It is being said that he committed suicide out of desperation. The Defense Lawyer, Fetyukovich, actually stated Smerdyakov did not kill himself out of guilt and remorse, but because he knew there was no longer a way for him to fulfil his dreams with the money he took, given that he was terminally ill. The lawyer used this as a means to prove that the fact that Smerdyakov didn't confess to the murder before killing himself is NOT proof of his innocence. I don't necessarily agree with this explanation and it may very well be that this is not the actual reason for the suicide, since we were only given the supposition of a character.

The first thing that came to mind was that Smerdyakov killed himself out of ambition and malice, as if he wanted Ivan to find himself alone and realize he was the only real murderer (at least the only one still alive). I thought he made a purpose out of playing this prank on Ivan, a purpose he thought was worth dying for. Maybe he felt like he lacked value, he was indifferent to life, but nonetheless he was angry at the privileges his brothers had. So he decided to show his brother he's no better, and then give his life away just like returning his ticket to God. Again, by actually returning the ticket he was able to do what Ivan only dreamed of having the strength for. Or maybe he didn't believe in God at all, but still wanted to show Ivan that he's braver and could do the things Ivan was afraid of even admitting. Anyway, I feel like it all revolves around Ivan, even the murder. Smerdyakov was obsessed with Ivan's opinion of him.

I want to know what everybody else thought of Smerdyakov's suicide, I'm really excited to learn about how other readers understood this scene.

2 Answers 2


A small disclaimer to start with: this is my fresh impression as I just finished reading this wonderful book and did not read commentaries on it yet.

As I understood it, Smerdjakov was up to the very end sincerely convinced that Ivan was "in on it", wanted him to kill Fjodor, and had discreetly instructed him to do so.

Once he learned that Ivan did not intend him to do that at all, or at least that on the "third visit" he strongly condemned his actions, his world was so thoroughly shaken that he was driven to kill himself in desperation. As Ivan's opinion of him meant the world to him, this would explain his suicide note too: "I end my life voluntarily so that I don't have to accuse anyone" (meaning, his God Ivan).


I agree with your take. Smerdyakov could only get out of Ivan's shadow by doing what Ivan couldn't, but since his existence was defined by his detestation of Ivan, he had nothing left to live for.

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