Almost every major character interaction seems to show a facet of the sense of moral responsibility of the characters, doesn't it?


message 24: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments Theresa wrote: "So why wrap it up with any firm conclusion about who actually committed the murder? ."

You're making me think!


message 25: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments Thomas wrote: "Isn't the trial a bit over the top? At times it seemed to me borderline satirical, with the defendant popping off every so often and the moribund prosecutor who drones on and on about how jaded soc..."

I thought much of it could have stood in for some of the trials I was involved in, except for Ivan's madness -- I've never had that in a trial (though I came close once, was involved in a criminal case where the accuser had multiple personality disorder and could easily have flipped from a rational personality to an irrational and violent personality at a moment's notice. But the case was dismissed before trial.)


message 26: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments Theresa wrote: "I too, found myself getting bored. "

I have to admit it, but trials are for the most part amazingly boring to everybody except the participants. Sometimes I wonder how juries can stand it. At least the lawyers and witnesses get to have some action. But for the jury, it's often like sitting out in right field in a T-ball game where you should be staying constantly alert but in fact no ball ever comes your way. (And I have actually seen judges go to sleep on the bench.)


message 27: by Thomas (new)

Thomas | 4409 comments David wrote: "What are we to make of the fact this plea by the defense attorney fails? "

Great question. On the face of it, the defense attorney is asking the jury to choose mercy over justice, which is somewhat absurd in a court of law, so it's no wonder that they don't do it.

But I think the argument is there for the reader more than the jury. What if the jury had chosen mercy over what they think is justice? The reader knows that this would have, in fact, been the just decision. By choosing mercy, the jury would have also chosen justice without knowing it. Instead they choose what they think is justice, which in reality is neither justice nor mercy.


message 28: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments Thomas wrote: "What if the jury had chosen mercy over what they think is justice? The reader knows that this would have, in fact, been the just decision. By choosing mercy, the jury would have also chosen justice without knowing it. Instead they choose what they think is justice, which in reality is neither justice nor mercy. ."

Very nicely said.

But what are we as readers supposed to take as the lesson from that? That in the end one shouldn't expect either mercy or justice from life? That issue doesn't get resolved in the epilogue, so are we just left with that?


message 29: by Thomas (new)

Thomas | 4409 comments Everyman wrote: "But what are we as readers supposed to take as the lesson from that? That in the end one shouldn't expect either mercy or justice from life? That issue doesn't get resolved in the epilogue, so are we just left with that? "

I think that's probably right. On one hand, it speaks to the question of theodicy that concerns Ivan. God is not going to intervene to make sure that justice prevails. On the other hand, it speaks to Zosima's response to the problem of injustice: it is humanity's problem, not God's. Rather than meting out punishment on the guilty, we should presume and know that we are guilty before all. In this case, forgiveness, mercy, and "active love" are more effective ways to cope with injustice than punishment. Dmitri will presumably escape punishment anyway, which is appropriate since justice was not served in the first place. Perhaps one of the takeaways from the novel is that justice is never certain, but love and mercy are.


message 30: by David (new)

David | 2621 comments Thomas wrote: "Perhaps one of the takeaways from the novel is that justice is never certain, but love and mercy are."

I would suggest a better example of that would be for Ivan to have dragged Smerdyakov to court after his confession and hashed out who was responsible for what and that Smerdyakov should be held accountable/found guilty for the crime. Then have the brothers plot to save Smerdyakov from the jurisdiction of the state and their "mechanical punishments that only serve to embitter a criminal" and place him within the jurisdiction of a Church allowed to practice its influence on the reformation, regeneration, redemption, and salvation of the fallen.

Was Smerdyakov already suffering spiritually because he had committed the crime? It seems like the criminals and murderers in this story, whether they really committed a crime (Zossima's story of the murderer), or feel responsible for it (Ivan) all become very sick as if illness is part of God's punishment.


message 31: by Thomas (last edited Oct 27, 2016 03:31PM) (new)

Thomas | 4409 comments David wrote: "I would suggest a better example of that would be for Ivan to have dragged Smerdyakov to court after his confession and hashed out who was responsible for what and that Smerdyakov should be held accountable/found guilty for the crime. "

That ending would be a bit contrived, wouldn't it? Or at least morally over-simplified? What happens in the novel is closer to what happens in reality, I think. Justice is rarely served in an effective way, but neither is mercy given. Nor is the Church interested in the hard business of reforming criminals. (Unless you're joking about that... :) I think that is one of D's criticisms of the Church, incidentally: Fr. Ferapont's ideas and methods are more prevalent than those of Zosima.

