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Parentage and childhood influences—A quick review of Dostoevsky’s biography reveals many of the seeds of the traits, actions, and situations of his characters. Born in 1821 in Moscow to parents of noble descent, Dostoevsky’s life was nevertheless not an easy one. His father’s profession as a military doctor enabled him to provide for his large family, which included buying a summer home outside of Moscow. But his father’s job at a hospital for the poor also put the young Dostoevsky in contact with the less fortunate members of society. Dostoevsky was further shaped by the education his parents gave him at home by exposing him to the Bible and various literary works.

Youth and schooling—When Dostoevsky was in his teens, both his parents died within two years, leaving him orphaned. Prior to that, his father had sent him to the military engineering academy in St. Petersburg, but with his sensitive, imaginative, and temperamental nature, Dostoevsky’s real interests lay elsewhere. These included a deeper sense of the Christian religion, social philosophy and justice, and literature and culture. It was at this time, too, that he started gambling.

Early adulthood and career—In spite of his lack of interest in the sciences, Dostoevsky eventually passed his exams, landed an engineering job, and was promoted to second lieutenant. Financial problems led him to try his hand at literary translation, but when that proved unsuccessful, he turned to novel writing. With the success of Poor Folkin 1846, he decided to resign from the military and focus on his literary career, even though his second novel, The Double, was not successful.

Socialism and Siberia—Around the same time, Dostoevsky became interested in socialist ideas and was involved with several utopian socialist groups, the last of which was the Petrashevsky Circle, a non-revolutionary literary discussion group with a Christian ethic and an interest in social reform. In 1849, its members were sentenced to be executed, only to have the sentence waived by Tsar Nicholas I at the last minute as they stood before the firing squad. Dostoevsky was then sent to prison in Siberia for four years, followed by enforced military service in Semipalatinsk.

Marriage, discharge, and other ventures—In 1857, Dostoevsky married Maria Dmitrievna Isaeva. A few years later, he received permission to quit the military for health reasons and move to St. Petersburg, where he continued his writing and founded several magazines at different times with the help of his brother Mikhail.However, these were shut down because of either suppression or poor finances. In the summer of 1862, Dostoevsky made his first tour of Western Europe. This was followed by a second visit in 1863. In 1864, both his wife and Mikhail, his brother, died.

Second marriage—Dostoevsky’s second wife, Anna Grigoryevna Snitkina, was the stenographer who helped him finish his novel The Gamblers. He married her in 1867, and the couple then left for Western Europe and ended up staying for over four years, during which time Anna gave birth to two girls, though the first one died within a few months.

Final years—In 1871, Dostoevsky and his family finally returned to St. Petersburg, where continued financial issues forced them to move to an apartment and actively deal with his creditors. By now the couple had a baby son, the third of what would be four births, although the fourth child inherited his father’s epilepsy and died in early childhood. In 1873, Dostoevsky and his wife founded their own publishing company, beginning with the publication of the highly successful novel The Possessed. With Anna now managing the practical issues, the family’s financial situation improved, though it never became comfortable in spite of Dostoevsky’s relinquishment of his gambling habit and his continued successes with his work. Among these was his collection of writings called A Writer’s Diary, which gained him more attention and success than ever before and from a wider variety of people, including the Tsar, thus furthering Dostoevsky’s connections with elite members of society. In subsequent years, Dostoevsky would receive multiple honors. But it was also around this time, starting in the mid-1870s, that his health worsened, and in January of 1881, he died following a third pulmonary hemorrhage. His final thoughts revealed a profound Christianity, no doubt strengthened by the intense mystical nature of his experiences immediately preceding his seizures.

Plot versus theme—On the surface, The Karamazov Brothers is the story of three brothers and their father, whose eventual murder is the focal point of the book’s intricately laid-out plot, in particular, the events and relationships that lead up to the murder, investigation, and trial. In addition, the book has many subplots and minor characters, but its real subject is the underlying theme of the interconnectedness of all things and the need for active universal love. Even those relegated to suffering, justified or not, can transcend their circumstances and find joy, transforming not only their own fates but those of the people around them.

Timing and scene changes—One of the confusing aspects of the book are its many flashbacks and scene changes. Some of these furnish the background to the main action, much of which takes place over the brief period of several days, culminating in Fyodor Pavlovich’s murder and Dmitry’s arrest. Following that is a period of approximately two months before, during, and after the trial. There is also a lot of jumping around from scene to scene as the different subplots unfold, but the overall time period in which the present action takes place (i.e., minus the recollections of earlier events) is a little over two months and one week.

Multiple perspectives—Another confusing feature is the story’s intricate web of fact and conjecture, truth and lies, reality and madness, all of which lead the characters to their various fates as they wrestle with their inward and outward experience. In the face of all this confusion, the starets’s injunction to love actively and universally gains meaning as the only real solution to unraveling the knot of human suffering and transforming it into joy.

Details, important and otherwise—The Karamazov Brothers has one of the most intricate plots you’re likely to encounter, made more difficult to digest because of its many subplots and flashbacks, with the latter often relayed by one of the characters. To confuse things even more, the details sometimes contradict each other, or there may be missing information. An exampleis the statement (Book 3, Chapter 3) that Alyosha had spent his entire life with women from the time he was a baby until his monastery days. Yet earlier, the novel says that he and his brother were raised by Grigory and later by their benefactor Yefim Petrovich and his family. Why these discrepancies happen is not clear.With such a big work, the reason may in some cases have been author oversight. In other instances, it’s probably deliberate, as in the different accounts related to the evidence surrounding the murder investigation, some of whose details remain unexplained. Whatever the reasons, it helps to be aware that this sometimes happens, although for the most part, the details do tie together. The point is that you will have to pay extra careful attention when trying to sort out the novel’s intricacies.

The other thing to bear in mind is that some of the details are directly important to the main plot, and some are not, although the second type may provide psychological insight, afford comic relief, hint at a sequel (unfortunately never written because Dostoevsky died soon after finishing the novel), or underscore the main spiritual theme, which is different from the main plot. Figuring out which is which is not always easy at first glance, so again, it pays to be extra attentive during the first reading, since what seems unimportant may prove to be vital information later on.

Beginning of plot summary—The following is a reduction of the plot’s main outward circumstances, not a summary of its real focus (see Themes) or an attempt to present every last subplot (see Chapter Summaries).

Father-son rivalry—Fyodor Pavlovich Karamazov was a well-to-do, clever man who indulged in a degenerate lifestyle that expressed itself mainly through drinking, philandering, moneymaking, and buffoonery. Now middle-aged and disgusting in appearance, he had three sons by two women, both of whom died before the story began. His first wife, who produced the oldest son, Dmitry, came with an estate and dowry that Fyodor Pavlovich quickly appropriated. Dmitry consequently grew up with the idea that he had an inheritance through his mother, when in fact he had nothing—hence, his belief that his father had cheated him out of his inheritance. The second strike against that father-son relationship, aside from the fact that Fyodor Pavlovich was hard to like to begin with, was their “rivalry” for Grushenka, who had a reputation as a conniving, greed-driven loose woman. In reality, she wasn’t, but her ability to manipulate men and her business talent made it seem so. At the time, Grushenka was also just toying with Fyodor Pavlovich and Dmitry, but both of them were too infatuated to realize that. In any case, Dmitry’s obsession with her only compounded his tendency to make bad choices, being passionate by nature and given to carousing, outbursts of violence, and uncontrolled spending. Meanwhile, Grushenka had love problems of her own, which she mostly kept to herself but which come into play later on.

Pride humbled, passion inflamed—Flashback to an earlier time, before Dmitry meets Grushenka.When Dmitry was still in the military in Siberia, he briefly met Katerina Ivanovna, the proud, beautiful, and celebrated daughter of the lieutenant colonel who was his commanding officer. When Katerina Ivanovna snubbed Dmitry, he vowed that he would get back at her. Around that time, Fyodor Pavlovich had sent him 6000 rubles to settle the will dispute between them. However, not being one for paying attention to details, Dmitry didn’t realize the purpose of the money—he only knew that he had plenty of it for the moment. So when the lieutenant colonel ran into serious money issues, Dmitry, who was friends with Katerina Ivanovna’s older half-sister, mentioned that he would take care of the problem in exchange for a visit by her younger sister. The older sister refused, calling Dmitry a scoundrel, but Katerina Ivanovna showed up of her own volition and humbled herself before Dmitry to save her father. What that entailed (which was a lot for her and deeply shameful to Dmitry as well when he recalled it later on) was to bow low before him in a traditional Russian gesture. Dmitry had to wrestle with his “insect” passions (he was an unabashed ladies’ man on top of everything else), but he did not take advantage of her. Instead, he loaned her 5000 rubles. And so, Katerina Ivanovna’s father’s honor and reputation were restored, although he died shortly afterwards.

Change of fortune and misguided engagement—Then the tables turned. Katerina Ivanovna returned to Moscow, where she had gone to finishing school before her stay in Siberia. In Moscow, she sooncame into a large fortune of her own through another relative and promptly paid Dmitry back. She also sent him a marriage proposal in writing, which evoked a number of mixed emotions in him, making him feel like a fraud and undeserving of her attentions, especially now that she was wealthy. He later regretted mentioning money.

The truth was that Katerina Ivanovna had harbored passionate feelings of her own, which now burst forth in her proposal. But her proposal also came with a hitch: she wanted to “save” Dmitry, which meant that he would have to change. The problem was that Dmitry didn’t want to be saved. As he explained to Alyosha when recounting the story, he preferred the gutters of life. In spite of that, he promised her that he would reform, and they were formally engaged in Moscow, with her benefactor’s blessing. (Note: By the time the novel begins, both Dmitry and Katerina Ivanovna have moved to the Karamazov hometown, where she, with her wealth, lives in a large house, while he, mostly broke, stays in a ramshackle summerhouse near his father’s home, where he can watch for Grushenka’s possible arrival.)

Complicated love relationships—To complicate things even further, back in Moscow around the time of the engagement,Ivan—the brilliant, university-educated second son—had gone to see Katerina Ivanovna on Dmitry’s request. Ivan fell in love with her, and eventually she also developed feelings for him, but by the time she admits this, the book is practically over, and Ivan has succumbed to madness and severe illness approaching death. However, at the beginning of the story, Dmitry has recently fallen in love with Grushenka and is hoping that Katerina Ivanovna will get over her obsession with him and move on to Ivan. As far as he is concerned, the engagement is over. The problem is that he can’t face telling that to Katerina Ivanovna, so he sends Alyosha instead. The other problem is that Grushenka herself is still obsessing over the officer who abandoned her five years ago, but only she knows of her obsession. That doesn’t prevent her from playing games with Dmitry and Fyodor Pavlovich, effectively pitting them against each other and leading them both on. Dmitry still entertains the idea that his father owes him 3000 rubles from the interest that Fyodor Pavlovich made on his (Dmitry’s) mother’s estate, but his father has other plans for the money: he is using it to lure Grushenka, under the misconception (which Dmitry shares) that she mostly cares about money.

Dmitry’s double quandary—That leaves Dmitry with a quandary. He feels that he needs the money to win Grushenka, and he feels that it’s rightfully his. However, in the meantime, he’s broke and desperately afraid of losing her to his father.

But that’s not all. When Katerina Ivanovna gave him 3000 rubles to deliver to her relatives, Dmitry recklessly spentit on partying with Grushenka at an inn in a town called Mokroye. Despite his many flaws and chaotic behavior, Dmitry sees himself as a man of honor and does not identify with being a thief. Still, he’s forced to admit to himself that he essentially stole the money entrusted to him by Katerina Ivanovna. He knows that he needs to pay it back to restore his sense of honor, but he also harbors the dream of fleeing somewhere new with Grushenka, yet he realizes that he can’t do this without money. For even though Grushenka has money, having her pay is out of the question, and working never occurs to him. Somehow he has to get 3000 rubles, if not from his father, then by some other means.

A wild and crazy guy, but not a murderer—The purpose of this intricate plot setup is to establish several strong motives for Dmitry to murder and steal from his father. To make matters worse, Dmitry often feels like wanting to kill his father, and he doesn’t mind shouting that out in public. Early on, he even forces his way into his father’s house and kicks Fyodor Pavlovich in the head in front of his brothers and the servants. But in the end, Dmitry does not murder his father, nor does he steal his money.

The fourth son?—So who did it? This is not the main point of the novel, but it’s an important element in the plot because of its role in getting Dmitry convicted. Rumor had it that Fyodor Pavlovich had a fourth son, the illegitimate child of the town idiot, who one night made her way to Fyodor Pavlovich’s garden bathhouse to give birth and then die. Fyodor Pavlovich never denied or confirmed siring the child, but he did accept the infant boy into his household, where he was adopted and raised by the long-time servants Grigory Vasilyevich and Marfa Ignatyevna. Eventually he became a servant himself and was nicknamed Smerdyakov, or “smelly,” after his mother’s nickname. Not surprisingly, he hated this nickname and also his station in life.

On discovering that the boymight have a talent for cooking, Fyodor Pavlovich sent him to culinary school in Moscow and promoted him to the position of cook upon his return. Despite his ornery, morose, and contemptuous attitude, Smerdyakov managed to gain Fyodor Pavlovich’s trust and was the only person allowed near his room at night. He and Fyodor Pavlovich had also devised a signal system whose purpose was to inform the master of Grushenka’s arrival, though in reality she had no plans to visit him. However, Fyodor Pavlovich didn’t know that and anticipated her with great excitement, figuring that she would fall for the 3000-ruble bait.

Dilemma of the bastard son—Smerdyakov’s private fear was that in addition to the 3000 rubles, Grushenka could possibly even get the whole estate upon marriage. His concernwas of losing whatever chance he had at gleaning some of the estate through Ivan, whom he idolized and had tried to befriend, to Ivan’s consternation and disgust. Assuming that Grushenka did not get the estate, Smerdyakov figured that it would go to the three legitimate sons. However, given Dmitry’s violent hatred of his father and his goal to get the money, Smerdyakov saw him as the perfect foil for a crime that would eliminate him as an heir if convicted. That would leave only two sons to divide the estate, and Smerdyakov reckoned that Ivan would support him financially for life out of gratitude.

Hints and manipulation—Of course, he didn’t tell Ivan all thisoutright until after the murder, even though Ivan sensed something and would often respond to Smerdyakov with impatience and rage. Instead, Smerdyakov left cryptic, confusing hints and manipulated both Ivan and Dmitry in order to facilitate the perfect setup for the theft that he himself planned to commit. To do this, he played on Dmitry’s fears and desires. He had taught Dmitry the signals with the idea of fooling Fyodor Pavlovich, and he had also told him where the money was hidden, except that he lied: he had no intention of letting Dmitry near the money. His sole goal was that Dmitry should either knock out or kill his father. Then Smerdyakov would sneak in, steal the money from its real hiding place, and blame Dmitry for everything. To make this happen, it was also important that Ivan be out of town, which Ivan planned on doing anyway.But Ivan wanted to go back to Moscow for good, and Smerdyakov kept hinting that he should stay closer. This is where Smerdyakov’s hints to Ivan get a little strange and contradictory. But the important thing is that he had thought everything through to the last detail, including his faked epileptic seizure (he was genuinely epileptic) that would make him seem out of commission during the window of time when Dmitry was supposedly doing Smerdyakov’s dirty work.

Pure philosophy degenerates into amorality—It’s important to note here that Smerdyakov had been heavily influenced by Ivan’s philosophy, which in brief could be summed up as “all things are allowed.” Unfortunately, Smerdyakov lacked Ivan’s depth and brilliance. Nor did he realize that Ivan was still working out the different facets of this philosophy and had his own doubts. Smerdyakov therefore used it as a support and excuse for his own amorality, which ultimately led him to not only steal from but also to murder his master. He later admits everything to Ivan, who senses that something is amiss and presses him for answers in a series of meetings following the murder. Why then was Dmitry convictedand not Smerdyakov?Before answering that, we need to return to the events preceding the murder and arrest.

Dmitry’s delay; the hidden money—In the meantime, Dmitry was trying to procure the money by some means other than stealing from his father. To do this, he went on two last-ditch errands, the first of which failed immediately, while the second required him to leave town. Again, the general impression here is that he’s broke and wants to replace the 3000 rubles that he stole from Katerina Ivanovna so that he can pay her back and run off with Grushenka with a clear conscience. At this point, you may be wondering why the math doesn’t work, since 0 (Dmitry being broke) + 3000 (appropriated through some means other than Katerina Ivanovna or Grushenka) – 3000 (paid back to Katerina Ivanovna) = 0, which still leaves Dmitry no money to flee with Grushenka. What we don’t find out until later is that Dmitry stashed 1500 of the original 3000 entrusted to him by Katerina Ivanovna and hid it in a makeshift neck pouch. The only person who received even a hint of this was Alyosha, the youngest brother, who later brings it up at the trial when it finally clicks in his mind as to what Dmitry meant by beating his breast and pointing at his neck, proclaiming that he had the means to restore his honor right then and there (worst case, he figured he could at least pay half of what he had taken).

Three failed attempts to get the money by other means—Both of Dmitry’s first two errands failed. Worse, one of them was a fool’s errandsuggested by Grushenka’s patron, the elderly and rich Samsonov, with the purpose of foiling Dmitry’s plans. Dmitry had gone to him first to make what turned out to be a foolish business proposal, not realizing that Samsonov despised him to begin with. Of course, Samsonov declined, but he offered him an alternative that amounted to nothing more than fool’s gold. Samsonov’s ruse worked. Dmitry had to spend the night in another town, which made him nervous that Grushenka would go to Fyodor Pavlovich before he could get back and stop her. But she didn’t go, and after he returned to town, he escorted her to Samsonov’s, where she would supposedly spend the evening helping her patron with the books.

Dmitry’s next stop was to pawn his dueling pistols, a fact that later emerged as evidence that he was broke at the time and consequently raised the question of where he got the money to blow on food and champagne (since no one knew about the neck pouch yet). Immediately after pawning his pistols, he visited another wealthy town resident, Mrs. Khokhlakova, to try to get the money from her. But that failed, too, and he lost time listening to her babble on and on about her plan to make him rich through gold prospecting. But hard, cold cash? She had none.

Grushenka’s passion—Here we need to digress for a moment to explain what happened next. Grushenka never stayed at Samsonov’s. She went right back home to wait for a message that had her on edge with anticipation. For five years, she had been agonizing over her “officer” who abandoned her and married another woman. As with the other characters with aspirations for romantic involvement, her feelings were mixed, a combination of passion, hope, and the desire for revenge. Recently, this same officer, now free again, contacted Grushenka in the hope of meeting his “queen,” apparently with the intention of proposing. When she finally got his message that same evening, she hurried off to meet him at the same inn in Mokroye where Dmitry had supposedly dropped 3000 rubles partying with her before, although no one knew exactly how much it was.

Looking for Grushenka—With three failed attempts to get the money, Dmitry figured that the logical next choice was not to rob his father but to commit suicide, so he headed back through the town square to retrieve his pistols. By sheer coincidence, he met Samsonov’s elderly maid, who informed him that Grushenka had stayed at her patron’s for no more than a minute and then left. Enraged and disbelieving, Dmitry headed back to Grushenka’s but found only her maids in the kitchen and frightened them with his angry questioning. He then ran out the door, instinctively grabbing a 7-inch pestle that happened to be lying out in the open and leaving the younger maid with the impression that he intended to kill someone.

A desperate search and an unfortunate mishap—At this point, Dmitry still had no idea that Grushenka was in Mokroye with her officer and not at Fyodor Pavlovich’s, so off he ran through the night, pestle in hand, blinded by passion and desperation. When he got to his father’s garden, he scaled the fence, and made his way to the window, noticing in the process that the door to the garden on the left side of the house was closed. Being paranoid, Fyodor Pavlovich locked himself in at night. However, Dmitry’s main goal was to figure out whether Grushenka was there, but unable to do so by peering through the window, he finally tapped on it using the signal that meant that shehad arrived. Not realizing that it was Dmitry, Fyodor Pavlovich stuck his head out the window and called for Grushenka, proving that she wasn’t there after all. In that moment, Dmitry could have killed his father, but something “saved” him, as he put it later. Instead, he ran through the garden and began to climb over the fence again.

Meanwhile, old Grigory had awoken, saw Dmitry, and tried to grab him and stop him, convinced that he had just killed his father. While trying to escape, Dmitry hit Grigory on the head with the pestle, which knocked the old servant out. Conscience-stricken, Dmitrydecided to check on Grigory and mindlessly threw the pestle onto the walkway. This was, after all, the man who had raised him as a young child, so out of compassion, Dmitry wiped the blood from the old man’s head with his handkerchief. However, not being sure whether Grigory was alive or dead, he finally gave up and ran, bloody handkerchief and all.

Decision to die after one last fling—Now clear that Grushenka wasn’t with his father, Dmitry charged back to her place and confronted the maids, unaware that he had blood all over his hands and face. Scared for her life, Fenya, the younger one, told him where her mistress was and with whom. Dmitry had heard about this officer before but had always regarded him as incidental. Now he realized that this was Grushenka’s true love—or so he thought. He had to step aside. His new plan was to retrieve his pistols, go to Mokroye for one last wild party with his “queen,” and then blow his brains out.

Preparatory errands; Perkhotin’s distress—But first there were some errands to run. Stop #1 was Perkhotin, the clerk to whom Dmitry had pawned his pistols. Perkhotin had taken a liking to Dmitry, and seeing all the blood, insisted on cleaning him up.Healso kept trying to find out what had happened, but Dmitry’s answers didn’t make sense. At least one was an outright lie: by now, Dmitry was openly displaying a wad of bills, in part because he needed to pay Perkhotin back for the pistols. When Perkhotin asked him about it, Dmitry told him that it was an up-front payment from Mrs. Khokhlakova for her gold-prospecting scheme.

Stop #2 was the nearby grocer’s, who was preparing a large food and champagne order to be sent to Mokroye for Dmitry’s final big fling. Before his own coach arrived, Dmitry had one last drink with Perkhotin, and then off he went—but not before Fenya came along and made a final plea tohim to not hurt Grushenka and her lover. That was when Perkhotin started putting the pieces together, though he tried to talk himself out of caring one way or another. But the situation with Dmitry was both troubling and baffling. For one thing, there was the problem of the money: hadn’t Dmitry been broke just hours ago when he pawned his pistols? So where did he get all the money to spend on the feast he had just ordered? Perkhotin didn’t believe the Khokhlakova story. And what about all the blood? Perkhotin had thought at first that it was Dmitry’s own blood from an injury, but it soon became clear that something else had happened. Despite the late hour, he went to see Fenya. When that proved useless, he headed to Mrs. Khokhlakova’s to find out the truth about the money. Having discovered that Mrs. Khokhlakova did not pay Dmitry, Perkhotin knew that his next stop had to be the police chief. What he didn’t yet know was that Fyodor Pavlovich had been murdered in the meantime and that Marfa Ignatyevna had already told not only the police chief but his guests for the evening, who happened to include the prosecutor and the investigating magistrate.

A series of surprises—Meanwhile, Dmitry arrived at the inn in Mokroye, where he learned that things were not as he expected. Instead, he found Grushenka playing cards with five men of varying ages, two of whom he knew. Her mood was hardly romantic, though she was still flirtatious; but otherwise, she displayed a variety of emotions, from enjoyment to annoyance, and her great true love was apparently a great disappointment. But it took Dmitry a while to figure this out.

As for Grushenka, her first reaction on seeing Dmitry was to scream in fear, since he had a reputation for unpredictability and violence. But she soon welcomed him, realizing that he meant well and would liven up a dull party. By then, she had also realized that her “officer” was a fraud and that she had strong feelings for Dmitry. Dmitry informed them that food and champagne were on the way and then went to make additional party arrangements for a chorus, etc. As the night wore on and various things happened (including a mini-showdown between Dmitry and the “true love”), the original card-playing party dispersed into different rooms, and eventually Dmitry and Grushenka found themselves in the nearby bedroom confessing their love to each other. He also admitted his dreams of a new life with her, his quandary with regard to the money he owed Katerina Ivanovna, and his fear that he had killed Grigory. But a new hope had arisen in his heart, and suicide no longer seemed like the best route. It was at this moment that the officers arrived to charge him with his father’s murder, and the interrogation began.

A transformative dream—Hours later (by now already morning), when the questioning was finally over, Dmitry took a break while the clerks were finalizing the records for him to sign. Exhausted, he promptly fell asleep and dreamed a strange dream about a freezing infant in the shriveled arms of his mother, who was standing outside a burned-down village in the wintry steppe country with the other suffering inhabitants. A new compassion arose within him, and he felt an inexplicable joy. At this point, the examining magistrate awoke him: it was time to sign the papers. Dmitry readily cooperated. But other than the touching fact that someone had put a pillow under his head, all he could think of right then was his dream; and though he mentioned it, no one listened.

Trial—The next few chapters detail the trial and all that surrounds it: the witnesses, the court officers, the audience and their expectations, the jury, the prosecutor and his arguments, and finally, the famous defense counsel brought from St. Petersburg by Katerina Ivanovna, with the financial help of Ivan and Alyosha. The idea was to plead temporary insanity, but Dmitry was not cooperative, repeatedly insisting that he did not kill his father. To him, honor and truth were the most important things, and the judge had to keep reprimanding him for his outbursts.

A series of surprises and a surprise verdict—A few other factors worked against Dmitry. Shortly before the trial, Smerdyakov committed suicide. Aside from being ill, he was deeply disappointed in his idol’s (Ivan’s) lack of courage in the face of his own philosophy, which Smerdyakov had tried so hard to emulate; and he also knew—as he told Ivan—that his death would guarantee that no one would learn the truth. By now, Ivan himself had succumbed to illness and delirium, complete with three-dimensional hallucinations of visitations by the Devil. Consequently, his testimony in court was disjointed and insane. Before that, Katerina Ivanovna had already delivered her testimony, in which she had partly covered up for Dmitry; but now realizing what she had done to Ivan through her ongoing games and finally acknowledging to herself that she loved him, she delivered a new hysterical testimony that cast Dmitry in a monstrous light. Grushenka, too, was hysterical, and all three had to be removed from the courtroom. In spite of the drama, everyone expected the defense to win, so it came as a complete shock when the jury returned a verdict of guilty with no mitigating circumstances. Dmitry wouldjoin the other prisonersdue to make the long trek to Siberia to work in the mines.

Plans for escape—The effect on Dmitry was mixed. Even if the verdict was unjust, he was now in the early throes of a spiritual transformation, and he was ready and willing to suffer for goodness and joy. What he couldn’t bear was the thought of living without Grushenka. But Ivan had already thought ahead and arranged for his escape, even funding it with his own money and entrusting Katerina Ivanovna with its execution in case he was too ill or died. On a side note, Ivan was severely ill by now, even unconscious, and Katerina Ivanovna had meanwhile moved him to her home and was taking care him in.

Reconciliation between Dmitry and Katerina Ivanovna—Dmitry, too, had fallen ill and was currently in the hospital. It was there that he asked Alyosha to give Katerina Ivanovna the message that he desperately wanted to see her. Of course, she balked, not knowing whether she would go or not. But she did, and the two of them had a joyful reunion and were able to forgive each other, even acknowledging that they would love one another forever despite the fact that they had moved on to new romantic interests. As Katerina Ivanovna was leaving, Grushenka entered, even though Dmitry had tried to arrange things so that the two women would not meet (Grushenka had visited Katerina Ivanovna earlier in the novel, and what had started as a pleasant visit ended in disaster, with each woman being equally at fault). As Katerina Ivanovna passed Grushenka on the way out, she asked her for forgiveness. But Grushenka would not forgive her because she sensed that the request came from pride, and later Katerina Ivanovna admitted that this was true and was grateful for Grushenka’s honesty.

A new life—As for Dmitry, he told Alyosha that he planned to escape to America with Grushenka. There they would build a new, good life. But he also admitted that there was no way he could stay there forever. Both he and Grushenka were Russian through and through, and though they might live in America for a few years, they would return to Russia to live and die in some remote region—it didn’t matter, as long as it was on Russian soil.

The real theme: the power of spiritual love—Here ends the plot that revolves around Dmitry and his father’s murder. But as Dostoevsky sees it, the real hero of the story is Alyosha, the youngest son. For interwoven with the plot of passion, intrigue, love, confusion, madness, and murder is an ongoing story of spiritual love and growth. The human experience, as bitter or as rewarding as it may be, is at its best an impetus for spiritual growth, whether one’s own or another’s. In fact, there is no difference between self and other, and this is one of the starets’s main teachings. The plot hints that the three Karamazov brothers represent different aspects of the working out of the great problem of life and love: Dmitry, through action; Ivan, through the intellect; Alyosha, through the spirit, butnot apart from the challenges of life. The starets, Alyosha’s mentor and the local monastery’s famous spiritual master, had seen all of this early on. The Karamazov family had met with him in his cell in the hopes of settling the dispute between Dmitry and Fyodor Pavlovich, and after listening a while (though he considered the meeting inappropriate), the starets finally bowed low before Dmitry in a gesture that confounded everyone and effectively terminated the meeting. Later, he would explain to Alyosha that he had recognized the great suffering that Dmitry would endure. His realization had come from the expression on Dmitry’s face, which the starets had seen only a few times before. The starets had also sensed the depth of Ivan’s troubled soul, while at the same time acknowledging his intellectual understanding of the issues. As for Alyosha, he saw in him the face of his own brother, who had died early in life and undergone a sudden spiritual transformation that had been the impetus for the starets’s own transformation at a later time. He loved Alyosha for that reminder, just as Alyosha loved him; and he knew that Alyosha had the power to transform the world through love. The monastery, then, was only a preparation, a place to learn the right attitudes and tools and, on the starets’s death, to receive the palpable blessing that would enable Alyosha to go out on his mission in a spirit of strength and certainty.

Alyosha’s mission—One of Alyosha’s first missions upon leaving the monastery, other than the ongoing issues among his family and friends, was with some schoolboys who were throwing rocks at another little boy. That boy’s intense anger was obvious, and that anger was in part directed at Alyosha. Alyosha couldn’t figure out why until he realized that Dmitry had dragged the boy’s father by the beard through the town square. The little boy had witnessed the whole shameful event and had pleaded for help, but instead of help, he got ridicule. That was whyhe bit Alyosha’s finger out of the blue. But Alyosha didn’t take it personally and made it his mission to reconcile the warring factions.

Ilyusha’s funeral and the end of the novel—Ilyusha, the little boy, fell ill, and his poor family didn’t have the means to help him. Katerina Ivanovna was able to intervene and send in a doctor from Moscow, but the prognosis was hopeless: Ilyusha would die. By then, however, two months after the stoning incident, Alyosha had succeeded in his mission of reconciliation, so at least Ilyusha died surrounded by friends. At eight years old, with all the pain and suffering in his family, his graciousness, maturity, and nobility of spirit were remarkable. The last scene is of Ilyusha’s funeral and burial, and the novel ends as Alyosha holds Ilyusha’s spirit up to the other boys as a beacon of hope, the kind of memory that can guide and inspire a life to grow into something better. He lovingly tells the boys that he now needs to move on, but he urges them to never forget Ilyusha and each other and to always cherish life’s beautiful, holy, and good memories. In a complete turnaround from the novel’s beginning, where the name Karamazov symbolizes wild passion and debauched living, the boys now exclaim “Karamazov” with love in their hearts and shouts of joy.

