So I’m in the middle of reading the Brothers Karamazov. It’s been such an interesting character/ideology study so far. I’m only about a third of the way through at this point, but this passage stood out to me for some reason. Smerdyakov, the old servant’s son (or so we think) has begun to show his proud, insolent side, and Fyodor (the old, drunk buffoon father whom I’m assuming is going to eventually be whacked by one of his three very different, very complex sons) is definitely insulting him. The narrator describes Smerdyakov’s tendency to become lost in thought:

“There is a remarkable picture by the painter Kramskoy, called “Contemplation.” There is a forest in winter, and on a roadway through the forest, in absolute solitude, stands a peasant in a torn kaftan and bark shoes. He stands, as it were, lost in thought. Yet he is not thinking; he is “contemplating.” If anyone touched him he would start and look at one as though awakening and bewildered. It’s true he would come to himself immediately; but if he were asked what he had been thinking about, he would remember nothing. Yet probably he has hidden within himself, the impression which had dominated him during the period of contemplation. Those impressions are dear to him and no doubt he hoards them imperceptibly, and even unconsciously. How and why, of course, he does not know either. He may suddenly, after hoarding impressions for many years, abandon everything and go off to Jerusalem on a pilgrimage for his soul’s salvation, or perhaps he will suddenly set fire to his native village, and perhaps do both. There are a good many “contemplatives” among the peasantry. Well, Smerdyakov was probably one of them, and probably was greedily hoarding up his impressions, hardly knowing why.”

I don’t know how crucial this passage is going to be in the grand scheme of the book, but I really liked this section for some reason.

4 thoughts on “Contemplation

  1. I love that book- Dostoyevsky is a freaking master. He really is able to steer clear of cliches or what one expects, and makes it so believable. It’s so easy to get caught up in the mind of his characters.

  2. I seriously want to discuss this book with folks when I am done. I just finished “The Grand Inquisitor” chapter, when Ivan discusses faith with Alyosha. Seriously, the most amazing piece of literature I have ever read on the concept of free will and suffering. My brain is still recovering.

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