Friday, January 11, 2013

The Speech at the Stone

There isn't much you can add after such a dramatic trial but Dostoevsky offers an epilogue in which he still manages to turn emotions and leave us to wonder what will be the fate of Dmitri Karamazov.

It seems that Katya wasn't so cold-hearted after all, professing her love for Mitya and assuring that she and Ivan will do everything they can to ensure his escape.  Grushenka comes in on this scene and isn't quite sure what to make of it after Katya's performance at the trial, but says she is willing to forgive Katya if indeed they do free Mitya as planned.

Rather than go through a long escape scene, the narrator instead ends with Alyosha attending the funeral of little Ilyusha, and having one last tete-a-tete with Kolya, the little boy with an anarchistic spirit, which I guess in some way makes Alyosha think of how Mitya may have been like at that age.  It is a touching scene, made all the poignant with his "Speech at the Stone," but not the way you would have expected this long story to end.

One can only speculate on the connections between these two threads.  The only thing that ties the plight of Ilyusha with that of Mitya  is Alyosha's oldest brother having assaulted Ilyusha's father in the streets, and Ilyusha falling into a fever over the incident, which ultimately ended in the little boy's death.  Mitya may not have been responsible for his father's death, but he does bare some responsibility for Ilyusha's death, and I assume Dostoevsky wanted to leave the reader with that impression.

Yet, Mitya is seemingly oblivious to any of this, as it is all told through Alyosha, who may or may not have related it to Mitya all those times they met in the prison cell.  For Mitya, his only grief appears to be that he cannot be with Grushenka in the penal colony, and this grief he cannot bear, falling ill after the trial and being treated in a hospital where Katya comes to visit him.

Ivan is similarly infirmed, and we are left to speculate whether he will recover or not from his "brain fever," brought on by his own deep sense of guilt.  Alyosha and the two women seem to be the only ones to have weathered this tempest.

It is a difficult book to come to terms with.  I welcome other thoughts on The Brothers Karamazov.  It is certainly Dostoevsky's most complex and in many ways most compelling novel.

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