The Brothers Karamazov: Novel Summary: Part II Book V - Pro and Contra (Chapters 6-7)

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Part II Book V - Pro and Contra (Chapters 6-7)

Summary
Chapter 6: A rather obscure one for the moment
Ivan returns to his father's house full of unidentified anguish. He sees Smerdyakov sitting on the bench by the gate and realizes "that the lackey Smerdyakov was also sitting in his soul, and that it was precisely this man that his soul could not bear." He has come to hate Smerdyakov. When Ivan first came to town, the two would have long philosophical discussions. But Smerdyakov had begun to assume a familiarity with Ivan, as if they were somehow in league.
 
Ivan intends to insult Smerdyakov as he walks past, but to his surprise, he finds himself asking Smerdyakov how Fyodor Pavlovich is. Smerdyakov says he is asleep. He then suggests to Ivan that he go to Chermashnya, a neighboring town which is closer than Moscow, where Ivan is planning to go. Smerdyakov gives no direct reason for this, but goes on to say that he is worried about the growing enmity between Dmitri and Fyodor Pavlovich over Grushenka. Fyodor Pavlovich is desperate for her to visit, yet Dmitri threatens to kill Smerdyakov if she does visit and Smerdyakov fails to let him know.
 
Smerdyakov says that due to the strain he is under, he expects to have a long attack of epilepsy ("the falling sickness") tomorrow. He says that if Dmitri should kill his father, he (Smerdyakov) may come under suspicion as an accomplice. This is because he has told Dmitri about the secret knocking signals that Fyodor Pavlovich and Grushenka have agreed upon in the event that she decides to become his lover. Now, if Grushenka visits Fyodor Pavlovich, Dmitri will know about it and may try to kill his father by using these same signals to get into the house. Smerdyakov says that if he is having an attack of epilepsy, he will not be able to defend Fyodor Pavlovich. He adds that Grigory and Marfa have begun to take a medicine that makes them sleep deeply, so they are unlikely to be able to help. Ivan angrily asks whether Smerdyakov is conspiring to let Fyodor Pavlovich be killed, but Smerdyakov points out that everything depends on Dmitri, over whom he has no control. He says that Dmitri knows that Fyodor Pavlovich has prepared an envelope with three thousand roubles in it, with "To my angel Grushenka, if she wants to come" written on it.
 
Ivan is angry at Smerdyakov's implication. He says Dmitri may have killed his father yesterday in a fury over Grushenka, but he would not steal from his father and then kill him in a calculated way. Smerdyakov counters that Dmitri believes that his father owes him exactly three thousand roubles, so he may not view it as stealing. Also, Dmitri knows that Grushenka has been advised to marry Fyodor Pavlovich, since Fyodor Pavlovich would bequeath his fortune to her rather than to Dmitri and his brothers.
 
Ivan repeats his intention of going to Moscow the next day, in spite of Smerdyakov's recommendation that he go to the closer town, Chermashnya.
 
Chapter 7: "It's always interesting to talk with an intelligent man"
Ivan feels angry and hostile towards Smerdyakov and everyone else, including himself. Next morning, he tells Fyodor Pavlovich that he is leaving immediately for Moscow. Fyodor Pavlovich asks him to stop off at Chermashnya on the way and sell a plot of woodland to a merchant called Gorstkin. Ivan says he may do so; he will decide on the way. As he sets off, he tells Smerdyakov that he is going to Chermashnya, and Smerdyakov enigmatically comments, ". it's always interesting to talk with an intelligent man."
 
Ivan does not stop at Chermashnya, but goes straight to Moscow. He feels stricken by grief, and reflects that he is a scoundrel.
 
At Fyodor Pavlovich's house, Smerdyakov goes into the cellar and, true to his prediction, has an epileptic fit that makes him fall from the top step. Smerdyakov is put to bed in the cottage, where Marfa looks after him. Grigory is also bedridden, with a bad back.
 
Fyodor Pavlovich locks himself up in his house after tea, as is his habit, and excitedly awaits the arrival of Grushenka, who, he is convinced, will come tonight.
 
Analysis
These chapters lay the groundwork for Smerdyakov's murder of Fyodor Pavlovich and as such, are full of foreshadowings. Smerdyakov is a deceptive character and everything he says to Ivan is calculated to lay the blame for the murder on Dmitri and to provide himself with an alibi. For example, he tells Ivan that he is worried about the bitter rivalry between Dmitri and Fyodor Pavlovich over Grushenka. He also reveals that he has told Dmitri about the secret signals arranged between Fyodor Pavlovich and Grushenka; Smerdyakov implies that by using these signals, Dmitri would be able to bypass his father's evening lock-down policy and get into the house to kill his father. As well as giving Dmitri a genuine opportunity to kill Fyodor Pavlovich, the fact that Dmitri knows these signals has the added benefit of making it appear to others as if Dmitri could be the murderer.
 
Smerdyakov also says that he has told Dmitri about the three thousand roubles that Fyodor Pavlovich has prepared for Grushenka, and that Dmitri feels himself entitled to this money. Thus Smerdyakov is framing Dmitri by giving him both motive (rage over Grushenka, desire of the money) and opportunity (knowledge of the signals) to kill Fyodor Pavlovich.
 
Smerdyakov is at the same time giving himself an alibi in his prediction that he may fall into the cellar with an epileptic fit at the time when he expects the murder to take place. His implication is that if he is bedridden with a fit, he will not be able to murder Fyodor Pavlovich. In fact, the fit occurs exactly as predicted. It only transpires later that Smerdyakov faked it, though the reader will no doubt suspect that this is the case from Ivan's incredulity that Smerdyakov could predict his own fit.
 
Ivan's ambiguous relationship with Smerdyakov is emblematic of his ambiguous relationship with himself and his own philosophy. It is clear that Ivan has been having long talks with Smerdyakov and has influenced him with his own view that, as there is no God, there are no moral absolutes and "everything is permitted" - including, as Smerdyakov understands it, murder. Ivan's intellectual vanity has been touched by Smerdyakov's interest and a link has formed between the two. This is why Smerdyakov is eager to talk with Ivan when he sees him approaching. Another factor that draws Smerdyakov towards Ivan is his knowledge that Ivan hates Fyodor Pavlovich. It later transpires that Smerdyakov believes that Ivan is conspiring with him and using him as his agent in the murder of Fyodor Pavlovich. Hence he expects Ivan to accept his advice to remove himself to Chermashnya for his own safety, so that he cannot be suspected of having taken part in the murder. That Ivan does indeed leave, thus removing himself from a position in which he could defend his father, solidifies the suggestion that Ivan is (in a sense) an accomplice of Smerdyakov's in the murder.
 
Ivan feels Smerdyakov's assumption of kinship keenly and resists it, feeling repulsed by the lackey and angry with him. The suggestion is that Ivan similarly feels repulsed by, and angry at, his own philosophy, which Smerdyakov has begun to take on board. That Ivan is racked with hatred towards himself and everyone he knows after speaking with Smerdyakov shows that he is not at peace with himself or happy in his views.