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The Brothers Karamazov Essay

1086 words - 5 pages

The novel I have chosen is The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky. A universally lauded literary classic, the book deals with several subjects that I consider critical to humanity’s philosophical development. One of Dostoyevsky’s primary ideas was that human redemption can be achieved through the act of sons atoning for the sins of their fathers, which in turn would lead to a type of human unity not yet seen. It is because of this belief that the novel revolves around the concept of patricide, to serve as a reversal of his idea. The brothers do not redeem their father; instead they are complicit in his death which would be considered a polar opposite (human disunity) by the author.
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This view that the greater good takes precedence over the individual reflects the outlook of Cesare Beccaria who believed in “the greatest happiness of the greatest number” (Beccaria 14).
Ivan views free will as a curse due to the fact that it has the potential for and often is abused, people constantly mistreat each other and most of the world’s suffering stems from the amoral decisions people make through their free will. The fact that free will allows us to make wrong decisions and commit “evil” actions has created a necessity for laws and rules. As Beccaria put it, human kind has the tendency to “confer on one part the height of power and happiness, and to reduce the other to the extreme of weakness and misery.” (Beccaria 14) If human beings sacrifice our free will for peace and harmony then rules, laws and the social contract would then become superfluous.
The most central subject of the novel is the conflict between faith and doubt. Two of the brothers represent differing views on the subject with the youngest son Alyosha resembling a firm belief in God and morality which lends itself to kindness, forgiveness and overall goodness. Ivan on the other hand represents logical skepticism that has begun to disseminate through the world which lends itself to rejection of God, morals, and mankind. Ivan explains the reasons behind his doubt to Alyosha during their dinner together in Book five. He states that he cannot reconcile the concept of an all loving and benevolent God with the suffering innocent people are subjected to. He places emphasis on the suffering of children who he considers completely pure beings incapable of committing sins to justify their “punishments”.
This mirrors the struggles of Eliezer, the protagonist of the semi-autobiographical novel Night that lead him to question his faith in God as well. While viewing the hanging of a young boy, Eliezer hears someone ask “Where is God? Where is He?” and he hears “a voice within me answer, he is hanging here on this gallows.” This tragic scene embodies the difficulties inherent in the decision to turn away from God. Abandoning one’s faith is never easy and it is almost always somber....

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