Dostoevsky presented existential themes in Brothers Karamazov. The existential philosophy re-examine the ‘self’. Buddhism has focused on the ‘self’ and its problematic relationship with the world. According to the Buddha no permanent, unchanging ‘Self’ can be found. The concept of Atman or ‘self” is the prime consequence of ignorance. It encourages attachments then leads to disappointment, conflict with others, and internal agitation.
Dostoevsky robustly grasped the Buddhist concept of self and attachment and suffering. In his novel Alosha and Father Zosima – two characters that have less self ego and attachments enjoy internal calm and internal consistency.
Using his Christian philosophy, Dostoyevsky demonized the old man’s character. Fyodor Pavlovich was a debauchee who wanted to seduce Mithya’s girlfriend Grushenka. Following the prolonged family disputes the old man was murdered and it was recorded as a patricide.
Following extractions from the book Brothers Karmazov describe the desolate nature of Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoevsky the old land owner.
Alexey Fyodorovitch Karamazov was the third son of Fyodor Pavlovitch, Karamazov, a landowner well known in our district in his own day, and, still remembered among us owing to his gloomy and tragic death, which, happened thirteen years ago, and which I shall describe in its proper, place…
…This was, perhaps, a unique case of the kind in the, life of Fyodor Pavlovitch, who was always of a voluptuous temper, and, ready to run after any petticoat on the slightest encouragement. She, seems to have been the only woman who made no particular appeal to his, senses., Immediately after the elopement Adelaida Ivanovna discerned in a flash, that she had no feeling for her husband but contempt…
…Fyodor Pavlovitch, was drunk when he heard of his wife’s death, and the story is that he, ran out into the street and began shouting with joy, raising his hands, to Heaven: “Lord, now let test Thou Thy servant depart in peace,” but, others say he wept without restraint like a little child, so much so, that people were sorry for him, in spite of the repulsion he inspired., It is quite possible that both versions were true, that he rejoiced at, his release, and at the same time wept for her who released him. As a, general rule, people, even the wicked, are much more naive and, simple-hearted than we suppose. And we ourselves are, too…
(Brothers Karamazov Part 1 / Book 1 / Chapter 1 by Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoevsky, translated by Constance Garnett)
Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s Brothers Karamazov is a psycho -philosophical novel that strongly discusses ethics, morality and dark side of the human nature. The novel itself is a moral dilemma (like the Asamthamanthra Jathaka story) and a question paper that is presented to the readers. Brothers Karamazov is exploring the secret depths of humanity’s struggles and sins. In this novel Fyodor Dostoyevsky epitomizes the psychodynamic portions of the human personality into its finest detail.
To write this exceptional novel Dostoyevsky read Christian morality, philosophy (including the India Philosophy) and atheism. For a considerable extent Dostoyevsky’s life experiences were added to this great novel. Therefore many thoughts that were repressed in Dostoyevsky’s mind reflect in this novel. For Dostoyevsky writing Brothers Karamazov would have been an emotional purgation.
Dostoyevsky was greatly influenced by religion and philosophy. He lived in a society where justice and equality had been seriously violated. Obviously he did question the hypocrisy and double standards of the clergy and the state that continuously violated the basic human rights.
His father was a doctor as well as a land owner who mistreated his peasants. Following a land dispute Dostoyevsky’s father was murdered by a group of angry peasants. Dostoyevsky may have created the fictional character Fyodor Pavlovich (the old land owner) based upon his own father’s certain personality traits as well as the influence that he received by reading Asthramanthra Jātaka story.
Sigmund Freud valued the Oedipal themes that had been discussed in Brothers Karamazov. Freud’s 1928 paper Dostoevsky and Parricide specified the unresolved Oedipal complex of Fyodor Dostoevsky and his psychogenic seizures. According to Freud Dostoevsky had hidden patricidal fantasies that had been described in Brothers Karamazov.
Analysing Dostoevsky’s personality from his fictional characterisation, Freud detected Oedipal and sexual conflicts behind the writer’s ‘hysterical epilepsy’ and gambling. Of ‘Dostoevsky the psychologist’, Freud complained his ‘insight was so restricted to abnormal mental life . . . all he really knew were crude instinctual desire, masochistic subjection and loving out of pity’. However, Freud bowed to his artistry: ‘before the . . . creative artist, analysis must lay down its arms’. He pronounced The Brothers Karamazov the ‘most magnificent novel ever written (Pavlovic, & Pavlovic, 2012).
Dostoyevsky was a radical youth who engaged in revolutionary activates. He was arrested and sentenced to death. In the very last moment he was given a pardon and exiled to Siberia. This near death experience changed Dostoyevsky‘s personality immensely. He underwent dramatic psychological transformation. In Siberia he witnessed torture and human degradation. He later wrote a short story titled “The Peasant Marey” narrating the inhuman condition of his Siberian experience. Dostoevsky’s semi-autobiographical novel the House of the Dead narrates his post traumatic experiences in a Siberian prison camp. Although he met with a moral injury Dostoevsky achieved posttraumatic growth with a spiritual re-awakening status.
After the exile he returned to St Petersburg and started his literary career. During this time period he was shaken by the loss of two dearly people. His first wife’s death and his brother’s death caused him an immense psychological pain. Troubled by financial problems and life stresses Dostoyevsky suffered prolonged depression. Also he became a compulsive gambler. He may have suffered from psychogenic convulsions that can be described as a Dissociative Disorder in the present day medical terms.
Dostoevsky portrayed up to six characters with epilepsy in his literature (Iniesta, 2013). In Brothers Karamazov the old man’s illegitimate son Smerdyakov suffers from epilepsy. When the old man was murdered Smerdyakov claims that he has had a seizure and was unaware what occurred in the house at that fatal night.
On the basis of Smerdyakov’s admission of feigning a seizure to provide himself with an alibi for the murder of his father Old Karamazov in The Brothers Karamazov (an episode perhaps recapitulating Dostoevsky’s experience of his own father’s death), that Dostoevsky was well acquainted with the possible secondary gain of seizures, but he stopped short of bringing the historical wheel full circle back to Freud by suggesting that Dostoevsky had pseudoseizures (DeToledo, 2001).
To be continued…