The Brothers Karamazov
Book XII, Chapter Nine
by Dennis Abrams
“Psychology at Full steam. The Galloping Troika. The Finale of the Prosecutor’s Speech” “Having come thus far in his speech, Ippolit Kirillovich, who had evidently chosen a strictly historical method of accounting, which is a favorite resort of all nervous orators who purposely seek a strict framework in order to restrain their own impatient zeal — Ippolit Kirillovich expanded particularly on the ‘former’ and ‘indisputable’ one, and on this topic expressed several rather amusing thoughts.” Why wasn’t Dmitri Karamazov jealous of the ‘former’ and ‘indisputable’ one? What could “he” mean to her now? With all roads closed to him after he ‘killed his father,’ suicide was his only way out. “Not for nothing are we a poet, not for nothing have we been burning our life like a candle at both ends.” The pistol will reconcile everything. “I do knot know whether Karamazov thought at that moment of ‘what lay beyond‘ or whether a Karamazov could think, in Hamlet fashion, of what lies beyond. No, gentlemen of the jury, they have their Hamlets, but so far we have only Karamazovs!” Ippolit Kirillovich presents a picture of Dimitry’s preparations. Karamazov’s victor over his rival, the “former and indisputable’ one. Yet, “One can positively admit, gentlemen of the jury, that outraged nature and the criminal heart revenge themselves more fully than any earthly justice!” Mitya’s sufferings, learning that Grushenka had chosen him, “When everything was finished for him, and nothing was possible.” Why didn’t he shoot himself right there? “It was precisely [his] passionate thirst for love and the hope of satisfying it right then and there that held him back.” His state of revelry. His feeling that “the fatal ending” was still a long way off. Ippolit theorizes that the clever Dimitry, as a plan of defense, hid half the 3000 roubles. His two abysses. “Gentlemen of the jury, there are moments when, in the exercise of our duty, we ourselves feel almost afraid before man, and afraid of man!” The need for self-preservation. “‘Who could have killed him if not I? Do you hear that? he asks us, us, who came to him with the very question! Do you hear that little phrase — ‘if not I’ — running ahead of itself, its animal cunning, its naivety, it’s Karamazovian impatience?” Mitya’s attempts to find a way out. His defenses. Ippolit’s final plea to the jury: “Remember that you are the defenders of our truth, the defenders of our holy Russia, of her foundations, of her family, of all that is holy in her! Yes, here, at this moment, you represent Russia, and your verdict will resound not only in this courtroom but for all of Russia, and all of Russia wil listen to you as her defenders and judges, and will be either heartened or discouraged by your verdict.” Ippolit gets carried away. The Russian troika and the world’s reaction. The audience reacts and analyzes Ippolit’s speech — was there too much psychology?
I was struck by the ridiculousness of Ippolit Kirillovich’s “I do not know whether Karamazov thought at that moment of ‘what lies beyond’ or whether a Karamazov could think, in Hamlet fashion, of what lies beyond.” Is there a Karamazov who hadn’t thought about that subject a great deal? Again, Ippolit’s misunderstanding of the facts in front of him, from Mitya’s motives to why he didn’t shoot himself earlier, and just about everything is…ironically funny?
From Joseph Frank:
“In conclusion, the prosecutor returns to the image of the Russian troika made famous in Gogol’s Dead Souls, where Russia is compared with a troika, furiously galloping to some distant destination and before which all the other nations give way. The jurors represent, he tells them, ‘all of our holy Russia…her principles, her family, everything that she holds sacred!’ The whole country awaits their verdict, as ‘our fatal troika dashes on in headlong flight, perhaps to destruction, and for a long time past men have stretched out imploring hands and called a halt to its furious, reckless course.’ Other nations stand aside, ‘not from respect…but simply from horror,’ and he warns that some day they man ‘form a firm all confronting the hurrying apparition…for the sake of their own safety, enlightenment, and civilization.’ The jury, Ippolit Kirillovich warns, must not increase ‘their growing hatred by a sentence justifying the murder of a father by his son.'”
Book XII, Chapters Ten and Eleven