Saturday, November 5, 2011

Classics Review of The Brothers Karamozov with Lorilyn Roberts

The Brothers Karamazov
Fyodor Dostoevsky
Am I My Brother’s Keeper?

Review by Lorilyn Roberts

The Brothers Karamazov opened my eyes to the depths of fine writing and what is necessary to improve mine. I felt humbled and chastised by The Brothers Karamazov.  The meanings and symbolism were much deeper than my own superficiality; i.e., I didn’t like the ending, there wasn’t the redemption I was looking for, Dmitri was found guilty; thus, the court system failed. I wanted to know what was going to happen to him. I felt like Dostovsky didn’t know what to do, so he just left it open for the reader to conjecture, a cop-out. I didn’t agree with the theme of the book, that we are responsible for other’s people’s sins in the sense that he was so emphatic. I felt like there were a lot of extraneous people in the story that served no real purpose, or why did the little boy die?  What did that add to the story?  I liked The Brothers Karamazov, it’s just I wanted it to be nice and tidy. It wasn’t.
The most difficult place to affect change is in someone's core beliefs. What depth of understanding can we impart to a reader beyond his current level? If we can convict a reader to change one aspect of his thinking, we can influence a whole generation. The Brothers Karamazov more than any other book broke down my idealistic view of what is good writing.

Once we acknowledge there is a higher standard than what we are familiar with, we  must be willing to risk failure to attain it. Do we not learn more from our failures than from our accomplishments?

Writing superficially is safe. It's not that we don't have an arc to the story, a protagonist and a villain, complications and a denouement; it's just that the superficiality will not touch deeply the heart of the reader. If we write with emotion and risk failure, though no one may acknowledge or know the risk except the writer, we will have raised the art of our writing to a new level.

Initially, due to my own flawed perception and pride, I felt like Alyosha was weak and Zosima was a dreamer. But they were real people with untarnished characters. They were their brother’s keeper. Pride has a way of distorting our vision of who we are. The Brothers Karamazov confronted  my flawed thinking about antagonists, forcing me to address  my own sin in one significant area: Maybe I am my brother’s keeper. 
But I admitted in my black heart, I don’t want to be my brother’s keeper. That means I have to love some people that are quite unlovable. If I am unwilling and I call myself a Christian, I am a fake. Am I willing to be my brother’s keeper? If I apply my beliefs to only loving those whom I choose to love, that means I am no different from Ivan or Dmitri.
It would be rare for a book to change more than one core belief in a person's thought process. To  effectuate any change is mind boggling. How many people read the Bible and walk away, darkened in their understanding? If the Greatest Book ever written can't convict every soul who scours its pages in search of answers, what pride we must have to believe we can bring about a metamorphosis in anyone. There must be a movement of the Holy Spirit to effectuate change. Only then can our words be powerful and only if executed to perfection. The Brothers Karamazov came as close to bringing me to my knees as any book I have read outside the Bible.

It is also interesting to note the political undertones in The Brothers Karamazov which predated the communist revolution in Russia by a few decades. .And freedom – Christ set men free. The opposite of that is totalitarianism. Perhaps the fight is greater than we realize. Our thoughts spoken into our books may even reflect prophetically the future as we seek to write from a Christian worldview. That was certainly the case with Fyodor Dostoevsky.

Some consider The Brothers Karamazov the greatest book ever written outside the Bible. Considering its place alongside the rest of the classics I have read, I would agree.

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