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The Brothers Karamazov

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    The Brothers Karamazov

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    Alexey Fyodorovitch Karamazov was the third son of Fyodor Pavlovitch
    Karamazov, a land owner well known in our district in his own day, and
    still remembered among us owing to his gloomy and tragic death, which
    happened thirteen years ago, and which I shall describe in its proper
    place. For the present I will only say that this “landowner”—for so we
    used to call him, although he hardly spent a day of his life on his own
    estate—was a strange type, yet one pretty frequently to be met with, a
    type abject and vicious and at the same time senseless. But he was one of
    those senseless persons who are very well capable of looking after their
    worldly affairs, and, apparently, after nothing else. Fyodor Pavlovitch,
    for instance, began with next to nothing; his estate was of the smallest;
    he ran to dine at other men’s tables, and fastened on them as a toady, yet
    at his death it appeared that he had a hundred thousand roubles in hard
    cash. At the same time, he was all his life one of the most senseless,
    fantastical fellows in the whole district. I repeat, it was not
    stupidity—the majority of these fantastical fellows are shrewd and
    intelligent enough—but just senselessness, and a peculiar national form of
    it.

    He was married twice, and had three sons, the eldest, Dmitri, by his first
    wife, and two, Ivan and Alexey, by his second. Fyodor Pavlovitch’s first
    wife, Adelaïda Ivanovna, belonged to a fairly rich and distinguished noble
    family, also landowners in our district, the Miüsovs. How it came to pass
    that an heiress, who was also a beauty, and moreover one of those
    vigorous, intelligent girls, so common in this generation, but sometimes
    also to be found in the last, could have married such a worthless, puny
    weakling, as we all called him, I won’t attempt to explain. I knew a young
    lady of the last “romantic” generation who after some years of an
    enigmatic passion for a gentleman, whom she might quite easily have
    married at any moment, invented insuperable obstacles to their union, and
    ended by throwing herself one stormy night into a rather deep and rapid
    river from a high bank, almost a precipice, and so perished, entirely to
    satisfy her own caprice, and to be like Shakespeare’s Ophelia. Indeed, if
    this precipice, a chosen and favorite spot of hers, had been less
    picturesque, if there had been a prosaic flat bank in its place, most
    likely the suicide would never have taken place. This is a fact, and
    probably there have been not a few similar instances in the last two or
    three generations. Adelaïda Ivanovna Miüsov’s action was similarly, no
    doubt, an echo of other people’s ideas, and was due to the irritation
    caused by lack of mental freedom. She wanted, perhaps, to show her
    feminine independence, to override class distinctions and the despotism of
    her family. And a pliable imagination persuaded her, we must suppose, for
    a brief moment, that Fyodor Pavlovitch, in spite of his parasitic
    position, was one of the bold and ironical spirits of that progressive
    epoch, though he was, in fact, an ill-natured buffoon and nothing more.
    What gave the marriage piquancy was that it was preceded by an elopement,
    and this greatly captivated Adelaïda Ivanovna’s fancy. Fyodor Pavlovitch’s
    position at the time made him specially eager for any such enterprise, for
    he was passionately anxious to make a career in one way or another. To
    attach himself to a good family and obtain a dowry was an alluring
    prospect. As for mutual love it did not exist apparently, either in the
    bride or in him, in spite of Adelaïda Ivanovna’s beauty. This was,
    perhaps, a unique case of the kind in the life of Fyodor Pavlovitch, who
    was always of a voluptuous temper, and ready to run after any petticoat on
    the slightest encouragement. She seems to have been the only woman who
    made no particular appeal to his senses.