Active versus contemplative love

One of the starets’s key points was that love, to be effective, had to be actively involved in the world. Love that was merely contemplative was too internal, when its real purpose was to rise to the challenges the world presented and to teach and transform at the same time. But to love effectively, you have to discard judgmentalism, because that only fosters shame, pride, and dishonesty, which act as blocks to spiritual progress. Besides, God, being love, does not want remorse but joy—the true joy that comes with the recognition of a person’s real being and purpose.

The notion of active love is most clearly expressed both by the starets’s way of dealing with people—as well as Alyosha’s and the abbot’s—and by his injunction to love all creation, no matter how small or sinful. For to love like this would begin to mirror divine love, and in doing so, the plan (or “mystery”) of God would gradually unfold and strengthen the individual’s own ability to love.

Therefore, when confronted by sin, you should always choose humility and love over force; for humility and love were the ultimate power. But this was no easy task and required constant watchfulness and untiring dedication. It meant understanding the unity of things and asking forgiveness of the whole and all its creatures, knowing that the smallest careless act could adversely influence some unknown innocent and would certainly affect the whole.


The interconnectedness of actions

Related to the need for active love is the interconnectedness of all actions, past and present. As Ivan observes, blame is out of the question when we realize that our actions are all too often reactions to another previous action, perhaps even one that happened long ago. The potential negative repercussions of this are only too obvious in how the characters act and react in response to each other, often with disastrous results in the end. But lurking behind the disaster is a message of hope: that to reverse the process, all that’s needed is the will to love,universally and unconditionally.


Active universal love as an agent for change

To love universally and unconditionallydoes not translate into discarding morality and permitting everything. Rather, it means to dig more deeply and honestly into the moral code and the spiritual demands of God that it implies, while being open to life at the same time. Alyosha exemplifies this principle in his commitment to active love, showing that by taking new steps in a new direction, even the worst circumstances can be reversed. Again, this does not mean that there are never any casualties in life’s often unpredictable journey. This particular story has many examples of this. But some of the characters—most notably, Dmitry and Ilyusha—are also symbols of the principle that even the most tragic outcomes can be the impetus for growth in love and truth.


Suffering and salvation

One of the things that deeply troubled Ivan was the senselessness of much of the suffering he saw, especially in children, who seemed to be suffering for the sins of their forefathers and not because of any guilt on their part. This is an old Biblical tenet, which Ivan knew, and intellectually he could grasp it as part of a greater alchemy that would finally resolve into the heaven of harmony and love. But emotionally it was beyond his ability to accept the connection between suffering and salvation. Here Dmitry picks up where Ivan leaves off: Dmitry does come to understand this ideaactively and emotionally, in part because of his past misdeeds and consequent remorse and in part because of his compassionate response to the freezing infant (or so-called “bairn”) in his dream. While Ivan’s mind and heart grapple with the idea, Dmitry wholeheartedly embraces it as the precursor to salvation and joy, an impetus for awakening. Finally, Alyosha, the exemplification of Christly love among the brothers,acts as the facilitator of the spiritual transformation of the wholethrough mercy, compassion, and non-judgment.

The theme does not mean that suffering is the cause of salvation—i.e., suffering alone cannot save; rather, it is a part of the human experience that, approached in the right spirit, can propel us towards salvation. And the more individuals progress spiritually—as shown by the change in Dmitry—the more open and expansive they become, accepting their neighbors’ suffering as their own.


Paradise within—but not without your neighbor

The notion of paradise within and accessible to all is both the flip side of the previous theme and the next step in the process of spiritual progress. According to the mysterious visitor who came to see Zinovy (Zosima’s given name before he became the starets), paradise was hidden within each person and instantly available for those who wanted it. But first, there had to be a mental change for paradise to become an external reality. That meant dispensing with self-isolation and reestablishing universal brotherhood and unity. But that change had to take place within each individual, and the current widespread preference was for isolation in the form of material well-being, power, etc. Ironically, it was all in the name of fully experiencing life, when in truth this approach led only to death. Still, it was just a matter of time before heaven would come to earth, but in the meantime, all should ideally practice brotherhood to keep the idea alive. That included admitting personal responsibility not only for your own sins but also for your neighbors’.


The Russian soul: embracing extremes

In his speech at Dmitry’s trial, the prosecutor points out that the Russian soul is capable of embracing life’s extremes, and the Karamazovs—especially Dmitry—represented Russia in miniature. In Dmitry, this quality shows in an active way: the passionate, chaotic sinner who suddenly awakens to a more joyful, compassionate awareness despite the suffering he knows he must undergo. He even welcomes that suffering, knowing that it will lead him to peace and happiness. In Ivan, the same quality appears in more intellectual form through his “everything is permitted” philosophy, which nevertheless gets him into trouble because he has left God out of the equation. Even Alyosha admits to the dual promptings of human passion and spiritual love, but in him,as with the starets, it manifests as universal love—an enlarged capacity for tolerance, mercy, and faith in the better promptings of humanity.


No true change without God: spiritual brotherhood rather than outward equality

The capacity of the Russian soul to embrace extremes had unfortunately led to widespread corruption of the people. At fault to some extent were the new ideas that promised a utopian outcome without God. According to the starets, the hope of Russia lay in the conscience of the poor and simple, whereas the higher classes, having discarded religion in favor of science, had lost touch with morality and denied that sin or crime even existed. The repercussions of these beliefs were already manifesting in Europe, where the people felt justified in rising up against the rich. But in the future, the humility and compassion of the poor would inspire the true shame of the rich.

The starets emphasized that real brotherhood and equality would come from Christianity and no other way. For without spiritual brotherhood, love, and sharing—the outcome of faith in God—any striving towards equality would degenerate into mutual destruction because of its outward, material focus and because it began in bloodshed. Although he does not mention them directly, the starets appears to be referring first, to the new ideas such as socialism and liberalism, embodied in Ivan, Miusov, Rakitin, and other characters; and second, to the wave of revolutions that took place in Europe during the century and decades before Dostoevsky’s death in 1881, one year after finishing The Karamazov Brothers.


Importance of truthfulness

With things being as connected as they are, truth is especially important. The truth is repeatedly perverted by numerous characters throughout the novel until that perversionfinally comes to its climax during the trial. There’s even a chapter for that section called “Truth Perverted,” and the disastrous results of a longseries of lies, misperceptions, and careless observations are finally evident in Dmitry’s wrong conviction. But the source of this outcome began long ago with Fyodor Pavlovich, who regularly told lies, and it later took its worst expression in his bastard son Smerdyakov, who ultimately committed suicide. Those characters who could rise above their dishonesty found love and joy, even if only in their beginning phases. But to access truth requires humility,caring, and forgiveness, with no room for shame or pride.


The perils of pride

The problem of pride is most clearly illustrated in Katerina Ivanovna and Ivan, who drive each other crazy because of their inability to admit their love for each other. The relinquishment of pride would enable people to move beyond both shame and blame to love and joy, realizing that all things are interconnected and therefore that no single person or group is responsible for a particular outcome. Kolya Krasotkin was another whose pride prevented him from a simpler, more truthful expression, but he was young and honest enough to begin moving in that direction, unlike Rakitin, who had succumbed too much to worldliness.


Thy brother’s keeper

Assuming responsibility for the whole ideally springs from the understanding of the unity of everything. It means being fastidious about your own actions, both deliberate and accidental. And if you seeno immediate reward or even lose everything and everyone, it means knowing that your faithfulness and goodness will still bear fruit. But again, that goodness is everyone’s goodness, and everyone else’s sins are our own. Although this philosophy finds its most perfect expression in the better monks and Alyosha, some of the more worldly characters also begin to realize it by the end of the novel. Grushenka openly blamed herself for Dmitry’s choices, and Katerina Ivanovna finally began to recognize the effect of her manipulations on Ivan’s sanity and health as well as Dmitry’s fate.


The “holy fool”

The “holy fool” is only called a fool because he or she does not operate by the laws of the world but of heaven. Because God’s rules are the opposite of the world’s rules, those who live in accordance with them are deemed foolish by the more savvy and selfish among mankind. Those who transcend to the state of holy fool live not only for themselves but for the whole and will often happily sacrifice their own needs for the sake of others. In effect, they see no difference between themselves and others, and what might seem like a terrible sacrifice to the worldly mind gives joy to the “fool” because it proceeds from love. Alyosha and the starets are the prime examples of this archetype, but Dmitry also shows the seeds of it towards the end.

Note: For those unfamiliar with it, the traditional Russian custom is to call people by their first name and their patronymic, a variation of their father’s first name.


Fyodor Pavlovich Karamazov

Fyodor Pavlovich is a middle-aged entrepreneur and landowner who is one of the wealthiest people in town. He is also an outwardly disgusting, disrespectful, philandering, carousing buffoon. When he isn’t lying, he has moments of honesty and even compassion. And like everyone else, he has the occasional desire to be good and also loved, which probably never would have occurred to him had it not been for his youngest son Alyosha. But then his depravity gets the better of him, and he goes back to his old habits. All this and more made him an easy target for murder.


Dmitry Fyodorovich Karamazov (Mitya)

In some ways, Dmitry is the central character of the book, being at the forefront of the action and the main suspect in the murder of his father. Fyodor Pavlovich’s oldest son by his first marriage, Dmitry is passionate, active, forceful, and loud. A ladies’ man, spendthrift, and carouser who is easily prone to violence, he is sentenced for his father’s murder even though he didn’t do it. But mixed with Dmitry’s other qualities is a spontaneity and naivety, a big and generous heart that gets him into as much trouble as his other qualities. Yet despite his fate of unjust suffering, these qualities also lead him to real love and the beginnings of a joyful spiritual awakening.


Ivan Fyodorovich Karamazov (Vanya)(nickname used only once)

Fyodor Pavlovich’s second son by the same woman who bore his youngest son Alyosha, Ivan is the brilliant university-educated intellectual among the three brothers. Not that his brothers are stupid, but in Ivan, the intellect is dominant, and it gets him into trouble because it cannot provide him with the answers to the big questions in life. His classic Karamazov extremism leads him to the extremist philosophy that “everything is permitted,” but he learns—as he has known for at least a while—that the outcome of this philosophy is disaster. Although he has a nervous breakdown and becomes deathly ill later in the story, he is beginning to acknowledge his more passionate, emotional, and possibly even spiritual side. The book ends before we learn whether Ivan survives his illness to find unity and love.


Aleksei Fyodorovich Karamazov (Alyosha)

Fyodor Pavlovich’s youngest son, Alyosha had much of his mother’s innocence and mystical sense, but he also had the Karamazov passion. That passion was tempered, however, by his extraordinary and effortless natural capacity for active, universal love, as exemplified and taught by his mentor the starets,or spiritual master,who resides at the local monastery where we first meet Alyosha as a part-time monk. Alyosha is the quiet hero of the story, the one who brings people together and facilitates the transformation of suffering into joy. In Dostoevsky’s mind, he is also the main character.


Grigory Vasilyevich and Marfa Ignatyevna

Grigory is Fyodor Pavlovich’s long-time, elderly servant, who is loyal despite his master’s many flaws. Upright and humane but also stubborn, Grigoryand his wife Marfa Ignatyevna took in and cared for Fyodor Pavlovich’s neglected children until they were sent to be raised by some relative or benefactor. The couple did the same for Smerdyakov, who eventually became the household cook. Both Grigory and Marfa Ignatyevna were key witnesses of the events surrounding Fyodor Pavlovich’s murder.



The offspring of the town idiot girl, Smerdyakov was rumored to be Fyodor Pavlovich’s illegitimate son. Whether that was true or not, Fyodor Pavlovich accepted him into his household when his mother was found dying in his garden’s bathhouse after giving birth. Despite Grigory’s attempts to teach him devotion and respect, Smerdyakov grew up to embody the antithesis of Christian values: amorality, arrogance, presumptuousness, contempt, and wiliness. At the same time, he was extremely honest when it came to money, and Fyodor Pavlovich took an interest in him and trusted him, eventually sending him to cooking school and making him the household cook upon his return. But Smerdyakov was not happy with his station in life, and according to his own private testimonyas told to Ivan, he wasFyodor Pavlovich’s true murderer.However, he committed suicide before the trial began, and Ivan was too mentally unstable at the time to reveal the truth in a convincing manner. (See also Lizaveta Smeryashchaya.)


Starets Zosima

The starets is the spiritual master of the monastery outside the town where the story takes place. He is Alyosha’s beloved mentor and the source of much of the monastery’s fame. As a character, he is the mouthpiece for the novel’s most exalted ideas. Chief among these is his insistence on active as opposed to contemplative love, which is why he sends Alyosha away from the monastery and out into the world upon his death.

The starets himself did not begin in a monastery, so he knew the difference between a cloistered life and a life out in the world. Like Dmitry, he had been in the military, and he, too, had experienced jealousy and even almost went through with a duel because of it. But at the last moment, he threw away his pistol, to the surprise of all, and that was the beginning of his transformation from worldly young man to “holy fool.”


Katerina Ivanovna

Proud, willful, beautiful, generous, self-sacrificing, manipulative: all these qualities describe the complex character of Katerina Ivanovna, who proposed to Dmitry after humbling herself to save her father from financial distress (Dmitry, who was usually broke, had received a large settlement sum from his father and loaned Katerina Ivanovna most of it). Their feelings for each other are as complex as their characters, but the short form is that when Dmitry falls in love with Grushenka, Katerina Ivanovna can’t stop obsessing about it even though she knows that he wants to move on. In the meantime, she and Ivan have also fallen in love, but she has trouble admitting it until the end. At that point, she and Dmitry reconcile, not as lovers but as friends, but by then their rocky relationship has already had multiple damaging repercussions. By then, Ivan is also deathly ill, and realizing that she loves him—and also true to her tendency towards self-sacrifice—Katerina Ivanovna moves him to her home and cares for him.


Grushenka (Agrafena Aleksandrovna)

On the surface, Grushenka is curvaceous, willful, volatile, clever, money-grubbing, seductive, and manipulative. But underneath that image, she has her own human problems and pain as well as a strong capacity for love and blunt honesty. Abandoned by a Polish “officer” five years earlier, she became the protégé of the wealthy but mean-spirited Samsonov, who quickly learned to trust her in both business and personal matters. For five years, she silently pined for the Pole but also wanted revenge, namely, to lord over him what she had become, in contrast to the thin, abandoned girl he had left behind. When he returns to propose to her, she is unimpressed. It’s at this point that she truly falls in love with Dmitry, and a new phase begins for them both.



Rakitin is a seminarian at the monastery where we first meet Alyosha, and he’s also a friend of his and a cousin of Grushenka’s, but we only learn this last bit much later when she testifies in court in response to the defense counsel’s questions. True to his arrogant, cynical, self-serving, and ambitious nature, Rakitin had hid both their relationship and his own amoral character, which contrasted markedly with the image he was trying to put forth to foster his goalof becoming a wealthy publisher and writer. Unfortunately for him, he made a few slips that cost him later when the defense counsel brought them up at the trial. First, he took a bribe from Grushenka for bringing her Alyosha, whom she had planned to seduce or at least unsettle. She later testified that Rakitin was always asking her for money, even though he didn’t particularly need it. Second, he weaseled his way into Mrs. Khokhlakova’s confidence and then tried to seduce her with bad poetry, even though she was much older. In fact, he had no real interest in her other than his wealth and career interests. Meanwhile, Mrs. Khokhlakova had taken a shine to Perkhotin, who walked in right at that moment and made fun of Rakitin’s inept poetic attempt. That resulted in Rakitin’s resentment, prompting him to publish an article that included an insulting comment about Mrs. Khokhlakova’s “aging” attractions. So much for Rakitin’s impeccable character and career hopes.


Pyotr Ilyich Perkhotin

Perkhotin is the clerk who loans Dmitry ten rubles when the latter goes to him to pawn his pistols. Later, when Dmitry comes to retrieve them, Perkhotin helps him clean up the blood and order the party provisions for Mokroye. He is sympathetic to Dmitry and tries to figure out where he suddenly got a wad of 100-ruble bills and why he’s covered with blood. Still baffled after Dmitry leaves for Mokroye, Perkhotin can’t let go of the problem, so he visits Fenya and Mrs. Khokhlakova to gather more information,finally concluding that he needs to tell the police chief of the night’s events. Dostoevsky saw all this as the beginning of Perkhotin’s great career, worthy of its own sequel, but unfortunately the author didn’t live long enough to write it.

Perkhotin is also the one who foils Rakitin’s feeble attempt to seduce Mrs. Khokhlakova with bad poetry. She was initially unwilling to receive him when he first arrived on her doorstep late at night, his sole intention being to unravel the mystery of Dmitry’s strange recent behavior. But Perkhotin’s conduct and appearance were so impeccable that Mrs. Khokhlakova quickly became a great admirer of his. Although much younger than Mrs. Khokhlakova, he soon became a regular visitor and, in a comic note, inspired unusually flirtatious behavior in his hostess. We never find out where this all goes.


Nelyudov, the investigating magistrate

Nikolai Parfenovich Nelyudov is the investigating, or examining, magistrate. He is present at Dmitry’s arrest and, along with the prosecutor, is the key interrogator in Dmitry’s case. He and the prosecutor stay up until morning asking Dmitry and the other witnesses questions, and Nelyudov is also the one who awakens Dmitry after the transformative dream he had while waiting for the clerks to finalize the records.


Ippolit Kyrillovich, the prosecutor

Ippolit Kyrillovich is the deputy prosecutor, who feels from the beginning that he has been misjudged and underrated in his career, in part because of his love of psychology, which wins him the ridicule of his colleagues. The great challenge and triumph of his career is the investigation and trial surrounding the murder of Fyodor Pavlovich and the accusation against Dmitry. Ippolit Kyrillovich has to go up against the famous St. Petersburg defense lawyer Fetyukovich, and to the surprise of all, he wins in spite of his copious psychological guesswork and ramblings. Still in his thirties, he dies of consumption (tuberculosis) not long after the trial.


Fetyukovich, the defense counsel

Fetyukovich is the brilliant and famous defense counsel brought from St. Petersburg by Katerina Ivanovna (with financial help from Ivan and Alyosha) to take Dmitry’s case, which had already gained national attention. His goal, which he also fulfilled, was to plead “diminished capacity”for his client, even though Dmitry disagreed and persistently denied that he killed his father. Nevertheless, Fetyukovich was thorough and incisive, with an excellent understanding of the issues and full command of the courtroom, so it came as a complete shock to everyone when he lost the case to the less impressive Ippolit Kyrillovich.


Mrs. Khokhlakova and her daughter Lise

Two of thelesser, though not minor, characters are Mrs. Khokhlakova and her fourteen-year-old daughter Lise, who is an old friend of Alyosha’s and will probably become his wife if all goes well. Both Mrs. Khokhlakova and Lise tend towards the rambling, whimsical, and hysterical side of things, with Lise being the cleverer and more manipulative of the two. Lise begins as a wheelchair-bound invalid, but she is in the process of healing as the story progresses. Both characters help to knit the plot together and provide some comic relief.


Staff Captain Snegiryov and his family

Staff Captain Snegiryov and his familyplay one of the more important roles among thelesser characters, though to be fair, the roles of Snegiryov and his little son Ilyusha(see next description)are not minor. Ilyusha isthe little boy who gets into a fight with the other schoolboys and ends up dying at the end of the novel. Part of the little boy’s anger and shame revolve around the incident in which Dmitry drags Captain Snegiryovthrough the town square by his beard, leaving it scragglier than before and making him the butt of the schoolboys’ jokes. This only compounds the shame that’s already so much a part of the lives of the Snegiryov family, who suffer from poverty, cramped circumstances, invalidism, and mental illness. Only Varvara, the older daughter, is healthy and attending university (unusual for women in those times). She feels the family’s shame acutely, but she also represents the more progressive thinking of the day.

Captain Snegiryov also embodies the difficulties created by the related issues of pride and shame. Having already lost so much, Snegiryov feels unable to provide for his family, a feeling that’s intensified by his deep love for them. He dreams of a new, good life, but when the money comes his way through Katerina Ivanovna’s benevolent gesture, he finds himself unable to take it and resents the offer. Later, he rethinks the situation and accepts it, but in the meantime, he has to struggle with himself.


Ilyusha, Kolya Krasotkin, and the schoolboys

A considerable part of the novel is dedicated to the lives and relationships among a group of Russian schoolboys, of whom two in particular stand out: Ilyusha and Kolya. Kolya is a precocious boy who uses his intellect to distract himself from facing his own and other people’s emotions, but Alyosha’s gentle perceptiveness and honesty begin to help him out of this immature phase. Ilyusha is the sickly son of Captain Snegiryov, who has fallen on hard times and, to make matters worse, was given a beating by Dmitry and dragged through the town square. This created great shame for Ilyusha, whose family had already experienced enough of that emotion, between poverty, invalidism, and job loss. Ilyusha consequently got into a stoning fight with the other schoolboys. He had already stabbed his friend Kolya, and when Alyosha tried to intervene, he bit his finger. Still angry but also filled with remorse, Ilyusha ran home. His illness intensified, and in the end he died, but not before Alyosha managed to effect a reconciliation between all the boys and even turn the tragedy of Ilyusha’s death into a beacon of hope.


A great many minor characters parade through the pages of The Karamazov Brothers. They play various roles: some are pivotal to the action or help to tie it together; others provide comic relief, illustrate a theme, act as a foil to the main characters, or represent some aspect of the times.



Though not a character in the usual sense, there are hints here and there that the narrator is more than just an objective third person outside the action. While his exact identity never becomes clear, several statements indicate that he is one of the residents of the small town where the action takes place. In Book 1, Chapter 3, he asks why Ivan should have “come to us” around the time of the beginning of the story; and at the trial, he states that he is one of the spectators. But other than narrating and commenting on the action, his roleas a character in the story never becomes more than that of silent observer.


Adelaida Ivanovna Karamazov, nee Miusova,was Fyodor Pavlovich’s first wife and Dmitry’s mother. She came with a dowry and inheritance that Fyodor Pavlovich quickly appropriated for himself, which was what gave Dmitry the idea that his father owed him money. Her rocky relationship with Fyodor Pavlovich led Adelaida Ivanovna to flee with her lover to St. Petersburg, where she died young.


Sofya IvanovnaKaramazov was Fyodor Pavlovich’s second wife and the mother of Ivan and Alyosha. Beautiful, innocent, and devout, she was nicknamed the klikusha, a term that refers to a special type of hysteria among Russian women. Alyosha remembers her holding him while praying and crying hysterically before an icon in a darkened room pierced by rays of light—a memory that held special significance for him as a sign of hope in a dark world. Sadly, Fyodor Pavlovich’s degenerate lifestyle was too much for Sofya Ivanovna, and she finally fell ill and died young, like her predecessor.


Pyotr Aleksandrovich Miusov is a liberal, well-to-do relative of Fyodor Pavlovich’s through the latter’s first wife, who was Miusov’s cousin. Miusov got joint custody of Dmitry early on when Dmitry was still a young boy, but like Fyodor Pavlovich, his main interest in Dmitry was the boy’s mother’s estate. Aside from helping to tie the story together, Miusov has two main functions as a character: to represent the liberal opinions of the time and to act as both a foil and impetus to the antics of Fyodor Pavlovich, whom he despises and whose company he considers beneath him.


Pyotr Fomich Kalganovis Miusov’s young friend, but the similarity between them stops at wealth, elegance, and manners. Kalganov’s manners are also rooted in kindness, while Miusov’s arrogance and intolerance keep popping through his social veneer. As Kalganov’s character develops, we learn that he is highly observant (he catches Grushenka’s “true love” cheating at cards and alerts Dmitry), genuinely compassionate, and possessed of a deep sense of right. When Dmitry is finally arrested and the whole world seems joined against him, young Kalganov has the courage to rush over to Dmitry’s departing prisoner’s cart to wish him well, after which he finds a private corner to mourn the unfairness and cruelty of the world.


Yefim Petrovich Polyonov was the person who ultimately raised Ivan and Alyosha from the time they were little boys. This included sending Ivan to school in Moscow because of the boy’s brilliance, while Alyosha remained with Yefim Petrovich and his family until his death a few years before both boys—now young men—returned to their hometown (Alyosha went to live with some female relatives during the interim).Prior to their stay with Yefim Petrovich, the two boys had briefly been under the care of the wealthy general’s widow who had been their mother’s guardian, but she died shortly after wresting them from Fyodor Pavlovich’s negligence. Yefim Petrovich, who inherited most of her estate, treated the two boys like his own family,investing in their education and welfare. Unlike their father and Miusov, he did not have designs on their inheritance; instead, he was able to double the 1000 rubles left to each of them by the general’s widow.


A petty landowner, Maksimovis one of the more clownish characters,acting as comic relief to all the passion and confusion that pervade the novel—although he adds his own brand of confusion in the process. We meet him four times: at the monastery, where he welcomes the Karamazov family; at the party in Mokroye, having arrived with Kalganov; at Grushenka’s, where he has taken up residence after becoming helpless due to health and money problems; and briefly at the trial, where his testimony is so exaggerated that it’s all but useless. An innocuous character, Maksimov likes to live it up and entertain people.


We only meet the abbotof the local monastery once, at the special luncheon he prepares for the Karamazov family on the day of their visit to the starets. Like Miusov, he acts as a foil to Fyodor Pavlovich’s rudeness and idiocy. Unlike Miusov, the abbot is genuinely gracious, and his manner illustrates Christianity in action.


Fathers Yosif and Païsy are the two hieromonks (monks who are also priests) who accompany the starets in his cell much of the time. Both are learned men, and when the starets dies, he commits Father Païsy to be a friend and possibly also mentor to Alyosha. Alyosha leaves the monastery before the relationship develops, but there is already a subtle bond between them.


Father Therapon is the eccentric but impressive and vital elderly ascetic who lives apart from the other monks and has his own strict routine and strange views. He and many others are the enemies of the startsy cult and the starets, and when the starets dies and his corpse smells, Father Therapon comes to “cast out the demons” in the starets’s cell until he’s reprimanded and cast out himself by Father Païsy. The whole scene has a disconcerting effect on Alyosha, and on learning Therapon’s real motives, we find ourselves once again confronted with jealousy, ambition, and pride clothed in devout form. However, as scary as Father Therapon seems at first, much of the action surrounding him also has a strongly comic element.


The little monk from Obdorsk is one of the characters who functions mainly as a plot and idea facilitator. He is a little busybody who has come from many miles away to check out both the starets and Father Therapon, who is of more interest to him. In general, Father Therapon sticks to his vow of silence, but he does receive and talk to visitors from afar. In many ways, the little monk, who believes in fasting and other ascetic practices, agrees more with Father Therapon’s ideas. But between the latter’s blunt talk, strange manner, unusual dress, and demonic visions, the little monk leaves the meeting frightened and not sure what to make of the renowned ascetic. On the other hand, earlier in the novel, the little monk felt confident challenging the starets’s “right” to heal, although the starets himself wasn’t convinced that he had effected a full cure and said so. Moreover, the starets received the monk as warmly and graciously as most of his other visitors, the point being that true, essential Christianity comes in many forms, while the trappings of devotion (monk’s garb, fasting, etc.) may cover a multitude of sins.


Lizaveta Smerdyashchaya (or “smelly”) was the village idiot who, at twenty years old, gave birth to a baby boy in the bathhouse in Fyodor Pavlovich’s garden and then died, having injured herself after jumping over the fence. She had specifically made her way there in spite of the fact that one of the town’s ladies had provided her with a place. This generosity and kindness of the townsfolk was standard: they always did their best to take care of her. Their efforts were futile, though: Lizaveta had a good and honest heart, but she also had her own ideas about what she wanted and needed. She typically ran around barefoot, dressed in nothing but a coarse shirt, which was how a group of drunken young men found her one night asleep in a kitchen garden. The only one among them who didn’t make fun of her womanhood (or in their eyes, lack of womanhood) was Fyodor Pavlovich, even if he did leer at her. The young men went their way, but some months later Lizaveta was found pregnant, and no one ever knew for sure who the father was. However, between that story and the fact that she went out of her way to get to Fyodor Pavlovich’s bathhouse, the conjecture was that it was Fyodor Pavlovich. Fyodor Pavlovich took the boy, named Pavel Fyodorovich, into his household and would later nickname him Smerdyakov.

Lizaveta was considered a “holy fool” by the townspeople, which may explain some of Smerdyakov’s more “mystical” tendencies, when he would blank out for minutes at a time. The narrator notes that this tendency was unpredictable and could go either way—for better or worse. With Smerdyakov being the product of a “holy fool” and a relentlessly amoral man, the unpredictability of those moments may have been intensified. This may explain why, having initially only planned to steal from Fyodor Pavlovich, Smerdyakov was suddenly seized by a desire to kill.


Marya Kondratyevna and her invalidmother live near Fyodor Pavlovich’s house, and the dilapidated summerhouse where Dmitry watches for Grushenka is in the large garden next to their small home. Although poor because she had to give up her work to care for her mother, Marya Kondratyevna, who is friends with Smerdyakov, likes to walk around in her fancy dresses from her time as a lady’s attendant. On the other hand, she is not above regularly begging for food from Marfa Ignatyevna, who luckily doesn’t mind. Marya Kondratyevna is a great admirer of Smerdyakov, which suits him fine, and eventually he moves into the best room of their poor, small house. Marya Kondratyevna is also the one who discovers Smerdyakov after he has hanged himself.


Kuzma Samsonovis Grushenka’s patron. Wealthy, elderly, mean, and miserly, he is also extremely savvy and doesn’t think too highly of Dmitry. Between father and son, Samsonov believes Fyodor Pavlovich to be the better business choice (he advises Grushenka to get a pre-nuptial agreement). So when Dmitry shows up with a “business” idea, Samsonov listens with cold calculation and then sends Dmitry on a fool’s errand. Samsonov, who is literally on his last legs (he has trouble standing and walking at this point), dies before the trial begins.


Lurcher, or Gorstkin,which is his real name (“Lurcher” being an insulting nickname that Samsonov deliberately fed Dmitry), is the timber merchant to whom Samsonov sent Dmitry to foil the latter’s plans. To find him, Dmitry had to go out of town and then, when he finally tracked him down, he had to wait until Gorstkin slept off his drunken stupor, after which Gorstkin just started drinking again—to Dmitry’s dismay. Like Samsonov, Gorstkin had no interest in Dmitry’s “business” idea. On top of that, Dmitry had become so tired himself that he fell asleep twice, which wasted even more time. He finally gave up on his idea and went home.


Fenya and her grandmotherare Grushenka’s trusted servants. In his furious quest to find Grushenka, Dmitry visits them both before and after the mishap in his father’s garden that knocked out Grigory around the time of Fyodor Pavlovich’s murder. Because of Dmitry’s two visits, they witnessed him grabbing the pestle beforehand and also saw the blood on his hands and face when he returned. Fenya later goes out of her way to find Dmitry, who is with Perkhotin at the grocer’s, and she pleads with him to not hurt Grushenka.


