Saturday, October 22, 2011

A Note To A Friend On The Brothers Karamazov

So I'm up to just before Dmitri's trial. And I'm working on a theory as I try to think the novel through while I read it almost breathlessly. I suspect, I don't know, that the reader is never given to know whether Dmitri actually murdered Fyodor. Please don't tell me if my suspicion is right or wrong because (1) I don't want the suspense wrecked; and (2) my embryonic theory doesn't depend on it, nor do I suspect does the novel's ultimate theme or meaning.

It's along these lines:

Ilusha's heart breaking sickness and death is inextricably morally tied to (not as such caused by) Dmitri in his degenerate, heedless dissipation pulling Ilusha's father out of the tavern by his beard ("Wisp of Tow") and beating him mercilessly in front of Ilusha, marking Ilusha indelibly and painfully with the beating's terrible memory.

So Dimitri is on trial metaphysically, as well as strict criminally, being called to account for all the wrongs he has done encapsulated by the beating of Ilusha's father and the virtual beating of Ilusha, the sheer breaking of his innocence. Grushenka says to Dmitri, "You are innocent, though you've been your own undoing." Part 3, Book IX, Chapter 9.

That such a trial is going on at least at two levels--the immediate criminal trial for parricide, and the sort of cosmic reckoning--is part of an incredibly fluid and complicated interplay by way of collision and dialectical merging and separating of all levels of meaning and facets of existence, including philosophical, religious and divine, moral, social (including all forms of human exchange including sexual and soulful), political and psychologically particular, as men and women conceive them, are informed by them, act on them, embody them and are conflicted by them within themselves and by the the complicated rush of circumstances attending them.

This is the rough shape my theory is taking, evolving as I read on, another 155 pages to go to reach page the last, 701.

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