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Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov & Camus’ story The Guest Essay

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Updated: Nov 19th, 2019

The introduction: the fundamentals of the stories

The basic theme of Dostoevsky’s production The Grand Inquisitor is the Catholic Inquisition over the Protestants. The Brothers Karamazov represents two opposite sides: one of the brothers Ivan is anti-religion, while another one – Alyosha believes in a superhuman controlling power. Geoff Uyleman states:

The chapter The Grand Inquisitor in The Brothers Karamazov describes in detail Dostoyevsky’s notion and rejection of demothologized religion. As such, it is embodied by the Grand Inquisitor himself who, having lost his own faith, now exploits faith to cause desired behavior in those whom he governs (24).

One of the most important issues, which is to be discussed is the notion of morality. Thus, there are two opinions. Ivan thinks that he is responsible only for his own actions. He is once again “caught in the toils of his moral psychological dilemma – the dilemma of intending to follow the dictates of a conscience whose precepts his reasons cannot justify” (Uyleman 31).

Ivan states that if people don’t believe in a superhuman controlling power, they can do what they want in spite of the death of God. The basic idea of Camus’ story The Guest is considered to be the same.

Generally, the author refuses God, “in a profound sense, is angry at God – for the transcendent God of the Christians is too far removed from the world to be part of us, and even when the Christian God participates he glories in suffering and colonizes death!” (Meredith 23).

The thesis statement

The existence of spiritual redemption is one of the key points both stories disclose. The notions of morality and belief are rather ambiguous and complicated. The basic themes of both stories are partially similar; however, certain contradictions and different approaches to God’s existence make the basic ideas of the stories different.

The body: The Brothers Karamazov vs. The Guest: the similarities and differences

The common feature of The Brothers Karamazov and The Guest is, on the one hand, the absurdity of existence. The most important theme of a short story The Guest is Camus’ concept of absurdism. Symbolism, irony and foreshadowing are the central literary techniques Albert Camus used.

The Brothers Karamazov and The Guest disclose the problem of choice, although the context of choice is different.

Lawrence Meredith says that for Camus, “if God is alive he lives in the midst of incredible suffering which apparently he can do nothing about. Ivan Karamazov faced with this inexorable logic of belief, simply turned in his ticket to heaven” (24). Thus, the main characters of the both stories recognize the logic of unbelief.

In this case, the basic theme of The Guest is that “nothing is gained by bringing to life a powerless god” (24). However, the chapter The Brothers Karamazov is mostly related to the choice of freedom. There is a position that a genuine humility depends upon a person’s attitude towards God. Gilles Mongeau states that:

Christ proposes that we begin to desire a genuine spiritual poverty, and even an actual poverty, a material simplicity of life that promotes interior freedom before created goods and allows us to use them to God’s greater service and praise” (1).

Taking into account Mongeau’s opinion, one may affirm that if people want to be free, or want to feel what freedom is, they must recognize that they are God’s beloved creatures. Moreover, such acceptance is to be honest and sincere.

According to Dostoyevsky, “Humanity suffered with the burden of freedom of choice in the knowledge of good and evil” (Tncc.edu 1). So, if moral codes are to be developed by people, then freedom seems to be unnecessary as well as the power of God.

The issue of ethical life is one of the key points the chapter The Brothers Karamazov describes. Simon de Beauvoir “rejects the familiar charge against humanism made famous by Dostoevsky’s Grand Inquisitor: If God is dead everything is permitted” (1).

According to her, “ethical passion is defined by its generosity — specifically the generosity of recognizing the other’s difference and protecting the other in his difference from becoming an object of another’s will” (Simon de Beauvoir 1). So, existential-ethical situation of both stories is considered to be ambiguous.

Camus’ The Guest also discloses the same problem. Trudy D. Conway says that “Camus’ character also clearly recognizes hospitality to be the virtue he must practice, even if and when others misread or ridicule his actions” (16). That’s why Daru lets the Arab stay as the guest.

Hospitality and generosity of the main hero are considered to be the best traits of character people should possess. Camus’ tale states that we are to create cooperative interactions and to improve the practice of hospitality. “Perhaps, as philosophers in the contemporary world we need to reflect on how, on many levels, in many ways, in our lives and our communities, we can actively further an ethos of hospitality” (Conway 17).

The conclusion: the importance of philosophical conflicts in the stories

Brian Phillips says that “The central philosophical conflict of The Brothers Karamazov is the conflict between religious faith and doubt” (11). However, the central philosophical conflict of Camus’ The Guest is the absence of God. The points partially coincide.

Dostoyevsky’s The Grand Inquisitor affirms that “In a world in which the absence of God makes moral distinctions meaningless, people are logically justified in simply acting out their desires” (Phillips 12).

Camus’ The Guest states that people shouldn’t be afraid of God, there is no need to raise the eyes towards the heaven, where nobody lives. Thus, there is the same opinion.

Works Cited

Beauvoir, S. : Bad Faith, The Appeal, The Artist, 2010. Web.

Conway, T. From Tolerance to Hospitality: Problematic Limits of a Negative Virtue, 2004. Web.

Meredith, L. Invocation from Algeria: Albert Camus and the Living God, 1969. Web.

Mongeau, G. Lenten Thoughts, 2011. Web.

Phillips, B. The Brothers Karamazov, 2002. Web.

Tncc.edu. Again? Web.

Uyleman, Geoff. : Creating and Resolving Existential Despair, 2005. Web.

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