Andreiis the driver who takes Dmitry to Mokroye for his big final fling before committing suicide—or so the plan goes for the moment. Dmitry also doesn’t mind spilling all that to Andrei, who listens sympathetically but later has to tell the truth as a witness. On the way to Mokroye, the two of them have a conversation about heaven and hell, and like so many minor characters, Andrei is a mouthpiece for some of the novel’s larger ideas.


Mikhail Makarov, the police chief, is a basically friendly, generous man who, like the officers of the team investigating Dmitry’s case, is part of the social fabric of the town. Consequently, he knows Dmitry personally, which makes being objective more difficult, especially since Dmitry has a talent for offending people sooner or later. The police chief arrives at the scene of Dmitry’s arrest in a judgmental state of mind and prefers to keep his distance from the investigative proceedings. He is also in charge of watching Grushenka during Dmitry’s interrogation, and while his initial reaction to her is not good, he soon changes his mind because of her honesty and obvious love of Dmitry, expressed in self-blame and emotional outbursts of caring.Later in the story, he turns a blind eye to the prison rules by letting Dmitry have visitors.


Mussjalowicz and Wrublewskiare the two Poles who meet Grushenka at the inn in Mokroye and are among the card-playing party when Dmitry arrives. The short one, Mussjalowicz, is the former “officer” (actually a petty government official) and Grushenka’s “true” love, who has meanwhile turned into a plump, self-satisfied gold digger. The other, Wrublewski, is his extremely tall bodyguard. Both are a couple of pompous connivers, who are caught cheating at cards, among other things. Things come to a head when Dmitry meets the two men in a side room during the party and offers them a bribe—which they almost take—in exchange for clearing out. But they wanted more, and the scene leads to an unmasking of their real motives for being there, all to Grushenka’s disgust and the realization that she’s wasted five years of her life agonizing over her “officer.”


Trifon Borisychis the innkeeper in Mokroye, where Dmitry holds his two extravagant parties. Trifon Borisych’s great love in life is money, and as long as Dmitry is willing to throw it his way, he’s happy to see him. But when things go sour for Dmitry, it becomes clear that Trifon Borisych is mainly out for his own interests. A peasant himself, he nevertheless looks down on gypsies and other peasants, whom he views as lower life forms, and he does his best to keep them as far away from himself as possible.


Dr. Herzenstubeis the local town doctor, who has been serving the townspeople for years. He is kind, compassionate, and dedicated, although there are complaints about his competency, and he also tends to ramble and lose his train of thought. This latter trait becomes evident at the trial, but its beneficial result is that he spontaneously recounts a touching story of the time he visited Dmitry when he was still a young child. Herzenstube felt sorry for the neglected boy, so he bought him a pound of nuts as a special treat and taught him to say “God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.” When Dmitry saw the doctor years later, he still remembered both the saying and the pound of nuts, and he thanked the doctor heartily, proof to Herzenstube of Dmitry’s own goodness and capacity for gratitude.


Dr. Varvinsky and the famous doctor from Moscoware the two other doctors who feature as witnesses at Dmitry’s trial. The doctor from Moscow, who also pronounces Ilyusha’s fatal prognosis, has been brought in by Katerina Ivanovna to support the “diminished capacity” plea, with which Herzenstube agrees. However, Dr. Varvinsky, the youngest of the three, does not agree: in his view, Dmitry’s actions make perfect sense given his drunkenness and inflamed passions. For better or worse, the spectators and judge agree with Dr. Varvinsky, as does Dmitry himself.

The mysterious visitor is a character who appears earlier in the starets’s life story, back when the starets went by the name of Zinovy and had just experienced a personal transformation that marked him as a “holy fool.” Intrigued, this man, who was an honored and charitable member of society, began visiting Zinovy privately to discover his motivations and simply to talk. In so doing, he revealed a deep understanding of spiritual concepts as well as considerable commitment to practicing them. But he also harbored a dark secret, which he now admitted to another person for the first time: that long ago he had murdered the woman he loved, all because of jealousy. She had even been engaged to someone else, but that made no difference. Worse, he felt no immediate remorse for his act, but over time it ate away at his soul, and no amount of good deeds could make up for it.

The man’s talks with Zinovy were a form of wrestling with his own soul, a battle he finally won when he made up his mind to confess his deed before his family and the whole town at his formal birthday celebration. Ironically, no one believed him, and they blamed Zinovy for his recent agitation and what they perceived as mental illness. Shortly after his confession, the man, whose name was Mikhail, fell ill and died. But for the first time, he felt free of his great burden, and he died in a spirit of peace and joy.


Unlike most of the other characters, Zhuchka/Perezvonis not a human being but a dog. As the story goes, little Ilyusha had a dog named Zhuchka, who disappeared after Ilyusha stupidly put a pin in a chunk of bread and threw it to him on Smerdyakov’s suggestion. Thinking he had killed the dog, Ilyusha felt terrible remorse and could not forgive himself. However, the dog was not dead. Kolya Krasotkin had found him in the meantime and brought him home, renamed him Perezvon, and taught him a number of tricks. Kolya was aware that Perezvon was Zhuchka, but he kept the whole thing secret for two months until finally bringing him to Ilyusha, whom he had not seen in a while, to Ilyusha’s dismay. Sadly, Ilyusha’s reunion with both Kolya and Zhuchka came too late: by the time Kolya brought the dog over, Ilyusha was dying, but seeing Zhuchka (or Perezvon) again was still a great comfort and relief.


Although not strictly a character in the human sense, the Devilplays an important role in relation to the story and its themes. To Ivan, he isa projection of his own mind in the form of a 3D hallucination with a life of its own, at least as long as the experience lasts.

The Devil visits Ivan several times, but we first meet him shortly before Dmitry’s trial. He appears as one of the impoverished gentry, mild-mannered, entertaining, and philosophical in a rambling, trivial way that in theory makes him amusing to have as a guest (except that he infuriates Ivan). On the one hand, he wants to convince Ivan of his existence; on the other, he’s not too concerned about it since he views it as inevitable. He seems to know everything Ivan is thinking, which to Ivan is proof that this Devil is nothing more than a projection—until he comes up with something Ivan could not have thought of on his own. But when Alyosha knocks on the window, the scene reverts to normal reality, as though none of it ever happened. The exception is the hint the Devil left of Smerdyakov’s death, which Alyosha has come to report.

The Devil’s genteel and lighthearted personality is in stark contrast to the cruel and godless Grand Inquisitor, the star character of a story Ivan made up in his younger years and told to Alyosha earlier in the novel.


The peasants of Russia have a special place in Dostoevsky’s heart. This attitude is represented above all by the starets, who sees their humble honesty, faith, and simplicity as the salvation of Russia. His view of them is not, however, a sugarcoated one. Rather, he understands their pain and suffering, and he both embraces them wholeheartedly and reprimands them as necessary when they come to visit him, which they do often.

Not everyone has such a benign view of the peasants. Kolya Krasotkin, Trifon Borisych, and Ivan all have their moments of treating their lower-class fellow countrymen (although they’re the same class as Trifon Borisych) with disdain or mockery. But the peasants also function as an impetus for awakening. The most notable instances of this are Dmitry’s dream and Ivan’s active compassion for the freezing peasant, who earlier in the same chapter had been singing a prophetic song that had irritated Ivan and inspired feelings of contempt and lack of caring. The fact that Ivan later bothered to pick him up out of the snow, care for him, and carry him to the police station indicated that something within him had opened up. And indeed it had: he had resolved to help his brother Dmitry by telling the truth at the trial, even if it cost him; and the decision made him feel good.

Author’s Note

Dostoevsky prefaces his novel The Karamazov Brothers with a note that reveals his own ambivalent feelings about the work or, more precisely, his anticipation of his readers’ ambivalent feelings. His main character (whom he considers to be Alyosha) hardly fits the mold of a hero; yet he likes him and considers him worthy not just of one novel but also of a sequel that he never managed to write. He makes no attempt to justify his character’s eccentricity, but he does feel compelled to warn the reader in order to give him an excuse to abandon the book halfway or, worst case, at the beginning. In spite of all this ambivalence, he hints at the archetypal nature of his main character in relation to the times, and he affirms the unity of the book as a whole. And so, having made his apology, he begins his story.


A Family’s Story

Fyodor Pavlovich Karamazov

Fyodor Pavlovich Karamazov—Fyodor Pavlovich Karamazov was a self-made landowner whose keen business sense went hand in hand with a peculiar type of “muddle-headed” Russian eccentricity. His foolishness, degeneracy, and selfishness ultimately result in his murder, briefly mentioned here.

Adelaida Ivanovna—Fyodor Pavlovich had three sons from two marriages: Dmitry, Ivan, and Aleksei. Dmitry, the oldest, was the product of an unlikely marriage with Adelaida Ivanovna Miusova, a young, intelligent, beautiful woman from a well-to-do family. Despite her gifts, Adelaida Ivanovna failed to inspire any passion in her husband, a shameless philanderer whose sole interest in her was her dowry of 25,000 rubles, a townhouse, and some land, all of which he had transferred to himself as quickly as possible. Their discordant marriage ended with his wife fleeing to St. Petersburg with a poor seminary student-teacher. There, according to rumor, she eventually died of either starvation or typhus. Now left with their three-year-old son Dmitry, Fyodor Pavlovich continued to lead a dissolute lifestyle, also telling his woeful story of abandonment to all who would listen. He had heard of his wife’s death when drunk, and his reaction was reportedly mixed—glad he was free yet sad for his late wife.

Dmitry: Background


Dmitry Fyodorovich Karamazov: unstable younger years—Fyodor Pavlovich ignored his young son Dmitry (aka Mitya), and the rest of the family forgot him, too. Only Grigory, a loyal servant, took the boy under his wing, even housing him in his own quarters.This changed when Pyotr Aleksandrovich Miusov, Adelaida Ivanovna’s cousin, returned from Paris and got joint custody with Mitya’s father. But like Fyodor Pavlovich, Pyotr Aleksandrovich’s main interest lay in procuring what he could of his late cousin’s estate, and once he did so, he returned to Paris to resume his involvement in revolutionary affairs—in spite of his considerable holdings as a landowner. Meanwhile, Mitya was sent to his great-aunt in Moscow (the text implies that it’s Miusov’s aunt). When she died, he lived with her daughter and her husband, and he may have switched homes again later.

Military service, wild days, financial trouble, and an untrustworthy father—After a dreary childhood, Dmitry quit school and entered the military following military college. A carouser himself, he was in debt by the time he came of age and was ready to claim his inheritance, not realizing that he didn’t have much of an inheritance to begin with. When he first visited his father, he got only a little money and no clear information. He did sign an agreement that left him with nothing four years later, when he reappeared on his father’s doorstep and discovered the truthafter receiving only small sums from Fyodor Pavlovich to distract him. That left Dmitry furious and suspicious, thus providing part of the backdrop to his father’s murder.

Second Wife and Her Offspring


Sofya Ivanovna—A year later, Fyodor Pavlovich married Sofya Ivanovna, whose meekness and innocence had made it hard for her to deal with her micromanaging guardian, a wealthy, aristocratic general’s widow. When Sofya Ivanovna was sixteen, Fyodor Pavlovich proposed, but the girl’s guardian shrewdly refused him. Sofya Ivanovna then eloped with him, only learning later of his depraved lifestyle, which included carousing with other women in front of her. Her mental and physical health deteriorated, and she died after eight years. Meanwhile, however, she bore him two sons, Ivan and Aleksei. Like Dmitry, they were neglected, and once again Grigory took them in.

The general’s widow returns—But their mother’s former guardian, the general’s widow, had been watching from a distance, and three months after the boys’ mother died, she arrived to take them away, having duly slapped and otherwise abused both Fyodor Pavlovich and Grigory for neglecting the children (she had found the boys unwashed and unkempt). Unlike their mother, the boys’ new guardian was decisive and efficient: it took her exactly half an hour to accomplish her business, and she did not mince words when it came to her opinion.

New guardians—Shortly after taking the boys, the general’s widow died, leaving each boy 1000 rubles. Luckily for them, the will’s main beneficiary, Yefim Petrovich Polyonov, was an honest, benevolent man in a position of importance. He cared for the boys like sons, funded their upbringing and education, and doubled their inheritance through investments. He even sent Ivan to Moscow to study with a brilliant tutor friend of his, having observed that the boy was brilliant.

Ivan Fyodorovich, the second son—Ivan was as shrewd and practical as he was intellectually gifted. He knew that his birth father would never contribute one kopek to his sons’ welfare, so when he found himself in dire straits at the university—his guardian and tutor having both died and his inheritance being tied up in legalities at the time—he tutored for a living and wrote well-received eyewitness accounts and literary reviews for newspaper publishers. He was thus well known in the literary and publishing world by the time he graduated, but the article that created a real stir was his latest piece on the ecclesiastical courts, which had recently lost much of their power.

Ivan’s appearance in his hometown—With his 2000-ruble inheritance finally in hand, Ivan’s next goal was to travel, first to his hometown. His article had been published in a major newspaper and had made its way to the well-known nearby monastery. The article’s effect was compounded upon learning the writer’s identity as the son of the town’s most notorious resident, and Ivan’s unexpected arrival on his father’s doorstep created as much of a stir as the article itself.

Ivan’s relationship with his father—No one understood the reasons for Ivan’s sudden appearance or the fact that he and his father got along well during his one- to two-month stay. Miusov, who was visiting at the time, was baffled that someone so brilliant, proud, and self-sufficient would spend time with his dissolute father. Nor could he help noticing that Ivan had some sort of control over his father, at times even inspiring better behavior in him.

Dmitry’s request—In fact, Ivan had come to act as a mediator between Dmitry and their father, the two of them now being in a legal dispute begun by Dmitry. Dmitry and Ivan had been corresponding about some concern of Dmitry’s, but they had never met until now. Yet that was only part of Ivan’s purpose in coming, the rest being still unknown.

Alyosha’s arrival at the monastery—For a year now, the youngest son Aleksei, or Alyosha, had also been residing outside town as a novice in the monastery. And so it was that the father and his three sons all came together for the first time.

Alyosha, the Youngest Son


A light in the darkness—All three sons were in their twenties: Dmitry, the oldest, was twenty-seven, and Ivan and Alyosha were twenty-three and twenty, respectively. Alyosha’s main motive in becoming a monk was Zosima, the local monastery’s starets, or renowned resident ascetic. In a world filled with evil, Zosima inspired the love that dwelled so naturally in Alyosha’s heart, thus offering a potential escape. This notion was tied to his vivid childhood memory of his beautiful mother holding him while praying and crying hysterically in a room that, though darkened, was still pierced by the sun’s rays. For him, this memory remained a perpetual symbol of the light that sometimes appears amidst the darkness of the world.

Naturally loving and beloved—Though not a mystic, Alyosha was in many ways a natural saint. If one thing defined his character, it was his love of people and vice versa. When he suddenly showed up on his father’s doorstep, his father resented his presence at first but soon loved and trusted him the most. And though Alyosha sometimes felt the need to retreat from his depraved environment, it never occurred to him to judge it.

The “holy fool”—Alyosha’s ability to effortlessly win people’s love had no exceptions. Yefim Petrovich’s family saw him as one of their own, and he was the most popular among his schoolmates in spite of his personal idiosyncrasies. Brave and forgiving, he was naturally tolerant except when the other boys talked about sex, which caused him great embarrassment. He was also one of the best in his class, but never competitive. Nor did he ever think about money, yet he was always happily cared for, mostly by others but also, if necessary, by his own efforts. Dostoevsky likens him to the “holy fool,” who operates by a different, often divine, set of rules. In this case, the term refers to a person who gives away all he has without a second thought. Yet because the “holy fool” is attuned to God, he always survives, though never through fraud or manipulation.

Alyosha leaves school early—Despite his intelligence and popularity, Alyosha decided to leave school a year early. Yefim Petrovich had died two years before, and his family had moved to Italy, so Alyosha was sent to live with two ladies who were his late guardian’s distant relatives. They, too, loved him and did not want him to leave. But Alyosha remained firm in his decision, so they paid his way and tried to send him off with more than he needed. Yet being who he was, Alyosha rejected half their gift, preferring to travel and live more modestly.

Return home; Fyodor Pavlovich’s interim activities—Alyosha’s impetus for returning to his father’s house was the search for his mother’s grave. Not surprisingly, his father knew nothing about it, having left his hometown several years after his second wife’s death. He went to Odessa, made plenty of money, and on returning, continued his enterprising ways and quickly became known as the rich man in town, being valued at around 100,000 rubles.

Aged, ugly, and degenerate—Fyodor Pavlovich had come back just a few years before Alyosha, and during his time away he had aged greatly. His face was puffy and wrinkled, his smile depraved, his teeth rotten, his Adam’s apple flabby. Even his single attractive characteristic, his Roman nose, signified decline and downfall to him. Yet true to his character, he reveled in the vileness of it all. His disgusting appearance didn’t interfere with his womanizing, his comic streak was now augmented by a mean streak, his drinking had intensified, and he seemed scattered and out of control.

Visit to the grave—Thankfully, Fyodor Pavlovich’s long-time servant Grigory remained faithful to his master and took care of him. It was Grigory who led Alyosha to his mother’s grave—in fact, he was the reason there was a grave at all. Alyosha only visited it once with Grigory, staying briefly after listening to the old servant’s story of how he built it. That isolated event had a strong effect on Fyodor Pavlovich. Alyosha reminded him of his second wife, and his innocence and love helped to soften Fyodor Pavlovich’s depraved instincts and rouse other parts of his soul, with the gravesite visit even inspiring him to donate one thousand rubles to the monastery for the sake of his first wife’s (Dmitry’s mother’s) soul. This, however, was followed by a drunken spree during which he made fun of the monks to his Alyosha’s face.

A father’s blessing and ramblings about hell—Fyodor Pavlovich was not surprised when Alyosha came to him soon afterwards to ask his permission to become a monk. Already partly drunk, he listened to his son’s request and then gave him his blessing, even pledging more money if his inheritance proved insufficient. He knew of Zosima’s effect on his son, and he respected the starets’s integrity. He then rambled on and on, most notably, about his thoughts on hell and how his accusers would drag him there with hooks. Even if there were no hooks, he figured they should invent them just for him.

Bewailing the loss of his beloved son—In part, Fyodor Pavlovich’s self-condemnation expressed his fear of losing Alyosha, the only person who had never condemned him. At least, Alyosha would be cared for. As far as being influenced by “all that holiness,” he hoped that it was just a phase, and he was sure that Alyosha was too grounded to let the monastery ruin him. He also hoped Alyosha would come back once the phase was over. At this point, Fyodor Pavlovich began to cry. It was clear he would miss his youngest son.



Alyosha’s choice—For all his saintly tolerance and love, Alyosha was a normal young man, a realist even though he believed in miracles. Dostoevsky explains here that miracles and realism do not exclude each other but that for a realist, miracles are born of faith, not the other way around. To Alyosha, to strive for the light meant to seek truth, and this made him like others of his generation with the same bent towards heroic service. Alyosha’s choice, however, was determined by his conviction that God and immortality were real. Had he not believed this, he would have followed the socialist path, like most Russians his age, whose beliefs and ideals rested on their atheism. However, Alyosha had moved beyond that choice and had recognized that the Christian path—the path to immortality—required all or nothing. Now, as he entered the monastery, he was about to discover whether he truly possessed that level of commitment.

The holy tradition of the startsy—The ancient tradition of the startsy(plural for starets) had all but disappeared in Russia due to persecution and other socio-political factors, until it resurfaced again a hundred years before the period of the novel, set in the late 1800s. By that time, the startsy had been a fixture at the local monastery for three generations and were the only source of its fame. But Zosima was nearing his final days, thus threatening the tradition and the monastery’s renown, so great that many came from thousands of miles away.

The power of the starets—The purpose of the master-disciple relationship with the starets was to ultimately annul the ego so that the seeker’s entire being would be immersed in God. The starets himself was one who had attained this state, so there was no question of subjugating one human ego to another: the master was simply the way to the Divine, which subsumed all. Yet even this holy institution could sometimes have the opposite effect of its intended purpose, creating demonic pride instead of true freedom from the ego. The starets’s spiritual power was also such that, for example, only he could release a student from his vow, even when that student was far away and spirituallyadvanced himself. All this power and the starets’s many followers naturally drew enemies who objected that the holy sacramentswere being abused. Still, this did not stop the people from coming to seek absolution, blessing, and counsel.

Zosima’s saintly qualities—Alyosha was not yet a full-fledged monk, so he was free to leave the monastery at will, and he mainly wore a cassock to blend in with the others. Even so, he had a special place in Zosima’s heart, as Zosima had in his. Originally from a wealthy family and a one-time soldier and military officer, Zosima had spent his monastic life in service to all men and, like Alyosha, judged no one and loved all. In doing so, he had learned to read others’ thoughts and knew what they needed before they told him. This frightened some at first, but Zosima’s ultimate effect was always to leave people full of joy. It didn’t matter who they were, and he seemed to have a special soft spot for the worst sinners. Even his enemies had to admit his sainthood, and the general expectation was that there would be miraculous happenings upon his death. Even in life, he had a seemingly miraculous healing effect on many who came to him for just that. To those who flocked from miles away, Zosima spelled hope—the hope that Russia would someday return to truth and holiness. Alyosha, too, was among the believers, and for him that hope had taken on the proportions of a future divine utopia on earth.

Distance between brothers—On a more personal level, Alyosha had finally had a chance to meet his two brothers: Ivan had moved into his father’s house and Dmitry to his own place elsewhere in town. But though Ivan and Alyosha lived under the same roof, Alyosha was frustrated by Ivan’s distant, disdainful attitude. Alyosha learned from Dmitry that Ivan was an atheist, and it occurred to Alyosha that Ivan might have some inner concern he was trying to work out. Dmitry, who was relatively uneducated and who adulated Ivan, also told Alyosha about the issue the two older brothers were trying to resolve together.

Zosima agrees to meet with the Karamazovs—Dmitry’s entire purpose in being there was to extract his inheritance from his father, and this was causing much strife between them. The joking suggestion that they let the starets mediate between them came from Fyodor Pavlovich, and even though he didn’t trust his father’s motives, Dmitry felt compelled to go along with it out of a sense of guilt over his own recent poor behavior. When Miusov heard of the meeting, it aroused his curiosity, so he used his longstanding territorial dispute with the monastery as a pretext for being there. The starets, who was ill and not taking visitors, finally agreed to receive the family after pressure from the monastery. But in truth, he saw no reason for the visit, hinting to Alyosha that the family’s concerns were of a purely worldly nature.

Alyosha’s dread of the meeting; communicating with Dmitry—For all his innocence, Alyosha was not naïve. He knew that all his family members except Dmitry had a tendency towards mockery, disdain, or both, and he was worried that they would insult the starets. But he decided to keep his worries to himself. He did, however, send a note to Dmitry the day before the meeting. In it, he informed his brother of his love for him and his faith that Dmitry would be true to his promise. Not knowing what Alyosha meant but being aware of his family’s habits, Dmitry wrote back assuring him of his respect for the starets and his commitment to disciplined behavior despite his family’s antics. The interchange didn’t help: Alyosha still dreaded the meeting.

An Unseemly Encounter

Meeting the Starets

Arriving for the meeting—The family meeting with Zosima was scheduled for right after church, at 11:30 in the morning. The family, however, did not attend the mass but arrived in separate carriages just as church was letting out. Miusov and his relative, a young man named Pyotr Fomich Kalganov, came first in an elegant carriage with horses to match. They were followed by Fyodor Pavlovich and Ivan in an old, beat-up carriage with equivalent horses. Dmitry came on his own and was late.

Pyotr Fomich—Pyotr Fomich Kalganov, a friend of Alyosha’s and roughly the same age, was a brooding, absentminded type who in private conversation would sometimes lapse into the opposite mood. He appeared to have a wealthy background, judging from his elegant clothing and independent income, and he was the only one of the group who responded to the throng of beggars outside the church, though he felt awkward doing so. At this juncture in his life, he was in the process of deciding where to attend university, and Miusov was trying to influence him to come with him and study abroad.

A slow reception—On entering the monastery, the party was struck by the fact that no one came to receive them. Miusov was especially offended, given his influential position with the monastery, and he was starting to get angry, when the group was approached by an amiable landowner named Maksimov.

The party goes to Zosima’s house—Maksimov informed them that the starets lived some distance away in the woods, and he began showing them the way, partly at Fyodor Pavlovich’s request and partly out of curiosity about the visitors. However, he was quickly informed by Miusov that the meeting was open only to the family. This did not disturb Maksimov, who had already met the starets.

The abbot’s invitation; family feud—As Maksimov was expressing his enthusiasm over Zosima, the conversation was interrupted by a monk who had hurried to inform both the visitors and Maksimov that the abbot had invited them to lunch at exactly one o’clock. Thrilled, Fyodor Pavlovich promised that everyone would behave. This elicited an annoyed reaction from Miusov, who was already disgruntled. He insulted both Fyodor Pavlovich and Dmitry, who still hadn’t arrived, adding that he would prefer it if neither of them were there and also threatening to leave if Fyodor Pavlovich embarrassed him with his usual antics. But Miusov’s irritation had more to do with his own arrogance and intolerance than anything else. He was worried that his reputation would be tarnished, and he had something negative to say about everyone and everything.

Fyodor Pavlovich brings up the subject of women visiting the monastery—By then, the monk and the visitors had reached Zosima’s hermitage, Maksimov having run off to inform the abbot that his lunch invitation had been accepted. Of course, Fyodor Pavlovich, had to bring up the subject of women. Historically, women had never been admitted to the monastery, yet now—so he had heard—the starets was receiving them. The monk confirmed that Zosima was indeed seeing both peasant women and ladies. Moreover, the ladies had their own rooms, specially built for them outside the wall and connected to Zosima’s hermitage by a passage, which he would take to go see them when he was feeling well enough. Fyodor Pavlovich insisted that his question was without innuendo, but the subject got Miusov riled enough that he threatened to leave again.

Flowers everywhere; Miusov’s anger continues to boil—Their entry into a garden full of flowers gave Fyodor Pavlovich a chance to change the subject with great spontaneity and enthusiasm. There were flowers everywhere, and he wondered if the previous starets had engaged in their cultivation, given his reputation for hitting people. The monk explained that while the former starets sometimes did strange things, the rumors about his hitting people were false. Amidst all this chatter, Miusov continued to fume (though Fyodor Pavlovich didn’t know why), and he was sure that his aggravation would result in some regrettable action that would ruin his reputation.

Fyodor Pavlovich Plays the Clown


The initial meeting—The starets and his visitors came into the cell simultaneously. Three other individuals from the monastery were already present: Rakitin, a seminary student and friend of Alyosha’s; and two priest-monks, the monastery librarian and Father Païsy, known for his excellent scholarship. When the starets entered, the monks bowed deeply and kissed his hand with unaffected respect, just as he bowed deeply in return, both blessing and being blessed by them. There was no taint of empty ritual or insincerity. This profound show of respect for the starets was the standard response whenever he received someone, but Miusov could not bring himself to follow suit and held it all to be pure affectation. The most he would do was bow quickly and then sit down, according to the standards of the day. Fyodor Pavlovlch imitated his cousin, Ivan did a little better, and Kalganov completely bungled it. Zosima, who normally blessed his visitors, was on the verge of doing so, but then refrained, bowed, and invited them all to sit. The whole scene was extremely embarrassing and distressing to Alyosha, who had accompanied the starets into the room along with another novice.

Zosima and his cell; Miusov’s judgment and disdain—It was clear from the starets’s cell that wealth was of no concern to him. The furniture was old, worn, and basic, and the room was small. Aside from the practical essentials, it had a number of religious icons and other items, some valuable, some ordinary. None of this impressed Miusov, who also had a negative reaction to Zosima himself, who was not physically attractive. Small, hunched over, weak, wrinkled, and practically bald, the starets had sharp facial features, though his thin lips smiled often and his small eyes were quick and bright. Since he considered it his right to make snap judgments, Miusov decided that the starets was a mean, petty snob. Like the rest of his behavior that day, that said more about Miusov’s attitude than about anything else.

Fyodor Pavlovich’s babbling buffoonery—The sound of the clock striking twelve gave Fyodor Pavlovlch an excuse to speak, so he began by apologizing for Dmitry’s lateness. He then launched into a long diatribe characterized by his usual self-deprecating buffoonery, as his family members either muttered in disgust or felt like sinking into the floor. Only Ivan was relatively dispassionate. A born storyteller, Fyodor Pavlovich recounted tale after tale, at least half of them made up or already false by the time he had heard them himself.

Miusov’s fuming; Zosima’s response—To an ordinary observer, the scene in the cell that day would be considered shockingly disrespectful compared to the usual way all visitors, great and small, addressed the starets. But Zosima merely sat there and listened, even while Miusov kept fuming. Finally, overcome with anger and embarrassment, Miusov rose to leave but was stopped by the starets, who urged him to sit down and be comfortable. He gave the same advice to Fyodor Pavlovich, emphasizing that there was no need to be ashamed, which was the main cause of his problems.

Fyodor Pavlovich’s overwhelmed reaction—Flabbergasted that someone should encourage him to be himself, Fyodor Pavlovich was soon blessing the starets and asking the same from him. He was sure that had people treated him differently in life, he would have been good and kind. Before long, he even was down on his knees, quoting the scripture about what he needed to do to inherit eternal life.

Zosima’s profound advice—But the starets’s answer was simple and straightforward. In a non-judgmental and insightful way, he informed Fyodor Pavlovich that he already knew the answers himself, and he named his primary offenses: drunkenness, sensuality, babbling, money worship, immoral business practices, and, above all, lying. It was lying, especially to oneself, that led people astray. If they continued with it indefinitely, they would lose respect for both themselves and others, and from that would follow the inability to love. Their lives would focus on the wrong things, and they would lose themselves altogether because they had lost the truth. Then they would feel easily offended, but that was just another distraction.

Fyodor Pavlovich blames Miusov for his loss of faith—Fyodor Pavlovich continued praising the starets with great enthusiasm, though he still had trouble controlling his lies and exaggerations. He even felt compelled to bring up an old beef with Miusov, whom he blamed for his loss of faith because of some untrue story he had spread. Finally recalling the story, Miusov claimed he had heard it from someone else first, and the scene erupted into an argument between the two cousins.

Zosima excuses himself for a moment—Unperturbed, the starets rose to attend to some visitors who had been waiting patiently to see him. His good-natured reminder to Fyodor Pavlovich to cease lying brought another round of enthusiastic gratitude from the latter, who was glad that he and the starets got along. For now, at least, Fyodor Pavlovich had had his say, and he was ready to hand the floor to Miusov upon the starets’s return.

Blessing the Peasant Women


Waiting women—About twenty women,mostly peasants, were waiting for the starets outside the hermitage wall. There was also a refined lady in her thirties, a landowner’s widow named Mrs. Khokhlakova. The lady’s teenage daughter was paralyzed from the waist down, so she had brought her to the starets for healing for the second time in three days. In addition, there was an elderly monk from far away. But when the starets arrived, he passed both the monk and the lady, attending first to the peasant women.

