The Brothers Karamazov

I am just through with the third part, abt 700 pages, of this mammoth saga about man’s destiny and existence. It has been quite a laborious read till now, mainly because of the melodramatic intensity with which Dostoevsky writes. Almost all his characters keep on brimming with emotions. Its a conscious approach i guess, which actually at times makes him repeat endlessly the same thing over. I actually had to skip few pages from a chapter about Elder Zoshima. The chapter where Alyosha describes his(Elder) finding his faith and then his philosophy about it, which mainly included the thought of ‘every one being responsible for everyone else’s sins’, which can be said to be as the notion of being kind and understanding to every one but here a notion of kind and caring God also comes as well with the requirement of faith in him.

The much celebrated chapter of book, The Grand Inquisitor, presenting the idea of freedom as a tormentor of mankind and religion as a possible solution, was quite astounding. Also was exemplary the way Dostoevsky examines the three temptations of Christ and their effect on mankind. Though one can’t refute Inquisitor’s arguments against freedom as man’s ability to distinguish between Good and Evil as a whole is unarguably questionable but his idea of religion being the solution for it is quite debatable.
He writes:.

..For the mystery of man’s being is not only in living, but in what one lives for. Without a firm idea of what he lives for, man will not consent to live and will sooner destroy himself than remain on earth, even if there is bread all around him.

That is so, but what came of it? Instead of taking over men’s freedom, you increased it still more for them! Did you forget that peace and even death are dearer to man than free choice in the knowledge of good and evil? There is nothing more seductive for man than the freedom of his conscience, but there is nothing more tormenting, either. And so, instead of a firm foundation for appeasing human conscience once and for all, you chose everything that was unusual, enigmatic, and indefinite, you chose everything that was beyond men’s strength, and thereby acted as if you did not love them at all-and who did this? He who came to give his life for them! Instead of taking over men’s freedom, you increased it and forever burdened the kingdom of the human soul with its torments. You desired the free love of man, that he should follow you freely, seduced and captivated by you. Instead of the firm ancient law, man had henceforth to decide for himself, with a free heart, what is good and what is evil, having only your image before him as a guide-but did it not occur to you that he would eventually reject and dispute even your image and your truth if he was oppressed by so terrible a burden as freedom of choice? They will finally cry out that truth is not in you, for it was impossible to leave them in greater confusion and torment than you did, abandoning them to so many cares and insoluble problems. You see, then, you yourself sowed d the seeds for the destruction of your kingdom and no one else is to blame….

Dostoevsky then says abouts man’s desire to follow something universally unquestionable as one of his main point, which he tries to validate by quoting history of religions and rulers whereby each one tried to make itself universal. As he writes:

..It is precisely that requirement of shared worship that has been the principle source of suffering for individual man and the human race since the beginning of history. In their efforts to impose universal worship,men have unsheathed their swords and killed one another. The have invented their gods and challenged one another:”Discard your Gods and worship mine or i will destroy both you and your gods”..

Bread also becomes an integral part of his scheme which man has endlessly desired and freedom has never granted. And then he gives universal religion as a solution which will relieve man of the burden of freedom and free will. It will also take care of his bread as well. No doubt men have fought terrible wars over religions and having a universal religion will at least relieve man kind of the sufferings by these wars. But then a universal religion will never be a peaceful solution considering the rebellious nature of man which Dostoevsky himself also acknowledges in the chapter very well.

Apart from Grand Inquisitor chapter rebellion chapter was also quite good. Grad Inquisitor chapter will require a re reading i guess.
Well, its still 300 pages to go and i guess Alyosha, who’s the central character and also quite acquainted with both Ivan’s and Elder Zoshima’s philosophy will come up with either something reconciling both philosophies and may be something different.
Probably Three days at most.

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