Even though ‘The Brothers Karamazov’ is primarily a theological inquiry, the novel supports the premise that the decision to believe in God cannot be entirely explained rationally. The argumentative conversation is frequently replaced with profound, unexplained gestures. These gestures are difficult to explain, but they communicate a poetic sense of the elements that make faith both vital and rewarding to the human soul. These quotes best encapsulate these gestures.
The Necessity of Suffering
Above all, don’t lie to yourself. The man who lies to himself and listens to his own lie comes to a point that he cannot distinguish the truth within him, or around him, and so loses all respect for himself and for others. And having no respect he ceases to love.
In Book II, Chapter 2, Zosima gives this speech to Fyodor Pavlovich. In this section of the novel, many of Zosima’s comments set the framework for developing the novel’s primary ideas. Here, Zosima delves into the fundamental topic of self-honesty as a means of attaining virtue. He claims that someone who lies to himself cannot recognize the reality around him. Because he distrusts his surroundings and cannot believe in anything—not God nor other people—he loses respect for and love for mankind and slips into sin. This argument provides an insightful assessment of Fyodor Pavlovich’s psychology and serves as a springboard for many of the novel’s later redemption themes. Later in the novel, the novel indicates that the key to salvation is true self-awareness, which can only be gained via suffering.
What is hell? I maintain that it is the suffering of being unable to love.
From Part II, Book VI. The Russian Monk, Chapter III. Conversations and Exhortations of Father Zosima. In this quote, Dostoevsky makes the case that a life of being unloved is hell and being unable to love. This ties in with the teachings of Jesus, which exhorted love as the ultimate virtue, above all else.
On Finding Purpose
The mystery of human existence lies not in just staying alive, but in finding something to live for.
Fyodor Dostoevsky contended that simply staying alive would not make a person content. A person must find something to live for. The Imaginative scenario in the chapter depicts the Grand Inquisitor of the Spanish Inquisition confronting a Christ-like figure.
The world says: “You have needs — satisfy them. You have as much right as the rich and the mighty. Don’t hesitate to satisfy your needs; indeed, expand your needs and demand more.” This is the worldly doctrine of today. And they believe that this is freedom. The result for the rich is isolation and suicide, for the poor, envy and murder.
These were the words of Elder Zosima. Here, he is condemning the doctrine of greed and unlimited desires. Father Zosima believes this kind of thinking is harmful to both the individual and society as a whole.
Rationalism vs Religion
I can see the sun, but even if I cannot see the sun, I know that it exists. And to know that the sun is there – that is living.
Culled Part IV Book XI: Ivan Chapter 4: A Hymn and a Secret. This quote was said by Ivan and perfectly captures his philosophy of rationalism. His belief in only the material and that which is scientifically provable.
I think the devil doesn’t exist, but man has created him, he has created him in his own image and likeness.
In this respect, Dostoevsky has a lot in common with Blaise Pascal and Soren Kierkegaard: a suspicion of reason. Dostoevsky likens man’s propensity to blame the devil for every vice as nothing more than his evil perpetrated by man.
Faith and Hope
This is my last message to you: in sorrow, seek happiness.
Dostoevsky contrasts the cynicism of rationalism and atheism with the optimism of faith and hope.
On Authenticity and Self-actualization
Besides, nowadays, almost all capable people are terribly afraid of being ridiculous, and are miserable because of it.
The message is quite simple here. Too many people fear trying new things because they fear being judged by others. Dostoevsky encourages the reader to be open-minded and willing to try new things despite what others might think.
The more stupid one is, the closer one is to reality. The more stupid one is, the clearer one is. Stupidity is brief and artless, while intelligence squirms and hides itself. Intelligence is unprincipled, but stupidity is honest and straightforward.
The remark is attributed to Ivan Karamazov in the novel, who tells his younger brother Alyosha that he started their talk about religion “as naively as possible.” When Alyosha presses him for an explanation, Ivan first claims that he wanted to be stereotypically Russian: ‘Russian conversations on these matters are all done as foolishly as possible.’ ‘And second, the stupider, the more to the point,’ he adds. The dumber you are, the clearer you become. Stupidity is fleeting and without malice, whereas reason hedges and hides. Stupidity is plain and honest, while reason is a scoundrel.
The Reality of Love
Love in action is a harsh and dreadful thing compared to love in dreams.
Dostoevsky makes the point that to love someone is hard. It requires one to love them along with their flaws, idiosyncrasies, and their peculiarities.
How is ‘The Brothers Karamazov‘ similar to Crime and Punishment?
Both books are widely regarded as Fyodor Dostoevsky’s best works. In both, Dostoevsky seeks to explore the depths of human psychology in characters like Ivan Karamazov and Raskolnikov in Crime and Punishment.
Is ‘The Brothers Karamazov‘ autobiographical?
No, it is not. However, it contains certain elements of fact from Dostoevsky’s life. For instance, Dostoevsky was epileptic and wrote the character of Pavel Smerdyakov to be epileptic as well. He also based the character of Alexei on being the desired qualities of his deceased son.
What is the most famous quote from ‘The Brothers Karamazov’?
“Above all, don’t lie to yourself. The man who lies to himself and listens to his own lie comes to a point that he cannot distinguish the truth within him, or around him, and so loses all respect for himself and for others. And having no respect he ceases to love.”