Summary and Analysis
Part 3: Book VIII
Dmitri feels that there is still a possibility that Grushenka may accept him as her husband, but his problem is that if she does accept him, he cannot rightfully carry her away until he repays the money he owes Katerina Ivanovna. In a desperate effort to find a solution, he contrives a fantastic scheme. He goes to old Samsonov — Grushenka's previous protector — and offers him the rights to some property that he believes the law courts might take away from Fyodor and give to him if the old merchant will immediately give him 3,000 rubles. The merchant, of course, refuses and plays a trick on Dmitri: he sends him off to the country to see a merchant named Lyagavy, who is bargaining with Fyodor for this very property.
Dmitri pawns his watch, hires transportation to the neighboring town, and finds the merchant. Unfortunately, the man is thoroughly drunk. Dmitri tries to sober him up but is unable to, so he waits until the next day. The merchant remains in a stupor, so Dmitri returns to town, hoping to borrow money from Madame Hohlakov. Madame Hohlakov, however, tries to convince him that he should go off to the gold mines if he wants money; she refuses to lend him anything.
Dmitri next goes to claim Grushenka but finds that she is not at home. The servant is no help; she pretends that she does not know where Grushenka has gone. Dmitri is outraged. He picks up a brass pestle and dashes to his father's house. Then he sneaks into the garden and peers through a lighted window. He is sure that Grushenka has finally come to the old man. He is disappointed, however; he sees only his father pacing the floor. But to make certain that Grushenka is not there, Dmitri taps the secret signal. The old man opens the window and Dmitri is greatly relieved. Grushenka is not with his father!
Meanwhile, Grigory, the old servant, awakens and goes into the garden for a breath of air. He sees Dmitri leaving the garden and tries to stop him, but Dmitri, confused and distraught, fights off his attacker and finally strikes him on the head with the pestle. The servant crumples to the ground, and Dmitri stops for a moment to see if the man is dead. He tries to stop the puddle of blood; then, in a panic, he tosses the pestle away and flees.
He returns to Grushenka's house and forces the servants to reveal where Grushenka has gone. The answer is agonizing: she has gone to rejoin her first lover. Dmitri knows now that he can no longer claim the girl. He must step aside and leave her to her happiness. But he passionately wants one last look at Grushenka. After that, he will kill himself; his future holds nothing without Grushenka. He goes to retrieve pistols from Perhotin, a minor official who lent Dmitri money and kept the pistols as security. Perhotin is amazed to see Dmitri, who is now carrying a large bundle of money and blotched with blood. He goes to a nearby store with young Karamazov and remains while Dmitri buys 300 rubles worth of food and wine and makes arrangements to go where Grushenka is rumored to be staying. After Perhotin watches Dmitri leave, he decides to do some detective work.
Dmitri is in luck: Grushenka is indeed staying where he was directed. He rushes to her rooms and greatly shocks Grushenka, but she recovers and welcomes him. Until now, the celebration has been gloomy and restrained. Dmitri's wine helps liven the spirits, and soon Grushenka and her officer friend and Dmitri are all playing cards together. All does not go well, however. The Polish officer begins to cheat and tosses out disgusting, cynical remarks. Grushenka recoils. She realizes that she can never love such a man. Dmitri senses Grushenka's pain, and when the officer finally turns his insults on her, Dmitri forces him into another room and locks him inside. Then a real celebration ensues, and Grushenka knows that she can love only Dmitri.
Dmitri is not quite so lucky. He is troubled because he has struck Grigory, perhaps killed him; he also owes money to Katerina Ivanovna. He talks with Grushenka of their future together, but they are interrupted. A group of officers arrive, charge Dmitri with the murder of his father, and place him under arrest.
Until now, the novel has moved with a sure, slow deliberateness as Dostoevsky depicts the intellectual conflicts in Ivan, the philosophy of Zossima, and the mystic affirmation of life by Alyosha. Now, however, this section, devoted to Dmitri, rushes along with breathtaking speed as it records Dmitri's frantic efforts to save both his life and his love.
