The Brothers Karamazov

Resources and chat area for "The Brothers Karamazov" text

Fyodor’s Accountbook

This accountbook just might be the most curious one you’ve ever seen. On the right side are figures lined up, neatly – figures that get larger and larger with every turn of the page.  But the left side of the account book is far more interesting:  it’s full of bawdy sketches, passages misquoted from the scriptures, and fragments of unformed thoughts. On one page, you see a cartoonish self-portrait of Fyodor, surrounded by his three sons and his servant Smerdyakov.  Scribbled across the top of the page is the word, “Casuist”  — but it’s not clear to whom the word refers.  (Note: Casuistry: the application of ethical principles to particular cases of conscience of conduct.  In a disparaging sense, “casuist” refers to a disingenuous reasoner, especially in questions of morality. )

 

In skimming further, you find the following notes: Matthew 7:2 – “For as you judge, so will you be judged, and the measure with which you measure will be measured out to you.” And then:  “The Russian peasant should be whipped.  I have always maintained that… In our great intelligence, we’ve stopped flogging our peasants, but they go on whipping themselves.  And right they are.  For as you measure, so it will be measured, or however it goes… In short it will be measured…”  (132-133).

 

One last glimpse: a sketch of hell.  With meat hooks hanging everywhere.

 

What goes on in this mind?  You sense that this account book is packed full of ideas and ironies that are central to understanding Fyodor’s character and the fate of the Karamazovs.  What does all this gibberish add up to?

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