Calming the klikusha—Among the peasants was a klikusha, a term also applied to Alyosha’s mother by his father. It described a hysteria peculiar to Russian women, and peasants were particularly afflicted, apparently because of their physically hard and abusive lives. As the women crowded around the starets, the klikusha began to shriek; but the starets’s brief prayer and blessing soon calmed her. This was not uncommon: klikushi frequently became calm in the presence of the sacred, though it seldom lasted. Critics attributed these brief peaceful spells to trickery and accused the women of evading their work. But the medical establishment disagreed, pointing to their strenuous lives, and the women seem to have been responding from genuine faith.

The wailing mother—This klikusha, from a nearby village, was familiar to the starets. Now, however, he turned his attention to a kneeling, desperate figure who had traveled several hundred versts to see him (a verst being roughly two-thirds of a mile or slightly over a kilometer). The woman, whose face was blackened and thin, was holding her head with her hand, rocking back and forth, and wailing with grief. Nastya had already been to three monasteries and was advised to come see the starets. Her grief was brought on by the death of her fourth and youngest son. Her previous three sons had also died, and she had borne it with relative calm. But she couldn’t forget the youngest and wept inconsolably. Her husband, a prosperous coachman, had taken to drinking more than before, and she, having gone on a pilgrimage, had now left her entire life behind, with no desire to return.

The starets tried to console Nastya with an old story about a saint who had comforted a mother just like her by telling her that her little boy was among the angels. The saint said that these little ones who died young had complained so loudly to God that God immediately elevated them to the status of angel. She replied that her husband had said the same thing, but her longing to see her sweet child once more was too much to bear.

Realizing that she was facing the lot of many mothers since ancient times, like those who wept when Herod slew their babies, the starets gave her leave to mourn, knowing that it would ultimately cleanse her soul. But she should always remember her son in heaven, and she should return to her husband and be there for him—for if not, how could her son appear to her in her dreams? This worked for Nastya, and though she kept wailing, she was grateful and took his advice.

Another desperate mother—No sooner was the starets done with the mourning mother than he perceived his next neediest visitor, a townswoman whose son, a soldier in Siberia, had been missing for a year. She had heard that if she asked her church to include him in their prayers for the dead, he would sense it and write to her. Only she wasn’t sure about the advice and wanted the starets’s counsel. Appalled that she would even consider it, the starets informed her that such actions were similar to witchcraft. The remedy was to pray to the Virgin Mary for forgiveness and for her son’s welfare. He also knew that her son was alive and would soon either write or return.

The penitent woman—Again, the starets immediately moved on to the next person, this time picking her out of the crowd. A young, gaunt woman was staring at him intently, so he asked her why she was there. Terrified, the woman approached on her knees. She was desperately in need of absolution, though she had already confessed twice. But her sin, the murder of her abusive old husband, grieved her so much that she could not let go of it. On the starets’s urging, she had whispered it in his ear, and he now told her to have no fear. God’s love was so great that no sin on earth could outweigh it, and heaven rejoiced more over one repentant sinner than over many righteous. But to repent meant to love, and to love meant to thoroughly forgive all, even her abusive late husband. The power of love was such that it could truly save and heal all.

The woman and baby—Having blessed the woman three times, the starets noticed a young, healthy woman holding a baby. Smiling, he asked her why she had come, and her simple answer was that she wanted to see him. She had been there before and was surprised he didn’t remember. She had also heard he was sick and wanted to see for herself. Having seen him, she decided he was fine and told him he would live another two decades. Then she gave him sixty kopeks to pass onto someone with even less than she had. Pleased with her goodwill, the starets thanked her and blessed both her and her little daughter, Lizaveta. Finally, he blessed and bowed down to everyone there.

Lady of Little Faith


The lady and her daughter—Now done blessing the peasant women, the starets went over to the lady, Mrs. Khokhlakova, and asked about her daughter. The lady burst out that Lise had been completely healed when he laid hands on her several days ago. Although she was still in her wheelchair, Lise’s night fevers were gone, she beamed with health, she laughed instead of crying, and she had stood unaided for a whole minute. Even her doctor was confounded.

A message for Alyosha; Lise’s love—When the lady encouraged her daughter to thank the starets, Lise suddenly burst out laughing and then pointed at Alyosha, who was standing behind the starets. It was obvious that Alyosha knew the two ladies, and this drew Zosima’s focus for a moment. As he was blushing over Lise’s attentions, Alyosha learned that she had a message for him: Katerina Ivanovna, whom he barely knew, urgently wanted to see him about his brother Dmitry and his recent issues. Concerned, Alyosha agreed to go, even though he found it all perplexing. His cooperation thrilled Lise, who bluntly told him she thought he was wonderful. Her mother added that Lise only felt well when Alyosha was around.

The starets’s views—Meanwhile, the starets had gone over to the monk, who wondered how Zosima could consider himself qualified to cure. The starets himself wasn’t convinced that the cure was complete, but he was clear that whatever had happened had come from God. He finished by inviting the monk to visit him whenever he pleased, even though his illness prevented him from seeing too many people. Lise’s mother protested that he looked too happy to be ill, but the starets replied that his illness was certain and that he would die soon. As for happiness, it was God’s will for man and a common trait of all saints, so Zosima was grateful that she had described him that way.

The lady’s doubts—Inspiring as the starets’s words were, the lady confessed that she had difficulty experiencing happiness because of her lack of faith in the afterlife. She explained that she was concerned it was all a lie and that life would end in oblivion. She needed proof, and he was her only hope.

Active love as the key—The starets gently explained that the real issue was not about proof but about the choice to actively love others. Doing this consistently would remove her doubts and increase her faith in God and eternal life. The lady replied that she loved humanity a great deal. She had even considered sacrificing her life to care for others as a sister of mercy. But she wondered how long her love and commitment would last when tested by real people, who weren’t always grateful or kind. Her doubts left her deeply distressed.

Contemplative versus active love—The starets replied that he had known a wise, old doctor who had said the same thing. His love of mankind as a whole was great, but he could not abide individuals for more than a day or two. The two patterns inspired each other: the more he hated the real individual, the more he loved the general ideal. This did not comfort the lady, but the starets assured her that her honesty and suffering counted for much. On the other hand, if her statements hid a desire for praise or some other issue, that would work against her.

The starets warns of dishonesty and fear but guarantees God’s nearness—The lady instantly knew that the starets’s words were true; but the starets believed she was sincere, too. He counseled her to watch for any dishonest moments and not to be afraid of her sinfulness or of the trials that came with active love. He also warned her that although the path of active love might sometimes seem to go backwards, it was just then that God and his reward were close at hand.

The starets questions Lise’s embarrassment of Alyosha—The starets then excused himself to move on to the other pilgrims, but before he left, the tearful lady asked him to bless her daughter. The starets joked that she didn’t deserve it, and he wanted to know why Lise had been laughing at Alyosha the whole time. Alyosha had even hidden behind the starets to avoid her stare, but he could not control his desire to look and was always met by her playful, giggling face. Finally, when the starets pointedly asked why she was doing this, she became serious and upset, relaying how she and Alyosha had been the best of friends when younger and that she couldn’t understand why he never came to see her anymore. She assumed it had something to do with his being a monk. When she finished, she burst into hysterical but mute laughter, followed by tears as the starets gently blessed her and promised to send Alyosha.



An argument in the cell—Meanwhile, an argument was taking place in the starets’s cell, mostly between Ivan and the priest-monks, known as “hieromonks,” about Ivan’s recent article. Miusov kept trying to get involved—without success, which added to his aggravation. Fyodor Pavlovich was mostly staying quiet (for a change) except for the occasional jab at Miusov. And Dmitry, the main reason for the meeting, had still not arrived.

The argument—When the starets returned, he looked tired, pale, and like he was about to faint, a common event lately. Although Alyosha noticed this, the starets did his best to hide his fatigue, and he urged his guests to resume their discussion. Father Yosif explained that Ivan’s article was his response to a book by a clergyman on the relationship between the civil law and the ecclesiastical courts. Surprisingly, Ivan’s view was more religious than that of the author, who argued for the separation of church and state in this matter. The starets had heard about the article but not read it himself, and when he asked Ivan for details, Alyosha was concerned that Ivan’s intellectual arrogance would color his reply. He was relieved to see that his brother’s answer was modest, rational, and clear.

Ivan held that the fundamental natures of the Church and state were too different to treat them like equal entities capable of compromise, even though this had long been the standard practice. And while the book’s author treated the church like a subordinate element of the state, with a specific, limited function, in a truly Christian society, the situation would have to be the other way around, with the Church eventually encompassing the entire state.

“Ultramontanism”—This analysis elicited a firm agreement from Father Païsy, who until now had been silent. But such a perspective was at odds with a secular orientation, represented here by Miusov, who called it pure “ulramontanism,” defined most simply as absolute rule by the Pope. Father Yosif’s joking retort that there were no mountains was a reference to the literal meaning of the word, “beyond the mountains,” from the medieval non-Italian viewpoint, since the Pope dwelled beyond the Alps, which separate Italy from the rest of Europe. But what began as a simple description of geographical fact, over time became more complex in its connotations, and in different periods it came to mean

  1. a derogatory term for those loyal to papal rule, which was viewed by many non-Italians as an unwelcome foreign power
  2. a positive orientation towards the same loyalty to the Roman Catholic Church and the Pope, though the term was also used in a negative sense by the loyalists’ opponents
  3. a negative term referring to those who placed the Church and Pope before the kingdom of God, emphasizing the Church’s temporal, material power and giving it the right to impose its will in spiritual matters, whether on an individual or national scale.

The differences in definition are strongly related to emphasis and orientation. The Roman Catholic Church’s own definition, though similar, would necessarily have a positive orientation and therefore lack the resistance implied in points #1 and #3. In the argument in the novel, the term “Church” does not strictly apply to the Roman Catholic Church, since the religious focal point would have been the Russian Orthodox Church; so here the term “ultramontanism” needs to be understood more loosely.

The viewpoint of the book discussed by Ivan’s article—The book’s viewpoint, as explained by Father Yosif, was similar to #3 in that it objected to the Church taking on secular powers when its mission was entirely spiritual, which meant that its jurisdiction did not apply to this world. This got Father Païsy riled again: he had read the book, and he objected to the notion that the Church had nothing to do with this world, when it was expressly put here to spread God’s kingdom on earth.

Synopsis of Ivan’s article—Once Father Païsy had finished, Ivan explained that the early Church was pure of outside influence. Three hundred years later, Rome adopted Christianity, though without discarding many of its pagan laws and customs. But Christianity could not adapt to Rome’s paganism, given its nature and goal to transform the entire world. It was not just another organization that had to conform to the state’s laws: rather, in time, all earthly governments would have to conform to the Church’s eternal principles. The state would still exist, but in elevated form, as an expression of the Church’s mission on earth. Ivan concluded that the author’s mistake was in trying to place the ecclesiastical judicial principles on an equal footing with the Church’s eternal principles, thus putting himself in opposition to the Church.

Science versus religion, a modern dilemma—Again, Father Païsy picked up the subject, this time from the angle of the latest 19th-century thinking, which stressed science above religion and therefore the need for the Church to adjust to the state. But unlike the rest of modern Europe, most Russians still believed in the Church’s ultimate dominion, and to this the father exclaimed: Amen!

The new justice—Miusov was relieved. He had had visions of the present-day Church meting out harsh judgments through the courts, but now he saw the others’ arguments as a future utopia with a strong resemblance to socialism. Ivan corrected him. Even if the Church were in charge of legal justice today, it would take a different approach with a different impact because the criminal could no longer conveniently divide the Church and state to ease his conscience. A crime against the state would also be a crime against the Church, and the punishment would be excommunication rather than death or hard labor. Since the Church would encompass everything, that would be equal to being rejected by Christ and tossed out of life. But ultimately, because of its nature, the Church’s approach to punishment would have to include redemption and regeneration.

The starets speaks—Confused by Ivan’s statements, Miusov once again expressed his doubts, but this time the starets came to the rescue in support of Ivan’s argument. He confirmed that physical punishment alone did not work, instead creating bitterness, which resulted in more crime. The only way to transform the criminal was through his conscience. At present, the Church had no legal power to punish the criminal, and it also did not take a judgmental attitude in moral and religious issues. Instead, because its judgments had to be rooted in absolute truth, the Church took a motherly, compassionate approach, allowing the criminal access to all rites and giving him advice and help. In Europe, where the Church no longer existed as a genuine entity but only in appearance, having been subsumed by the state, the criminal was cut off by society, which included the Church. This, compounded by modern teachings that crime was justified as a reaction to oppression, led to rebelliousness and despair. In Russia, however, the Church maintained its caring connection to the criminal as a son of God despite his outward behavior. But the full judgment of the Church would only take effect in the future, when society itself had had time to reform from its present pagan attitudes. This full authority for judgment would always remain rooted in love, with the intention to redeem rather than punish, and only God knew when it would take place.

Ultramontanism versus the restoration of the Church on earth—Once again, Miusov reacted with accusations of ultramontanism, in violent response to the idea of the Church’s supremacy, which he viewed as a form of worldly power. Father Païsy explained again that it was not about the Church subsuming the state but about the state raising its ideals until it became one with the Church. It had nothing to do with the absolute power of Rome but was the restoration of true Christianity on earth through the Orthodox Church.

Miusov’s response: the danger of Christian socialism; Dmitry finally arrives—This time, Miusov took longer to answer, but his demeanor, though dignified, betrayed condescension. The entire conversation had disturbed Alyosha, and from what he could tell, it had had the same effect on his friend Rakitin. Finally, Miusov told the others of an encounter a number of years earlier at the home of an important dignitary in Paris, not long after the French coup d’état of 1851. Miusov quoted him as saying that their government did not fear the greater mass of socialists: it was the Christian socialists they feared, and they watched them carefully.Then, just as Father Païsy was questioning Miusov about whether he saw the Russian Christians as socialists, the conversation was interrupted by the sudden, now unexpected arrival of Dmitry Fyodorovich.

Unfit to Live!


Dmitry Fyodorovich—Dmitry Fyodorovich’s appearance mixed strength with sickliness, intensity with indecision, with the last two qualities expressed through his prominent dark eyes. Having recently left the army, he still had the clean, neat, resolute look and stride of a military man, except for his gaunt, unhealthy face, explainable by the dissipated lifestyle he had adopted since his return. That also helped to explain his rapid mood changes.

Dmitry first apologized to the starets for his lateness, saying that he had been misinformed of the time. After bowing deeply and asking the starets’s blessing, Dmitry next bowed to his father, then to the others. Finally, he sat down, ready to listen. Surprised by his son’s respectful gesture, Fyodor Pavlovich bowed back, but although his look was serious, it betrayed ill intent.

Miusov drops the argument and tells a story about Ivan—With everyone now settled down again, Father Païsy repeated his question about Miusov’s comparison of socialism and Christianity. Miusov, however, insisted on dropping the subject. When Ivan commented that liberals often confused Christianity and socialism, Miusov told the group about some ideas Ivan had recently expressed at a social gathering. According to Ivan, the impulse to love one’s fellow man had to come from a belief in God and immortality. Without that, egoism would rule, and crime would be justified to the point of cannibalism. To Miusov, these ideas were strange, but Dmitry, who showed intense interest, immediately asked about the statement on crime.

The starets perceives Ivan’s unrest and blesses him—Meanwhile, the starets had perceived that Ivan was not at peace with his ideas. They were ideas of the head and not of the heart and life, and as such they tormented Ivan. Even so, Ivan’s ability to tolerate this suffering was a blessing, since it showed a noble soul; but the starets still hoped he could resolve the conflict in his lifetime. As the starets went to bless him, Ivan suddenly rose to receive the blessing in a move that surprised everyone.

Dmitry and his father argue—Unfortunately, Fyodor Pavlovich used this earnest and genuine moment as a way of bringing up the argument between Dmitry and himself, the original reason for the meeting. The starets tried to discourage his foolishness, but without success. Then Dmitry himself jumped in, apologizing for his father’s scandalmongering. Fyodor Pavlovich took this as an opportunity to reveal that his son was a womanizer who borrowed money from him, first to seduce his (Dmitry’s) former fiancée and then a certain “floozy.” He described how Dmitry had beaten up a man whom Fyodor Pavlovich himself had sent on an errand, but Dmitry claimed that his father misrepresented the incident. Apparently, his father had told the “floozy” how to entrap him, and he had sent the other man to instruct her on how to sue him and land him in jail if he continued making demands regarding his inheritance. According to Dmitry, the woman had laughed at this information, and it came out that Fyodor Pavlovich had designs on her. Dmitry had come to the meeting hoping to reconcile with his father. Now all he could do was to publicly expose him.

The argument peaks; Fyodor Pavlovich insults the Church—By now, everyone except the starets was standing, and as usual Miusov took personal offense. The starets himself seemed to be waiting, as though wanting to understand the situation better. But Fyodor Pavlovich was not yet done. In a rage, he claimed he would have challenged Dmitry to a duel had he not been his son. He also defended the “floozies,” whom both Dmitry and Fyodor Pavlovich held in high regard despite her public reputation. Responding to his father’s outrage, Dmitry now echoed the chapter’s title as he pronounced his father unfit to live. Of course, Fyodor Pavlovich drew everyone’s attention to this. Then, returning to his defense of the woman, he compared her to Mary Magdalene, forgiven by Christ because of the great love she showed. This brought a reprimand from Father Yosif, who explained that that was not the kind of love that was meant. But Fyodor Pavlovich insisted it was and to the monks’ horror added that their ascetic lives were a waste of time.

The starets kneels before Dmitry and blesses him; the guests quickly exit—The final surprise came when the starets suddenly rose, knelt before Dmitry, and asked his forgiveness, smiling weakly as he did so. No one understood the move, but its power brought the argument to an immediate end, upon which the guests left with Dmitry leading, his face buried in his hands from shame.

Miusov tries to avoid the luncheon; Fyodor Pavlovich leaves instead—Now half an hour late for lunch, the guests were met by the monk who had delivered the abbot’s invitation. Annoyed and unwilling to be seen with Fyodor Pavlovich, Miusov tried to bow out, though he didn’t say why. But Fyodor Pavlovich had been affected by the starets’s unusual act and insisted on going so that Miusov could attend. After his own shameful behavior, he didn’t feel up to it, anyway. Miusov finally agreed, though he didn’t trust Fyodor Pavlovich’s motives and disliked Ivan as well.

Careerist Seminarian


The starets orders Alyosha to leave the monastery—Following the meeting’s sudden ending, Alyosha led the starets to his tiny, sparse bedroom. Exhausted and weak, the starets nevertheless ordered Alyosha to go serve at the abbot’s lunch, where his presence was needed. He added that upon his imminent death, Alyosha should leave the monastery for good. His place was in the world, and he should also marry without fail. Being in the world would be hard, but he would be all right if he stayed true to Christ. He should also remain close with both his brothers.

Alyosha wanted to ask about the starets’s unusual gesture towards Dmitry, but he refrained, knowing the starets would explain if he wanted to. As he headed to the abbot’s, he thought about the starets’s impending death and wondered how he would get along without him.

Alyosha meets Rakitin—As Alyosha hurried through the woods, he was surprised to find Rakitin waiting for him. Rakitin first told him that the abbot’s lunch was a special and rare occasion. But his real interest was in the starets’s mysterious gesture toward Dmitry. He saw it as an intentional “performance” and was sure the starets had picked up on a future murder in the Karamazov family. If he was right, the people would see his gesture as a prediction, and though bowing down before a murderer contradicted the starets’s morals, it would win him fame.

Rakitin’s worldly attitudes—Rakitin’s tone had been sarcastic throughout. He had even referred to the starets as a “holy fool” and to his gesture as “holy nonsense,” and despite his position as a seminary student, his words reflected a worldly mindset.

Initially confused by Rakitin’s observations, Alyosha admitted that the thought of murder had also crossed his mind. But he couldn’t understand Rakitin’s intense interest or his overconfident analysis of the Karamazov family’s interactions.

The Karamazovs as sensualists—Rakitin’s certainty stemmed from observing one dominant trait in the Karamazov family: sensualism. He predicted that it would make Dmitry go overboard and that even Alyosha, though still a virgin, had inherited the quality from his father. However, the other three Karamazovs had it so strongly that they were prepared to kill each other.

Alyosha related Rakitin’s statements to the “floozy,” named Grushenka, and protested that Dmitry hated her. But Rakitin countered that Dmitry was in love with her body and would do anything—right or wrong—for that. Even if he did hate her, it would make no difference.

In spite of his innocence, Alyosha understood, prompting Rakitin to harangue him about his own downfall because of his inborn sensuality. Grushenka had even plagued Rakitin to bring her Alyosha so she could seduce him. But Alyosha had no interest and switched the conversation back to his original questions about Rakitin’s attitudes.

Rakitin attacks Ivan; a dangerous triangle: Grushenka, Dmitry, and Fyodor Pavlovich—Rakitin’s response was to start attacking Ivan’s, Dmitry’s, and Fyodor Pavlovich’s characters. According to him, Ivan’s sensualism showed in his articles on theology, which were unapologetic jokes with no genuine basis. Then there was his vulture-like interest in Dmitry’s former fiancée, Katerina Ivanovna. The beautiful daughter of a wealthy family, Katerina Ivanovna brought with her a dowry of 60,000 rubles, which Rakitin surmised would suit Ivan just fine. As for Dmitry and Fyodor Pavlovich, they were both busy drooling over Grushenka, who had previously also helped Fyodor Pavlovich in his business dealings. To make matters worse, Grushenka was keeping them both at bay while deciding who would be more useful to her in the long run.

Rakitin’s real feelings—Alyosha protested that Ivan had much nobler concerns revolving around his need to reconcile his ideas. But Rakitin insisted that Ivan’s ideas about immortality and human morality were a joke. For his part, Rakitin was sure that human beings could find other reasons to do good, and here he echoed the values of the French Republic (though he didn’t mention this): liberty, equality, fraternity.

By the time his speech was done, Rakitin was so overheated that Alyosha was laughing. He guessed that Rakitin’s obvious hatred of Ivan was a poor mask for his own passion for Katerina Ivanovna, something Alyosha had suspected for a while. That comment seemed to hit a nerve, but Rakitin’s resentment also stemmed from Ivan’s supposed badmouthing of him while visiting Katerina Ivanovna. This was news to Alyosha, who had never heard Ivan even mention Rakitin. In describing the “badmouthing,” Rakitin said that Ivan had predicted a worldly future for him, even citing such details as his atheist liberal beliefs, his publishing career, the grand home he would build, and his investment practices—that is, if he failed to choose monkhood. How did Rakitin know about this conversation? He had overheard Dmitry relaying it to Grushenka while he himself was hiding in her bedroom.

Suspect connection—Alyosha recalled then that Rakitin was related to Grushenka, but Rakitin hotly denied this, angrily viewing it as a put-down that referred to his lower social status. He had mentioned the Karamazov family’s aristocratic lineage several times; but while Rakitin was not an aristocrat, he was certainly no prostitute’s relative. Alyosha apologized, repeating that that was what he had heard. It explained why Rakitin visited Grushenka so often, and he honestly had had no idea that she was a prostitute. Alyosha was also surprised at how intensely Rakitin held Grushenka in contempt. His own attitude towards her was more compassionate.

An unexpected commotion—Having arrived at the abbot’s, Rakitin brushed off the question about his visits to Grushenka. Then, as he was saying goodbye to Alyosha, they noticed a commotion. The other Karamazovs were leaving, but it seemed too early for lunch to be over, and everything pointed to another scandalous scene.

Another Scandal


Miusov regains his composure—With Fyodor Pavlovich gone, Miusov relaxed and decided to take a conciliatory approach at the abbot’s lunch. He regretted his outburst in the cell and wanted to show that he was better than Fyodor Pavlovich. He even decided to drop his territorial dispute with the monastery.

The abbot’s preparations—For all the simplicity and old-fashioned style of his two rooms, the abbot had obviously made special arrangements for the occasion. Everything was immaculate, with flowers lining the windows and a perfectly set table that already included bread, wine, the house mead, and the monastery’s famous kvass, a fermented Russian drink. Rakitin, whose lack of social standing prevented his attending, had used his kitchen help connections to peek inside the kitchen and had learned that it was a five-course meal, perfectly prepared and in excellent taste.

Rakitin’s envy—Rakitin’s ability to drum up connections was another proof of his discontent with his current state and his intense desire to get ahead in life. Honor was not his strong point, but having no sense of it, he was unaware of that. This was deeply disturbing to Alyosha, who otherwise cherished their friendship.

Greeting the abbot—By the time the party arrived, Maksimov and three hieromonks, including the two from the starets’s cell, were already there. The abbot—tall and energetic despite his elderliness—entered and bowed to the guests, who all went to receive his blessing. However, he resisted when Miusov attempted to kiss his hand.

Miusov’s speech—Undeterred, Miusov gave a speech apologizing for Fyodor Pavlovich’s absence. He made no effort to conceal his cousin’s bad behavior, though he did add that Fyodor Pavlovich regretted his actions and had therefore decided not to come, though he also hoped for forgiveness. The abbot’s gracious response to Miusov’s self-satisfied statement was that he would have welcomed Fyodor Pavlovich and hoped for friendship. Then he began to say grace as the guests all bowed their heads.

Fyodor Pavlovich changes his mind—Meanwhile, Fyodor Pavlovich was concocting another indecent plot. His moment of remorse was over, and he decided that since he had made one scene, he might as well go all the way. He realized that whatever ill will he harbored towards others came from his own nasty games, but that didn’t stop him from doing more. Except for his ability to evade legal trouble, he determined that he was a hopeless case, unable to reform; so instead of getting in his dilapidated coach, he headed back to the abbot’s.

Fyodor Pavlovich creates a scene—Fyodor Pavlovich had no clear plan of action. His spontaneous first move on arriving was to yell out his presence as he stood by the door. The lunch party was still standing, having just finished grace, and they all stared him. Fyodor Pavlovich was obviously up to no good.

Now Miusov’s good mood suddenly switched to rage, and he prepared to leave, announcing that this was too much for him. Fyodor Pavlovich took that as his cue to tell the abbot about Miusov’s intolerance of his presence. Still gracious, the abbot urged his guests to set aside their differences in a spirit of “kindred love.” But Miusov refused, so Fyodor Pavlovich decided to torment him by threatening to follow him around. Shouting that Miusov was unwilling to see him as family, he turned to Maksimov for confirmation, in the process addressing him as “von Sohn,” a man who had been murdered and robbed in a brothel. He had mentioned the resemblance to Maksimov in an earlier conversation, and now he used the reference to irritate the general company, though the monks had no idea what he was talking about.

Fyodor Pavlovich’s accusations—Fyodor Pavlovich then rambled on about his reasons for being there. Mentioning that he had insulted the monks’ ascetic habits earlier, he nevertheless added that he was honest while Miusov was insincere and resentful despite his elegant speech. He claimed to want to change his clownish ways but found it hard in a town that kept people down once they fell. He also accused the monks of hypocrisy and insisted he would remove Alyosha from the monastery. It made no difference to Fyodor Pavlovich that he based this last statement on nothing more than old rumors, and the more nonsense he uttered, the more he felt the need to prove himself by compounding it with even more nonsense.

The abbot’s gracious reply; Fyodor Pavlovich steps up his insults—Gracious as ever, the abbot replied by quoting an ancient saying that admonished the faithful to take every insult as a correction from their Lord. On finishing, he sincerely thanked Fyodor Pavlovich, whom he still welcomed as a guest. But Fyodor Pavlovich was determined to continue his ornery behavior. Calling the abbot’s statement hypocrisy, he then started in on the monks’ other practices, first criticizing them for fasting to save their souls, then pointing to the sumptuousness of the lunch that day—supported by poor, hardworking Russian peasants no less, while the monastery vampirized them!

Miusov leaves; Fyodor Pavlovich prepares to go and urges Maksimov to come with him—Unable to stand it any longer, Miusov rushed out the door with Kalganov in tow, while Father Yosif reprimanded Fyodor Pavlovich for his unseemly behavior. Using Miusov’s departure as his exit cue, Fyodor Pavlovich hurled a final slew of insults and promised to never again donate money to the monastery after all the suffering they had caused him (more lies). Once again, the abbot gave a gracious, forgiving reply, preferring to see the incident as a lesson rather than taking it personally. And once again, Fyodor Pavlovich responded ungraciously, topping it off by urging “von Sohn” (Maksimov) to come along and enjoy the good life.

Ivan knocks Maksimov off the carriage;Alyosha watches his family drive off—Fyodor Pavlovich left as raucously as he came, shouting at Alyosha from afar to pack up his things and go home with them. But Alyosha just stood there and observed. By now, Fyodor Pavlovich and an angry Ivan were in their rickety coach, when Maksimov suddenly came running out, begging to go along. As Fyodor Pavlovich exulted over his triumph, Maksimov was trying to climb in when Ivan suddenly smacked him off the carriage and ordered the driver to move off. Of course, Fyodor Pavlovich wanted to know why Ivan had done so. But except to tell his father to be quiet, Ivan had nothing to say to him and refused to even look at Fyodor Pavlovich for the rest of the ride.


The Servants’ Quarters

Fyodor Pavlovich’s house—Still within the town’s borders, Fyodor Pavlovich’s roomy, attractive, comfortable house was a bit rundown and full of nooks and crannies. It also had a large rat population, which kept Fyodor Pavlovich entertained, since he and Ivan lived there alone for the moment. At night, being suspicious and protective of his own welfare, Fyodor Pavlovich would lock out the servants, who had their own separate quarters.

The servants’ quarters—The servants’ quarters stood apart from the house and contained what was now the functional kitchen, having been built there because of Fyodor Pavlovich’s dislike of cooking aromas. Also roomy, the quarters housed three people: the elderly Grigory, Marfa (his wife), and the younger Smerdyakov.

Grigory Vasilyevich and his wife, Marfa Ignatyevna—Grigory Vasilyevich, already mentioned in earlier chapters, was an extremely loyal, upright man. He had been with Fyodor Pavlovich for a long time, and though he disapproved of his master’s behavior, he also protected him and had no intention of leaving. His wife, Marfa Ignatyevna, had a more practical bent and once suggested moving to Moscow to set up their own business. But Grigory wouldn’t consider it and terminated the discussion once and for all.

Fyodor Pavlovich’s need for non-judgmental compassion—For all his debauchery, Fyodor Pavlovich had a deep-seated need for unconditional compassion and loyalty, especially when his minimal conscience would awaken through his drunken stupor and he would suddenly find himself gripped by overwhelming fear. At those times, he needed the presence of a loyal, upright person—the opposite of himself—to reassure him, and that role was filled by Grigory, who even got up in the middle of the night if Fyodor Pavlovich needed him. Later, Alyosha would play the same role even more strongly, partly because of his loving innocence and partly because of the natural father-son connection.

Stern but compassionate—Along with his reserve and strong sense of right, Grigory had a deep compassion for the innocent and defenseless. That had included Alyosha’s mother, Sofya Ivanovna, whom Grigory had always defended, even against Fyodor Pavlovich. His compassion extended to children, proved by his housing and caring for his master’s own neglected children until they were taken away.

A loving though reserved husband—In his own reserved way, Grigory was also a loving husband, and Marfa Ignatyevna was sensitive and intelligent enough to surmise this. He had only punished her once by pulling her hair a bit in private after she danced a little too dramatically during a performance of the female servants some time ago. She had learned a more professional style of dancing when she worked for the Miusovs, and her husband found this improper. That took place early during Fyodor Pavlovich’s marriage to his first wife, and it never happened again, nor did Grigory ever punish her again. Other than that, Grigory and Marfa didn’t speak much, but they understood and respected each other; and despite her better practical intelligence, Marfa Ignatyevna respected her husband’s spiritual sensitivity and was content to be quietly obedient, leaving him to his own thoughts and decisions.

