By Julian W Connolly
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Extra resources for Dostoevsky's The Brothers Karamazov
He undoubtedly assumes that he is Fyodor’s illegitimate son, and therefore he is Dmitry’s half-brother, yet he has always been treated only as a servant, and this status surely rankles him. Nevertheless, Smerdyakov does tell Alyosha that Ivan Fyodorovich was hoping to dine with Dmitry in a tavern in the marketplace, and when Alyosha arrives at the tavern, he asks Ivan what he thinks will result from the enmity between Dmitry and their father Fyodor. Ivan replies: “What have I to do with it? ” (200).
As it turns out, Zosima’s suggestions seem to find validation in the two men’s experience. The seed imagery, however, has wider resonance in the novel. Dostoevsky uses it in a metaphorical sense to evoke a situation where an idea or emotion that is planted within one’s soul early in life can re-emerge later in life with salutary results. Again, it is Zosima who articulates this notion most prominently, and he does so at several points in the homily he delivers to Alyosha and his other followers.
Bakhtin perceived that Dostoevsky’s authorial position is only one of several that are engaged in a dialogic relationship with each other. Although one can usually make out what Dostoevsky’s own position on an issue might be (and he sometimes has a fictional character articulate his ideas for him), each character is allowed to express his individual perspective with passion, determination, and significant autonomy. What is more, as Robin Feuer Miller has 22 DOSTOEVSKY’S THE BROTHERS KARAMAZOV pointed out, “[t]he primary unit of interest for Dosteovsky always involves characters in relationship to others—victim and victimizer, confesser and confessor—or in dialogue with themselves” (The Brothers Karamazov: Worlds of the Novel, 61).