SAT/ACT Vocabulary:The Brothers Karamazov

The Brothers Karamazov
Fyodor Dostoyevsky

 Dostoyevsky’s last and greatest novel, The Brothers Karamazov, is both a crime drama and a pedantic debate over truth. In fact, no novel—since Plato’s Republic—so fervently addresses the issue. The worthless landowner Fyodor Pavlovich Karamazov is murdered. His sons—the atheist intellectual Ivan, the hot-blooded Dmitry, and the saintly novice Alyosha—are all at some level involved. As one critic explains, “Bound up with this intense family drama is Dostoyevsky’s exploration of many deeply felt ideas about the existence of God, the question of human freedom, the collective nature of guilt, the disastrous consequences of rationalism.  The novel is also richly comic: the Russian Orthodox Church, the legal system, and even the author’s most cherished causes and beliefs are presented with a note of irreverence, so that orthodoxy and radicalism, sanity and madness, love and hatred, right and wrong—all are no longer mutually exclusive. Rebecca West considered it “the allegory for the world’s maturity, but with children to the fore. The new translations do full justice to Dostoyevsky’s genius, especially in the use of the spoken word, ranging over every mode of human expression.

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