Misfortune with his own child—Despite Grigory’s understanding marriage and his love of children, his own short experience as a father was heavy with sadness. The only child he ever sired was born deformed, with six fingers on one of his hands, which to Grigory meant that the infant was a “monster.” At the child’s christening, Grigory was still so tormented over the deformity that he asked the priest to not baptize the child. Fortunately, the priest did listen and christened it anyway. But the child died of an infection at two weeks of age, and after Grigory buried him, he never spoke of him again.

Grigory’s strong religious streak—Following the death of his child, Grigory’s reading of religious books intensified. He was already a great fan of Job and the writings of the sixth-century Church father Isaac the Syrian. Now he added The Lives of the Saints to his reading; and although he didn’t adopt their beliefs, he also investigated the teachings of the flagellants—ascetics who, among other things, whipped themselves to purge their souls.

The birth in the garden—On the same day that Grigory buried his child, his wife awoke during the night to a strange moaning sound. In her distressed state, she believed it to be a crying infant, maybe even her dead baby calling to her. She woke Grigory, who thought it sounded like a woman’s voice and went out to investigate. That the sound was coming from within the garden was strange in itself, since the gate was always locked during the nighttime. Grigory finally traced the moaning to the bathhouse where, to his horror, he found the village idiot girl Lizaveta, who lay dying on the floor next to her newborn child.

Lizaveta Smerdyashchaya


Lizaveta’s appearance, background, and habits—Lizaveta Smerdyashchaya (meaning “smelly”) was regarded as a “holy fool” by the townspeople, who loved and trusted her completely in spite of her condition. Only about 4½ feet tall, she was a strong, healthy twenty-year-old with thick, dark, though dirty and matted hair and a meek yet disagreeable idiot’s stare. Regardless of the time of year, she habitually went barefoot and refused to wear anything other than one coarse shirt, even if the townsfolk tried to clothe her. Originally a half-orphan whose father was an abusive, homeless drunkard, Lizaveta was nevertheless well cared for by the townspeople—as much as possible, anyway. This was even truer after her father’s death. In addition to their futile attempts to provide her with clothing, the townsfolk—especially the religious ones—also gave her food and coins and welcomed her wholeheartedly into their homes and shops. Trust was never an issue. The truth was that Lizaveta took no interest in people’s gifts: as soon as she received either food or money, she would toss the money in a donation box and give away the food, her own diet consisting of nothing but water and dark rye bread. In winter, she slept in the shed or on the porch belonging to the people who had housed her father, but otherwise, she preferred to make her bed on the church porch or in people’s kitchen gardens.

The incident with the drunken young men—It was near one such kitchen garden that a pack of young drunkards noticed Lizaveta asleep one full-moon night. It was late, and they were taking the back route home. Though gentlemen by social standing, their drunkenness had gotten the better of them, and they started ridiculing and insulting her, even calling her an animal instead of a woman. Fyodor Pavlovich, who was part of the group, came forward to defend her; and though that included leering at her, he protested that she was definitely a woman. He had recently learned of his first wife’s death, and his behavior at the time was especially degenerate and buffoonish, to the point that almost everyone found him disgusting. However, no one took him seriously that night, and after some more insulting behavior, the young men all left, Fyodor Pavlovich presumably included.

Lizaveta’s mysterious pregnancy—Some months later, gossip began to circulate about Lizaveta being pregnant, and before long, there was talk of Fyodor Pavlovich as the responsible party. No one would ever know for sure, though. Lizaveta couldn’t speak up for herself, being only capable of random sounds; and now, years after her death and the birth of her child, most of the original group of men had left. The one that remained, other than Fyodor Pavlovich, was too established by now to admit his involvement, and Fyodor Pavlovich wasn’t about to come forward. In this, Grigory had been a great help at the time of the incident, diverting the attention to Lizaveta herself as the guilty one or pointing the finger at a known criminal, a man named Karp, who had recently been released from prison and was back in town.

Lizaveta dies giving birth; Grigory and Marfa raise the child, later named Smerdyakov—None of this could influence the townspeople, who cared for Lizaveta even more than before, and one well-to-do widow even provided her with a safe place to have her child. But Lizaveta had her own ideas, and right before the birth, she snuck out and ran off, apparently climbing over the fence into Fyodor Pavlovich’s garden and injuring herself in the process. It was there that Grigory found her in the bathhouse, upon which he ran for his wife, who immediately went to fetch the midwife. Lizaveta died, but the child lived, and Grigory and Marfa raised him. Grigory believed he was sent by his own dead child and saw him as the offspring of a good woman and an evil man. There are hints here and there that he suspected Fyodor Pavlovich, even though he defended him. Fyodor Pavlovich himself was happy to have the child as part of his household, though he never admitted to being his father. Even so, people attached his name, “Fyodorovich,” to the child’s first name, Pavel. Pavel grew up to be Fyodor Pavlovich’s second servant and cook, and eventually his master renamed him “Smerdyakov,” after his mother.

Passionate Confessions: Verse


Alyosha’s response to his father’s drama—Alyosha saw right through his father’s dramatic outbursts, and Fyodor Pavlovich’s shouting from the carriage as he left the monastery was no exception. He knew that the real reason for these pranks was their shock effect and that neither his father nor anyone else would ever intentionally hurt him. It was therefore unlikely that Fyodor Pavlovich would prevent him from returning to the monastery, so though Alyosha immediately visited the abbot’s kitchen to determine what had happened, he remained in his usual state of calm.

The fear of one woman disturbs Alyosha’s otherwise calm being—One thing, however, was troubling Alyosha. It was the thought of seeing Katerina Ivanovna, whose presence had frightened him since the day he met her, although not because she was beautiful or because he distrusted her noble motive to help Dmitry. In fact, Alyosha couldn’t figure out what his fear was about. He had wanted to see Dmitry before meeting her, but he didn’t have time to get to his house and wasn’t sure he was there, anyway. Now she urgently wanted to see him, and as he headed over there, he calculated that the two of them would be alone.

Running into Dmitry by chance—Katerina Ivanovna lived some distance away, so Alyosha decided to take the back roads to cut the distance in half, especially since he also needed to visit his father. On the way, he ran into Dmitry while passing a house near the residence of a crippled widow and her daughter, now relegated to poverty conditions that forced them to beg for food from Fyodor Pavlovich’s nearby kitchen, which was not an issue for Marfa Ignatyevna. The irony of the situation was that the daughter, a former attendant for wealthy women, was too proud to let go of her past and refused to sell her fancy dresses, which she still like to show off.

Dmitry’s passion and desire to confess—Dmitry was sitting on a fence when Alyosha ran into him. At first, he was whispering as they talked, but when Alyosha pointed out that there was no one else there, Dmitry realized it wasn’t necessary. He had only been whispering because he had a secret. When Dmitry led him to a nearby summerhouse, Alyosha discovered that his brother had been drinking brandy, but Dmitry insisted that he wasn’t drunk and was just treating himself. Alyosha soon learned that his brother was in love, and at times Dmitry even lapsed into verse to express his passion. He was quick to point out, though, that being in love was not the same as loving and that the only person he truly loved was Alyosha. As for his being in love, his object of devotion was a “slut” who had so captured his attention that he felt like he was falling. He wanted to make a confession and had hoped to see Alyosha, his earth angel; so he was ecstatic when Alyosha showed up by chance, especially since he also wanted to deliver a message to both his father and Katerina Ivanovna.

Versifying and philosophizing about the fall of man and the eternal immanence of God—At first, Alyosha was in a hurry, but realizing that his brother needed him right then, he chose to relax and simply be present. Dmitry explained to him that he wanted to confess in verse, preferably Schiller’s Ode to Joy, except that he didn’t speak German. Still, that didn’t stop him from lapsing into full verse, quoting from different poets, including another Schiller poem. The common thread in Dmitry’s versifying was the fall of man, which he felt acutely and thought about daily. His own passionate Karamazov nature had brought him down to the lowest depths, but from there he had discovered something: no matter how close he was to hell, even in his lowest, most degraded moments, he was still in touch with the radiance of God—he was still the offspring of the joyous source of all life. Ultimately, he broke into Schiller’s Ode to Joy, after all (though not in German).

The terror of beauty, the place where lust and innocence converge—The final excerpt Dmitry recited ended by relating the “insect’s lust” to the joy of life bestowed by God. He added that he was a lustful insect—a typical Karamazov in that way, including Alyosha. And the great trap was beauty, where the innocence of heaven and the lusts of hell came together to confound man, the victim of the conflict between the two. But now it was time to stop preaching and get on with his confession.

Passionate Confessions: Story Form


Dmitry’s degenerate lifestyle—Dmitry admitted to leading a dissolute lifestyle, but he denied using or even needing their father’s money to seduce young women. He did admit, however, to being a spendthrift when it came to entertaining women. He also confessed to being extremely fickle, changing lovers from day to day—and their backgrounds were irrelevant. He’d had his share of young ladies, but he actually preferred filth and drunkenness, the so-called “back alleys” of life, where he’d even found some jewels. In short, he was a Karamazov through and through, a sensualist who reveled in debauchery and also had a mean streak.

Alyosha’s admission—Alyosha was blushing by this point, but when Dmitry asked if his story was too much, Alyosha denied it. It wasn’t Dmitry’s words but his own thoughts and feelings that embarrassed him. He recognized the Karamazov streak in himself, the only difference being that his brother had more experience with it. But Alyosha knew that once you took one step in that direction, getting off the ladder was impossible; and he had already stepped foot on the bottom rung. Moved by his youngest brother’s admission, Dmitry continued his confession, his goal being to explain the truth behind his father’s accusations. He added that Ivan already knew everything but would never breathe a word to anyone.

The lieutenant colonel and his older daughter, Agafya Ivanovna—The incidentDmitry was referring to had happened back in Siberia while he was still in the military. At the time, he was enlisted under a lieutenant colonel, an elderly, well-to-do, respected two-time widower with two daughters, one from each marriage. The oldest, Agafya Ivanovna, was a lively, friendly girl. Good-looking enough, if not beautiful, she lived with her father and aunt. She and Dmitry became good friends, although nothing more ever happened between them. Dmitry was already showing evidence of wildness and financial extravagance, but he was popular with the townsfolk, anyway. However, he made the mistake of being disrespectful to his commanding officer, with the result that the otherwise generous lieutenant colonel disliked him.

Katerina Ivanovna, the lieutenant colonel’s younger daughter—This didn’t help matters when the lieutenant colonel’s second daughter, the proud and beautiful Katerina Ivanovna, arrived in town for a visit. The lieutenant colonel often sponsored balls and dinner parties for the town, so expectations were high for something out of the ordinary. The town’s important ladies also set up multiple events to celebrate Katerina Ivanovna, who had come from the capital, where she recently graduated from finishing school. At one party, Dmitry noticed her looking at him, but when he approached her later, she treated him with disdain. Offended, he silently swore revenge.

Dmitry receives a large sum from his father; the lieutenant colonel’s quandary—Coincidentally, Fyodor Pavlovich had just sent Dmitry 6000 rubles as a settlement over their will dispute, although didn’t understand at the time that that was what it was. At around the same time, the lieutenant colonel had gotten into a financial and career scrape in which his superiors had forced him to resign after a large sum went missing from the battalion’s coffers. Dmitry learned that this had actually happened every year for the past four years, when the lieutenant colonel would loan the money to another elderly man named Tritimov, who would invest it and then return both the capital and interest. But this year, Tritimov had failed to return the money and denied ever receiving it, thus leaving the lieutenant colonel hanging.

The lieutenant colonel’s attempted suicide; Agafya’s knowledge—The lieutenant colonel was at home sick when he received the order, delivered by messenger, to produce the funds within two hours. Desperate, he tried to shoot himself, but was foiled by Agafya, who caught him just in time. How did Agafya know to check on her father? Dmitry, already aware of the money issue, had offered to produce the funds if Agafya would send Katerina Ivanovna to him. Disgusted, Agafya called him a scoundrel, threw him out, and then relayed the event to Katerina Ivanovna. It didn’t help that the family, formerly held in such high regard, was now being shunned because of the money incident.

Katerina Ivanovna comes to collect the money from Dmitry; Dmitry’s struggle—Immediately after her father’s attempted suicide, Katerina Ivanovna appeared on Dmitry’s doorstep to ask for the 4500 rubles he had promised in exchange for her coming. Still proud and resolute, she was obviously also terrified and unsure. In that moment of temptation, all Dmitry’s “insect” lusts reared up and almost took over. He was no stranger to seducing young women, but in this case—since he also considered himself a man of honor—he intended to propose to her the following day. However, it occurred to him that she would hold him in contempt and reject him, so he imagined shaming her instead. This soon metamorphosed into intense hatred bordering on love; and while that brought him a kind of ecstasy that challenged his self-control, in the end he resisted his instincts, though it took all he had. From his desk, Dmitry produced a 5000-ruble promissory note and handed it to Katerina Ivanovna, who rushed out, but not before kneeling down before him, her head to the ground in a deep, traditionally Russian gesture of respect.

Dmitry’s passion—Still struggling with his passions after Katerina Ivanovna’s departure, Dmitry removed his sword from his sheath and considered killing himself. But then he thought better about it and refrained.

Having reached the end of that story—a secret now known only to the three Karamazov brothers—Dmitry rose and moved to a new seat. The intensity of his feeling had made him break out into a sweat, so he first wiped if off before resuming.

Passionate Confessions: “Free Fall”


Dmitry and Katerina avoid each other; the lieutenant colonel dies—Dmitry and Katerina Ivanovna saw nothing further of each other for the whole month and a half she remained in town. He felt it would be wrong to propose, and Katerina Ivanovna simply stayed away from him. However, the day after her visit, she sent Dmitry the change for his 5000-ruble loan, though without a single word accompanying it. Her father was able to pay the money he owed, and his honor was restored, but then he became sick and died shortly afterwards.

The move to Moscow; a sudden gift; Katerina’s proposal—Following their father’s proper military burial, Katerina and Agafya moved to Moscow. There Katerina’s life changed dramatically when another relative, the widow of a general, suddenly lost both her heirs to illness. Katerina Ivanovna became her new heir and also received an 80,000-ruble dowry. Before leaving for Moscow, she had sent Dmitry a one-line note saying that she would write and to be patient. Then, after her turn of fortune, Dmitry received the full sum he had loaned her, followed by an intense love note amounting to a marriage proposal. In it, Katerina Ivanovna promised to be the perfect wife but also said that she wanted to “save” him. Yet in spite of that twist, her own real passion for Dmitry was unmistakable.

A passionate, mixed reaction—Now feeling unworthy of Katerina Ivanovna, Dmitry reacted with passion, self-doubt, shame, and confusion. Still, he wrote to her right away, even mentioning his doubts about how she, now wealthy, could love him who was nothing but a broke fraud. Later, he regretted mentioning money.

In recounting the story to Alyosha, Dmitry does not explain how he could be broke already if he just received 4500 rubles from Katerina Ivanovna, and maybe he wasn’t. But we do know that he was a voracious spendthrift with a talent for dropping large sums of money in one sitting. He also mentions that when he was in Siberia (and he no doubt continued this habit elsewhere), he liked to go out a lot and spend money on the ladies. Whatever he did with the 4500 rubles, he does always seem to either be partying or broke, judging from his activities (e.g., frequent pub visits) and the way he has to scrounge up money for travel expenses, etc.

However, this is not related to the 3000 rubles mentioned below. That money was entrusted to him by Katerina Ivanovna to deliver to her relatives, which he never did, instead using it for his own purposes and hiding half in his neck pouch.But we don’t hear about the hidden half until much later in the story.

Dmitry sends Ivan, who falls in love—Back to Dmitry’s story. Having read the note, Dmitry visited Ivan, first pouring out his heart and then sending him to Katerina Ivanovna as his emissary. Ivan ended up falling in love, which Dmitry saw as a possible solution to his dilemma: since he was a scoundrel and Ivan was respectable and educated, perhaps his younger brother would make a better match for Katerina Ivanovna.

Destined for the gutter—Alyosha didn’t agree. He felt that Dmitry was just the type she’d want. But Dmitry was certain—and furious—that Katerina Ivanovna only saw him as a means for expressing her virtue. At the same time, he knew that her goodness was real, and he didn’t feel he deserved it. Ivan had to be fuming that fate had favored a scoundrel like him, and Dmitry himself felt it was wrong. He also wouldn’t control his wild revelings. He felt he belonged and would die in the gutter, while Katerina Ivanovna would marry Ivan.

Engaged but regretful—For all his intense feelings in the opposite direction, Dmitry was engaged to Katerina Ivanovna three months after their first meeting. They had the blessing of her benefactor (who liked Dmitry but not Ivan), and the engagement itself was a lavish formal event, complete with religious overtones. After the engagement, Dmitry was 100 percent open with Katerina Ivanovna, who was understanding but also insisted he change. Now he had made up his mind to never see her again, but he couldn’t face telling her this himself, so he was sending Alyosha instead.

In love with Grushenka; stolen money—Alyosha deduced that Dmitry’s return to the “back alleys” meant returning to Grushenka, and he was disappointed. He had hoped Dmitry’s infatuation with her was just a phase. But to Dmitry that made no sense. Katerina Ivanovna was an extraordinary fiancée—why would Dmitry, who still had some sense of honor, leave her without a more serious reason?He explained that hisoriginal intention in seeing Grushenka had been to beat her for her involvement in one of his father’s tricks against him. But when he got there, he fell for her. He even took her to another town, Mokroye, where he spent 3000 rubles on champagne and entertainment. He was ready to marry her and be her slave, but she just laughed, gave him nothing, and continued leading him on. Even worse, the money he spent wasn’t his own: Katerina Ivanovna had given it to him to mail to Agafya, but Dmitry never mailed it and kept lying to Katerina Ivanovna, saying he’d forgotten. That was new for him—he had never considered himself a thief. Now he’d stooped to an all-time low.

A desperate play—Alyosha assured him that Katerina Ivanovna would forgive him, but Dmitry was convinced that he would have to produce the money. Alyosha even offered his own 2000-ruble inheritance, certain that Ivan would give Dmitry the rest. But Alyosha didn’t yet have access to his money, and Dmitry needed it today. That was why he wanted Alyosha to ask their father for the money, even though they both knew Fyodor Pavlovich wouldn’t give it to him. But Dmitry was desperate, and he figured his father owed it to him as part of the large return he’d gotten from investing Adelaida Ivanovna’s (Dmitry’s mother’s) money. He saw his request as Fyodor Pavlovich’s one last chance to make up for being a bad person and father.

Fyodor Pavlovich’s 3000-ruble offer to Grushenka—But there was more to the situation. Dmitry had learned that Fyodor Pavlovich had wrapped up 3000 rublesto give to Grushenka in return for coming to visit him. Grushenka had made no promises, but she was due to arrive at Fyodor Pavlovich’s any day now, and if she took his offer, Dmitry figured he would lose his chance to marry her. Meanwhile, he was hiding out in the summerhouse near Fyodor Pavlovich’s, keeping an eye on the situation. Only Smerdyakov knew about the wrapped-up money, and Fyodor Pavlovich was trying to send Ivan away for a couple of days on a business pretext so that he could see Grushenka in private. Right now, however, Dmitry knew that their father was at home getting drunk with Ivan sitting beside him, so he wanted Alyosha to head over there.

Talk of murder—Alyosha was concerned that his brother was losing his mind, but Dmitry assured him he was in control of things—and God would provide a miracle. Alyosha agreed to try to convince their father, though it might take hours. Dmitry knew that but insisted he also visit Katerina Ivanovna that day, no matter how late and whether Alyosha had the money or not. In the meantime, he would keep watch. If Grushenka came to Fyodor Pavlovich’s, he would prevent her from entering. But if Fyodor Pavlovich interfered, Dmitry’s hatred of his father just might take over, and he was likely to kill him. Deeply worried about his brother, Alyosha placed his faith in God’s care of the situation and left.



Alyosha arrives at his father’s house—Alyosha arrived in time to join his father and brother for coffee. They had just finished eating in the large sitting room, which Fyodor Pavlovich preferred over the dining room. Grigory and Smerdyakov were in attendance, and everyone except Ivan seemed to be having an unusually good time. From what Alyosha could see, though, his father wasn’t yet drunk.

Smerdyakov’s contempt—The cause of the laughter, mostly from Fyodor Pavlovich, was something Smerdyakov had said. Still in his mid-twenties, Smerdyakov was normally anything but funny. From childhood, he had proved arrogant and morose, and his dislike of other people was obvious. His contempt for living creatures extended to cats, which he used to hang and then bury as if performing a religious rite. Grigory once caught and beat him, but that just compounded Smerdyakov’s misanthropy, which included his adoptive parents. Grigory concluded that Smerdyakov wasn’t human and even told him so. Smerdyakov never forgave him.

Onset of seizures—Although Grigory managed to teach Smerdyakov reading and writing, when it came to learning the scriptures, the boy again proved hopeless early on when he mocked the idea that light was created before the sun, moon, and stars. Grigory punished him by slapping him on the cheek, which may have had something to do with the onset of Smerdyakov’s epilepsy a week later. That occasioned a sudden concern for the boy, now twelve, on the part of Fyodor Pavlovich, who sent for the doctor. But the seizures couldn’t be cured and continued to occur roughly once a month in varying degrees of intensity. In any case, Grigory was no longer allowed to beat him.

Fyodor Pavlovich’s attempts at kindness—Fyodor Pavlovich tried to be kind to Smerdyakov in other ways, too, but his results were no better than Grigory’s. He gave Smerdyakov both small amounts of money and treats, allowed him in the house, and even opened his otherwise locked library to him. Smerdyakov showed his usual lack of gratitude. The first book Fyodor Pavlovich offered him, a funny work, held no interest for him because it wasn’t “true;” while the second, a history book, was too boring.

Cooking school in Moscow—The next challenge was Smerdyakov’s increasing pickiness about his food, cooked by Marfa Ignatyevna. He would examine it with extreme caution, no matter what it was. After doing this for a while, he would finally put it in his mouth. On hearing about this, Fyodor Pavlovich took it as his cue to send the boy to cooking school in Moscow. Predictably, Smerdyakov showed as little interest in Moscow as anywhere else and spent most of his free time alone. But he did return with outstanding cooking skills, for which Fyodor Pavlovich paid him.

Changed appearance; dislike of women—While in Moscow, Smerdyakov also acquired a taste for fine clothing and good grooming. But in spite of his fastidiousness with his appearance, he looked sickly (implied by his yellow face). And though he returned just a few years later, he was significantly aged and resembled a eunuch. These last two factors may have been related to his worsening seizures in the first case and his thorough distaste for women in the second. When Fyodor Pavlovich asked him if he wanted to get married, Smerdyakov resented the question and wouldn’t even reply.

Honest but also inscrutable—For all his faults, Smerdyakov was extremely honest. When Fyodor Pavlovich once dropped three hundred rubles in the courtyard, Smerdyakov placed the money on the table, where Fyodor Pavlovich found it the next day. But honest as he was, he was impossible to read and said practically nothing, even to Fyodor Pavlovich, who treated him well, trusted him, and even liked him in spite of his orneriness and standoffishness. Yet even with all the kindnesses Fyodor Pavlovich showed him, Smerdyakov’s opinion of his master was no better than anyone else’s.

Uncontrolled moments of contemplation—Smerdyakov was even more unreadable in his moments of sudden contemplation, when his mind seemed to go blank for as many as ten minutes. It could happen anywhere, and exactly what was going on, if anything, wasn’t clear. Whatever he was contemplating seemed to be on a subconscious level. It was a trait common to many peasants. But peasant or not, whoever was prone to these moments seemed to be having an experience of profound subjective value. Moreover, these experiences, once collected and digested, had the peculiar quality of eventually producing a sudden reaction that could tip either way—towards saintly devotion or irrational destruction. And it was impossible to predict which one it would be.

Smerdyakov’s Controversial Argument


Balaam’s ass—But that wasn’t what happened just now. Smerdyakov had broken his usual silence, prompting Fyodor Pavlovich to liken him to Balaam’s ass, since neither of them normally spoke. The comparison is perverse, though, since Balaam’s ass was trying to act according to the angel’s command, whereas Smerdyakov was advocating going against God.

Smerdyakov’s outrageous statement—The issue concerned the news of a soldier who had been caught, tortured, and killed by Muslims for refusing to deny his religion. Grigory had heard about it earlier that day and relayed it to Fyodor Pavlovich during dinner. Seeing his master in an especially lighthearted and friendly but also mocking mood, Smerdyakov, who was standing nearby, started smiling. When Fyodor Pavlovich asked why, Smerdyakov loudly declared that the soldier would have committed no sin, in his opinion, if he had renounced his faith to preserve his life. Later, he could make up for it with good deeds. That was what he would do (though he never the mentioned the good deeds in relation to himself), and it seemed to him a perfectly practical solution. For Fyodor Pavlovich, Smerdyakov’s outrageous statement was fodder for an amusing after-dinner conversation; for Grigory, it was proof of his adopted son’s vile temperament, and Smerdyakov used Grigory’s short irritated responses as well as Fyodor Pavlovich’s arguments and questions to ridicule his adoptive father.

A few short interruptions—It was during this conversation that Alyosha walked in and took a seat at the table on his father’s invitation. Fyodor Pavlovich also interrupted twice to briefly whisper to Ivan, first, that Smerdyakov’s performance was aimed at him (Ivan) and that he should make some encouraging comment; and second, that his own love for Ivan equaled his love for Alyosha and never to forget that.

Smerdyakov’s argument—To a Christian mentality, as expressed by both Grigory and Fyodor Pavlovich, Smerdyakov was as good as damned. But Smerdyakov’s argument held that the mere thought of renouncing his faith would automatically excommunicate him in heaven, making him a heathen. If he were a heathen, he would have nothing to renounce when asked to do so by his non-Christian capturers. In that case, declaring himself a non-Christian would be a moot point and therefore no sin.

Pure nonsense—Grigory couldn’t believe what he was hearing. He knew that it was nonsense, but he couldn’t explain why. Fyodor Pavlovich saw right through it, but thought it was hilarious. Even so, he wasted no time informing Smerdyakov that his argument was pure drivel, and he kept comparing him to the Jesuits, considered controversial renegades by many. Fyodor Pavlovich added that even if his damnation resulted from just the thought of renunciation, did Smerdyakov honestly believe that any kind of damnation would be easy? Smerdyakov replied that that particular sin would only be a venial (minor) sin.

The “true believer” argument—Again Grigory stammered that Smerdyakov’s arguments were untrue, and again Smerdyakov replied with composure, this time citing Christ’s statement about believers being able to move mountains. What right did Grigory have to judge him if he couldn’t move mountains? Didn’t that mean that he, too, was not a true believer? In fact, who in the world could move mountains other than maybe one or two saints hidden away in Egypt’s deserts? And was God so merciless, contrary to the teaching of His loving nature, that He would damn everyone else for failing to be true believers?

Fyodor Pavlovich’s excitement over the “true” Russian faith—Here Fyodor Pavlovich got excited. Did Smerdyakov believe that such people actually existed? Wasn’t this the true Russian faith—not the part about renouncing his faith but the part about the two true believers capable of moving mountains? He asked his sons for confirmation. Alyosha resisted at first because of the overall thrust of Smerdyakov’s argument, but in the end, both he and Ivan acknowledged the similarity. Fyodor Pavlovich was adamant that the rest was complete nonsense: true faith was not self-serving and convenient. But for that bit about moving mountains, he even promised Smerdyakov a gold coin.

The argument’s finale—Smerdyakov continued his argument, aiming it once again at Grigory. Suppose a true believer could move mountains. If that true believer were captured and threatened with torture and death, couldn’t he simply crush his enemies with one simple thought? And if he couldn’t, was he a true believer? And if not—if he weren’t blessed with the seal of heaven—why should he renounce his life for something he didn’t have to begin with? In a moment of absolute terror, it would be perfectly natural to opt for preserving your life. And since God’s nature was to be merciful, Smerdyakov was convinced that He would forgive such a moment of weakness.

A Few Too Many


A sudden change of mood—Fyodor Pavlovich was downing shots of brandy throughout the conversation, and Ivan had already noticed earlier that he’d had enough and even mentioned this to his father. Of course, Fyodor Pavlovich ignored him and kept drinking. This may have been the cause of his sudden sour mood once Smerdyakov finished his argument. Yelling at him and calling him “Jesuit” again, he tossed both servants out, though his words to Grigory were kinder.

Wary of Smerdyakov—With the servants gone, Fyodor Pavlovich now openly voiced his irritation with Smerdyakov. Lately, he was always present at dinner, and this bothered Fyodor Pavlovich, who was sure Ivan had done something to get Smerdyakov’s obvious interest and respect. But Ivan denied it, adding that Smerdyakov was a low-class rogue who, along with others like him, would rise to the top someday. Fyodor Pavlovich was wary of him in any case. Both he and Ivan had noticed a lot of thinking going on behind Smerdyakov’s stubborn silence, but where it would lead was unclear.

Rambling from too much brandy—Ivan and Fyodor Pavlovich agreed that that was enough on that subject, and Fyodor Pavlovich concluded that all Russian peasants should be flogged, upon which he started rambling on and on about the merits of flogging, Russia’s deplorable state, etc. The alcohol had clearly gone to his head, so Ivan tried to put a stop to his drinking for the night. But Fyodor Pavlovich insisted on having two more—and he wasn’t finished talking, either. As he chattered about the useful if sadistic practice of beating girls and marrying them later, Fyodor Pavlovich noticed that Alyosha was embarrassed. This led to an apology about his behavior at the abbot’s, but soon he was blabbing about how the monasteries should be done away with and the monks decapitated for all their mystical nonsense, which was impeding Russia’s progress and standing in the way of truth. Ivan pointed out that if truth prevailed, Fyodor Pavlovich would be the first to go. Realizing that he was right, Fyodor Pavlovich decided that the monasteries could stay after all, while the more savvy among the populace (like him) would continue taking advantage of the situation and enjoying life.

Questioning his sons about the existence of God—Earlier, Fyodor Pavlovich had asked his sons whether they, like everyone else, considered him nothing more than a joker. In Ivan’s eyes, he read that he did; but he believed Alyosha’s sincere response when he said that he didn’t. Now Ivan was laughing again as his father, suddenly serious, wanted to know whether Ivan and Alyosha believed in God. When he asked why Ivan was laughing, Ivan explained that it was over his father’s amusing response to Smerdyakov’s Russian peasant belief in the existence of two mountain-moving saints. Admitting that he, too, had some of the Russian peasant’s mystical bent, Fyodor Pavlovich was determined to show Ivan that even he, his philosopher son, wasn’t exempt.

But back to his question about the existence of God and immortality. Ivan repeatedly gave a firm “no” in response to both questions, while Alyosha replied “yes.” Fyodor Pavlovich himself agreed with Ivan, who, in response to another of his father’s questions, jokingly suggested that the devil was the real mocker of mankind—not that Ivan believed in the devil. But as far as God was concerned, Fyodor Pavlovich felt that too many resources had been wasted on a belief that led nowhere. Ivan pointed out, however, that neither civilization nor brandy would have existed without the belief in God. And with that, he again tried to stop his father from any further drinking.

