The Brothers Karamazov

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Monday, December 06, 2004

Essay on Literary Criticism:
Albert Camus

Rejection of Salvation

In general, 19th Century novels are mostly based upon Romanticism in which mankind’s needs are above God. Albert Camus argues that The Brothers Karamazov goes beyond the ideas of Romanticism. Ivan Fyodorovich Karamazov falls under the romantic rebels but with different ideas. He wants justice instead of God and instead of faith in his actions. God is not denied in the novel, but rather looked upon as an equal. But Ivan sides with justice over divine power. By siding with justice, Camus argues that, at the same time, Ivan rejects salvation because he is refuting God with no remorse, and no hope of redemption.

Camus points out that Ivan did not chose to reject God because of hatred, but rather because of compassion for man. He explains how Ivan does not believe that truth should be found though suffering of innocence. Eternal life is faith in suffering, which is injustice in the mind of Ivan. So Ivan rejects eternal life, and chooses not to find salvation in the intention of finding justice instead. One seeks justice, but reason and fate have overruled many for fear of never finding salvation. Ivan overcomes that fear.

Ivan then falls in this contradictory state. Camus reveals Ivan’s lifestyle by stating that if there is no virtue to live for then “everything is permitted”, as so greatly stated by Ivan. He explains that Ivan accepts murder, but doesn’t accept the executioner who is doing the same thing as the murder. That is, the murderer and executioner are doing what they want since everything is permitted. This is where Ivan goes mad. The contradiction greatly tortures Ivan because neither side can be pleased. The consequence of rebellion is madness from defending it against oppositions. Camus exposes the madness that dwells in Ivan because of his own rebellion.
Camus emphasizes that Ivan doesn’t seek to reform God’s rule like the Great Inquisitor, but rather he wants to free himself from mankind and morals. Ivan rebels by arguing that suffering should not exist for it happens to the innocent and if suffering does not exist, then neither does fate, and therefore, eternal life is no longer an option. Thus we arrive at the conclusion that Ivan does not and will not seek salvation out of malice, but out of good intention.

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