Thursday, March 2, 2017

Book Review: The Brothers Karamasov

I've always liked reading classics. There is something nice about reading something that so many people have related to. I remember reading Crime and Punishment when I was in high school and enjoying it. I had heard that The Brothers Karamazov was even better. So when I started Tim Challies' 2017 reading challenge, I decided to pick this book as one of them. My review is below.

Our story is set in Russia, and the spotlight falls upon a man name Fyodor Karamazov. A promiscuous, greedy, and self-indulgent man, he is married twice, one son resulting from his first marriage and two from the second. He ignores his sons, who are brought up by his servant and various relatives. His eldest son Dmitri is just as depraved as his father, spending his money lavishly in trivial pursuits. He borrows money from his father, much of which was Dmitri’s mother’s money and his inheritance. His second son Ivan is educated and works hard, becoming a clever writer and an atheist, while his youngest son Alyosha is a novice at a local monastery. There is an argument between Dmitri and his father about Dmitri’s inheritance, the son holding out that there is still money in his father’s possession that rightfully belongs to him. At the same time, both of them are in love with the same woman, a local woman who has a dubious reputation. Dmitri publicly declares that he is going to kill his father. When Fyodor is found dead and Dmitri was seen running from the crime scene, everyone assumes that Dmitri has killed him. But what really happened?

In some ways, I agree with the claim that this is one of the world’s best novels. It was a very emotional book. The characters were very life-like. None of them were without flaws, and it was easy to relate with them. Dmitri, though his words were penitent, refused to truly repent of his lifestyle. The influence of the father upon the sons, the pride and grudge-holding, madness and greed and lust, all were shown by the characters in this book, and I think everyone could see something of themselves in it. There were also good qualities in some of the characters. The elder Father Zosima was a good influence upon the community and upon Alyosha. He emphasized the importance of loving your neighbor. Also a sweet theme in the book was the loyalty of a son who lived in the village to his father, especially contrasted with the other father-son relationships in this book.

 As I read this book, I found myself wishing that humans had never fallen from a sinless state. I related with the struggles of Dmitri trying to wrench himself from the sinful path. Did he realize that salvation does not come from man? In some ways I could see that his brother Alyosha was resting peacefully in the salvation of God: doing good in the village with the love of Christ. He took to heart the words of his mentor to love his neighbor. It was easy to slip into a pessimistic outlook while reading this book, because of the evil shown in it. But we must remember that though mankind did fall into sin, as all the people in this book can attest, there is a promise of grace from God that is our strength in keeping upon the right path.

While I'm sure I didn't get the full meaning and purpose of the book in this one reading, I did enjoy reading this. There are adult themes, so I don't recommend this for someone younger than maybe fifteen (though I don't think I'd be interested in it if I was younger than fifteen). Have you read this book? What did you think of it?

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