Total drunkenness and more confused ramblings—But no, Fyodor Pavlovich wanted one more drink, even though he was already drunk. When he asked Alyosha if he was angry with him, Alyosha replied that he wasn’t—he knew his father had goodness in his heart, even if his ramblings indicated otherwise. Apologizing about his behavior towards the starets, Fyodor Pavlovich then started confusing the starets with someone else, rambling on about how he, too, was an agnostic and sensualist. Then, realizing that he was drunk (though he wanted one more) and his memories mixed up, he started blaming Ivan for not interrupting him.

More ramblings: from Grushenka to Sofya Ivanovna—Ivan figured it was time to leave, but Fyodor Pavlovich detained him. He wanted to know why he wouldn’t leave town for two days, as he’d asked him to. Ivan said he would, but Fyodor Pavlovich didn’t believe him, accused him of spying, and started pitting the two brothers against each other.

Now serious, Alyosha told his father to stop attacking Ivan. After blaming Ivan for not removing the brandy soon enough, Fyodor Pavlovich started telling him about Grushenka, though he didn’t mention her name. He wanted to introduce him to this “barefoot” girl, adding that she shouldn’t be shunned for that, though he later equated it with being lower class and ugly. Then he started talking about how every woman, no matter who or what age, had some attractive quality. You just had to know how to approach each woman, since each was different.

This got him talking about Alyosha and Ivan’s mother, the “klikusha,” who had a nervous type of laughter that preceded her hysterical fits. He mentioned how he had never harmed her except once, when he spit on an icon to show her the pointlessness of praying to something that had no power. For a moment, he feared she would kill him, a look he had in her seen before. But her reaction was to leap up, raise her hands in the air, and then hide her face, shake, and fall down. This was exactly what Alyosha started to do now, to his father’s dismay and horror.

The scene reaches its peak: hysteria, fury, and terror—With Alyosha collapsed and crying in a chair, his father ordered Ivan to take emergency measures. But Ivan’s anger had also peaked by then. Fyodor Pavlovich had completely forgotten that the “klikusha” was also his mother, and Ivan’s anger was so intense that it frightened his father for a moment. Yet before anything else could happen, Dmitry burst into the room, and Fyodor Pavlovich now cowered behind Ivan in fear for his life.



Dmitry’s frenzy—Dmitry’s sudden arrival was based on his belief that Grushenka had entered the house through the back way, and he was determined to find her. To do this, he had to plow his way through the sitting room and the rear rooms, but in the meantime Grigory had bolted the door and stood in his way. Unmindful of anything but his frenzied goal, Dmitry knocked down the old servant and broke a vase as he rushed through the rooms. Equally frenzied about Grushenka’s possible arrival (though he knew better, since she wasn’t expected and the house was locked), Fyodor Pavlovich followed, only to be dragged back to the parlor by his other two sons, who were concerned for his life. When Dmitry returned empty-handed, his father rushed at him. Dmitry’s response was to knock him down and kick him in the face. But neither Ivan nor Alyosha would have that. Ivan pulled his brother away with Alyosha helping, and Alyosha ordered Dmitry to leave. Still in a frenzy, Dmitry asked Alyosha—the only person he trusted there—to tell him the truth about whether Grushenka had been there or not. Alyosha confirmed that she had not and that no one was expecting her. On that note, Dmitry rushed out again, determined to find her, but not without first expressing his intense hatred for his father. Nor did he hesitate to say that he would kill him if necessary—and Ivan wouldn’t be able to prevent it.

Helping Fyodor Pavlovich—With Dmitry now gone, the attention immediately switched to Fyodor Pavlovich’s and Grigory’s injuries. Grigory was appalled that the child he had cared for would hit him, and he was too dazed by this to attend to his injury, though Alyosha urged him to do so. Meanwhile, Ivan had already moved to take care of his father, ordering Smerdyakov to fetch water in order to clean up the blood on Fyodor Pavlovich’s face. (Fyodor Pavlovich had just signaled Smerdyakov to come over so that he could tell him something, but we never find out what that was because he had to respond to Ivan’s order.) The two sons then helped their father to bed, where he immediately fell asleep, exhausted from the day’s events.

Fyodor Pavlovich’s conversation with Alyosha—By now, Ivan was developing a headache, so he excused himself from Alyosha to go out into the garden. He had little sympathy for either Dmitry or their father—they could kill each other as far as he was concerned. He added, though, that he would always protect their father. While Ivan was outside, Alyosha sat by their father’s bedside as he slept. When Fyodor Pavlovich awoke, he asked for a mirror to see his injuries. His nose was swollen and his forehead bruised, but aside from that and a headache (later mentioned in passing), he assured Alyosha that he was fine and would be up and about the next day. A few things still bothered him, though. First, he was afraid of Ivan, even more than Dmitry, but Alyosha assured him that Ivan was just angry and would always defend him. Second, there was the issue with Grushenka, and Fyodor Pavlovich’s first idea was to send Alyosha to see her. But he soon changed his mind, realizing that she was not to be trusted with Alyosha either—a decision that relieved Alyosha, who was uneasy at the prospect of dealing with her. In response to his father’s concern, Alyosha had told him that Grushenka was not interested in Dmitry, and this thrilled Fyodor Pavlovich. Alyosha also told him, again in reply to his question, that he was off to see Katerina Ivanovna for Dmitry; but he wasn’t specific about why except to tell his father that it was not about money, since Fyodor Pavlovich knew that Dmitry was broke.

A father’s blessing and request to return for a special message—Earlier in the conversation, Fyodor Pavlovich had told Alyosha how grateful he was to him for protecting him, and he had given him an icon of the Virgin Mary to take care of. He also assured him that his order to leave the monastery was in jest. Fyodor Pavlovich then dismissed Alyosha, asking him to return the next morning. He had some special message for him but wanted him to pretend that he came voluntarily and also to tell no one, especially Ivan. Meanwhile, Fyodor Pavlovich would sleep on the issue with Grushenka, since he still wanted to know whom she preferred, him or Dmitry.

A short interchange between brothers before Alyosha leaves—Heading out through the garden, Alyosha met Ivan, who was sitting and writing. Ivan was surprisingly cheerful but also forthright about his anger towards their father, though he added that he would never kill him. However, unlike Alyosha, Ivan was concerned that Dmitry would, and when asked, he gave no clear opinion on whether men had the right to decide who lived or died. Alyosha never believed that either of his brothers would kill their father; but there was something mysterious in Ivan’s statements, and although Alyosha felt a spirit of warmth and reconciliation between him and Ivan, he knew that his brother had some unspoken motive.

Both Together


Troubled thoughts—The scene he had just witnessed at his father’s house left Alyosha confused and despondent in a way that was new for him. What would happen with the Grushenka issue? He was also concerned about Dmitry, who seemed headed for unhappiness. Then there was his last conversation with Ivan, disturbing despite its friendliness. At least, he had lost his fear of Katerina Ivanovna, but with all this behind him, his job of relaying Dmitry’s message seemed harder.

Arriving at Katerina Ivanovna’s—Katerina Ivanovna lived with her two aunts, though the only person she reported to was the general’s widow, now ill, to whom she sent an account of her activities twice a week. Katerina Ivanovna’s large, graceful, lavishly furnished home was on the main street, and when Alyosha arrived at dusk, he realized that he must have interrupted a visit. He could hear dresses rustling, and the parlor showed signs of an abandoned tea party.

A new impression—Katerina Ivanovna greeted Alyosha warmly, delighted to see him after so much anticipation. Alyosha was impressed by her confidence and radiance, and her genuine warmth made him think he had misjudged her at their previous meeting. Three weeks earlier, Dmitry had introduced them for the first time, and though Alyosha had found her extremely beautiful, he did not think her type of beauty could hold a man’s love and make him happy—certainly not in Dmitry’s case. He had even told Dmitry so when asked. Now he had to revise his opinion.

A desire to know the truth and to help—Katerina Ivanovna’s excitement was partly due to her desire to discover the truth about what Dmitry thought. She was not surprised that Dmitry had sent Alyosha, and the fact that he had chosen his message so carefully and insistently—to give her his respects—indicated that he was desperate and needed help. (Ivan had even picked up on this in his last conversation with Alyosha, and it was clear that he saw through the surface message.) In any case, Katerina Ivanovna felt that she could still save Dmitry, that he hadn’t walked away from her as coldly and finally as appeared.

She also wanted to know what Dmitry had said about the 3000 rubles. She had known for some time that he had squandered the money, and it bothered her that he could only see her as his fiancée and not his lifelong friend who would help him regardless. She was not interested in his shame: she cared about him and only wanted his trust. She meant this deeply and was crying as she said it.

Alyosha describes the scene at his father’s—Alyosha then told Katerina Ivanovna about the horrible scene at his father’s just now, about Dmitry’s visit to Grushenka and also how he had sent Alyosha to get more money from Fyodor Pavlovich. In spite of all this, Katerina Ivanovna was convinced that Dmitry would not marry Grushenka, after all. Not only was his love for her nothing more than lust, but she knew that Grushenka had her own plans.

Grushenka, the angel—In fact, Katerina Ivanovna had a surprise for Alyosha. Hiding behind the curtain was Grushenka herself, and now she came out at her hostess’s bidding. Alyosha’s immediate impression was nothing like what he had heard. Grushenka’s voice was surprisingly sweet and mellow, and her presence was childlike, natural, and benevolent. There was no hint of the dangerous animal. Before calling her out, Katerina Ivanovna had even described her as an angel, and she, too, was so taken by Grushenka that she repeatedly kissed her on the lips. Though Grushenka said that she didn’t deserve it, she didn’t shy away from such treatment. As it turned out, she had taken the initiative to visit Katerina Ivanovna, who received her wholeheartedly, having wanted to go see her herself despite discouragement from others. Now Grushenka had told her everything, and Katerina Ivanovna saw her as noble-hearted angel.

Grushenka hints at a more devilish side—In an affected drawl, the only thing that so far contradicted her childlike naturalness, Grushenka kept hinting that that might not be the case. Still, her seductiveness had blinded Katerina Ivanovna, who kept insisting that it was. What had set Katerina Ivanovna’s mind at rest was Grushenka’s assurance that she loved another man, an old merchant who had saved her from suicide. She had supposedly also promised Katerina Ivanovna that she would set everything right by explaining this to Dmitry. Thrilled with this “angel,” Katerina Ivanovna kissed Grushenka’s hand three times.

A change in mood—At that point, Grushenka’s manner started to change dramatically. She claimed to have made no such promise, even when Katerina Ivanovna protested that she had. Now she explained that she was willful and wicked. She had hurt Dmitry solely for fun, and she repeatedly denied making any promises to Katerina Ivanovna. But whether she had or not, she would always do exactly what she wanted. The real shock came when she first acted as though she would kiss Katerina Ivanovna’s hand 300 times in return for her hostess’s three kisses. But then she suddenly changed her mind and gave Katerina Ivanovna a look that left no doubt about her unpredictable and vile character.

Katerina Ivanovna’s turns hysterical and orders Grushenka out—Now Katerina Ivanovna’s mood also suddenly changed. In one second, Grushenka went from being an angel to a money-seeking “hussy” as Katerina Ivanovna screamed at her to leave. Grushenka tried to get Alyosha to go along, but he, too, told her to leave and refused her seductive promises. Her latest actions had only confirmed the unease he felt earlier.

Shame and disbelief; the maid gives Alyosha a letter—Katerina Ivanovna had been so upset by Grushenka’s behavior that she’d tried to rush at her and beat her violently, but Alyosha had restrained her. What most upset her was that Dmitry had told Grushenka about her moment of desperation, when she had offered herself to him in return for money. Now she was convinced that he was a rogue. Unable to face Alyosha, who was also seriously upset by the episode, she sent him off with a request to return the next day. As Alyosha walked away from the house, the maid ran after him to give him a letter from Miss Khokhlakova. They had just received it that day, and Alyosha shoved it into his pocket without thinking.

One More Ruined Reputation


Alyosha meets Dmitry—Dmitry was waiting for Alyosha by the way. He knew his brother would have to walk down that road to get to the monastery, and when he saw him coming, he decided to play a joke and pretend to be a robber. In doing so, he scared Alyosha out of his wits. Alyosha couldn’t understand how Dmitry could be joking right after nearly killing their father, and with all that had happened recently, he broke down and cried. Dmitry explained that he had been on the verge of hanging himself on the handy tree he had been waiting beneath. That way, the world would be rid of his burdensome presence. Then he saw Alyosha, the only person he truly loved, and wanted to hug him, but at the last minute he changed his mind and played a practical joke instead.

Dmitry’s reaction to the events at Katerina Ivanovna’s—But Dmitry wanted to move on to more interesting subjects. How had Katerina Ivanovna reacted to his message? Was she angry? Alyosha explained all that had happened, leaving Dmitry flabbergasted. At first, his reaction seemed threatening, but then he suddenly burst out laughing. Grushenka’s refusal to kiss Katerina Ivanovna’s hand amused him to no end, even though he agreed that she should be whipped. Katerina Ivanovna’s loss of control also impressed him. Aside from her noble nature, she clearly had a strong sense of her own power and invincibility. He was sure that she was sincere when she kissed Grushenka’s hand, but he knew that it was her image of Grushenka and not the woman herself that had captivated her, just as had happened to him.

Dmitry’s ominous farewell—Alyosha tried to impress upon Dmitry the damage he had done by telling Grushenka about how Katerina Ivanovna had offered herself to him. After some thought, Dmitry recalled that he had been drunk when he told Grushenka and that he was on his knees crying and honoring Katerina Ivanovna. Even Grushenka was crying. He had to conclude that he was a rogue, and on that note he suddenly parted from Alyosha, with no desire or promise to see him again. Then he turned around just as suddenly. He wanted to explain one last thing: for all the bad he had already done, nothing was as bad as what he was about to do. He could still redeem himself halfway by restraining himself, but he had no plans to do so. He didn’t tell Alyosha what it was—just that he wasn’t worth praying for and to leave him to his fate in the gutter with the “hussy.” Alyosha couldn’t believe that his brother would leave so suddenly and on those terms, so he decided to look for him the next day.

The starets is near death—Arriving at the monastery, Alyosha found the door open unusually late to give him access. The peacefulness of the monastery contrasted dramatically with the dark turmoil of the outside world, and he could not understand why the starets wanted to send him away. Arriving in the starets’s cell, he found Father Païsy and Porfiry, the novice mentioned earlier. The report was that the starets was in poor condition and worsening. Even the daily evening meeting, where all the monks gathered in his cell to confess their sins and receive his blessing, advice, or penance, did not occur. Not everyone who attended these meetings was sincere. Some of the monks even made things up, agreeing with each other beforehand on what to say. Such types were not considered true monks; but those who took it seriously found it an important aspect of the road to salvation, their whole purpose for entering the monastery.

Father Païsy’s reminder; Alyosha vows to stay by the starets’s side—Father Païsy confirmed that the starets was on this deathbed. He planned on having communion in the morning and had specifically asked about Alyosha—a great honor. Father Païsy also reminded Alyosha that even if the starets sent him out into the world, he should always remember that it was in the name of God and salvation and not to succumb to the world’s temptations. After Father Païsy left, Alyosha went into the starets’s bedroom, where his master was sleeping peacefully. He chided himself for forgetting even for a moment about this man whom he loved and honored so much, and he decided then that he would not leave the monastery the next day but stay with the starets. After kneeling and bowing deeply, he exited the tiny bedroom to prepare to go to sleep.

Bedtime and the letter—Alyosha slept on the seat outside the starets’s bedroom, with no mattress or blanket other than his cassock. He was used to this, and it didn’t bother him. More important was to pray for that joy that guaranteed him a peaceful night’s sleep. As he was doing this, he noticed the letter, and though he was nervous, he decided to read it after his prayers.

A secret confession—The letter was from Lise, Mrs. Khokhlakova’s young daughter who had teased Alyosha during the starets’s visit. It was a love letter, something Lise had harbored in her heart for a long time. She was convinced that she and Alyosha would marry as soon as she came of age and that she would be fully cured as well. She also insisted that Alyosha visit them the next day, but she was adamant that he not look at her at all. In spite of her unabashed laughter during their visit to the starets, she claimed she was blushing as she wrote this, and she was concerned that if their secret got out, it would ruin her reputation. Alyosha’s reaction was to chuckle with contentment, which seemed wrong to him at first; but then he did it again, and he soon fell into a peaceful sleep after praying to God to guide all the tormented souls and give them joy.



Father Therapon

The starets’s final hours—The starets had already risen when Alyosha awoke before dawn. The master had a strong intuition that these were his last hours on earth, though his mood was cheerful and benevolent in spite of his weakness. He partook of the final sacraments, which included mass in his cell and the sacrament of Extreme Unction. Afterwards, he kissed every monk goodbye. By now, the tiny cell had filled with monks, and so many kept coming that they had to take turns entering. Then the starets began his final speech, an often incoherent outpouring of all he hadn’t yet managed to convey, even though he had preached and taught much in his lifetime. Today, however, the starets wasn’t merely teaching: he was also sharing his soul.

The starets’s speech: love and humility—The starets’s speech was simple, its main themes being love and humility. He reminded the monks that their choice to enter the monastery meant that they were worse, not better, than the common man. Only if they could recognize their guilt—not just for their own sins but for the sins of all mankind—would they achieve the goal of monastic life. They should also love everyone, the good and the bad; and they should pray for all, judging no one, including themselves. Finally, they should constantly clarify Christ’s teachings to the people.

Mrs. Khokhlakova’s letter—There was a general anticipation among the monks that some extraordinary event would accompany the starets’s death. His speech itself made no sense to many, nor did they see its goodness despite the starets’s inspired state.

During this time, Alyosha had to leave to pick up a letter from Mrs. Khokhlakova, hand-delivered by Rakitin, who had sent another monk to tell Alyosha to meet him. The letter had to do with the peasant woman who had asked the starets to pray for her son in Siberia as though he were one of the dead. The starets had refused and reprimanded her, but then he forgave her and told her to expect to hear from her son soon. Mrs. Khokhlakova’s letter informed Alyosha that this had indeed happened. Moreover, the peasant woman’s son was already on his way to Russia and looking forward to seeing his mother soon. In her letter, Mrs. Khokhlakova implored Alyosha to transmit the news of this miracle. In fact, there was no need. Rakitin had already told Father Païsy on the pretext that it was too urgent to let it wait. By the time Alyosha had read and delivered the letter, it merely acted as a confirmation of what everyone already knew. Even Father Païsy, who normally maintained a serious demeanor and refrained from superstition, felt the excitement of the news; and the little monk from out of town, who had chided the starets for “daring” to cure Lise, was confused—partly from what he had just heard of the letter and partly from his meeting the day before with Father Therapon, another elderly monk known for his asceticism, his vow of silence, and his powerful opposition to the cult of the startsy, an attitude that coincided with the feelings of many other monks.

Father Therapon—Father Therapon lived within the monastery grounds in a chapel-like shack decorated with lamps and icons. It was previously inhabited by another impressive, long-lived monk who had also practiced silence and fasting. Father Therapon’s diet supposedly consisted of water and a meager supply of bread, delivered twice a week by the beekeeper from the nearby apiary. Having taken a vow of silence, he rarely spoke, and the beekeeper was not encouraging to the little monk, given the father’s reputation for being stern, curt, and even rude. Therapon spent most his time alone, often in prayer, which led the common folk to believe that his silence came from his preference for angelic over human conversation. However, he was known to speak to visitors who had traveled long distances, as was the case here.

The meeting—To the little monk’s surprise, Father Therapon did not look his 75-plus years. Instead, he was strong, tall, and healthy-looking. His clothing was coarse and dilapidated, and it presumably covered heavy iron chains. On seeing the little monk bow before him, Father Therapon immediately told him to get up: he had no use for silly formalities. His speech was distinctly old-fashioned and revealed a northern accent, though at one point, for no apparent reason, he enunciated the word “mushrooms” in a southern accent. Father Therapon also had little patience: when the visiting monk hesitated after being asked about his superior’s well-being, the father quipped that his type had no common sense, and he immediately moved on to next question about fasting. After the little monk explained the dietary and fasting regimen at his monastery, Father Therapon told him that he lived on mushrooms and berries and wanted nothing to do with the bread the monastery gave him. To him, the rest of the monks were heretics for breaking the rule of fasting. He then launched into his visions of devils, seen on different monks and in various parts of the monastery (he even supposedly injured one huge one by slamming its tail in the door and making the sign of the cross). He also had visions of the Holy Spirit and the paraclete (unlike most people, he differentiated between the two) as well as of Christ himself, who to others appeared as the elm tree by the shack but at night transformed into Christ and threatened to assume Father Therapon into heaven—to him, a fearful notion.

Confusion and nosiness—The little monk left the meeting frightened and confused. Despite agreeing with Father Therapon’s views on fasting, he wasn’t sure what to make of him otherwise, although the idea that Father Therapon was a “holy fool” covered a lot of bases. But now the letter’s tale of the “miracle” foretold by the starets added to the monk’s consternation. He was not a fan of the cult of startsy, but he wanted to find out more about what had happened, so he flitted from group to group, gathering whatever information he could.

The starets sends Alyosha to see his family—Alyosha noticed this briefly but didn’t think much about it. He was concerned for his beloved starets, who had called for him. Now lying on his bed, the starets promised to speak to Alyosha in private once more before he died; but for now he was sending him to see his family, who needed him.

Father Païsy’s blessing—Sad but also comforted by the starets’s promise, Alyosha obeyed his master’s orders. On his way out, he was met by Father Païsy who, though normally reserved and serious, blessed Alyosha warmly and confirmed the starets’s order to send him out into the world. At the same time, he warned Alyosha of the world’s powerful temptations and the false conclusions of worldly science, which dissected the parts but missed the living whole. Perceiving a new friend and potential new mentor—probably at the starets’s behest—Alyosha left, grateful and curious about this latest development.

Alyosha’s Visit with Fyodor Pavlovich


Arriving at Fyodor Pavlovich’s—Alyosha’s first stop was his father’s house. On nearing it, he was bothered by the memory of his father’s request to avoid Ivan upon entering. Alyosha couldn’t figure out why and so was relieved to discover from Marfa Ignatyevna that Ivan was gone.

Fyodor Pavlovich’s bad mood—Fyodor Pavlovich had risen early and was grumpily looking through his accounts. Grigory was ill, and Smerdyakov was out buying groceries, so he and Alyosha were alone. Fyodor Pavlovich wore a red bandana around his severely bruised forehead, and the swelling around his nose had increased. He’d already checked his appearance numerous times in the mirror, and it wasn’t helping his bad mood. Neither did Alyosha’s arrival. His father’s greeting was unfriendly and abrupt as he informed Alyosha that he wasn’t entertaining anyone today. Besides, the coffee was cold, so he refused to serve it.

Distrust of Ivan—Much of Fyodor Pavlovich’s surliness came from his belief that Ivan was just a manipulative scoundrel. He didn’t even consider him all that educated. According to Fyodor Pavlovich, Ivan’s main goal was to orchestrate Dmitry’s marriage to Grushenka so that he could have Katerina Ivanovna and her money for himself. If Grushenka married Fyodor Pavlovich instead, Ivan wouldn’t have that chance. But Fyodor Pavlovich wasn’t about to let Dmitry have her. In his view, at 55, he had plenty of manliness left and intended to womanize up to his death, no matter how old he got. He was convinced that all he needed to get a woman was money, which he planned on saving for himself from now on.

Deciding what to do about Dmitry—Aside from his misery over Ivan, Fyodor Pavlovich was also trying to decide what to do about Dmitry. He wanted to turn him in for bludgeoning him, but Ivan had dissuaded him. He was also assessing how Grushenka would react: with her flighty nature, she was bound to go to Dmitry if he ended up in jail, but if she found out what he did to his father, she would run to Fyodor Pavlovich instead.

A morning brandy; more on his intense dislike of Ivan—Fyodor Pavlovich was suddenly distracted by the cold coffee, which he decided could be improved by a shot of brandy. Alyosha tried to talk him out of it, but his father used his usual excuse (“just one”), unlocked the liquor cabinet, and guzzled the shot. He promptly locked the cabinet again, but as we find out after Alyosha leaves, that didn’t last long. For now, though, having had his shot, he launched back into his suspicions of Ivan, convinced that he was spying on him and that he didn’t love anyone. As far as he was concerned, Ivan was a different breed—not a Karamazov.

Determined to have Grushenka—Fyodor Pavlovich’s main purpose in asking Alyosha to come—which he now regretted—was to find out through him whether Dmitry would take a bribe of 2000 rubles in return for letting go of Grushenka. Alyosha thought he might respond to 3000, but Fyodor Pavlovich had already changed his mind: he needed the money, and besides, he would just squash Dmitry. His mind then flitted to Katerina Ivanovna. What was the story between the two of them, anyway? But his main concern was Grushenka. He was absolutely determined that no one else should have her, no matter what.

Fyodor Pavlovich sends Alyosha away—Fyodor Pavlovich was still in no mood to socialize, so he sent Alyosha away. Before leaving, Alyosha kissed his father on the shoulder, which got him momentarily upset, as though it meant that this was the final time they would see other. But when Alyosha reassured him, he quickly recovered and encouraged his son to come back the next day.

One more brandy and then to bed—Right after Alyosha left, Fyodor Pavlovich unlocked the brandy cabinet, grabbed another shot, promised himself that was it, relocked the cabinet, and went to bed.

Schoolboy Encounter


Concern for his family—As Alyosha walked away from this father’s house, he was glad that he had managed to avoid having to mention meeting Grushenka at Katerina Ivanovna’s. But it bothered him that his family members were at each other’s throats again so soon. He was especially concerned about Dmitry, knowing how hotheaded he was, and he resolved to find him before anything happened.

Schoolboys—Alyosha’s thoughts were interrupted by the sight of a group of six schoolboys, at least some of whom appeared to be from wealthy families, judging from their cuffed boots. They were healthy-looking, with rosy cheeks, and they were all excited about something. Alyosha, who liked children, decided to strike up a conversation with the group, but as he approached, he realized that they were all holding stones. Across the ditch, some distance away, was another small boy who was glaring at the group of six with his black eyes. Unlike the other boys, his complexion was sickly and pale. All the boys were elementary-school age, with the oldest being twelve and the youngest around nine. The boy on the other side of the ditch was on the younger side of that age range.

The stoning—This unusual scene didn’t deter Alyosha from approaching the boys, and he began with a nonchalant statement about how one boy’s satchel was slung over his right shoulder, rather than the usual practice of using the left shoulder. It turned out that the boy was left-handed, a fact that led to the main topic: the group of six and the boy across the ditch were hurling stones at each other. At that moment, a stone hit the left-handed boy, who immediately hurled one back at the boy across the ditch. Then, for no apparent reason, the lone boy aimed at Alyosha and hit him in the shoulder, causing him considerable pain. A shower of stones followed from both directions, with both sides having plenty of ammunition.

Alyosha tries to intercede; the lone boy is hurt and runs away as the others tease him— Disturbed at this behavior and worried that the group would kill the lone boy, Alyosha blocked the stones with his body while admonishing the other boys. They then told him that the boy across the ditch had started the fight earlier at school that day, when he used his penknife to stab another student. The student refused to report him, but the boys decided to take revenge.

The stone throwing had halted somewhat during this interchange, but when the lone boy deliberately hit Alyosha in the back, it began again with a vengeance. When one stone smacked the lone boy in the chest, he started crying and ran away as the others teased him, calling him a coward and shouting “loofah.” This merciless teasing confirmed Alyosha’s suspicions that the group of boys was not innocent, either. They accused the lone boy of being a rat but wouldn’t explain further when Alyosha asked for specifics.

Alyosha follows the boy as the others warn him—Alyosha was determined to find out for himself, and since he was heading in the same direction, he followed the little boy. The other boys were now taunting him, too, telling him to ask about the loofah, which he refused to do; but they also warned him to be careful since the boy was likely to attack him. For some reason, they also thought the boy knew Alyosha and had something against him.

The boy attacks Alyosha, who refuses to attack back—As it turned out, the boy, who had walked up the hill, was waiting for Alyosha. As Alyosha approached, he noticed that the boy was shabbily dressed, and the look on his face hateful and angry, though Alyosha couldn’t understand why. The boy soon realized that Alyosha wasn’t going to attack him, so he relaxed momentarily and started talking about how he was outnumbered. Alyosha sympathized with him, but it also became quickly clear that the boy refused to let go of his anger toward the others. Like them, he was determined to have his revenge. When Alyosha asked him whether he knew him, as the others said, the boy refused to answer. After agreeing to leave and explaining that he had no plans to tease the boy, Alyosha turned around and began walking away. But the boy was too entrenched in combat mode. With the look of someone about to be attacked, he yelled after Alyosha and then hurled a rock at his back.

The boy bites Alyosha; Alyosha’s gentle reply makes the boy cry and run away—All this time, Alyosha had been gentle and conciliatory, but he clearly knew how to confront as well, though without anger. Turning towards the boy, he noted that the others had been right: he did attack from behind. The boy’s response was to throw another rock at his head, but Alyosha managed to block it with his arm. Alyosha rebuked him and asked why he had earned such awful treatment; but he refused to attack back. Strangely, this enraged the boy, who ran at him and bit him in the finger so violently and persistently that the bite cut through to the bone, causing the blood to gush. Still, Alyosha refused to attack or even get angry. As he bandaged his finger, he again asked the boy what he had done. He figured there had to be something, though he didn’t know what. The scene ends as the boy bursts out crying, turns around, and walks up the hill, with Alyosha following. Alyosha didn’t have time to pursue this strange matter right now, but he was determined to get to the bottom of it.

At the Khokhlakovas’


Arrival at Mrs. Khokhlakova’s—Mrs. Khokhlakova owned one of the most impressive homes in town. Until recently, it was the least frequented of her three houses, the other two being in Moscow and the countryside. On arriving, Alyosha found her extremely excited. First, there was the miracle mentioned in the letter. Then there was the fact that both Ivan and Katerina Ivanovna were there right now. Katerina Ivanovna had already relayed the incident with Grushenka to Mrs. Khokhlakova, who was appalled both at that and Dmitry’s violent behavior towards his father. But now Ivan and Katerina Ivanovna were in earnest discussion over something. Mrs. Khokhlakova was rambling at this point, so it was hard to tell what was going on, except that it had to do with Dmitry and that she considered it a major catastrophe.

General hysteria—Mrs. Khokhlakova then switched the subject to Lise, who had been up all night from illness and supposedly became hysterical as soon as she heard Alyosha was coming. Lise, who was peering at Alyosha through a crack in the door, hotly denied this, claiming her mother was the hysterical one. In fact, both of them were, but they expressed it differently: the mother with her frantic rambling and Lise with her willful, volatile, immature behavior. Mrs. Khokhlakova’s unthinking honesty was irritating to Lise, who was prone to sly manipulation and practical jokes. She simply couldn’t keep her cover if her mother kept blurting out the truth. But Mrs. Khokhlakova was having a hard time controlling herself right now—there was just too much going on, and besides that, Dr. Herzenstube (judged incompetent by both mother and daughter) couldn’t figure out what was wrong with Lise.

