The Brothers Karamazov


Book XI: Brother Ivan Fyodorovich, Chapters 1–10

Summary Book XI: Brother Ivan Fyodorovich, Chapters 1–10

Summary—Chapter 6: The First Meeting with Smerdyakov

Since the murder, Smerdyakov has been sick and is now near death. Ivan has visited him twice, and now goes to see him again. During their first visit, Smerdyakov asserts that Ivan left his father on the day of the murder because he suspected his brother Dmitri would kill their father, and Ivan secretly wanted their father to die.

Summary—Chapter 7: The Second Visit to Smerdyakov

During Ivan’s second visit, Smerdyakov says that he believes Ivan wished Fyodor Pavlovich to die so that he would inherit a large portion of his wealth. After this visit, Ivan is suddenly forced to accept that he bears part of the blame for the murder. He goes to visit Katerina, and she shows him a letter in which Dmitri promises to kill Fyodor Pavlovich if necessary to repay her 3,000 rubles. This reassures Ivan that Dmitri is responsible for the murder, and that he himself bears no responsibility for it.

Summary—Chapter 8: The Third and Last Meeting with Smerdyakov

On Ivan’s third visit to Smerdyakov, Smerdyakov openly confesses that he murdered Fyodor Pavlovich. But he says that he could not have done so had his philosophical discussions with Ivan not given him a new understanding of morality that made it possible for him to kill. For this reason, he says, Ivan is as much to blame for the murder as Smerdyakov is.

Summary—Chapter 9: The Devil. Ivan Fyodorovich’s Nightmare

Ivan returns home, thinking that he will now be able to prove Dmitri’s innocence at the trial tomorrow. But in his room, he has a nightmarish hallucination or vision: a luridly dressed middle-aged man who claims to be a devil. The devil taunts Ivan about his doubt and insecurity, and though Ivan is harshly critical of the devil, the apparition eventually drives him mad.

Summary—Chapter 10: “He Said That!”

At last Alyosha knocks at the door, and the devil disappears. Ivan insists that what happened was real, but he is hysterical and seems to be undergoing a mental collapse. Before realizing that Ivan is having a nervous breakdown, Alyosha tells him his news: Smerdyakov has hung himself and is dead. Alyosha spends the night caring for Ivan and praying for him.

Analysis—Book XI: Brother Ivan Fyodorovich, Chapters 1–10

Lise’s miserable behavior makes her a parody of Ivan. Like Ivan, she is frustrated and hurt by the world’s injustice, saying that she cannot respect anything. But whereas Ivan reacts to his frustration with an intellectually rigorous despair, Lise merely allows her doubts, both about the world and herself, to overwhelm her, so that she loses the ability to take anything seriously. Ivan’s laughter at Lise’s expression of her emotions is a response that involves both pity and -contempt. One of the main ideas of The Brothers Karamazov is that suffering can bring salvation, and that people who purge their sins through suffering can attain self-knowledge and redemption. Grushenka goes through this process, with Alyosha’s aid, in the aftermath of her horrible illness. But Lise vulgarizes this notion: her slamming the door on her finger is a pathetic attempt to invoke this principle, but because her attempt to suffer is full of such obvious vanity and self-pity, it is only a mockery of the lofty idea it seeks to copy.