Remarkable Prose: “And yet you must never ask a woman to forgive you- anything rather than that!”

September 7, 2010 § 1 Comment

Fyodor Karamazov (Mitya) offers advice to his younger brother Alexei Karamazov (Alyosha), after having treated Grushenka (Grusha) badly when she visited him in prison:

MITYA: “It just kills me when I think of Grusha, it just kills me… She was here earlier today and…”

ALYOSHA: “She told me she had come. You made her very miserable today.”

“I know. Damn my lousy character! I was jealous. I felt sorry when I kissed her as she was leaving, but I didn’t ask her to forgive me.”

“Why not?” Alyosha cried in surprise.

Mitya laughed almost gaily.

“You’re just a little boy, Alyosha, so here’s a piece of advice for you: never ask the woman you love for forgiveness! Especially if you really love her, however guilty you may be before her. A woman is so peculiar, Alyosha. Damn it, that’s one subject I really know quite a bit about. I tell you, the moment you admit to a woman that you’ve wronged her and ask her to forgive you, she’ll never stop showering you with reproaches. No woman will ever just forgive you for what you’ve done. First she’ll humiliate you as much as she can and remind you of all the mistakes you’ve ever made, and even of those you never made; she will forget nothing and add plenty, and only then will she forgive you. And that’s how the best, the nicest of them, act! She’ll scrape the bottom of the barrel and pour it over your head- it’s an instinct in those angels, without whom we cannot live. You see, Alyosha, my boy, I’ll tell you frankly- every self-respecting man is bound to land under the heel of some woman at one time or another. That’s my conviction, or rather a feeling I have. A man should be forgiving- it will never degrade him. Forgiving will not stain even a hero, not even Caesar! And yet you must never ask a woman to forgive you- anything rather than that! I want you to remember this rule, taught you by your older brother Mitya, who perished because of women. No, I think I’d better make it up to Grusha in some other way, without asking her to forgive me.”

-Fyodor Dostoevsky, The Brothers Karamazov

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Using the above quotation as a lively example:


“….another recognizable tendency entails the inability or unwillingness to apologize to another under any circumstances. In this case, moral insensibility, arrogance, anger, fear, uncompromising self-righteousness, etc. independently or in combination, manage to overcome and defeat sorrow and regret. Similarly, some individuals, (and groups) find it difficult, if not impossible, to accept an apology no matter how contrite the offender or how great the social disruption caused by the rejection. They prefer, it seems, to nurture their anger, hatred, and sense of betrayal. Instead of forgiving and forgetting, they use an apology as the occasion for escalating conflict.”

“… The ultimate negatory stance in a culture that does accord a place for apology would be the categorical denial of any obligation to respond to the call or, for that matter, even to give an account for an offense. This quintessentially amoral position is succinctly expressed in the dictum “never apologize, never explain.” To which, if taken seriously, it would follow, “never be sorry, never express remorse, never seek forgiveness.””

-Nicholas Tavuchis. Mea Culpa: A Sociology of Apology and Reconciliation

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