The Brothers Karamazov

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Table Three: The Russian Character

At this table are three young foreigners, struggling to understand Ivan’s comments about the Russian obsession with the spiritual questions.  One asks, “What’s all this talk about the Russian boy and his love for the eternal questions?  It seems like Russia is broken into two camps:  those who believe in God and the immortal soul, and those who do not.  The former seek salvation in Christ; the latter talk endlessly about using socialism and anarchism to bring about a new world order.  But it’s the same damn obsession: the questions are all the same, only from the other end” (234). His friend replies, “Yes.  The Russians are peculiar in their passions.  That man spoke the truth when he said that ‘what is a hypothesis… immediately becomes an axiom for a Russian boy’ (235).  Their third friend queries:  “So you are saying that, given the behavior that you’ve witnessed here, the Russian character is different from the Western character?  In what way?  And why?” 

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