The Brothers Karamazov Analysis
- Date:Dec 16, 2020
- Category:The Brothers Karamazov
Smerdyakov had murdered Fyodor Karamazov and had blamed Ivan for the murder. He had said that Ivan’s religious teachings and views about God had inspired him to murder his father. Ivan was very upset at this and had accepted the reality that he was implicitly responsible for his father’s murder. But he thought that, at least, he would be able to prove in the court that Dmitri, his accused brother, was innocent. When he came back to his place after meeting Smardyakov, he saw a devil in a nightmarish hallucination.
The devil, who was a vividly dressed middle-aged man with long, thick hair, told him how weak he was per se, and how plagued he was by religious doubts. The devil taunts him about his atheistic views regarding religion and God, and about his insecurity and timidity, like when he told Ivan, “Your nerves are out of order” (Dostoyevsky 582), and that, “You are forever angry, all you care about is intelligence” (584). The devil is a symbolic character in the novel, representing evil. The point to consider is why would Ivan’s mind manifest as a devil if he did not believe in religion at all. “…does proving there’s a devil prove that there’s a God?” (579), said the devil, which makes us think that perhaps Ivan was experiencing an awakening of religious beliefs, and the battle in his mind was driving him mad. Perhaps, Ivan had started realizing that his atheistic views had been false, that there was a God.
Although Ivan was critical about the apparition’s taunting, yet he found himself unsettled with what it told him, and the feeling drove him crazy, which showed when he said, “You are a lie, you are my illness, you are a phantom. It’s only that I don’t know how to destroy you and I see I must suffer for a time. You are my hallucination” (579), and “You choose out only my worst thoughts, and what’s more, the stupid ones. You are stupid and vulgar. You are awfully stupid. No, I can’t put up with you! What am I to do, what am I to do?” (580). Ivan continuously told the devil that he was only an image of his, a phantom who had just the same thoughts as his. But, actually, the devil was much more than mere imagination. He went half-mad at listening to the apparition. He was getting upset at the devil’s taunting remarks, and he wanted the devil to disappear, “Leave me alone, you are beating on my brain like a haunting nightmare” (588).
To conclude, we can say that Ivan was getting unsettled at the devil’s conversation with him in his hallucination because he was in a conflict between his atheistic views and non-atheistic beliefs, which came with the existence of a devil. If there was a devil, that meant for Ivan that there was a God. But he did not believe in God at all. Hence, the devil was driving him mad with his remarks, and Ivan was getting upset when he was already very upset at Smerdyakov’s accusation of him.
Dostoyevsky, Fyodor. The Brothers Karamazov. The USA. Spark Educational Publishing, 2004.