In Dostoevsky's novels pain and some heavy burden of the inevitability
of human suffering and helplessness form Russia. And he depicts it not with
white gloves on, nor through the blisters of the peasant, but through people
who are close to him and his realities: city people who either have faith,
or secular humanists who are so remote from reality that even when they
love humanity they despise humans because of their own inability to achieve
or to create paradise on earth. His novels The Brothers Karamazov and
Crime and Punishment are best examples of the poisonous effect of
such ideals on the common human. The rebellion of these humanists against
the system and the reality of human life becomes more important, thus love
becomes the filter and the servant of pride and ideals. The cause of XIX
c. liberals becomes more important to them than the actual human being that
might not fit the picture of their perfect and humane society. Through these
problems and opposites which cross and overlap each other, Dostoevsky depicts
social issues, especially the problem of murder, through an image of people
who go through pain. He presents a graphical experience of ones who do not
know how to deal with humanity and its problems. Dostoevsky himself does
not give a clear solution nor does he leave one with the certainty of faith
for an example. He says himself:
Finding myself lost in the solution of these questions, I decide to bypass them with no solution at all. (From the Author. The Brothers Karamazov)Through the presentation of crime and the issue of money which is often connected to it, Dostoevsky retells a Bible story. His answer to the problem of evil and human life filled with suffering, at least the most persuading one, for a better society and better social conditions is active love. That is not the love that is directed towards the humanity as a whole, but towards the individual: "Strive to love your neighbor actively and indefatigably" (II, 4). For Dostoevsky such love is a false one and he presents it through such characters as Rakitin, Perkhotin and even Luzhin:
Consciousness of life is superior to life, knowledge of the laws of happiness is superior to happiness--that is what we must fight against. (The Dream of a Ridiculous Man , p. 382)One of greatest evils for Dostoevsky are the so-called liberals who "love humanity more than an individual man." Yet he does not represent their behavior as genuinely evil . Their hate towards humanity arises exactly from the opposite: love. Secular humanists see so much evil, crime and inhumanity, they cannot stop it so they rebel. Ivan Karamazov and his rebellion are purely of that kind. He is not vile, he just cannot understand that there might be a solution for such suffering, especially in the case of children who are innocent in Christianity. That is why Ivan asks:
I simply intimate that the "extraordinary" man has the right... I don't mean a formal, official right, but he has the right in himself, to permit his conscience to overstep...(Crime and Punishment. III, 5)
On another, symbolic level, the murder is an attempt to annihilate a symbol of the oppressive forces of a society in which money gives one power over other people's lives and in which lack of money means dependence on others. (V, 124)The problem of money and its oppressive and evil character is an important issue in Dostoevsky's novels. Raskolnikov is originally troubled because of his financial problems, Sonya is a prostitute to provide for her family, Mitya wants to kill his father for money. Judas betrays Jesus for money. This theme is repeated in Dostoevsky, but there is always something more: in the end the money (as in the case of Rodion or Mitya) is of lesser importance than the actual rebellion against the society and the attempt to change the social conditions which are almost unbearable. They both consider committing suicide, but do not do it because they are lucky enough to meet and to follow a Christ figure. Christ would have forgiven Judas, but Judas did not ask for forgiveness. He felt guilt, but the feeling of guilt is a necessity if one knows of guilt and possesses fear. To know the guilt is not enough: to repent is crucial. Grushenka and Sonya forgive because they have to forgive, but in the first place they know that the guilty have to forgive themselves and take the path of repentance. Otherwise, rationality at its best turns a man into a tyrant, on a smaller scale than the Inquisitor, but still a tyrant. This ego and child rebellion (against every father possible) of Rodion kill Alyona and Lizaveta and that is why he hurts his mother and sister. Joseph Frank writes:
Go at once, this instant, stand at the cross-roads, first bow down and kiss the earth you have desecrated, then bow to the whole world, to the four corners of the earth, and say aloud to all the world: "I have done murder." (V, 4)Raskolnikov will not go because for him authority is another representation of amorality, no better than himself. They do not care about his soul or his remorse. They want to find the murderer and punish him. The point that follows out of is that no judicial system is enough to make one truly feel sorry. The issue of punishment is not what matters. Surely Sonya does not want Raskolnikov to turn himself in because she hates him or because she thinks that he is a vile and evil creature. She wants to save him and she knows that the first path to the savior is the admittance of one's own sin, and desire already exists. Sonya knows that Rodion will not be saved if he is merely sent to Siberia. She follows him with the offer and the example of her Christian love, fulfilling her words and actively loving, hoping that his transgression will not push him away from the world back into his own interior world in which nobody else has a place. Opposite to Sonya is what "humanists" do, what the "extraordinary" men do. Their idea becomes more than the actual humanity, more than the actual substance of that idea. The inevitability of human suffering becomes obvious if one is searching for an answer. Thus just like Raskolnikov and Ivan rejection of such society and life comes, which leads to the "cold and inhumanely callous to the point of inhumanity" (Crime and Punishment, V, 2).
