Book 8 is one for the ages. Honestly. I can only imagine what it was like when this little bombshell dropped in the homes of subscribers to the Russian Messenger.
What I imagine is that it had tongues wagging. I don’t think people had water coolers, but where ever people gathered, I imagine them saying “did you read that?”
And I can imagine they couldn’t wait for the next issue to show up, kind of like “Who killed JR?”
Essentially, after a long period of time following Aloysha around, we now switch to the opposite side of the spectrum and follow Dmitry while he has what in today’s world would be considered an “episode.”
The objects of the madness are, of course, Grushenka, and money, a related subject. She’s not on the most stable ground herself—or, she’s the only one in the book who is and she’s running circles around these other dopes. Either way, Dmitry has a well-known obsession with her. Like many self-destructive people, he is ready to change…tomorrow. In fact, his idea is that once has he Grushenka, he will go on the straight and narrow. They will move to Siberia and live a life of purity and hard work.
Grushenka says she buy into this as well, claiming that she cannot wait to work the dirt with her hands, but she may just be playing the odds after her long-distance soldier crush turned out to be a dud.
So, you’re rolling along, watching this darkly hilarious scene unfold and escalate in intensity and ridiculousness.
Until the end, when the story takes its key turn.
First, I’m not sure how spoilers work in books that were published in 1880, but this is one. I’m not even sure if it counts because anyone who is reading this book probably knows that Dmitry is accused of killing his Father.
So a couple things about that from a literature standpoint.
First, Dostoevsky does something very interesting when we are in the part of the action where the murder occurs. Remember, we are in Dmitry’s head. As we see it, he is spying on his Father and then he wakes up with 3,000 rubles, a bludgeoned servant and blood everywhere, including on a pestle, the purported murder weapon.
We wonder where he got the money and therefore know that something has been omitted, but then we don’t know what until the final part of the section when the police show up and accuse him of murdering his Father. This is the first time we learn that the Father is even dead.
It is an odd way to frame a mystery, but it moves it into (I assume) a question of consciousness of evil/madness as well as the manifestation of evil, a philosophical whodunit, as in whodunit and who are you and who am I?
The other literary-type thing is that Dostoevsky has chosen to have his key event happen just past the mid-way part of the book. There have been hints all the way along, which I assume were designed to keep readers reading. I don’t think, however, that there’s any modern novelist who would have done this. It certainly would have been a rough day in the MFA workshop.
People are still reading The Brothers Karamazov, so it has to work. The challenge from a writer’s standpoint is for Doestevsky to pay off all that exposition in the second half of the book–particularly the parts involving Aloysha.
Read on, Macduff.