I think the spiritual parallel to Smerdyakov in the story is Ilyusha. When we first see him, Ilyusha is nasty, rock-throwing, ill-tempered boy who bites Alyosha after he tries to befriend him. If Alyosha had not persisted in showing Ilyusha kindness and understanding, and he had continued to grow up in similarly grim circumstances, perhaps he could have become another Smerdyakov. But he dies young (unjustly, of course), but he dies in a much different way than Smerdyakov because he is loved. It's a rather amazing death scene, now that I think about it.


message 32: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments I want to get peoples' views on two questions. I'll make them separate posts.

First: Do you believe that Smerdyakov really did kill Fyodor? Are you satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt that he did? Do you think it's probably that he did but possible not? Are you on the fence, 50-50 (or roughly that)? Are you leaning toward not believing his confession? Or do simply not believe the confession and think beyond a reasonable doubt that he's not guilty?


message 33: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments Second: If you had been on the jury and heard the evidence and arguments, but didn't have any of the information that the jury didn't have (such as Smerdyakov's confession), and weren't subject to the narrator's opinions expressed during the trial, but judging just on the evidence provided and the arguments of counsel, would you have voted for guilty or not guilty?


message 34: by Nemo (last edited Oct 27, 2016 07:42PM) (new)

Nemo (nemoslibrary) | 2456 comments Everyman wrote: " would you have voted for guilty or not guilty? "

I asked (and answered) that question above, but didn't articulate it as well as you did. :)


message 35: by Mark (last edited Oct 28, 2016 09:52AM) (new)

Mark André Thomas wrote:
"...a rather amazing death scene..."
An excellent expression of the intense pleasure to be found in reading Dostoyevsky. That sense of a deep and complex immersion into a foreign world of players, their problems, and the unforeseen out comes that await them. Revealed to our imaginations simply by reading a book. Bravo.



message 36: by Mark (new)

Mark André Everyman wrote: "Second: If you had been on the jury and heard the evidence and arguments, but didn't have any of the information that the jury didn't have (such as Smerdyakov's confession), and weren't subject to ..."
Guilty.


message 37: by Mark (last edited Oct 28, 2016 10:03AM) (new)

Mark André My question: if Smerdyakov had had to stand trial for murder, what
would his defense sounded like? And, as to the surviving brothers, can we anticipate, for them, a certain amount of dread in each one of their souls knowing, as they do, that they are the "sons" of a rather disreputable man?


message 38: by Thomas (last edited Oct 28, 2016 12:58PM) (new)

Thomas | 4409 comments Everyman wrote: "I want to get peoples' views on two questions. I'll make them separate posts.

First: Do you believe that Smerdyakov really did kill Fyodor? Are you satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt that he did?..."


I'm satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt, but not absolutely certain. I think it's interesting that Dostoevsky leaves open the remote possibility that Smerdyakov is lying, that Alyosha's instincts about Dmitri are wrong, and that the narrator is not reliable. But I think that possibility is indeed remote.


message 39: by Thomas (last edited Oct 28, 2016 01:16PM) (new)

Thomas | 4409 comments Everyman wrote: "Second: If you had been on the jury and heard the evidence and arguments, but didn't have any of the information that the jury didn't have (such as Smerdyakov's confession), and weren't subject to ..."

Probably guilty. The most powerful evidence for Dmitri comes from a clearly delirious witness (Ivan), and this is outweighed by a lot of circumstantial evidence against him, so I don't think we can fault the jury for their decision. The reader has insight into the crime and the characters that the jury doesn't, and this creates a lot of tension for the reader (this reader, anyway). It's nicely done, and perhaps necessary given the tedium of the rhetoric dished out in the courtroom.


message 40: by Rhonda (new)

Rhonda (rhondak) | 202 comments From the beginning of Book XII, Dostoevsky has us, as usual, off-balance. As the titles suggests, it is all about a judicial error, finding Dmitri guilty of a crime which we know he did not commit. I found that hard to reconcile with the words that Alyosha says to Dmitri in the preceding book in chapter 4:
"Brother, I cannot stay long," Alyosha said, after a pause. "To-morrow will be a great and awful day for you, the judgment of God will be accomplished...


It stands to reason that we may not know much about the judgment of God, but how is it a just thing that Dmitri, a man innocent of the crime for which he is charged, is found guilty? Or, rather, is there something else to which we should be paying close attention? I suggest that it is, as usual, the latter, something we have come to expect from this great writer.