If you are penitent you love. And if you love you are a God. All things are atoned for, all things are saved by love. If I, a sinner, even as you are, am tender with you and have pity on you, how much more will God. Love is such a priceless treasure that you can redeem the whole world by it, and expiate not only your own sins but the sins of others. (Brothers Karamazov. II, 4)From the story "Akulka's Husband ," in which there is everything but regret on the side of the killer, faith in God is the only path to sanity. Dostoevsky was a young man when he heard these stories. How could he live otherwise, if he really actively loved people, but take the belief in God as a necessity? The belief that the idea of God should be there because otherwise everything would be allowed is Ivan's perspective. His claim that society should be based on the Christian dogma, and that crime should not be only against the state, but also against Christ, is exactly the opposite of what to believe and to really love Christ means. Christ did not set out to punish the transgressors, but he gave them all the love that he could give: forgiveness and love:
Remember particularly that you cannot be a judge of anyone. For no one can judge a criminal, until he recognizes that he is just such a criminal as the man standing before him, and that he perhaps is morethan all man to blame for that crime. (Brothers Karamazov. VI, 3)
The convict is almost always disposed to feel himself justified in crimes against authority, so much so that no question about it ever arises for him. Nevertheless, in practice he is aware that the authorities take a very different view of his crime and that therefore he must be punished, and then they are quits. (Ideology and Imagination. IV, 147)Dostoevsky's solution lies in exactly the opposite from the class struggle and the solution that it brings. All of those strives bring only shifts and turns but are still based on hate and not on love. When one thinks of God it is not in terms of class one belongs to, or sex or age. One either accepts the Word or one does not, one either believes that even the sparrow has its place in God's mercy or one goes around raving against God, simultaneously talking of his necessity. Dostoevsky shows such attitude, such part time rationalizing as worthless and very often dangerous: suicides and murders. He truly despises it and mercilessly attacks those sins with all his strength and his ambiguous words. Zosima's gives an account of what being without Christ can do:
They, following science, want to base justice on reason alone, but not with Christ, as before, and they have already proclaimed that there is no crime, that there is no sin. And that's consistent, for if you have no God what is the meaning of crime? ( Brothers Karamazov. VI, 3)This is the danger of Raskolnikov and Ivan's logic. The society around them and around Dostoevsky is one which makes children suffer and turns young, beautiful and wise creatures, like Sonya, into prostitutes. What is the answer? Is one answer possible to it at all? Can one go on living with the thought of how much suffering there is ? Does one rebel against the society, then try to establish a new one, forgetting that society does not come to be of itself, but is built by human beings: beings imperfect and ready to hurt and rebel against their fathers, against the idea of "old," or the society of the past and present. If that is taken into account the only people who do make sense out of human existence, which is best showed and expressed through suffering, are people such as Ilyushka and Sonya. Their argument is much stronger. They are better for the cause of the improvement of social issues than the actual orators for the masses. Why? They offer the solution for peace in one's soul. They offer it with faith in God, not the rational path of the Western thinker or with the denial of a Russian nihilist, but with a leap of faith that charms one against actual, brutal, world. The tyrants, the intellectuals, the Ivans cannot be prevented, but faith can defeat them, over and over again. The bow and the kiss have to exist. Children die, children suffer, society is unjust, people kill for stupid reasons and base, vile feelings. In a world that is hopelessly destined to go on like that, faith, God, are the best answers to our despair. Intellectualism obviously does not bring much advantage or peace--faith and love do. With God one's pride can be defeated, one's responsibility recognized, one's active love awakened, one's soul saved:
By the experience of active love. Strive to love your neighbor actively and indefatigably. Insofar as you advance in love you will grow surer of the reality of God and of the immortality of your soul. If you attain to perfect self-forgetfulness in the love of your neighbor, then you will believe without doubt, and no doubt can possibly enter your soul. (Brothers Karamazov. II, 4))Ivan recognizes that same necessity and usefulness of God. However, he does not really believe in God, thus he cannot forgive, he cannot forgive himself, and most importantly he does not believe in the immortality of the soul and in justice. He does not love. Without a belief in the existence of justice crime has no meaning. His idea of God is worthless because he is an atheist, he does not believe. The only way out is not through the lie, with which the Church for centuries managed its affairs, but through true and honest belief that things have a purpose and that it does matter to be good and not to hurt others. One cannot solve society's problems unless one truly believes that what is done has a purpose. That is not the way because when one starts looking at humanity as a whole one will not find many good things and one will never have any happiness. Only by looking at the individual can one acquire a moment of happiness and exaltation of the soul, such as Alyosha's experiences in the field. Faith is not rational path, but it equips one with love. Only by having certain values and love for others can the family as the basic unit of the society survive. Family Karamazov is certainly a vicious example of what the society may come to if society does not hold values which produce love: we are all responsible for each other and we have to forgive each other.
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