The Brothers Karamazov

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Smerdyakov’s Ghost

He came to me three times, Ivan Fyodorovich did.  And each time, I thought that he must be pretending.  Certainly he knew from the start that he was the true murderer of the pig, our father.


Ivan filled my head with such lofty thoughts:  If there is no God, everything is permitted.  There is no virtue, and no need of it (633).   And he went even further:  to say that if there is no God, then evil would not only be permitted but necessary.  I believed that he believed those things.  I believed in him, as if he were God (606).  He wanted his father dead.  His desire was clear to me when we talked about his going to Chermashnya.  It was if he were saying to me, “You can kill my parent, I won’t prevent you” (616).  And so it was Ivan Fyodorovich who killed him.  He is the main killer.  I was just his minion, his faithful servant, and I performed the deed according to his word (623).


But then.  When the deed was done, and I saw that he understood everything, and that he was frightened by it – then I lost my faith in him and in everything he stood for.  Can a man live without faith?  And worse:  can I live knowing that Ivan neither loved nor understood me?


In any case, I am condemned to an eternity of torment.  And I will stalk these rooms, trying to puzzle out my own eternal question.  But tell me.  What do you think?  Was I right, or was I wrong?  Is Ivan guilty for the death of his father?  Is he guilty for the death of me?

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