There is little doubt that Dostoevsky intends Book XII as a satire of the Russian judicial system. We are fortunate that we do not have to be historically closer to the period to understand that the long-winded emotional arguments of the lawyers border on the pompous and ridiculous, although perhaps they may mimic something of modern jurisprudence too. Still there is a dichotomy here too as there has been throughout the book and this one is a resolution of one to which we were introduced early in the book, the issue of the effectiveness of the courts to judge a man's guilt or innocence, the proponent of such progressiveness being Ivan..
Zossima (who later passes this manle on to Alyosha,) is at odds with this stating that no man should ever be able to examine a man's soul to be able to say whether he is innocent or guilty but only a man's conscience should be able to deal with his own guilt for committing a crime. His contention is that such a thing will wear heavily on a man's soul and eventually cause him to confess his sins. Book VI, of course, was replete with such stories that Zossima shared, even one which lead him to the very monastery where Alyosha found him. Moreover, such guilt can only be met with when a man is treated with love and compassion, when he is not treated as a dog.

The prosecutor, Ippolit Kirillovich argues from a sweeping point of view, first that Russia has suffered because society has become used to murders like these. Society is in a downward spiral that one hardly knows what to do but here we have Dmitri Karamazov who virtually represents this societal disintegration His reasoning is such that if one were to convict the libertine Dmitri Karamazov, then you will protect Russia itself from being destroyed.

When the trial starts, it is important to note that public opinion is turned firmly against Dmitri, but by the time the trial ends, it is most certainly in favor of seeing him go free. Almost all of the testimony against him which is prejudicial, such as Rakitin, surely out to make a name only for himself, has been disarmed. It is also significant that Dmitri's lawyer, Fetyukovich, has pointed out that there is no real evidence against his client, but that all of it is circumstantial in nature. In fact, he turns almost every argument of the prosecutor on its head and makes it ridiculous. He argues that if Russia is in such a terrible way, then it would be better to exonerate Dmitri, rather than convict him for he is a victim of the situation, not a cause of the problem.
But then he begins to examine the meaning of what it means to be a father. He says:
"Oh, of course, there is the other meaning, there is the other interpretation of the word 'father,' which insists that any father, even though he be a monster, even though he be the enemy of his children, still remains my father simply because he begot me. But this is, so to say, the mystical meaning which I cannot comprehend with my intellect, but can only accept by faith, or, better to say, on faith, like many other things which I do not understand, but which religion bids me believe. But in that case let it be kept outside the sphere of actual life. In the sphere of actual life, which has, indeed, its own rights, but also lays upon us great duties and obligations, in that sphere, if we want to be humane- Christian, in fact- we must, or ought to, act only upon convictions justified by reason and experience, which have been passed through the crucible of analysis; in a word, we must act rationally, and not as though in dream and delirium, that we may not do harm, that we may not ill-treat and ruin a man. Then it will be real Christian work, not only mystic, but rational and philanthropic...."


Modern Christians will recognize such words as these which indicate that although we may have private rights, we have greater obligations to be reasonable and humane. Christians have a right to their dreams, but only insofar as they don't get in the way of the progressives. This young lawyer is appealing to the modern world that is now descending on Russia. It won't be long before Freud writes about Christianity being a mass delusion.

Still in defending Dmitri, Fetyukovich manages to effectively separate him from his father, suggesting that the behavior of old Fyodor Pavlovitch was hardly worth being called a father.. There is probably not a single person who would not consider this argument for a moment, having seen or heard of horror stories. Perhaps the stories of the peasants beating their children were true and that peasants being beaten commonly by the noble class even more so. There is hardly a person who wouldn't be inclined at some point to take this argument for the truth....and yet, what should happen if we do and we keep it? Should the entire fabric of good and evil fall apart like so much discarded lint? Should the entire being of a man be torn apart by the inconsistencies of rational empiricism as it did for Ivan in the previous book?
Kirillovich replies to Fetyukovich's dazzling speech with a few short words, but they fail to have an effect on the court who are clearly wooed by the defense. However he does make some cortical points for our argument here: “
“We peep into the Gospel only on the eve of making speeches, in order to dazzle the audience by our acquaintance with what is, anyway, a rather original composition, which may be of use to produce a certain effect- all to serve the purpose! But what Christ commands us is something very different: He bids us beware of doing this, because the wicked world does this, but we ought to forgive and to turn the other cheek, and not to measure to our persecutors as they measure to us. This is what our God has taught us and not that to forbid children to murder their fathers is a prejudice. And we will not from the tribune of truth and good sense correct the Gospel of our Lord, Whom the counsel for the defence deigns to call only 'the crucified lover of humanity,' in opposition to all orthodox Russia, which calls to Him, 'For Thou art our God!'"

