Asked • 06/29/19

What is the significance of the "suffocation scene" at Tchermashnya in Brothers Karamazov?

I'm re-reading *The Brothers Karamazov* and was struck again by a strange scene whose meaning isn't immediately clear to me. In "Lyagavy", Part 3, Book 8, Chapter 2 of *The Brothers Karamazov*, Mitya rushes to Tchermashnya at the underhanded suggestion of Samsonov, in a desperate attempt to come up with money. Finding Lyagavy drunk, he decides after an unsuccessful effort to speak to him that he needs to stay the night until Lyagavy becomes sober. In the middle of that night, he awakes with a searing headache and realizes that he almost died because of the fire fumes: > But his head ached more and more. He sat without moving, and unconsciously dozed off and fell asleep as he sat. He seemed to have slept for two hours or more. He was waked up by his head aching so unbearably that he could have screamed. There was a hammering in his temples, and the top of his head ached. It was a long time before he could wake up fully and understand what had happened to him. > At last he realized that the room was full of charcoal fumes from the stove, and that he might die of suffocation. And the drunken peasant still lay snoring. The candle guttered and was about to go out. Mitya cried out, and ran staggering across the passage into the forester's room. The forester waked up at once, but hearing that the other room was full of fumes, to Mitya's surprise and annoyance, accepted the fact with strange unconcern, though he did go to see to it. > “But he's dead, he's dead! and ... what am I to do then?” cried Mitya frantically. > They threw open the doors, opened a window and the chimney. Mitya brought a pail of water from the passage. First he wetted his own head, then, finding a rag of some sort, dipped it into the water, and put it on Lyagavy's head. The forester still treated the matter contemptuously, and when he opened the window said grumpily: > “It'll be all right, now.” Mitya eventually goes back to sleep, and (as far as I know) the incident goes no further and is never mentioned again. Dostoevsky is such a purposeful writer that I have a hard time believing that this is just a throwaway incident. **Is there any special significance, symbolic or otherwise, to this event?** Is it only meant to exacerbate the extreme mental turmoil Mitya is going through at the time?

1 Expert Answer

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Joel K. answered • 08/31/19

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