Brothers Karamazov, Book Four: Oh Dimitry!

fingerFirst, an observation….there has been more action and activity in the first 250 pages of this book than most of War and Peace. Ok, maybe that’s an overstatement. However, Dostoyevsky definitely keeps the action moving, where Tolstoy would take pages and pages (and pages and pages) to expound on the meaning of life.

When I was back in University in the Shakespeare class that I took, the professor was big on the number of lines attributed to a character: the number they spoke, the number they were spoken to, etc. The most interesting was the number of lines spoken about a character that wasn’t in the scene. This applies to book four – Dimitry is no where to be found, yet most of the action (and inaction) is based on something that he did or didn’t do.

We find poor Alyosha turned out from the church (as the staret is basically hours away from dying) to attend to matters concerning the Karamazov family. He is basically going around cleaning up Dimitry’s messes.

So Alyosha is walking along, going to attend to the Katerina situation, where he comes across some school boys who are throwing rocks at each other. Trying to do the right thing, Alyosha steps in and is rewarded by the kid almost biting his finger off – which seems like a random occurrence – until we find out that our boy Dimitry had publicly humiliated the finger-biter’s father.

I was feeling sorry for Alyosha because he seems to be traipsing around cleaning up people’s messes and delivering money. But then I realized that the reason for that is he is the only character that is reliable. He has no skin in the game and through his eyes we see what is actually happening. Even the narrator is a bit sassy and isn’t completely reliable.

The other interesting thing is something that BJ mentioned in his post today – that reading the story back when it was written would be a totally different experience since there are a lot of ‘at the time’ references that only someone reading it then would get. For example, characters are described by their clothing – what cloth the coat is made of – and I am like, is that expensive, cheap, is the dude trying to be a show off. Who knows! It is like referring to someone’s shoes as either strappy Manolo Blahnik sandals or flip flops from Old Navy. At another place and time, people won’t get that reference.

So far, I am really enjoying the book. It’s funny and action packed and keeps you entertained. On to book five!

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