Dostoevsky is a master at depicting the torment of despondency within a character who has no money and desperately needs it in order to salvage some remnant of his honor. Dmitri has spent most of the money that Katerina Ivanovna has lent him, and, although we know that he has the rest concealed on him, he still feels that he cannot elope with Grushenka until the entire sum is repaid. He must secure the money so that he can begin a new life with Grushenka and still retain his integrity. If he were to use Katerina's money to elope with Grushenka, he feels that this would be his absolute lowest, most degrading act. Looking forward, when he decides to step aside and allow Grushenka to return to her first love, one should realize that by this time he has decided to end his life. This resolution should be kept in mind when Dmitri shows few qualms about usurping the money; it is not that he considers it any less dishonorable, but, because he intends to take his life, he will not have to face the dishonor.
Dostoevsky does not present an entirely admirable character in Dmitri. He continually lets the reader know that Dmitri's financial predicament is due to his irresponsibility with money. Consequently, his frantic search for someone who will lend him money and his absurd proposals reveal his lack of acumen. He is also unable to realize that the old merchant, Samsonov, is making fun of him and sending him on a wild goose chase. It takes two days for Dmitri to come to his senses, but even then he tries to convince Madame Hohlakov that she should lend him money. Were he more rational, he would know that the lady detests him. These scenes of begging, then, show to what degree of desperation Dmitri will go in his need for money. This alone casts suspicion upon him concerning his father's murder.
Remember, too, that Dostoevsky arranges his plot in such a way that it is natural and logical for the reader to assume on first reading that Dmitri is the murderer. Every detail in this chapter attests to the incriminating evidence that will be accumulated against Dmitri. Furthermore, even Dmitri's thoughts cast suspicion upon him. As he goes to see Madame Hohlakov, for example, he thinks "his last hope . . . if this broke down, nothing else was left him in the world but to rob and murder some one for the three thousand." Such evidence, coupled with his distraught emotions, allows the reader to assume that Dmitri is indeed guilty of his father's murder.
Ironically, one small lie contributes most of all to Dmitri's arrest. Fenya, Grushenka's servant, lies to him; she says that she does not know of Grushenka's whereabouts, thereby forcing Dmitri to go to his father's to search for her. Had the servant told the truth, Dmitri would not have been present at the scene of the murder; nor would he have been covered with Grigory's blood.
Dmitri's resolve to commit suicide is quite believable. On the road to Mokroe to meet Grushenka, he fully intends to see her and then kill himself. Indeed, the mere fact that he is now spending the rest of Katerina Ivanovna's money and the fact that he has left old Grigory to face possible death from his wounds suggest that Dmitri no longer has any concern about the future. During the ride, he knows that he cannot stand in Grushenka's way, but he wants to see her once more. He is in agony; he even asks the peasant driver, as one might ask a priest, to forgive him all the sins of his life. Incidentally, with this last act, he echoes one of Zossima's ideas concerning the repudiation of master-servant distinction and the responsibility of all men for one another.
Dmitri fully intends to kill himself, and his prayer, most of all, reveals the anguish in his soul. "Lord," he pleads, "receive me with all my lawlessness and do not condemn me. Let me pass Thy judgment — do not condemn me for I have condemned myself . . . for I love Thee, O Lord. I am a wretch, but I love Thee. If Thou sendest me to hell, I shall love Thee there and from there I shall cry out that I love Thee for ever and ever." In this prayer is Dmitri's most redeeming value; it holds the key to Dmitri's character — that which Zossima recognized. Dmitri is one of the "folk" of whom the elder spoke. He is one of those who may sin, but who still love God. That love, said Zossima, leads to salvation; such deep love the elder recognized early in his relationship with Dmitri. Henceforth, young Karamazov calls upon this love and its strength as he begins the slow journey toward regeneration and redemption.