Family Problems In Dostoevsky’s Brothers Karamazov


The novel The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky is about the complications within a family and reveals that people prefer to present a tranquil and perfect side to their family, but in reality, the dynamics are much more complex. The Brothers Karamazov is about a tragedy that occurs within the Karamazov Family. The three brothers that pertain to this family are Dmitri, Ivan, and Alexei. Fyodor, the eldest member of the Karamazov’s, is also the father of the three brothers, though, he neglected them from a young age. 

Passage 1

“Do they need you? Did you promise anyone yesterday that you would come today?’

‘I promised… my father… my brothers… others, too.’

‘You see, you must go. Do not be sad. I assure you that I will not die without saying my last word on earth in your presence. I will say this word to you, my son, to you I will bequeath it. To you, my dear son, because you love me. But for now, go to those who you have promised to see” (Dostoevsky 170).


In this passage, Alexei is reluctant to leave the dying elder’s side but is told to leave because he has promised to visit his family. The elder is partially responsible for shaping Alexei into the young man that he is. These words come with much power and Alexei’s response also reveals that Alexei is not particularly thrilled to see his father and brothers. It begins to give a bit of insight into the fact that no matter how obvious the Karamazov family’s flaws were, they did not have a seamless reunion.

Knowing that the public side of a family and a private side of a family tend to be complete opposites can be scary. And as people grow up, some of the magic within family disappears to reveal ugly truths about other’s opinions and actions. As kids overhear conversations and are included in more adult mature topics concerning issues within their family, they can be forced to grow up quicker. This book is from a different time, so everything happened at a much younger age including marriages and death. Although Alexei is the youngest he is very familiar with the situation that is being presented to him. Alexei is the sentimental and cautious brother out of all of the Karamazovs and so he is very careful about not embarrassing the family name and is wary with all his actions. Sometimes, within families all over, people will talk about how awful their family is behaving. When this happens, it breaks apart the bond that brings a family together and people will react in the same reluctant manner that Alexei did. Without enthusiasm and with no motivation to see them, much less help fix any of the mistakes they have created. A typical family today would likely struggle with political views and religious views.

Passage 2

“Well god be with you, God be with you!’ he kept repeating from the porch. ‘Will you come back again in this lifetime? Well, do come, I’ll always be glad to see you. Well, so Christ be with you!’

Ivan Fyodorovich got into the carriage

‘Farewell Ivan! Don’t hold any grudges!’ the father cried for the last time” (Dostoevsky 279)


This passage illustrates the scene where Ivan decides to leave town and head to Moscow due to his family’s current state of competition and discomfort. Ivan feels as though he is lesser than his brother and is not worthy of Katerina (Dmitri’s fiance's) love. This is a very complex novel and so there are intricate relationships and triangles of love that take place.

I believe that this passage has a worldwide connection with the sentiment that Fyodor is expressing at this moment. He is trying to get in the last word with his second-born son, while also attempting to wish him safe travels all the same. There is a pleading tone that is written into his voice in his final cry which adds emotion. Lots of people experience bittersweet relationships with their family and while they want the best for them they also feel as though they have to trump the other and practically prove that they are superior to each other. More specifically, as though their beliefs opinions are superior.

Another piece of this passage is Ivan’s actions. Ivan has chosen to leave his family in their small Russian town and leave for Mosco. Ivan has his reasons but I also believe that this sentiment is shared among many. Especially, the younger generations, after they return from time away in either school or traveling or just out in the world. Because once they have left they adapt their own routines based on their lifestyle. To return and assume that any member who was absent before, will settle in immediately and know all of the customs within a home is a bit unrealistic. Society has told people that families are supposed to smile all the time, and stick together no matter what, but that is not always possible. 

Passage 3

“Terrible, furious anger suddenly boiled up in Mitya’s heart: ‘There he was, his rival, his tormentor, the tormentor of his life!’ It was a surge of that same sudden vengeful, and furious anger of which he had spoken, as if in anticipation, to Alyosha during their conversation in the gazebo four days earlier, in response to Alyosha’s question, ‘How can you say you will kill father?’... The personal loathing was increasing unbearably. Mitya was beside himself, and suddenly he snatched the brass pestle from his pocket…”.


This passage occurs before Fyodor’s death and leads us to believe that Dmitri, who is also referred to as Mitya, is the murderer of his father. Dmitri expresses his extreme hate towards his father by listing all of his flaws and increasingly getting more angered by the fact that his own father is ruining his life.

The amount of anger and hatred that Dmitri feels is very extreme and perhaps a bit exaggerated, but it is still common to feel resentment towards a family member. Although in what people to be an ordinary family, hate does not have to have the same amount of passion as it did for Dmitri. In most family settings, hate resembles a sentiment closer to resentment. It is rather rare to find a cause for hatred so strong that it results in something as horrifying as murder within a family. Perhaps, Dmitri was exaggerating and did not have to even consider killing his father, but at this point in the novel, Dmitri is the only suspect for Fyodor’s murder. Later, we learn that Smerdyakov, Fyodor’s possible fourth-born son could also be a suspect, though his reasoning for committing such a crime is unclear.

In the rare occasion that something this grim would occur, it takes the strongest of family members to heal from this. The love within the family and the love that connects the individuals belonging to the family must be unbreakable. A family who endured such cruel actions, must be able to forgive easily as well. 

Passage 4

“I have one more piece of evidence to give, at once…! Here is a paper, a letter… take it, read it quickly, quickly! It’s a letter from that monster, that one, that one!’ she was pointing at Mitya. … So she cried out, beside herself. The marshal took the paper she was holding out to the judge, and she, collapsing on her chair and covering her face, began sobbing convulsively and soundlessly, shaking all over and suppressing the lightest moan for fear of being put out of that courtroom”.


In this section of the book The surviving Karamazovs are at court. Alyosha is pleading that Dmitri is in fact innocent and Ivan is unsure of what to say so he keeps his speech rather vague and rather unbiased. But, when Katarina (Dmitri’s fiance) goes to speak, she does not contain any over her pent up anger about her cheating fiance and all of his secretive ways. This passage reveals that emotion can act quicker than thought and ties in the merely passionate and instinctive reaction of people.

Katarina had an outburst of emotion and anger in the courtroom which was quickly followed by a type of regret and sadness. As humans, we do not always realize the consequences of our actions. Both Dmitri and Katarina made a bad decision and felt remorse after their choice. In families, when people stop staying in contact with others or break up a relationship it can feel like the best and obvious choice at the moment, but later after the realization strikes that those people are crucial parts of our lives, people regret their choices.

In this story, Dostoevsky does not give the women a lot of power throughout, so this moment where Katarina has power over Dmitri is impressive. In families (mainly in the past) women were not treated equally or as people at all. It was not until recently where women began to be treated with equality and the same amount of equality as men. When Katarina was able to determine the future of Dmitri, it shocked the other characters within the story and frightened them and I believe it surprised her as well. Part of the reason that women have been so suppressed is that they would have a lot of truthful and accurate information about their spouses that could be harmful. 

16 August 2021
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