More hysteria over Alyosha’s finger—All this time, Alyosha had been standing there with his bleeding finger, and now he quietly asked if he could have a clean bandage. As he showed it to a horrified Mrs. Khokhlakova, Lise immediately became frantic, flung open the door she had been hiding behind, and started ordering her mother and the maid to get cold water, salve, and bandages.

Lise’s ulterior motive—As usual, Lise had other motives. She wanted to get her mother and the maid out of the room so she could talk to Alyosha privately. First she wanted to know how he hurt his finger, upon which she concluded that he was stupid and childish to have gotten involved. Like Alyosha, though, she saw that something unusual was going on with the little boy and agreed that it needed to be investigated.

Lise claims her love letter was a joke; Alyosha tells of his intent to marry her—Lise’s next question had to do with her love letter. Now she claimed it was nothing more than a joke, and she wanted it back. Alyosha informed her that he didn’t have it and wouldn’t be able to return it for several days, given the starets’s current condition. Besides, he had taken it seriously, partly because it fit with the starets’s orders to leave the monastery and get married. Alyosha thought Lise would be the best wife he could find, and it didn’t bother him that she was crippled. He also expected her to improve.

More hysteria—That information sent Lise into another tizzy, and as usual she responded by saying the opposite of what she meant. By now, her mother and Yulia (the maid) had returned, and as Lise applied the salve and bandage, she blurted out what Alyosha had told her about the vicious schoolboy and his intention to marry her. The comment about marriage confused her mother, since Alyosha was obviously still a monk (he was dressed in his cassock), but the information about the boy biting him got her fretting that he might contract rabies. Lise’s question to Alyosha about whether he was afraid of water was a sarcastic dig at her mother having to do with the hydrophobia associated with rabies; and though her mother chided Lise for her snide comment, she admitted that she probably overreacted.

Katerina Ivanovna’s request; Lise’s drama—By now, Katerina Ivanovna was aware that Alyosha was there and urgently wanted to see him. Lise didn’t want to let him go, but Alyosha calmly managed to extract himself, promising to return afterwards but also reminding her of his need to go back to the monastery. Not surprisingly, Lise turned on him, ordering him out of the house. Alyosha tried to appease her with another five minutes, but she wouldn’t hear of such an insultingly small amount of time.

Katerina Ivanovna’s quandary—Drawing Alyosha away from her hysterical daughter, Mrs. Khokhlakova concluded that Lise must need sleep. Whispering, she then confided her belief that Ivan and Katerina Ivanovna were in love but that Katerina Ivanovna was deluding herself that she loved Dmitry. Mrs. Khokhlakova couldn’t decide if this drama was a tragedy or a comedy.

Drawing Room Drama


Alyosha’s confusion—Alyosha entered the drawing room in a state of confusion and fear. He knew nothing about romantic relationships and felt he had no right to express an opinion. Moreover, the relationships here were extremely confusing. Ivan supposedly wanted Katerina Ivanovna for himself, which meant depriving Dmitry; yet Dmitry saw that as a boon, though his desire for Grushenka would hardly benefit him. As for Katerina Ivanovna, she seemed confused: did she love or hate Dmitry? Her pride and need to dominate made her an unlikely match for Ivan, who would never stand for that. Even more disturbing was Alyosha’s insight that she might not care for either brother. But Alyosha’s loving heart found these thoughts so confusing and disturbing that he denied their validity. To Alyosha, love also meant actively helping, and that was impossible to do in a state of confusion, especially when those he loved were at odds. Add to all this his sense of foreboding about Katerina Ivanovna, heightened by his awakening from a nightmare that morning as he pronounced the word “disaster.” Nor did it help that Mrs. Khokhlakova had just used the same word. The whole situation put him ill at ease.

Katerina Ivanovna’s decision—Ivan was already leaving by the time Alyosha and Mrs. Khokhlakova entered the room. On seeing Alyosha and Mrs. Khokhlakova, she was eager to hear their opinions and asked Ivan to remain a little longer, calling them all her only dear and trusted friends.

Visibly emotional, Katerina Ivanovna told them that yesterday’s scene after Grushenka left was no fluke: she would do and say it all over again. Her love for Dmitry had also changed to something more like contempt. Watching her, Alyosha was impressed by her honesty, and Mrs. Khokhlakova also felt that Katerina Ivanovna was finally awakening from her self-delusion.

But Katerina Ivanovna wasn’t finished. Stressing again that the three of them were the “only” friends, she kept proclaiming how much she trusted them. She announced that she had made her decision and that Ivan agreed with her choice, which he quietly affirmed. Then she turned to Alyosha, telling him how important his approval was to her. Embarrassed, Alyosha tried to impress upon her that he knew little about such things, but Katerina Ivanovna seemed too intent on her own speech to notice. She continued to say that regardless of her current feelings towards Dmitry and in spite anything he might do, including marry Grushenka for the time being, Katerina Ivanovna would never desert him. This was a point of honor and possibly even higher and nobler. She believed it was just a matter of time before Dmitry became unhappy with Grushenka. In any case, she would be watching, always ready to be there for him until he trusted her. She would do this for the rest of her life, sacrificing all; and in return, he would worship her out of gratitude. She finished her dramatic delivery by confirming that Ivan was fully behind her.

Ivan’s ironic clarification—Although Katerina Ivanovna’s dramatic flair was obvious, her troubled emotional state aroused Alyosha’s natural compassion. Ivan then explained that the previous day’s incident with Grushenka would have been nothing more than an isolated instant in the life of an ordinary woman. But for Katerina Ivanovna, with her intense and noble character, it had taken on the magnitude of a life directive. He predicted that she would suffer greatly from her choice, but in the end she would find peace and satisfaction. Ivan’s statement, though complimentary on the surface, was tinged with irony and bitterness, and Mrs. Khokhlakova exclaimed how misguided it all was.

A sudden change in mood—Katerina Ivanovna still wanted to hear what Alyosha had to say. Now in tears, she repeated how grateful she was for her loyal friends, who would never desert her. Ivan then informed her that he would be leaving for Moscow the next day. This was great news to Katerina Ivanovna, whose demeanor suddenly changed one hundred percent, as though she’d never been upset. She then modified her statement, saying she was sorry to see him leave. Her gladness stemmed from the fact that she had been having trouble composing a letter to her aunts, but if Ivan could relay the message, it would make things easier. She would set about writing it immediately.

Alyosha’s outburst—The totality of Katerina Ivanovna’s sudden transformation troubled Alyosha deeply. Everything that had gone before now seemed like an act. Mrs. Khokhlakova must have noticed, too, because her tone was angry as she reminded Katerina Ivanovna, now already on her way out the room, of her supposedly intense interest in Alyosha’s opinion. Katerina Ivanovna, who saw nothing wrong with what she’d done, claimed to still be interested, so she stopped momentarily and asked Alyosha about his views.

No one expected what Alyosha said next, including him. He blurted out that she’d been play-acting the whole time and that her statements to Ivan just now, first about being glad that he was leaving and then saying she would miss him, were also just theater. Alyosha confessed that he didn’t understand his own comments and probably shouldn’t be saying them all, but he felt he’d had a sudden insight that Katerina Ivanovna loved Ivan but was playing games because of her obsession with Dmitry. Dmitry himself would agree that she and Ivan belonged together, and Alyosha was ready to bring him there to prove it.

Ivan’s parting statement—Through all this, Katerina Ivanovna was getting increasingly perturbed, and now she turned on Alyosha and insulted him. Ivan, who found her reaction funny, decided to clear up his brother’s misconceptions before leaving for good. He did indeed love Katerina Ivanovna but had never mentioned this to her. She knew it, too, but was only interested in talking about Dmitry and merely used Ivan as an outlet for venting the anger she felt towards Dmitry. Her love for Dmitry—the only one she loved—was based on a perverse pride that thrived on the contrast between Dmitry’s bad behavior and her noble self-denial: as long as he insulted her, she would love him; but if he ever stopped, she would lose interest.

Ivan delivered his analysis with unusual frankness and emotional honesty. Even when Katerina Ivanovna offered him her hand in a farewell gesture, he declined it, admitting that he was unable to forgive her just yet. Having finished, he walked out the room without even saying goodbye to the others. This left Alyosha distraught, and he blamed himself, but Mrs. Khokhlakova assured him that his actions had been good and that she would do her best to keep Ivan from leaving town.

Katerina Ivanovna’s errand—Katerina Ivanovna, who had exited the room momentarily, now returned with 200 rubles and an errand for Alyosha. Her calm demeanor showed nothing of what had just gone on. Her request was that Alyosha deliver the money to a man whom Dmitry had dragged down the street by the beard after a fight in a pub. His young son had tried to get help but was only ridiculed by the onlookers. On investigating further, Katerina Ivanovna discovered that the family was poor, and she figured she could make up for Dmitry’s appalling behavior by sending them some money, but she felt that Alyosha would be better at dealing with them. Somehow he should discreetly convince them to take the money as a gift from Dmitry’s fiancée, though not from Dmitry. Mentioning that the man had considered filing a complaint, she stressed that the money was not intended as a bribe to prevent that. Then, without waiting for Alyosha’s consent, she went off to rest, leaving Alyosha distressed at having no chance to apologize for his earlier outburst.

A hysterical ending—Mrs. Khokhlakova tried to come to the rescue. To reassure Alyosha, she explained that Katerina Ivanovna’s generosity, charm, and kindness outweighed her pride, adding that she, Lise, and Katerina’s aunts were all eager for her to leave Dmitry and marry Ivan. Referring to his earlier outburst, Alyosha protested that Katerina Ivanovna was still upset, but Mrs. Khokhlakova assured him that women’s emotional fits were unreliable and that he had been an angel. Chiming in from behind the door, Lise wanted to know what she meant, but then the maid came running in to say that Katerina Ivanovna was hysterical and liable to hurt herself. That immediately put Mrs. Khokhlakova in a frenzy, though she saw Katerina Ivanovna’s hysteria as a good sign, and she rushed off to help her. Still deeply distressed, Alyosha promised he’d return soon and then ran out the door despite her protests.

At the Staff Captain’s


Alyosha finds peace—Alyosha was still in serious distress over his outburst as he headed to the staff captain’s. This was clearly not what the starets meant by a mission of peace, and he resolved to be wiser in matters of the heart and the world. He had also realized that the boy who bit him was probably the same boy who witnessed the staff captain, his father, being dragged by the beard. Between his confusion over this and the complexities of human love relationships, made worse by his honest but inept handling of the previous scene, Alyosha finally decided that there was no point in beating himself up and that he would take things as they came.

Alyosha stops by Dmitry’s but finds him gone—Along the way, Alyosha decided to stop at Dmitry’s. As expected, Dmitry wasn’t there, and the landlord and his family claimed he’d slept elsewhere for the past three nights. Alyosha’s pointed questions about Dmitry’s whereabouts got him nothing but worried looks, so he concluded that they were protecting him. At least that much was good.

The staff captain’s apartment—Arriving at the ramshackle house on Ozernaya St., Alyosha encountered the elderly landlady and daughter, who directed him to the staff captain’s one-room apartment. Knowing that it housed an entire family, he was surprised at the silence inside as he stood before the door. Finally, he decided to knock. Pause. After a harsh male voice asked who it was, Alyosha entered the large, dimly lit, stuffy room. Everything inside spoke of poverty, misery, and illness but with hints of former refinement, like the chintz pillows on one of the three beds. Otherwise, the room held a stove, a table, chairs, a clothesline for rags, and various other objects. One makeshift bed was hidden behind a sheet.

The staff captain’s family—The staff captain’s family presented a similar picture. The captain’s wife, though pale, gaunt, and weak, still possessed a certain elegance. She showed extreme curiosity about Alyosha, but like the daughter standing by the window, she also had a contemptuous, hostile look. Aside from the reddish hair inherited from her father, the distinguishing traits of that daughter—a university student (unusual for women at the time) and women’s rights activist—were her haughty intelligence and impatience with her father’s behavior. The other daughter was a hunchback and cripple, but her eyes expressed kindness, humility, and beauty. The captain himself was middle-aged, short, and thin, with a sparse beard that instantly reminded Alyosha of a loofah. He was in the middle of eating his breakfast when Alyosha arrived, and he also had an empty vodka bottle on the table, though he wasn’t drunk.

The staff captain introduces himself—When he saw Alyosha, the staff captain immediately jumped up, wiped himself, and ran over to him. Varvara Nikolavna, the daughter by the window, mockingly assumed that Alyosha had come to beg because of his monk’s garb. But her father corrected her right away: he was sure he hadn’t. He even knew who Alyosha was, though Alyosha didn’t know him at all and was struck by the strange mix of fearfulness and combativeness he saw in this man, like an abused person who had lost his tolerance. Because of Alyosha’s higher social standing, the staff captain was trying to decipher why he had come after all. When Alyosha explained that he wanted to talk to him, the captain immediately pulled up a seat and sat down right up close to him. Calling Alyosha “sir,” he proudly introduced himself as Staff Captain Nikolai Ilyich Snegiryov, former member of one of the Russian army’s outstanding regiments, but now retired and forced to grovel (the meaning of his expression “three bags full”) because of a sudden change in fortune.

Alyosha mentions the incident with Dmitry; the little boy emerges from hiding—Seeing Alyosha’s sincere interest, the captain had begun warming up to him, but when Alyosha explained that he was there about the incident with Dmitry, the captain suddenly became hostile again. Just then, a little boy’s voice called out that Alyosha was there to complain about the finger-biting incident earlier that day. Opening the curtain that covered the third, makeshift bed, he stood there, feverish and defiant as he stared at Alyosha. When the captain asked what he meant, Alyosha explained but added that he wasn’t complaining and had no desire to see the boy whipped, as the captain offered.

Pride and shame—By now, the captain was overreacting. He suddenly switched gears: did Alyosha think he would actually hit his little boy for him? He would sooner cut off his fingers than whip his beloved Ilyushechka. His words had taken on a mocking tone, as though Alyosha was forcing him to grovel in order to make up for his son’s actions. Alyosha didn’t take it personally. To him, the important thing was that he now understood the motive for the finger biting: the little boy’s love for his father and his association of Alyosha with Dmitry. Alyosha promised the captain that Dmitry would be willing to get down on his knees before him in public and apologize. He was sure his brother would do whatever was necessary.

A family’s pain—It’s hard to tell whether the captain was genuinely moved by Alyosha’s offer or whether his reaction was tongue in cheek. In fact, it seemed to be a bit of both. But it was clear that the staff captain didn’t the trust the situation. He loved his family and felt lucky that they loved him despite the humiliating hand life had dealt them. In this way, nature provided even for its lowliest members. He seemed to imply that an encounter with Dmitry might deprive him and his family of each other—and how could that be fair? Here Varvara Nikolavna snapped at her father again for debasing himself, but he was used to her and understood her pride. He urged her to be more well-mannered, but he approved of her directness at the same time.

Arina Petrovna—The same two-edged approach was evident in the captain’s wife, whom he now introduced as being of both humble origin and a lady. Arina Petrovna had become emaciated from her illness with the exception of her legs, which were swollen and useless. She grew extremely friendly when she learned that this was a kind Karamazov, unlike his brother, but that didn’t stop her from playing with the name Karamazov in a way that brought out its derogatory meaning: black smear. Her husband corrected her pronunciation (though she insisted on her version), but his manner towards her was tender, loving, and compassionate. When the hunchback girl suddenly burst out crying, her mother launched into a speech whose main idea was about how their fortunes had plummeted, how they used to have many fine guests like Alyosha, and so on. As she continued, her talk became more and more rambling and nonsensical, but its human meaning was clear: the devastating effects of sudden misfortune and the importance of love, no matter what a person’s condition.

The captain takes the conversation outside—Realizing that the situation was upsetting his family and despite his little boy’s protests, the captain resolved to go outside with Alyosha to finish the discussion. But before exiting, he made sure to introduce his crippled daughter, Nina Nikolavna, whom he described as an angel. Indeed, both daughters were: after all, Varvara’s impatience was justified. On that note, the captain left with Alyosha, unwilling to torment his family any longer.

In the Fresh Air


Snegiryov explains—Once outside, the captain explained the situation with his son more fully. School was just letting out as Dmitry was dragging the captain out of the pub by his beard, now scragglier than before. Seeing this, Ilyusha ran over and pleaded with Dmitry to forgive and release his father. Dmitry let go, but instead of forgiveness, he challenged the captain to a duel as a fellow officer, even though he considered the captain a scoundrel. But to Snegiryov, a duel was not an option. His family depended on him (though retired, he still took odd jobs here and there). If he were killed or crippled, they would be even worse off than now. He would rather live with the shame, though he knew it pained his son deeply.

Family responsibility before pride—Alyosha promised again that Dmitry would beg the captain’s forgiveness, but Snegiryov had deduced that this idea came from Alyosha’s kind heart and not his brother. Continuing with his story, the captain said he’d considered a lawsuit but didn’t think the money was worth it. Also, one of his few remaining employers had threatened to fire him if he sued Dmitry—and she would tell his other employer to do the same. Fyodor Pavlovich, who used to hire him for odd jobs, had already let him go and was contemplating suing him for debt. Making a scene would not be wise right now.

Alyosha’s concern for Ilyusha—The captain quickly changed the subject to Alyosha’s finger. He hadn’t wanted to discuss it in front of his boy, but he wondered how bad the wound was and whether it hurt a great deal. Alyosha confirmed that it did, but he was more worried about the boy himself. Ilyusha was endangering himself by getting involved in stoning fights. He had even stabbed another boy in school—that’s how angry he was. It would be better to keep him away from the others for now.

Ilyusha’s vow—The captain agreed, and having noticed Ilyusha’s bruises from the stonings, he had decided to keep him home for the moment. He was also aware of the knifing incident as well as his son’s profound anger. At his tender age, Ilyusha had already learned the hard lesson of humiliation that was the lot of the poor. Courageous and strong-willed despite his size, this little boy had rushed forward to save his father, even stooping to kiss Dmitry’s hand. Then he also had to put up with the taunting from the schoolboys, who accused his father of cowardice because he wouldn’t fight Dmitry in a duel and preferred to take the ten rubles Dmitry offered him. Seeing his distress, his father took him for a walk and denied that he would ever take money from Dmitry, but a duel was out of the question. Ilyusha then vowed that when he grew up, he would challenge and kill Dmitry himself. When his father explained that killing was a sin, Ilyusha vowed to knock Dmitry down and shame him but also to forgive him.

A dream of hope; a flood of tears—At his young age, Ilyusha had also already learned that the rich held the power, so he had decided to become rich. He’d moreover recognized that their town was no place to live because of the people’s meanness. In an effort to cheer him, his father took him for a walk, and together, father and son dreamed of packing up and leaving town. They would buy a horse and cart, and the women would ride while they walked, with Ilyusha riding sometimes but the captain walking the whole way to spare the horse. It was a dream of love and happiness, and it helped to cheer the boy. But the following day, which was yesterday, his mood was dark again. Again, the captain took his boy for a walk and tried to cheer him by talking about their dream and pointing out the kites in sky, promising to fix their kite so that they, too, could fly one. But nothing worked. Finally, the little boy broke down, crying a flood of tears, and his father wept with him.

Alyosha offers the money—Alyosha was deeply moved. He also felt that the captain trusted him, though Snegiryov’s mood suddenly changed again. After expressing a spontaneous wish to befriend Ilyusha (only hesitatingly received by his father), Alyosha finally broached the subject of the money. He explained that the money was strictly a gift from Katerina Ivanovna, Dmitry’s fiancée, who had also been insulted by him. She was offering it as a sister, and the action would be completely confidential. Then he handed the captain the 200 rubles.

An ecstatic moment of hope—The offer of money had a dramatic effect on the captain. Too astounded to reply at first, he then poured forth a list of things he could with that money to help his desperate family. He could get his wife and crippled daughter the medical treatment they needed. He could buy his family decent food. He could pay for Varvara’s schooling. She had sacrificed her own tutoring income to help the family, and now she couldn’t afford to go back to university in St. Petersburg. Instead, she stayed home and cared for her invalid family. With this money, he could hire a maid to take her place. And they could move! He could buy a horse and cart and move to a new town. They could start a new life.

An unhappy twist—Alyosha had gotten caught up in the captain’s rapture and was cheering along with him. But there was a problem. Suddenly, the captain’s face changed completely. In an instant, rapture changed to frenzy. Whispering to him, the captain asked Alyosha if he wanted to see a trick, but Alyosha didn’t know what he meant. By this point, the captain was screaming, and now insane with fury, he crumpled the bills, threw them on the ground, and stomped on them. There was no way he could take the money. His honor and pride were at stake. He knew full well what he was giving up by renouncing the money, and it pained him to do so. But the shame of “selling” himself was too much to bear. Having made his final statement, he turned and left, racked with emotion.

Alyosha salvages the money and heads back—Earlier, the captain had mentioned his fear of contempt if he took the money, but never had Alyosha imagined this outcome, nor did he believe the captain had, either. Saddened by Snegiryov’s choice, Alyosha unfolded the crumpled but intact bills, stowed them in his pocket, and headed back to Mrs. Khokhlakova’s.

Pros and Cons


Katerina Ivanovna faints; Mrs. Khokhlakova chatters about Lise—Meanwhile, back at the Khokhlakovas’, Alyosha learned from Mrs. Khokhlakova that Katerina Ivanovna’s hysteria had transformed into a fever, followed by fainting. The doctor was on his way, and her aunts were also there. Mrs. Khokhlakova was too hysterical to listen to Alyosha’s account of what had happened with the staff captain. She wanted him to stay with Lise, who had suddenly turned serious. After telling him how much he meant to Lise, how she valued his opinion, that he was her best childhood friend, etc., she excused herself and ran off to deal with Katerina Ivanovna.

Lise chatters to cover up her real feelings—Lise was acting shy and embarrassed when Alyosha entered, but she didn’t discuss her real feelings. She had heard about Alyosha’s errand from her mother, and it moved her deeply. Now she wanted to know how it went. Did the captain accept the money?

Alyosha tells about his encounter with the captain—Alyosha had picked up on Lise’s evasiveness and was acting the same way until he began talking about his errand. Sharing his thoughts with her had always been a favorite pastime of his, and in the past, the two of them had enjoyed making up their own stories. Now Alyosha’s impassioned and vivid account, especially of the little boy, had a deep effect on Lise, who wanted to know why Alyosha hadn’t run after the captain and urged him to take the money. She was concerned that his family would starve. Alyosha explained that it was better not to pursue him at the time but that he was sure he would take the money in the end. He described how the captain was a good but weak man and how he was ashamed of being poor. Being so openly happy over the money had only made him even more ashamed.

Alyosha’s conviction that the captain would return for the money—Still, Alyosha believed that things would turn out for the best. If the captain had accepted the money, he would have returned the next day out of shame and trampled the money then. But since he had already proven his strength and saved his pride, he could now return for the money, knowing that his family needed it. And in reply to the captain’s plea for forgiveness, Alyosha would ask him for forgiveness instead.

Lise’s reaction; a sudden confession of love—Impressed with Alyosha’s deep understanding of the human soul, Lise exclaimed that she would now view him with respect and not just as an equal. But she wondered if their assumptions about the captain weren’t condescending. Alyosha didn’t think so. Wouldn’t they do the same thing in his place? He told her about the starets’s advice to care for people either as children or as patients. This compassionate approach captured Lise’s imagination, and she shared her delight in both the idea and Alyosha’s goodness. Then after having Alyosha first check to see if her mother was eavesdropping (she wasn’t), Lise admitted that her love letter was genuine and kissed Alyosha’s hand three times.

Mutual love—Alyosha was thrilled at Lise’s confession, but he didn’t express this in a way that she found acceptable, so he got the usual ribbing. In fact, Lise was having trouble expressing her own feelings. She complained that Alyosha was cold, so not knowing what else to do, he tried to prove otherwise by suddenly kissing her on the lips. At first, Lise was shocked but then burst out laughing. Finally, she admitted that even though she was thrilled at the thought of marrying Alyosha, she didn’t feel worthy of him. Alyosha didn’t agree. Besides, the starets wanted him to leave the monastery and marry, and he honestly thought she was his best choice. He found her more innocent than himself—as a Karamazov, he had already seen too much. But Lise had also suffered and could therefore view life from a deeper perspective, as proved by her question about whether they were being condescending towards the captain.

Lise’s intention in asking for the letter—Lise admitted that she was deliberately testing Alyosha when she asked for her love letter back. She had decided that if he returned it to her without hesitation, it would mean that he didn’t love her. But the fact that he left it in his cell told her that it meant a lot to him. As it turned out, Alyosha had told a white lie: he was carrying the letter, after all. But he had no intention of giving it back, since it meant a great deal to him.

Professions of commitment—Once again, Lise interrupted the conversation to have Alyosha check whether her mother was eavesdropping. When Alyosha asked her why she suspected her mother of such shameful behavior, Lise plainly stated that she would do it herself when she was a wife and mother. Alyosha might as well know now that she’d listen at the door and read his letters, even if it was wrong. Fortunately, Alyosha found Lise’s statements funny and, being sure of his own innocence, he wasn’t worried about her snooping. When Lise asked him whether he would do everything she told him to, he said he’d be happy to except for the important things, where he would do what was right. She then contradicted her last statement, bursting out that she would do absolutely everything he asked and that she would never eavesdrop or snoop.

Alyosha’s sadness and doubts—But Lise had noticed that Alyosha was sad lately, and she wanted to know why. She also blurted out that she didn’t like Ivan, but Alyosha ignored that. Alyosha himself wasn’t sure why he was sad. As for being a monk, he didn’t seem sure of that, either, and to his own surprise, he admitted that he might not even believe in God. But one thing was certain: he loved the starets with all his heart and would feel profoundly alone once he died. Seeing how much it meant to him (and after a kiss, at her suggestion), Lise sent Alyosha off, with her blessing and a promise to pray for both him and the starets.

Mrs. Khokhlakova’s interference—Alyosha had intended to leave without saying goodbye to Mrs. Khokhlakova, but Mrs. Khokhlakova had other ideas. As it turned out, she had heard the entire conversation and was waiting for him outside the door. She did not agree at all with his and Lise’s decision to marry, calling it foolish adolescent nonsense. Alyosha reassured her that it was a year and a half away, but that only calmed her a little. Then she demanded to see Lise’s love letter, but Alyosha flatly refused, telling her it was none of her business. When he asked about Katerina Ivanovna, he learned that things were no better, the doctor was useless, and her aunts were putting on airs. But Mrs. Khokhlakova was still focused on Lise’s letter, and Alyosha still refused to show it to her, though he promised to discuss it with her at length the next day. And with that, he ran off.

Smerdyakov with a Guitar

Alyosha’s urgent need to find Dmitry—For all his desire to get back to the monastery before the starets died, Alyosha suddenly had an even more urgent need to find Dmitry in order to prevent the oncoming disaster he was sensing. Since he figured Dmitry was avoiding him, his plan was to secretly wait for him in the summerhouse, even if it meant missing the starets’s moment of death.

Alyosha overhears Smerdyakov singing and socializing with a young woman—As Alyosha was waiting, he suddenly heard an overly sweet male voice singing, accompanied by a guitar. The singing was interrupted by a woman’s voice. Both sounded like they were putting on airs. When he wasn’t singing, the man’s words were often ornery and disgruntled, but he sounded like he had the upper hand in the conversation, while the woman mainly flattered him and flirted with him. Alyosha’s guess that the man was Smerdyakov turned out to be right. He also correctly figured that the woman was Marya Kondratyevna, the young woman Dmitry had told him about—the one who liked to walk around in fancy dresses. She had been gushing over Smerdyakov’s poetry, even though Smerdyakov himself had no use for poetry.

Smerdyakov’s contempt for Russia’s simplistic ways—Marya Kondratyevna’s comment about how intelligent Smerdyakov was only fed his contempt for Russia—especially its sentimental peasants—as well as his lifelong anger over the torment he had suffered for being the bastard child of the village idiot. He would rather have died at birth, and he resented Grigory’s reminders that his mother died instead—not to mention Grigory’s Russian-peasant speaking style. Marya Kondratyevna replied that he would feel differently about Russia if he were a dashing soldier. But Smerdyakov wasn’t impressed by soldiers. He didn’t care that they defended the country, and he figured it would have been a good thing if France had taken over Russia. Maybe they could have improved Russia’s simplistic ways. Moreover, he agreed with Fyodor Pavlovich that Russians needed a whipping.

Smerdyakov’s opinion of the Karamazovs—The thought of Fyodor Pavlovich turned the conversation to Smerdyakov’s opinion of the whole Karamazov family. He figured they were all insane. Even if he had once expressed respect for Ivan, he resented Ivan’s condescending treatment of him. As for Dmitry, he was a stupid, useless scoundrel who somehow managed to get people’s respect. Talking about Dmitry led to talking about duels, and once again, Marya Kondratyevna took the romantic view: duels were so exciting—if only women could watch. As usual, Smerdyakov was more pragmatic: they weren’t so exciting when the gun was pointing at you. Unwilling to reply to Marya Kondratyevna’s question about whether he would be so cowardly as to run, Smerdyakov started singing again.

Alyosha interrupts to ask about Dmitry; Smerdyakov’s valuable clue—It was at this point that Alyosha suddenly approached them wanting to know if Smerdyakov knew where Dmitry was. Smerdyakov was not thrilled to see him. His reaction showed a mixture of respect (rising from his seat) and contempt (disdaining to answer Alyosha’s question). Eventually, it emerged that Dmitry had been interrupting Smerdyakov’s social calls to Marya Kondratyevna and her mother in order to ply him for information about his father’s household and Grushenka. Smerdyakov was even afraid of him, claiming that Dmitry had twice threatened to kill him, though Alyosha figured Dmitry didn’t mean it. Finally, Smerdyakov came out with some useful information. He had gone to Dmitry’s place at dawn that day to relay a message for Ivan, but according to the landlord, Dmitry had already gone out. Ivan had wanted to meet Dmitry at the inn on the square, and Smerdyakov figured they should be there right at that moment. He had the sense that the two brothers were hatching some plot together, and he beseeched Alyosha not to let on to Dmitry that he had told him, since he feared for his life.

Alyosha meets Ivan at the inn—On learning this, Alyosha immediately set out for the inn, but when he arrived, he hesitated to go in because he felt self-conscious in his cassock. His hesitation was solved when Ivan called out from an upper window. He was having lunch by himself, supposedly in a private room, and he came down to let Alyosha in by a different way.

Ivan and Alyosha Get Acquainted


Meeting Ivan—The “private” room turned out to be a screened-off corner in the quiet entrance room of the inn, although you could hear plenty of noise coming from the adjacent rooms. But here, Ivan and Alyosha could have some time to themselves.

Ivan had already finished eating by the time Alyosha arrived, but he was visibly happy to see him, offered him lunch, and even suggested cherry preserves with tea afterwards. As a child, Alyosha had loved cherry preserves, and he was surprised Ivan remembered. In fact, Ivan remembered a lot, even though he’d had little interest in Alyosha until recently. Seeing him at their father’s house, he even found him annoying until he realized that Alyosha had the courage to stand by his convictions. Alyosha, in turn, had recognized that for all his mysteriousness, Ivan had the same youthful qualities as any young man in his early twenties.

