6. False Christs and Little Devils
In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

181 6 False Christs and Little Devils Alexandrov, however, was certainly not exhorting his courtroom audience of Petersburg ladies and luminaries, to say nothing of representatives of the legal profession, to commit acts of terrorism; he was merely seeking acquittal for his client. Yet after the presiding judge Koni had restored order in the court, Alexandrov continued to speak from his client’s point of view, to express her thoughts upon receiving reports of Bogoliubov’s punishment: “The fateful question arose with all of its agitated insistence. Who will intervene for the offended honor of the helpless political prisoner [katorzhnik]? Who will wash away, who will redeem and how will the shame be redeemed that the unfortunate will remember about himself forever with inconsolable pain. . . . But who and how will the memory of the shame, of his insulted dignity, be smoothed out of his heart, who [will wash it away] and how will the stain be washed away?”1 Alexandrov’s shift to religious metaphors, the ground for which was prepared by the passion of Bogoliubov, is nonetheless abrupt. Bogoliubov, the Christ, is himself in need of a self-sacrificial savior “to redeem” and “wash away the stain.” In Alexandrov’s rendering, the redeemer is also an avenger. The new Christ, in other words, Christ’s 182 Part Three: “The Little Devil Sitting in Your Heart” own savior-to-be, must be both. But Alexandrov attributes these thoughts and words to Zasulich herself. “So thought, and not so much thought, but instinctively felt V. Zasulich. I am speaking her thoughts. I am speaking almost [italics mine] her words,”2 insists Alexandrov, but if that is so, then Ivan Karamazov is also speaking almost her words (or Alexandrov’s). Transmuting Bogoliubov’s “inconsolable pain” and the “memory of the shame” into the tears of tormented children, Ivan demands this of Alyosha: “This is the question I can’t solve. They [the tears] must be redeemed, otherwise there can be no harmony. But how, how will you redeem them? Is it possible? Can they be redeemed by being avenged? But what do I care if they are avenged, what do I care if the tormentors are in hell, what can hell set right here, if these ones have already been tormented?”3 Dostoevsky has taken up the offer implicit in Alexandrov’s tropes to broach the question of abuse, suffering, and revenge in its metaphysical aspect. Ivan is the quintessential spokesperson for the atheist nihilist (terrorist) who, lacking belief in immortality, demands revenge “right here and now so I can see it myself, or I will destroy myself.”4 But Ivan is sufficiently insightful to recognize that revenge—whether here or in the afterlife—would impede the harmony that he craves: “I want to forgive, and I want to embrace, I don’t want more suffering.”5 At the same time, Ivan stresses the role and responsibility of the eyewitness not to forgive under any circumstances. In her capacity as “mother” the mother may forgive for herself, for her “immeasurable maternal suffering ,” but as a witness and therefore the embodied principle of memory, without which there can be no justice on earth or in heaven, “she has no right to forgive the suffering of her child who was torn to pieces, she dare not forgive the tormentor, even if the child himself were to forgive him!”6 Alexandrov considers for a moment that the punishment of Bogoliubov , however seemingly outrageous, might be proven to be just (or at least legal) according to some principle of order of which Zasulich is unaware. “It could be that some experienced observer of order would prove that to proceed otherwise than was done with Bogoliubov is impossible , that otherwise order could not exist. Perhaps, not an observer of order, but just some practical person would say, in the full certainty of the reasonableness of his advice ‘Give it up, Vera Ivanovich: after all it wasn’t you who was torn up.’”7 Likewise, Ivan considers the possibility that there is some higher order that he fails to grasp: “Some joker will say, perhaps, that in any False Christs and Little Devils 183 case the child will grow up and have time enough to sin, but there’s this boy who didn’t grow up but was torn apart by dogs at the age of eight. Oh, Alyosha, I’m not blaspheming! I do understand how the universe will tremble when all in heaven and under the...



Subject Headings

  • Russian literature -- Political aspects.
  • Terrorism -- Russia -- History -- 19th century.
  • Terrorism in literature.
  • Alexander II, Emperor of Russia, 1818-1881 -- Assassination.
  • Dostoyevsky, Fyodor, 1821-1881 -- Political and social views.
  • You have access to this content
  • Free sample
  • Open Access
  • Restricted Access