The Brothers Karamazov
Book VIII: Mitya, Chapters 1–8
Summary—Chapter 1: Kuzma Samsonov
Dmitri is desperate for money. Even if he could persuade Grushenka to marry him, he would still be bound to repay the 3,000 rubles he owes Katerina first. But he is unable to obtain from his father the money he believes to be rightfully his, and he has no real income. In a last-ditch effort to raise the funds he needs, he visits Samsonov and attempts to strike a deal with him. He says that if the old merchant will give him the money, Dmitri will give him the rights to some land that he might be able to win from his father in court. Samsonov has no interest in this shabby deal, and cruelly attempts to dupe Dmitri. He suggests that the young man visit a different merchant to sell his land—a merchant who, unbeknownst to Dmitri, is even now planning to buy this same property from Fyodor Pavlovich.
Summary—Chapter 2: Lyagavy
Dmitri travels to the merchant’s town, pawning his watch to pay for the transportation, but finds the man drunk. When the man has not sobered up the next day, Dmitri returns to town, desperate and uncertain of how to proceed.
Summary—Chapter 3: Gold Mines
Dmitri asks Madame Khokhlakov to lend him the money, but she refuses and suggests that he should go to work in the gold mines instead. He runs into Grushenka’s servant and finds out that she is not at home. The servant refuses to tell him where she has gone.
Summary—Chapter 4: In the Dark
Enraged, Dmitri takes a brass pestle—a small club-shaped tool used for grinding powder—to use as a weapon and hurries to Fyodor Pavlovich’s house, certain that Grushenka has gone to be with his father. But when he spies through the window, he sees that Fyodor Pavlovich is alone, and when he taps out Grushenka’s secret signal, Fyodor Pavlovich rushes to the window. Dmitri concludes that Grushenka is not with his father.
Grigory happens by at this moment and sees Dmitri sneaking around in the garden. He accosts him, and the men scuffle. Dmitri hits Grigory with the pestle, and Grigory falls to the ground, blood pooling beneath him. Dmitri, in a panic, tries to tend the wound, staining his clothes in the process. But then he throws the pestle into the darkness and flees the scene.
Summary—Chapter 5: A Sudden Decision
Dmitri storms back to Grushenka’s house and forces the servants to tell him where Grushenka has gone. When he hears that she has joined her former lover, he is devastated. He realizes that she will never be his. Thinking that his life is meaningless without Grushenka, he decides to visit her one last time and then kill himself.
Ten minutes later, Dmitri visits Perkhotin, a local official who, earlier that day, had taken Dmitri’s pistols as collateral for a ten-ruble loan. To the official’s astonishment, Dmitri now displays a large amount of cash, repays the loan, and takes his pistols back. Perkhotin follows Dmitri to a store, where, to Perkhotin’s continuing puzzlement, Dmitri buys several hundred rubles’ worth of food and wine. Perkhotin quizzically wonders what is happening. He asks himself where Dmitri got such a large amount of money and why Dmitri is covered with blood.
Summary—Chapter 6: Here I Come!
Dmitri leaves Perkhotin and travels to the place where Grushenka and her lover, a Polish officer, are staying. Dmitri is in a frenzy, and raves to the coachman who drives him that he knows he will go to hell, but that, from the depths of hell, he will continue to love and praise God.
Summary—Chapter 7: The Former and Indisputable One
Dmitri’s arrival is awkward and his presence is unwanted by the lovers. But the scene has evidently been somewhat awkward between the lovers before his arrival, and the wine and food he brings help to lift everyone’s spirits. The young people play cards.
Summary—Chapter 8: Delirium
As Grushenka watches her Polish lover cheat at the games, and listens to the coarse and degrading things that he says, she realizes she does not love him. Instead, she loves Dmitri. When the officer insults her, Dmitri attacks him and locks him in another room. Dmitri and Grushenka begin to plan their future together. Through his joy at winning Grushenka, Dmitri is troubled by the thought of the wound he dealt Grigory and the fortune he owes Katerina.
Just then, a group of officers bursts into the room. They seize Dmitri and place him under arrest. Fyodor Pavlovich Karamazov has been murdered, and Dmitri is the prime suspect.
