Smerdyakov has many of the characteristics of the other three sons: the motivation of Dmitri, the intellectual ability of Ivan, and the outward innocence of Alyosha. He may be made falsely happy, for a while, but he will soon realize, as Ivan does, that without God there can be no virtue.
The novel, as inferred from the aforementioned personal statement, may best be described as an autobiography of Dostoevsky filled with his beliefs, values, theories, and insights on a bestial world. If the character is frequently called by one of many nicknames, the frequently used name is italicized.
This drives Ivan crazy, and during the trial he falls into a nervous breakdown prior to crucial testimony beneficial to Dmitri. Alyosha eventually has to return to the monastery, however, and Ivan purposely leaves town; the suspense continues to build as Dostoevsky subtly manipulates these events so as to leave Fyodor vulnerable.
Confronted by a conflict in ideas that he is unable to solve, he declines into madness. Throughout this poem, Ivan attacks the Roman Catholic Church which depends largely upon miracles to prove their power.
Fyodor Karamazov, the first man introduced by Dostoevsky, has fathered four children, three by two wives and one bastard son. It is largely because of this preoccupation that he commits the immoral actions that he does.
Superficially, the novel deals with a horrifying parricide and how the supporting characters devised direct and indirect circumstances leading to the murder.