The Brothers Karamazov Summary

The novel The Brothers Karamazov written by Fyodor Dostoevsky is a story of three Karamazov brothers where their distinct and different personalities lead them to life events in an unjust and unkind world which entangles each other’s fates. The father of the three Karamazov brothers has a greater role to play other than being a father-figure, which he obviously fails to do. Fyodor Pavlovich Karamazov is a womanizer who is seen to be only in love with money. His womanizer characteristic has led him to marry twice, and have three sons - Dmitri, the son of the first wife he had and Ivan and Alyosha, sons from the second wife he later married. As Fyodor had no interest in having a family and did not wish to be a father to any of his sons after their mother’s deaths, he had sent all of his sons off to their relatives so that he does not have to a parent them and so that they can be raised by their relatives from distant lands.

The setting of the story begins with 28-year-old Dmitri coming back to Fyodor’s town which does not spread a speck of happiness in his father’s face at all. Dmitri has come back to claim his inherited wealth left behind by his mother. This makes Fyodor even more upset because he had planned to keep all that wealth to himself, feeding his money-hungry personality.  Eventually, this disagreement led to a heated argument between Fyodor and Dmitri which was expected to be resolved by Ivan who lived in the town and had exercised his intellectual capabilities. But this only made things worse since Ivan, being distant from both of the sides, did not know either of them well enough. Alyosha, who is a part of a monastery and a student of Zosima, a great elder thinker, also is present during the conflict and suggests that maybe his Teacher Zosima may come of help in this dispute. Agreeing to the proposal, Alyosha then sets up a meeting for all of them with Zosima.

The Monastery itself is supposed to be a sacred place and Alyosha’s haven where he had been brought up. However, the vile and vulgar languages of Fyodor, cursing and mocking the monks of the very monastery made Alyosha’s worst fear come to reality. Dmitri joins later and then mingles in another argument with Fyodor which leads to a shouting match. So many years apart and grown indifferences had led them to be upset over a lot of things other than just wealth.

While bickering, it came to light that both of them were in love with one beautiful woman named Grushenka and that Dmitri had left his fiancé Katarina for her. Fyodor, being the money enthusiast that he is, had tried to buy off Grushenka’s love by paying her 3000 rubles. The sum of 3000 rubles held a great importance since Dmitri also remembered he had owed Katarina 3000 rubles which he had taken in order to plan out a lavish retreat with Grushenka and that he needed to pay Katarina back as soon as possible. Zosima entered the monastery amongst all the shouting and decided to bow to Dmitri because the elderly could see the hardships that were destined in his fate and later informs Alyosha about this misfortune.

The story then takes a leap in the past where it showed Fyodor fathering a fourth son he had had with a retarded mute girl who he had seduced years ago. The girl then gave birth to a baby boy with epilepsy. Of course, Fyodor being the unsocial, inhuman person that he is, did not take the child’s responsibility who was later taken in by the servants of the house. The little boy, Smerdyakov, grew up to be a cook for Karamazov. His upbringing had led him to malicious and evil thoughts towards his father and he developed a certain disgust for Karamazov. Occasionally he loved to listen to Ivan’s philosophy and was thrilled by it. Even though he had epilepsy, he was very smart. Taking Ivan’s philosophies, he would think about them deeply and come up with ideas and interpretations of the world, one of which was his belief in the soul’s immortality and the questionable existence of morality in human beings.

The story setting then comes back to the monastery where Alyosha had been seeing stars after all the fights he had to witness of Dmitri and Fyodor. After the fight, Dmitri requests Alyosha to go to Katarina and break off their engagement. In the meantime, he also gets into a fight with Ivan about religion where his views contradicted with Ivan’s. While one argument resolved, Dmitri and Fyodor got into another fight and this time, Dmitri threatened to kill Fyodor publicly. Alyosha, being the most sympathetic and understanding, tried to help out his unknown family and tended to his father’s wounds which Dmitri had given him. The next day, as Dmitri had requested, Alyosha leaves to visit Katarina. During supper, Ivan discusses with Alyosha about his dispositions about religion and how it conflicts with ideals. He explains he finds it hard to believe in a god who chooses to let mankind suffer and that it was a mistake to let humans have free will to choose to be a believer or not.

The next day they return to the monastery where Alyosha finds his teacher Zosima already fighting for his life. Alyosha, devastated, runs to his cell and hopes to acquire the last ounces of knowledge that he can get from Zosima. His final lessons included the importance of love, forgiveness, and sympathy towards people. Zosima leaves the world and the rest of the monks hope for a miracle as they have always expected Zosima’s death to bring. However, Zosima’s body had started to decay faster than normal and had produced a bad odor that spread all over the monastery which led the monks to think he may not have been so pious and righteous, explaining the unexpected accelerated decaying of his dead body.

Hurt by the conclusions drawn by the people who once had been close to Zosima, Alyosha decides to continue with his mission of helping his family out instead of staying in the monastery. His friend Rakitin took Alyosha to Grushenka. Although initially both Rakitin and Grushenka had planned to mess with Alyosha’s head and filth his mind, all the attempts failed and on the contrary, it was them who found faith with the help of Alyosha. Grushenka’s faith was restored because of Alyosha which was also the beginning of a new friendship between them. Alyosha activated the spiritual longing of Grushenka and hence she found a calling. Alyosha dreamt of Zosima who had congratulated him on his good deed and that he had exercised the lesson of love and forgiveness diligently.

In the meantime, Dmitri had been scavenging to raise the money that he owed Katarina but with him unable to acquire money and because he had nothing to sell, he had given up. He makes his way to Grushenka’s place to visit her and finds out she was not there. He immediately concludes that she might have been taken away by Fyodor.  This makes him rush to Fyodor’s house to find that she was not there either. Heavily mentally wounded and crushed, he sneakily makes his way out of the place until he was spotted by a servant. He then hits the servant and leaves the blood-bathed body on the floor unconscious and runs. He hurriedly makes his way back to Grushenka’s place but this time he finds her maid who informs him that Grushenka had fled with her lover from the past who had abandoned her years ago.

Devastated and heartbroken, Dmitri decided to kill himself. While strolling in the streets to see Grushenka one last time, he had decided to buy food and wine and truly live till the time he kills himself. Dimitri finds Grushenka with her lover and hopes to talk to her one last time. However, seeing Dmitri and the old lover together, Grushenka realizes that she loves Dmitri. This pushes Dmitri to lock up the other man while they set off to plan their wedding and live happily.

However, Dmitri is shortly captured for the crimes of murdering his father and stood on trial. The murder was truly done by Smerdyakov and he had told Ivan that he was partially responsible for his father’s death since his philosophies boosted his plots of murdering Fyodor. This made Ivan drown in guilt and shame which makes him confess in court, taking all the blame on himself. Even though Dmitri was innocent, the jury convicted him as guilty and he was then taken to prison. Katarina later had forgiven Dmitri and she helped Dmitri flee the prison and run away to America with Grushenka. Meanwhile, Alyosha, who got caught teaching schoolboys the meaning of life, found purpose in spreading the knowledge of love and cherishing the memories into kids.