He may not be popular with the courtroom, but here he is defending the Russian establishment view of right and wrong.

Had we not read the title to this book, perhaps we might have expected the jury to have freed Dmitri, but instead we are asking ourselves how it is possible that the prosecutor might have convinced anyone? This entire book has been a battle:
"The awful thing is that beauty is mysterious as well as terrible. God and the devil are fighting there and the battlefield is the heart of men."

These are not euphemisms.
For the moment, at least at the end of this trial, it is the judgment of God which has been accomplished. It also appears that the encroachment of the inevitable progressivism of the modern world was merely delayed.


message 41: by Nemo (last edited Oct 29, 2016 09:08AM) (new)

Nemo (nemoslibrary) | 2456 comments Rhonda wrote: "how it is possible that the prosecutor might have convinced anyone? This entire book has been a battle: ."

The narrator suggested that the prosecutor was almost neglected in his profession, and not someone of the establishment. Listening to his speech, the reader can probably understand why. His defence arguments, where he seemingly defends the traditional moral values, are far from convincing -- if I were on the jury, I would tune out so quickly that I wouldn't even remember, let alone agree with, them.

If this trial is a battle, who is the prosecutor supposed to represent?


message 42: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments Nemo wrote: "
If this trial is a battle, who is the prosecutor supposed to represent? ."


Don't know about Russian law at the time, but in the UK and US even back then the prosecutor represented the people, aka the state, aka the laws.


message 43: by Nemo (new)

Nemo (nemoslibrary) | 2456 comments Everyman wrote: "Nemo wrote: "
If this trial is a battle, who is the prosecutor supposed to represent? ."

Don't know about Russian law at the time, but in the UK and US even back then the prosecutor represented th..."


Being such a lover of the Russian people, couldn't Dostoevsky have given them a better spokesperson?


message 44: by Acontecimal (new)

Acontecimal | 111 comments Nemo wrote: "Luiz wrote: "Don´t think anyone missed Fyodor or Smierdakov ."

The chilling thing is that the same can be said about a lot of us.

(Who hasn't read news stories about elderly people whose bodies w..."


Sadly, yes.


message 45: by Acontecimal (new)

Acontecimal | 111 comments Everyman wrote: "I want to get peoples' views on two questions. I'll make them separate posts.

First: Do you believe that Smerdyakov really did kill Fyodor? Are you satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt that he did?..."


I am90% percent sure. If the case was with another writer(perhaps a more modern one) then I would not be so sure, but Dostoevsky seems to make it clear.


message 46: by Acontecimal (new)

Acontecimal | 111 comments Everyman wrote: "Second: If you had been on the jury and heard the evidence and arguments, but didn't have any of the information that the jury didn't have (such as Smerdyakov's confession), and weren't subject to ..."

I put myself in the jury place the entire trial. Would have voted guilty. Dmitri´s personality and letter make "sufficient" proofs for me.


message 47: by Nemo (last edited Oct 29, 2016 01:43PM) (new)

Nemo (nemoslibrary) | 2456 comments I think Dostoevsky is showing the readers how perspectives can influence our firmly held beliefs and opinions, by the contrast between the point of view of the jury and that of the reader, neither of whom knows the fact of the matter.

This reminds me again of the the movie "A Beautiful Mind", in which two contradictory perspectives are presented in succession, first, that of the protagonist, and then of all the other people in his life. The film did such a great job of taking the audience along and showing the world through the eyes of Nash, that I really thought he was abducted by a Russian secret agent, until it became clear that the agent was really a psychiatrist, taking his schizophrenic patient to the hospital.


message 48: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments Nemo wrote: "Being such a lover of the Russian people, couldn't Dostoevsky have given them a better spokesperson? "

Well, he won, didn't he? He got the conviction. How much better do you want a prosecutor to be?


message 49: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments Nemo wrote: "I think Dostoevsky is showing the readers how perspectives can influence our firmly held beliefs and opinions, by the contrast between the point of view of the jury and that of the reader, neither ..."

Nice point.


message 50: by Nemo (new)

Nemo (nemoslibrary) | 2456 comments Everyman wrote: "Nemo wrote: "Being such a lover of the Russian people, couldn't Dostoevsky have given them a better spokesperson? "

Well, he won, didn't he? He got the conviction. How much better do you want a pr..."


Dimitri was convicted because "our peasants stood up for themselves", when the prosecutor failed to stand up for them.


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