Places: The Brothers Karamazov

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

First published: Bratya Karamazovy, 1879-1880 (English translation, 1912)

Type of work: Novel

Type of plot: Psychological realism

Time of work: Nineteenth century

Places DiscussedSkotoprigonyevsk

Skotoprigonyevsk Brothers Karamazov, The (sko-to-prihg-ON-ih-ehfsk). Russian town in which the Karamazovs’ home is located and the location of the worst debauchery commonly blamed on Fyodor Karamazov–the rape of the mentally disabled Lizavita. Dostoevski’s narrator withholds the name of the town until almost the very end of the novel, at the beginning of the trial of Dmitri Karamazov. Otherwise, the narrator refers to it only as “the town” or “our town.” The name Skotoprigonyevsk is most likely derived from the Russian word skotoprigony, meaning a stockyard. It is a generic Russian rural town of the time, located somewhere in the broadleaf-forest belt that is the heart of old Russia. For the people of Skotoprigonyevsk, the bright lights and Western fashions of the capital in St. Petersburg are almost unimaginably distant, talked about but never seen.

Karamazov home

Karamazov home. Dwelling of Fyodor Pavlovich Karamazov, patriarch of the Karamazov family. As befits a wealthy landowner, it is a spacious house, tended by a faithful servant and his wife. However, it is also in notable disrepair, with crumbling wallpaper. These signs of decay reflect the moral dissolution of the elder Karamazov and are likely a deliberate touch of Dostoevski’s art. Although the house is the family home, it is not a place where Karamazov’s sons find nurturing or comfort. All three of his legitimate sons are fostered by maternal relatives. As Karamazov’s degeneracy makes him progressively more paranoid, the effects of his house also become a sort of quasi-prison for him, and he locks himself within his room. The house eventually becomes the site of Karamazov’s death–the circumstances of which are mysterious as a result of Karamazov’s progressive isolation.

Monastery

Monastery. Spiritual retreat of Alyosha Karamazov and of the saintly Father Zossima. Located not far from the Karamazov home, this monastery is an important spiritual center of the region. Thus, when Fyodor Karamazov quarrels with his son Dmitri over a supposed inheritance which Dmitri accuses his father of having squandered, the two men visit the monastery, where they appeal to Father Zossima to adjudicate their dispute. The monastery is a symbol of Christian salvation. Fyodor Karamazov is so morally degenerate that he is insensitive to the presence of the holy and behaves in his usual shameful fashion, thereby destroying any hope of reconciliation with his son. Another son, Alyosha, finds the monastery his key to spiritual peace and helps the troubled Grushenka to reach moral regeneration and forgiveness.

Dostoevski’s monastery reflects his Slavophile politics. Unlike Russians who believed that Russia’s future lay in adopting Western innovations like democracy or socialism, Dostoevski and other Slavophiles believed that Russia must look to its own roots for moral and spiritual rebirth. The key to this revitalization, Dostoevski believed, lay in the Russian Orthodox Church.

Sources for Further StudyBelknap, Robert L. The Genesis of “The Brothers Karamazov”: The Aesthetics, Ideology, and Psychology of Text Making. Evanston, Ill.: Northwestern University Press, 1990. Considers the reading and experiences of Dostoevski that appear in the novel. A study of the mind behind the book.Bloom, Harold, ed. Fyodor Dostoevsky’s “The Brothers Karamazov.” New York: Chelsea House, 1988. Selection of critical interpretations of the text. Essays printed in chronological sequence from 1971 to 1977. Includes an extended chronology of Dostoevski.Frank, Joseph. Dostoevsky: The Mantle of the Prophet, 1871-1881. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2002. This authoritative critical biography provides detailed information on the intellectual and literary context of the novel’s creation as well as a close reading of its main themes.Leatherbarrow, William J. Fyodor Dostoyevsky–The Brothers Karamazov. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1992. Provides background for understanding, including historical, intellectual, and cultural influences. Discusses the major themes of the novel.Scanlan, James P. Dostoevsky the Thinker. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 2002. Scanlan places Dostoevski’s views on Russian Orthodox Christianity in the broader context of his philosophic writings.Terras, Victor. A Karamazov Companion: Commentary on the Genesis, Language, and Style of Dostoevsky’s Novel. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1981. Offers introductory essays on major themes and techniques as well as comprehensive annotation of literary and religious allusions.Thompson, Diane Oenning. “The Brothers Karamazov” and the Poetics of Memory. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1991. Thompson’s study of the theme of memory also gives illuminating commentary on the Christian themes in the work.
Categories: Places