Part One, Chapter Three, Sections 8-10
by Dennis Abrams
“Someone Else’s Sins” conclusion. The narrator (Anton Lavrentievich G___v) goes in search of Shatov, who is not at home — on his third attempt he runs into Kirillov, who invites him in, gives him an envelope, sealing wax and a crystal seal for the note he has for Shatov, and asks him to stay for tea, “I like tea…at night; a lot: I walk and drink; till dawn. Tea at night is awkward abroad.” Kirillov no longer trusts Liputin, “Liputin is either weak, or impatient, or harmful, or…envious.” Kirillov is writing about “the reasons why people don’t dare to kill themselves.” Two reasons: one small, pain; one large; the other world. Imagine a stone the size of a big house hanging over you…if it fall on you will it be painful? “but go and stand there in reality, and while it’s hanging you’ll be very much afraid of the pain.” Is man afraid of death because he loves life? Or, does man love live because he loves pain and fear? “God is the pain of the fear of death. He who overcomes pain and fear will himself become God. Then there will be a new life, a new man, everything new…Then history will be divided into two parts: from the gorilla to the destruction of God, and from the destruction of God to…to the physical changing of the earth and man. Man will be God and will change physically…Whoever wants the main freedom must dare to kill himself.” Kirillov admits he never laughs, and that “God has tormented me all my life.” His dead brother and his influence. Anton Lavrentievich decides that Kirillov is crazy. Lebyadkin, drunk. His love for Lizaveta, his intent to propose. Liputin reveals that Lebyadkin has purchased Stavrogin’s entire estate. Stepan waiting impatiently for Anton, “Alas, his visit to the Drozdovs had knocked the last bit of sense out of him.” The mysteries of Petersburg. Praskovya Ivanovna’s desire that Stavrogin is mad — is it her hopes for Mavriky Nikolaevich? Mrs. Littlebox. Stepan repents on how he has tormented Varvara. A letter from Varvara, requesting that Stepan call on her the day after the next and to bring one of his friends — Shatov will be there, as Darya’s brother, and Stepan will then receive Darya’s final answer. Stepan feels crushed by fate. “I am a whimsical child, but with none of the innocence.” Lise idolizes Darya. Anton tells Stepan his belief that Lebyadkin’s sister “might indeed have been some sort of victim of Nicolas’s during the mysterious period of his life,” and that the gossip regarding Darya and Nicolas was “all nonsense.” Stepan denies that Kirillov is crazy, “He’s not mad, but these people have short little thoughts…” Stepan confesses that he had written to Darya as well as to Nicolas in order to find out the truth about the rumors, and “to questions their hearts first…so as not to hinder their thoughts or stand in their way like a post…” Stepan agrees with Anton that his actions were “Stupid, stupid!” Stepan is “prepared to overcome [himself]” by getting married, but…”marriage is the moral death of any proud soul, of any independence. Married life will corrupt me, will rob me of my energy, my courage in serving the cause; there will be children, perhaps not even mine, that is, certainly not mine…” Stepan speaks of his need to save himself from Nicolas with barricades. Why can’t there be a week without a Sunday? Stepan confesses that he has loved Varvara, “Oh, how I loved her. Twenty years, all these twenty years, and she never, never understood me!…Can she really think I’m getting married out of fear, out of need?…Oh, may she know, this auntie, that she is the only woman I have adored for these twenty years!” Anton conceals his urge to laugh. Stepan declares that only his son Petrusha can save him now.
1. Am I wrong in thinking that Kirillov is more right than the narrator in the discussion of suicide? I was particularly struck by “Whoever wants the main freedom must dare to kill himself. He who dares to kill himself knows the secret of the deceit. There is no further freedom; here is everything and there is nothing further. He who dares to kill himself, is God. Now anyone can make it so that there will be no God, and there will be no anything.” Can one be correct in saying that “There will be entire freedom when it makes no difference whether one lives or does not live. That is the goal to everything.” And while there is definitely something nihilistic about that, isn’t that also getting close to the spirit of detachment of Eastern religion as well?
2. Stepan. He’s been living off of Varvara for twenty years, not doing anything but teaching, and he’s afraid that marriage will ‘be the moral death of his independence?” Rob him of his energy? His courage in serving the cause? Is he that unaware?
Ive been reading an essay by W.J. Leatherbarrow, “The Devils in the Context of Dostoevsky’s LIfe and Works,” in which he discusses that in Dostoevsky’s view, Western society gave its people two unacceptable options, “either the pursuit of personal freedom at the expense of social order or the sacrifice of the individual to political, economic, or social necessity.” In his Winter Notes, Dostoevsky goes further:
“Western man speaks of brotherhood as the great moving idea of humanity, and he fails to realize that brotherhood cannot be achieved where it does not exist in reality. What is to be done? Brotherhood must be brought about at all costs. But it turns out that it is impossible to bring about brotherhood, for it brings itself about, it manifest itself, and it is to be found naturally. But in the French nature, indeed in the Western European nature in general, brotherhood is not present. Instead we find the personal principle, the principle of the isolated individual, of intense self-preservation, self-affirmation, and self-determination in one’s own individual ego, and the opposition of that ego to the whole of nature and all other people in the form of an autonomous, self-justifying principle claiming equal value and status with everything outside it. From such opposition brotherhood cannot come. Why? Because in brotherhood, in real brotherhood, it is not the autonomous personality, not the ego, that should be concerned about its right to equal value and status with all the rest; instead, without being asked, all the rest should have come to that ego, to that individual claiming its rights, and proclaimed it equal to everything else in the world. Moreover, that every same rebellious and demanding personality should before anything else have sacrificed all its ego, the whole of itself, to society. Not only should it not have demanded its own rights, but on the contrary, it should have surrendered those rights to society unconditionally. But the Western European personality is not used to such a state of affairs: it makes it demands by force, it demands its rights, it wants its share — and so you don’t get brotherhood. Of course, this can be changed, can it not? But such change takes thousands of years to come about, for such ideas must first become part of our flesh and blood if they are to become real.”
Part One, Chapter Four, Sections 1-4