Analysis—Book VIII: Mitya, Chapters 1–8
Dostoevsky uses a variety of literary techniques to suggest that Dmitri is responsible for his father’s murder. Before Dmitri appears with a large amount of money, the narrator continually makes statements implying that Dmitri will steal Fyodor Pavlovich’s 3,000 rubles: “Only three or four hours before a certain incident, of which I will speak below, Mitya did not have a kopeck, and pawned his dearest possession for ten roubles, whereas three hours later he suddenly had thousands in his hands . . . but I anticipate.” Dmitri’s inner monologue is similarly misleading, as when Dmitri thinks about going to Madame Khokhlakov’s and realizes “fully and now with mathematical clarity that this was his last hope, that if this should fall through, there was nothing left in the world but ‘to kill and rob someone for the three thousand, and that’s all. . . .’” Dostoevsky also uses a technique called ellipsis, skipping over a moment of action in order to play on our expectations: he implies Dmitri’s guilt by leaving out the crucial stretch of action in Chapter 5, in between Dmitri’s discovery of Grushenka’s whereabouts and his arrival at Perkhotin’s office. This strategy leads us to suspect that Dmitri has killed his father in that time. Finally, the events we do see suggest Dmitri’s guilt. Dmitri is desperate, impassioned, and antagonistic toward Grigory. The combination of these factors makes Dmitri seem eminently capable of committing murder.
The narrative throughout this book lays the groundwork for a surprise plot twist: the revelation in Book XI that Smerdyakov, and not Dmitri, is the murderer. Dostoevsky goes to such lengths to imply that an innocent man is guilty of such a crime for several reasons. First, making Dmitri guilty and then innocent in our mind is a way of enacting the spiritual rebirth that Dmitri experiences after his arrest. Second, making us learn that our judgment about Dmitri is wrong is a way of emphasizing Zosima’s advice never to judge anyone because all people are responsible for one another’s sins. Third, making Dmitri appear guilty is a way of emphasizing the extraordinary scope of his passion. Dmitri may not have committed murder, but he is clearly capable of such a crime, and possesses a tormented and sinful soul. The redemption of such a passionate person is all the more dramatic. Fourth, making Dmitri appear guilty is a way of making us feel the way most of the other characters do when they learn about the arrest. The whole town believes him to be guilty.
Making Dmitri appear guilty is also a way for Dostoevsky to put human nature itself on trial. Throughout the novel we have seen various conceptions of human nature, ranging from Alyosha’s faith that people are essentially good, like Zosima, to Ivan’s belief that people are essentially bad, like Fyodor Pavlovich. But Dmitri combines the qualities of Fyodor Pavlovich and Zosima: he is a lustful and sinful man who nevertheless powerfully loves God. He commits bad deeds and longs to redeem them. He believes that he is bound for hell but pledges to love God even from the depths of hell. After spending a large amount of his fiancée’s money on a lavish vacation with another woman, he is now greedily desperate for even more money, but only so that he can salvage his honor with Katerina, and thus make up for his sin. By putting Dmitri on trial through circumstantial evidence, Dostoevsky essentially poses the question of whether Dmitri’s sinfulness or his goodness is the more fundamental aspect of his nature. This query in turn should make us question which of the two aspects is more fundamentally a characteristic of humanity. Dostoevsky wants us to consider whether humanity, burdened as it is with free will, is capable of overcoming its sinful nature and choosing to live within its good nature. When Dmitri is proved to be innocent shortly after he undergoes his powerful spiritual conversion, the question is answered in favor of human goodness—though not without a thorough understanding of the reality of evil in human life.
Although a great deal of the novel’s thematic development relies on the events in these chapters, the chapters are so devoted to narrative action that there is comparatively little thematic development within Book VIII itself. Apart from the insight it offers into Dmitri’s tormented inner conflict, the most interesting psychological aspect of this section is its look at Grushenka’s growth since her encounter with Alyosha. Before, Grushenka is too proud and suspicious to acknowledge her love for Dmitri, but through Alyosha she discovers real goodness. As a result, she is at last capable of admitting to herself that the Polish officer is just a vulgar man who betrayed her in her youth, and that Dmitri is the man she really loves. Alyosha does not appear at all in the action of this book, but his presence is strongly felt in Grushenka’s positive acquiescence to her love for Dmitri—a lovely moment of goodness that is interrupted sharply by evil, with the arrival of the police and the announcement of the murder of Fyodor Pavlovich.