Brothers Karamazov, written by the accomplished Russian novelist - Fyodor Dostoevsky, is an ambiguous and somewhat contradictory novel when it comes to the issue of belief and disbelief in God. The ambiguity seems to represent Dostoevsky’s constant spiritual struggle with the issue of faith. This struggle is best reflected in the enlightening interactions between the two Karamazov brothers, Ivan and Alyosha throughout the novel, each appears to embody a different side on the spectrum of religious belief in Dostoevsky’s mind. They are Dostoevsky’s ultimate depiction of the conflict of faith and reason in light of the suffering in the world.
The novel revolves around the three Karamazov brothers – Dimitri, Ivan and Alyosha – ‘s emotionally spiritual conflict between reason and faith. Dostoevsky portrayed this best through Book V, chapter 3 to 5 – in which an intellectual conversation between Ivan and Alyosha takes place. Their dinner conversation opens up a whole new paradigm of spirituality. Ivan, in order to explain his point of view on the matter, brings up the suffering of innocent children in particular and the human race in general. It is beyond his grasp how a living God could let mankind suffer for no particular reason. Furthermore, Ivan cannot seem to comprehend why the innocent and harmless children have to live their lives in suffering. He says in Book V chapter 4 – Rebellion: “Listen: if everyone must suffer, in order to buy eternal harmony with their suffering, pray tell me what have children got to do with it? It’s quite incomprehensible why they should have to suffer, and why they should buy harmony with their suffering. “ His poignant speech is so eloquently articulated that it makes us question whether this is actually Dostoevsky’s view on God and the injustice in the world, especially when we consider the fact that the death of his three-year-old son Alyosha in May 1878 unfortunately intervened his writing of the novel.
Ivan is a heartfelt rationalist whose disbelief in God does not necessarily mirror atheism. Ivan never questions the existence of God, he only feels strongly that if, indeed, there was a God, he would not be all-loving and all-benevolent, given the all the injustice and pain people, especially children in this world have to endure. Therefore, it seems like Ivan never loses faith in the existence of God, but rather he has lost faith in a perfect God – this is the basis of his disbelief. To him, nothing can ever justify the suffering of children, too young to even have sinned. Ivan appears to reflect Dostoevsky’s thoughts and reason when all things go against his faith.
Dostoevsky wrote in the novel this which will always be one of my favorite sayings: “The awful thing is that beauty is mysterious as well as terrible. God and the devil are fighting there and the battlefield is the heart of man.” Brothers Karamazov is without any doubt the heart of Dostoevsky where the eternal battle is fought between faith and...