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Ivan’s Agony



Ivan Karamazov of Dostoevsky’s novel, The Karamazov Brothers, is a highly tortured character because he cannot accept the given reality.  “I don’t accept this world of God’s,” he tells his brother Alyosha who is a highly spiritual person.  “It’s not that I don’t accept God, you must understand, it’s the world created by Him I don’t accept and cannot accept.”

How can an omniscient and omnipotent God create a world with so much evil?  Ivan’s intellect cannot find a satisfactory answer to that problem.  Ivan wants a world of goodness.  If human beings make use of their rational faculty properly, the world can be a place of goodness.  Ivan is an intellectual who would love to see a coldly moral world, a world in which people’s actions are based on reason. 

Ivan’s father himself is a wicked man who lives by his passions.  His step-brother, Smerdyakov, becomes a murderer because of Ivan’s cold philosophy.  Ivan is shocked beyond endurance by the murder of his own father by his own step-brother.  He becomes frenzied by the realisation of what his philosophy can do to someone like Smerdyakov who is not an intellectual, who cannot think like Ivan simply because he is incapable of doing so. 

Most people are incapable of thinking rationally.  The Aristotelian definition of man as a rational being is simply wrong.  Ivan’s basic premise is wrong: man is not rational.  Man is a passionate creature, driven by the dark forces that lie deep down in his soul. 

If Ivan could accept those dark forces in man, he would not have needed the God foisted on him by his religion.  He would have been able to discover an acceptable meaning in life. Ivan remained an extremely tortured soul simply because of his failure to accept the dark side of human nature.

Evil is more potent in the human world.  There is no escape from it.  No God can save man from that truth.  God may be able to save man from evil, however.  That depends on each individual, how he or she wants God to act on him or her.  Personally, I have been unable to accept God, even like Ivan.  But unlike Ivan I accept evil as inevitable.  It hits me hard everyday.  I accept the hits. I try my best to retain my sanity in this evil, evil world.


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