Ivan admits to his love of life—Alyosha was concerned that he had offended Ivan by saying that, but that wasn’t the case at all. That morning with Katerina Ivanovna had revealed to Ivan that he had a tremendous thirst for life, even if he didn’t know life’s meaning. He expected that thirst to govern him until he was at least thirty, no matter how bad things got on the outside. To him, thirty seemed the proper age to stop being a sensualist, and he was appalled that his father had no intention of stopping before seventy, if at all. But Ivan’s definition of loving life was also broader and more basic than his father’s depraved version. He referred to simply enjoying being alive, feeling things, reveling in nature. It was just that his mind couldn’t understand the logic behind it, although he was beginning to break through that need—or so it seemed. His statements about leaving it all behind at thirty were vague, and even he didn’t seem clear on what they meant.

Alyosha’s affirmation—To Alyosha, Ivan’s love of life made perfect sense. Rational understanding could not grasp its meaning as love could. But the love of life was only the beginning. The next step was to “resurrect your dead.” Alyosha didn’t explain what this meant, though he quickly added that they might not be dead, after all.

Ivan’s attitudes towards his father, Dmitry, and Katerina Ivanovna—After a little more discussion, Ivan asked if Alyosha had seen Dmitry. When Alyosha told him about his encounter with Smerdyakov, Ivan’s mood suddenly turned sour. For some reason, the mention of Smerdyakov made him think that finding Dmitry would be impossible. At the same time, Ivan was determined to leave town and seemed unconcerned about the fates of Dmitry and their father. He had done what he came to do, adding that the idea that he wanted to steal Katerina Ivanovna was ridiculous. It was true that he had been in love with her, but he couldn’t believe how easy it was to break it off, and he was so elated at his sudden freedom that he felt like celebrating. Even so, Ivan still liked her, but he was convinced that it would be a long time, if ever, before Katerina Ivanovna would recognize her real feelings for him and not Dmitry, who was just a self-indulgent obsession. When Ivan asked how she was, Alyosha told him about her hysterical condition, but Ivan felt no desire to go back. He still wanted to celebrate his freedom and was about to order champagne.

Ivan’s beliefs—But Alyosha didn’t think they should drink. He was sad and concerned that Ivan was leaving so soon, though Ivan vacillated about when he was actually going.Then he got to the point. He knew they hadn’t come together to talk about these things. Their real desire, like all Russian youth, was to talk about the big questions in life: hadn’t Alyosha been wanting to ask him about God for months?

The problem was that Ivan wasn’t clear about whether he believed or not. The previous day, he had said he didn’t believe; now he was saying he did. To him, the astounding thing was not that there was a God but that such a vile creature as man could conceive of such a high idea. Although he did believe in God, he did not believe that man, being three-dimensional, could solve problems that lay beyond space and time. As for a sudden, universal grace, a time or state in which all evil and discord would be swept away as though they had never existed, Ivan simply refused to acknowledge anything that seemed impossible from his present vantage point, even if he saw it with his own eyes. Knowing that Alyosha’s real interest lay in his personal beliefs and not some general philosophical discussion, Ivan hoped he had answered his question. But Alyosha wasn’t satisfied. He wanted to understand the reasoning behind Ivan’s refusal to believe.

Love for his little brother and a secret hope—But something else was happening as well: Ivan was revealing sides of himself that till now had been hidden. Earlier, he had admitted that he loved Alyosha a great deal, unlike most Russian youth, whom he found ridiculous. Now he shyly added that he wasn’t trying to corrupt Alyosha’s innocent faith and that he might even harbor a secret hope that it would help him find redemption.



The problem of loving your neighbor—One of Ivan’s great difficulties was the Christian injunction to love your neighbor. He figured it would be easier to do so at a distance than up close, especially when your neighbor was smelly, diseased, or otherwise unattractive. Even those who did practice love up close seemed hypocritical to Ivan since he suspected their love to stem from a sense of obligation or a need for self-flagellation. Alyosha confirmed that the starets had said something similar. Yet Alyosha himself saw a great deal of love in mankind, including the highest Christian type.

But to Ivan—and, he claimed, to many others—that was outside his experience. For love to happen on earth was a miraculous event, as in Christ’s case, though Christ, being divine, was in a different league. In general, he viewed human beings as lacking in compassion, caused by their separation from each other and their consequent inability to perceive another’s suffering. This was especially true if the suffering person was offensive in some way or if his particular type of suffering (such as suffering for the sake of principle) was outside the framework of people’s conceptions. Whether their lack of love came from nature or nurture was still unclear to him.

The suffering of innocent children—Ivan concluded that the topic was too large, so instead he focused the conversation on suffering in children. Here were innocent beings, untouched by life and still easily lovable, even by cruel people. Whatever suffering they experienced was purely for their forefathers’ sake, since, unlike adults, they had committed no evil themselves. But this was an otherworldly concept, impossible for humans to accept. By human standards of justice, people should suffer for their own crimes, not the sins of others. Ivan seemed to ramble more and more as he illustrated his point, and he admitted to being unhappy and headachy. Alyosha openly observed that he seemed obsessed by something.

Human atrocity—Ignoring Alyosha’s comment, Ivan began describing the atrocities committed by the Turks in Bulgaria. Their cruelty went beyond the natural savagery of animals. They weren’t content with just killing people: they had to torture them, too, nailing men up by their ears overnight before hanging them, tossing infants in the air and spearing them in front of their mothers, or even cutting unborn babies out of the womb. That wasn’t even the worst of it. It seemed to him that people must have invented the devil based on their own characters, but Alyosha was quick to counter: then what about their invention of God?

Different cruel strokes for different folks: Ivan’s story collection—Impressed by his brother’s natural quick-wittedness, Ivan laughed and continued explaining that he collected stories illustrating human nature. However, what soon became apparent was that they all focused on human cruelty. Each culture seemed to have its own specialty. He had already described the atrocities of the Turks: with the Russians, it was whipping; with the Swiss and other Europeans, it was execution in the name of God after first converting the criminal and embracing him as their brother. Never mind that the offender had had a bad start in life and been mistreated himself, as in the Swiss story of Richard. What mattered was that he had done wrong, and though he may have been ignorant at the time, he had to pay for his crime. Still, he was blessed because he died in God’s grace. Ivan noted that to those people, that seemed normal, while a Russian would deem it insane. On the other hand, Russians would get so involved in their whippings that they would lose all sense of proportion. One poem, also mentioned in Crime and Punishment, told of an innocent old nag that was beaten to death by her master, who even enjoyed it and was cheered on by onlookers—all because whipping was accepted as normal in Russia. But horses weren’t the only ones to suffer such treatment.

The victimization of children—Children, too, were the objects of torture by whipping, with the same reactions of approval from both the law and the general public. In Russia, torturing children was not limited to whipping, either. Ivan told a story of a five-year-old girl whose cultured, otherwise well-behaved parents whipped, beat, and kicked her till she was seriously bruised. As punishment for bedwetting, her mother locked her in the cold outhouse overnight and then rubbed the child’s excrement in her face and force-fed it to her. What appalled Ivan the most was that the parents felt no guilt. To them, this was a form of love, a training method, and they slept well at night. Meanwhile, the innocent child suffered tremendously. In defense of this behavior, some people claimed that you needed to experience evil to know good, but Ivan could see no justification for a child’s undeserved suffering.

A final brutal story and a question—Ivan could see that Alyosha was suffering from his tales, but he decided to tell one more story if Alyosha was all right with it. Alyosha himself did not resist: he mumbled that he didn’t mind suffering along. And so, Ivan recounted that back before the serfs were released, one particularly wealthy, powerful landowner discovered that a little boy serf had accidentally wounded his favorite dog. To punish the boy, the master had him stripped, and with the child’s mother forced to watch, he had the boy hunted and torn apart by his dogs.

Facts before understanding—Ivan wanted to know how Alyosha would deal with such a man: should he be shot? Alyosha responded “yes” without hesitation, upon which Ivan teased him for being a less than perfect monk. He was obviously not completely sold on the Christian injunction to love all your neighbors, including your enemies. But Ivan’s way of wording this was by noting that Alyosha, too, possessed the demonic Karamazov streak. Alyosha responded that his impulsive reaction was absurd; but to Ivan, absurdity was the basis of the world. He explained that to understand life was at odds with an acknowledgment of the facts. He therefore preferred to focus on facts and discard understanding.

A higher reasoning—Alyosha suddenly blurted out that he could not understand why Ivan was testing him, and he was beginning to despair of ever finding out. But Ivan promised to tell him soon. He added that he had even shortened his explanation by focusing on the suffering of children, though there was plenty of other pain in the world. As far as why the world had evolved the way it had, Ivan reasoned that mankind must be to blame, since humans had rejected the paradise created by God. On another level, the actions and reactions of all individuals, past and present, were so interwoven that blame was out of the question. Moreover, all things would take their course and find their level in time.

A passionate gut reaction—In practice, though, Ivan had no patience for this philosophy. He wanted to see immediate results. He did, in fact, believe in the ultimate universal harmony, and he understood that all, saint and sinner, would have to suffer for it and would finally unite in life and love, praising God for his higher, divine justice. But he still could not justify the suffering of innocent children, especially those who died before they had done anything wrong, like the little boy who was torn and killed by the hunting dogs. In his mind, Ivan could even take the spiritual theme of universal forgiveness and redemption to its final limit, imagining the boy, his mother, and the one-time murdering master all embracing in the resurrection. But on a purely visceral, human level, he could not accept it: it was too far beyond his present state. Nor did he want to accept it, and he struggled against it—so strong was his compassion for the children. How could a mother, for example, be allowed to forgive her son’s brutal murderer, even if the son had? And if forgiveness was not allowed, how could there be grace and redemption? In short, Ivan yearned for universal harmony and redemption; but if the price was the blood and suffering of innocents, he would have nothing to do with it. He didn’t even care if he ended up being wrong in the end.

Alyosha’s arguments; Ivan’s answers—Alyosha protested that Ivan’s attitude constituted rebellion. But when Ivan asked Alyosha whether he would sacrifice innocent blood for universal harmony, Alyosha had to say no, especially when confronted with Ivan’s graphic depiction of the child suffering and praying to God in the outhouse. When Alyosha brought up Christ’s sacrifice on the cross as the ultimate expiation for all sin, Ivan wondered what had taken him so long. And with Alyosha’s permission, he prepared to tell him a story—a poem he had imagined while inspired. Alyosha would be the first to hear it, and Ivan called it “The Grand Inquisitor.”

The Grand Inquisitor


Ivan’s story: The appearance of Christ—Ivan’s tale is set in Seville in the 16th century, during the time of the Inquisition. He begins by reminding Alyosha that many stories from that time included heavenly figures as part of the action. In his own story, this figure is Jesus Christ himself, though he says nothing throughout the piece. His outward appearance is just as it was many centuries earlier, and the people joyfully recognize him and beg him to cure their ills. Streaming light and compassion, he silently walks among them, healing their sick and even raising a little girl from the dead.

The Grand Inquisitor—The irony is that just the night before the same people who now flock to Christ stood in the same plaza and watched the burning of 100 heretics, Protestants whose only crime was that they had split from the Catholic religion. Now the instigator of the burnings, the Grand Inquisitor, enters the square. Ninety years old, tall, stern, and gaunt, he arrives in his cassock (not the cardinal’s finery of the day before), with his retinue in tow. His look is fiery, but it is not the fire of love. He has been watching Christ’s interaction with the people, and he has come to arrest him before sending him to the stake to be burned, just like the other heretics.

The Grand Inquisitor visits Christ in jail—Night falls, and the Grand Inquisitor goes to visit Jesus in his jail cell. He, too, recognizes Christ, but he doubts his perception. Regardless, he will have him burned at the stake the next day. Christ says nothing, which both suits and disturbs the Grand Inquisitor, who insists that Christ has no right to add or subtract from his previous statements made 1500 years ago.

The attempt to usurp divine power—Alyosha questions Ivan’s interpretation, but Ivan explains that it has to be that way. He equates the Grand Inquisitor’s statement with the Roman Catholic belief that the Pope is God’s sole representative on earth. In the Grand Inquisitor’s version of the papist view, even Christ himself has no right to interfere until the appointed time of his reappearance on earth. The next step in this thought process is the resentment of the freedom Christ bestowed on mankind. The Grand Inquisitor believes that the people are happier without it and that he has done them a favor by taking it away. Translation: Now that the Pope and his minions had power, they wanted to keep it—not yield it to Christ.

The three temptations—At this point, the Grand Inquisitor launches into his interpretation of the three temptations of Christ and their profound, encompassing significance regarding the fate of mankind. They represent miracle, mystery, and authority, the three powers capable of subduing and imprisoning man.

The first temptation: to turn stones into bread—The first temptation, where Christ refused to place his physical needs before the Word of God, highlights man’s perpetual battle between the physical and the spiritual. The Grand Inquisitor was convinced that man would always choose bread—his physical needs—before God’s demands whenever these seemed to conflict with those needs. It also represented man’s preference for miracles over pure worship, a preference that, taken to the extreme, would degenerate into witchcraft. Christ rejected both.  Unlike the Grand Inquisitor, whose arguments lacked both faith and spiritual insight, Christ knew that the pure worship of God ultimately resulted in the power to provide for both his own and others’ needs and to effect “miracles” at will. But this spiritual, faith-based side of the argument is never mentioned and only implied.

The second temptation: to cast himself from the summit—To Grand Inquisitor, the second temptation represented mystery, which was tied to man’s desire to abdicate reason, conscience, and responsibility for his spiritual progress, instead placing it in the hands of some mysterious power. The Roman Catholic Church was happy to play that role.

The third temptation: to rule the kingdoms of the earth—The Grand Inquisitor admitted that the Church had defected to Satan in the seventh century when its acquisition of lands indicated an increasing interest in secular power. But mankind’s impulse to rule the earth was also related to its desire for a universal worship. Again, the Church would happily fulfill that need in exchange for the people’s God-given freedom and awareness. To do this, it would have to deceive them, to replace their divine birthright with a false sense of happiness—essentially, to lull them to sleep with a false mythology, a false promise of salvation, and transient earthly gifts.

Contempt for the people—The Grand Inquisitor’s contempt for people was constantly mirrored in his descriptions of them as weak, stupid, and rebellious, unfit for the great gift of spiritual freedom. In his view, Christ demanded too much: the people would be happier under the Church’s regimen—and what right did Christ have now to disturb its plan? Besides, he himself had been ready to side with Christ but had finally judged the spiritual path to be madness.

Alyosha’s protest—It’s clear from Ivan’s narrative that he has done his research and knows the Bible intimately. But Alyosha protested that Ivan was only presenting the worst side of the Church and that the Grand Inquisitor’s equivalent did not exist in reality. Factions like the Jesuits were only interested in temporal power and acquisition, not souls, as statements like those about mystery and secrets implied. The only secret harbored by such was a complete lack of belief in God.

Ivan’s answer—Ivan answered that Alyosha was taking it all too seriously—and besides, weren’t there groups like the Freemasons and the Jesuits? And couldn’t there be even one among them, originally an ascetic and martyr, who on seeing that the rest of humanity could not be saved, changed his stance and defected to the other side? Wouldn’t that explain the Grand Inquisitor?

The end of the story—The story ends with the Grand Inquisitor finishing his discourse and then waiting for Jesus to speak. Jesus’ humble, concentrated silence has been disturbing enough in itself. But instead of speaking, Jesus rises and kisses the Grand Inquisitor on the lips. His heart burning, the Grand Inquisitor opens the prison gate and orders Jesus to leave and never return.

Ivan’s final statement—Ivan did not necessarily relate his story to his own life. On one level, he thought it was nonsense, or so he said. But it saddened Alyosha that his brother’s beliefs blocked him from loving life, even though he had affirmed just this urge earlier. Still, Ivan spoke of the Karamazov strength that could withstand anything, and though he related it to the same urge for life, he also equated that strength with depravity.Because of these ambivalent feelings, hewanted to avoid it—at least until thirty, when he would “dash the cup to the ground.” The implication, confirmed by his turning pale, is that he would commit suicide, though he doesn’t say this outright. That brought up the subject of his all-permissive belief system, and he wondered if that attitude would make even Alyosha, his only friend, turn away.

Alyosha’s silent response; final farewell promises—In silent answer, Alyosha rose and, mimicking the story, kissed his brother on the lips to Ivan’s delight. Earlier, Alyosha had also mentioned his concern that Ivan’s attitudes might cause his suicide, but Ivan promised that he would love life and not kill himself. He also made Alyosha promise to never speak of these things again and especially to never speak of Dmitry. Finally, he added that when he reached thirty, he would find Alyosha, wherever he was, and consult with him before doing anything drastic with his life.

A strange parting—But now it was time for them to go. Ivan figured they would be parted for many years before seeing each other again, yet even so, his final goodbye was sudden and perfunctory, and Alyosha was struck by how neither Ivan nor Dmitry looked back when saying goodbye. Alyosha also noticed a strangeness about Ivan’s walk: it was unstable, and his right shoulder drooped.

Alyosha hurries to the monastery, forgetting all about Dmitry—Ivan had made sure to send Alyosha to the starets in time, since he wanted no regrets on Alyosha’s part. And so, with Ivan soon out sight, Alyosha practically ran the whole way. And in his hurry, he completely forgot about his earlier determination to find Dmitry no matter what.

Still Unclear


Ivan’s restless anguish as he heads home—For some unknown reason, Ivan was feeling a great deal of anguish as he approached his father’s house for the last time. He went through a litany of possibilities, but none matched his feeling exactly.

Ivan’s uneasy relationship with Smerdyakov—Arriving at the house, he noticed Smerdyakov sitting outside, and he realized that he was the source of his discomfort. That still didn’t explain the intensity of his feeling, since he didn’t consider Smerdyakov worth bothering with too much. It hadn’t always been that way. Earlier in their interaction, Ivan had been interested in him, and they had had many deeper conversations. But Smerdyakov always proved evasive in his statements, and something in his manner was too familiar, as though Smerdyakov believed that he and Ivan had a special relationship, all of which Ivan found offensive, exasperating, and even infuriating.

Smerdyakov’s fears—Now as he interacted with Smerdyakov, the same pattern of evasiveness and inappropriate familiarity began again, until Ivan exploded and told Smerdyakov to get to the point. The conversation had started almost against Ivan’s will, and on the surface it didn’t initially reflect his real feelings of anger and contempt. Ivan first asked Smerdyakov about Fyodor Pavlovich and discovered that he was still asleep. Smerdyakov then questioned Ivan about why he refused to go to Chermashnya, as his father wished. But to Ivan, all this seemed empty small talk, and that was when he lost his temper. Finally, Smerdyakov admitted that both Fyodor Pavlovich and Dmitry were acting ridiculous because of Grushenka, constantly haranguing him about her whereabouts, why she hadn’t come yet, etc., as though he knew. Dmitry had even threatened him, yet Smerdyakov feared for his life or that he would be blamed if anything bad happened.

A possible way out?—Smerdyakov then tried to convince Ivan that he was sensing the onset of a major seizure that might even last three days; but Ivan, knowing that seizures couldn’t be predicted, saw through him. Smerdyakov admitted that he was using it as a way of protecting himself from the constant haranguing and potential accusations, although he insisted later that he could sense a seizure in advance.

Dmitry’s awareness of the secret signals—Ivan dismissed Smerdyakov’s fears of being accused as unlikely, but then Smerdyakov confessed that, under threat, he had let Dmitry in on the secret signal system he had with Fyodor Pavlovich. Fyodor Pavlovich locked himself in his room at night, so he and Smerdyakov had devised a system of signals for different events, such as Grushenka’s arrival. Now Dmitry also knew it.

No control over Dmitry—Ivan answered that it was Smerdyakov’s responsibility to prevent Dmitry from using the signals. But Smerdyakov pointed out that if he were lying ill from a seizure, he would be unable to do anything. Nor would Grigory be able to take over, since he was also ill, and Marfa Ignatyevna’s cure involved some herbal concoction that she also took when treating Grigory, and that would render both of them unconscious. Ivan found all of this highly convenient, but Smerdyakov insisted that there was no way he could predict Dmitry’s movements and that he did, in fact, have premonitions of impending seizures. To make matters worse, his premonitions made him afraid, and the fear alone could cause a seizure.

Fyodor Pavlovich’s fortune—Ivan refused to believe that Dmitry would break in on his father for any reason, even money, as Smerdyakov believed. But Smerdyakov reasoned that Dmitry was desperate for money, and Grushenka was not likely to marry for anything but money and possibly status. That meant that, of the two, Fyodor Pavlovich was the only one with a real chance at marriage. The problem was that if he married her, he was likely to leave all his money to her instead of dividing it between his three sons, who stood to gain 40,000 rubles each as long as their father hadn’t yet made a will.

Anger, questions, and an uneasy exit—Ivan had been growing increasingly furious, and now he was practically beside himself as he asked why Smerdyakov was pushing him to go to Chermashnya. Smerdyakov simply responded that Ivan should make himself scarce while trouble was brewing. Now even more enraged, Ivan rose to leave and insulted Smerdyakov. He felt like attacking him, but he resisted and to his surprise blurted out that he was going to Moscow the next day. Smerdyakov thought that was a good idea and mentioned that they could contact him by telegraph in the event of an incident. But by now, Smerdyakov was nervous and had pulled back somewhat. As Ivan made to leave, he kept raising the question of Chermashnya, still trying to guess why Smerdyakov had suggested it. But Smerdyakov was evasive, and Ivan’s uneasy exit was marked by nervous laughter and irregular movement.

Interesting to Talk to an Intelligent Person


Ivan brushes past his father, who soon turns his thoughts to Grushenka—By now, Fyodor Pavlovich had awoken and was waiting to talk to Ivan about some important matter. But Ivan yelled that he wanted nothing to do with him as he passed him on the way to his room. Fyodor Pavlovich did not take it personally, and he knew better than to pursue the matter; and since Smerdyakov had nothing to add on the issue, Fyodor Pavlovich was soon plying him with questions about Grushenka. However, it being nighttime already, the house was soon locked up and the servants sent to their quarters, while Fyodor Pavlovich began his nightly watch for Grushenka.

Ivan’s turmoil; eavesdropping on his father—Meanwhile, Ivan was experiencing serious mental and emotional turmoil. Sometime around midnight, for instance, he had the inexplicable desire to beat up Smerdyakov, though he didn’t actually do so. At other times, he felt weak and afraid, or he was filled with revenge and hatred—even for Alyosha, whom he normally loved above all. And after being so sure that he would leave for Moscow, he now doubted whether he would go. Several times, he also went out onto the stairs to eavesdrop on his father, who was pacing around in his room. Ivan’s sole motive was curiosity: there was no anger or malice involved. At 2 a.m., his father finally went to bed, and Ivan followed suit.

Fyodor Pavlovich tries to get Ivan to go to Chermashnya on business—At 7 a.m., Ivan awoke from a sound sleep and leapt out of bed, immediately dressing and packing to leave. His doubts from the previous night had been replaced by a sudden energy. Two hours later, Ivan was ready. Now in a decent mood, he informed his father that he was off to Moscow. Fyodor Pavlovich was not surprised or even sad. His main concern was some business he had in Chermashnya. He wanted Ivan to take care of it on his way there, but Ivan declined to help, explaining that it would make him late for the train to Moscow. Still, Fyodor Pavlovich insisted. The business concerned a timber deal he wanted to close, but his best potential buyer, who went by the assumed name of Gorstkin, was from out of town and would be visiting Chermashnya for only a week. Fyodor Pavlovich didn’t want to go until he was sure the buyer was serious, and Ivan was his best business representative. Fyodor Pavlovich would instruct him on what to watch for, such as the movement of Gorstkin’s scraggly red beard, which indicated whether he was lying or not.

No promises—Ivan’s only agreement was that he would decide while en route. But Fyodor Pavlovich, even though he heard Ivan, decided to ignore that and acted as though he had made a firm promise. Excited, he was feeling enthusiastic and affectionate, but realizing that Ivan did not feel the same way (he wouldn’t even let his father kiss him), Fyodor Pavlovich restrained himself.

Off to Moscow … via Chermashnya; Smerdyakov’s farewell statement—At last, having said goodbye to the servants and given each a gift of ten rubles, Ivan got into the coach. Smerdyakov ran over to straighten out the mat beneath his feet, prompting Ivan to exclaim—to his own surprise—that he was off to Chermashnya after all. Smerdyakov’s response echoes the title of the chapter: that speaking with an intelligent person is always interesting, and he delivers it as though making a statement of great significance.

Ivan changes his mind and heads straight for the station—As the coach rode along the bright, fresh countryside, Ivan felt a growing sense of ease at leaving behind the old and beginning a new life. He thought of the people he loved—Alyosha and Katerina Ivanovna—but he knew that now was not the time to engage with them. He wondered why he had suddenly changed his mind about Chermashnya and what Smerdyakov had meant by his final statement. Then, at Volovya, where they stopped to change horses, he suddenly changed his mind again: he would skip Chermashnya and go straight to the station to catch the train to Moscow. There would be just enough time to make it. Luckily, there was someone there who could the deliver the message to Fyodor Pavlovich that Ivan had changed his mind. Ivan also gave the man a tip, joking that his father would be unlikely to do so.

On the way to Moscow: happiness replaced by sadness and self-condemnation—Ivan made the train and was off to Moscow that evening. But his initial relief and gladness at starting a new life soon turned to unhappiness, and by the time the train arrived in Moscow at dawn, he was calling himself a rogue.

Smerdyakov and Grigory are bedridden; Fyodor Pavlovich waits for Grushenka—Meanwhile at Fyodor Pavlovich’s, all seemed well until Smerdyakov had a major seizure and fell down the stairs leading to the cellar. Fortunately, there were no broken bones, but he was lying at the base of the stairs, foaming and writhing, when they found him after Marfa Ignatyevna heard him scream. On examining him, Dr. Herzenstube determined that it was serious and sent him to bed in the servants’ quarters. Three days later, Grigory also became bedridden from lower back pain. Fyodor Pavlovich had no choice but to lock himself in the house alone and wait. He knew he had to watch out for Dmitry, but his main happy thought was his certainty that Grushenka would be coming that night, and he knew from Smerdyakov that she knew the secret code.

A Russian Monk

Starets Zosima and His Visitors


A cell full of visitors—Starets Zosima was not lying on his deathbed, as Alyosha expected. Instead, his tiny cell was filled with his most beloved friends, the hieromonks Father Païsy, Father Yosif, Father Mikhail (also the Father Superior), and a humble, timid, illiterate monk named Brother Anfim, who had traveled extensively through Russia with the starets four decades earlier, when Zosima first become a monk. Porfiry, the novice, was also there. The starets was sitting in an armchair, weak but in good spirits, conversing and teaching, as he had promised to do once more before passing on.

The starets urges Alyosha to find Dmitry—It was growing dark as Alyosha entered the room, and though the starets welcomed him cheerfully, Alyosha could not hold back his tears as he bowed before his beloved master. The starets reassured him that it wasn’t time to mourn yet, even joking that he might live another twenty years, as the lady with the baby had predicted. She was the same woman who had left a donation for someone less fortunate than herself, and remembering that, the starets checked to see that Porfiry had delivered it to a widow and children whose house had newly burned down. Then, turning to Alyosha, he wanted to know whether he had managed to see Dmitry. When Alyosha admitted that he couldn’t find him, the starets urgently ordered him to drop everything and find him as soon as possible. He explained that he had seen a look on Dmitry’s face—a look he had seen only a few times before—that revealed a terrible destiny and great suffering for Dmitry. That was why the starets had bowed before him, and he hoped that seeing Alyosha’s face would have a beneficial effect on his brother. But he also acknowledged that everything came from God.

Alyosha’s face: a blessed reminder of the starets’s late brother—From here, the starets launched into praise of Alyosha’s face, which he saw as a great blessing. He predicted that Alyosha’s life on earth would bring him much pain but that he would rise above it with joy and teach others to do so, too. That was, after all, who he was, and he would win over even his enemies through love. Then the starets added something he had never told anyone before, including Alyosha. Spiritually and even facially somewhat, Alyosha resembled the starets’s older brother, who had died many years ago at the age of seventeen. It was this brother’s presence in his life that had inspired him to become a monk. Now, late in his lifetime, the starets felt that Alyosha had appeared as a reminder of his own destiny and his brother’s early influence. This was why he loved Alyosha so. He especially addressed this to Porfiry, who saddened him with his envious resentment of that love; but the starets assured Porfiry that he loved him, too.

Preparation for the next chapter: the starets’s life story—The rest of the chapter prepares us for the long story the starets is about to tell—the story of his life. The narrator explains that the version told in the next chapter is actually Alyosha’s record of that evening, which is both abridged and expanded upon: abridged, because it leaves out the occasional interruptions by the other monks; expanded upon, because it also includes added information from Alyosha’s prior talks with the starets. Alyosha also wrote it down from memory, so he probably didn’t include everything.

The starets’s state in his final hours—That evening, though weak and occasionally needing to rest, the starets was nevertheless in an inspired state that, coupled with having slept during the day, gave him a second wind—so much so that none of those present imagined that he would die that night.

The Life of Starets Zosima, as Told by Alyosha


Part A: Markel, his older brother

Background and early life; the starets’s brother Markel—Born in the far north of Russia, the starets, whose given name was Zinovy, was only two when his father died. A nobleman, he had left his wife and two young sons a house and enough money to live on. The starets’s brother Markel was eight years older, and though he was hot-tempered, he was also kind, studious, and kept to himself. When he was seventeen, he started visiting a recognized philosopher and scholar who was also a political exile, and these visits lasted throughout the winter. Finally, the man moved to St. Petersburg, but by then he had had an effect on Markel. When Lent arrived, Markel refused to fast and even made fun of it; nor did he believe in God. All of this was extremely upsetting to his mother, his younger brother, and the servants.

Markel’s illness, spiritual transformation, and death—Towards the end of Lent, the tuberculosis that had always plagued Markel became worse. The doctor’s prognosis was that he would die soon, and even Markel had often indicated that his life would not be long. His mother begged him to fast and receive Holy Communion, but he only responded with anger and mockery. However, he changed his mind, realizing that his end was near and wanting to reassure his mother. He soon became too sick to attend church, so the host had to be brought to him, but a great change had taken place in the meantime. His face glowed with happiness, and though his sleep was disrupted by coughing and fever, he had a remarkable newfound appreciation for life, love, and people. He even prayed and accepted others’ prayers, something he had never done before. His attitude toward life—that heaven was here and now and that all life was a radiant unity—had such a strong spiritual dimension that it made others wonder. His mother and the doctor attributed the change to his illness, but Markel denied it, and his joyous attitude remained the same for the rest of his short life, which ended three weeks after Easter. Before that, he would often joyfully urge his little brother to live life for him. Zinovy didn’t know it at the time, but the profound effect of his brother’s words would shape his later life.

Part B: The Holy Scriptures

A mother’s sacrifice—On the advice of her neighbors and despite her own personal sacrifice, Zinovy’s mother finally took him to St. Petersburg to enlist as a cadet, in the hope that he could later become an Imperial Guard. It was the last time Zinovy would see her: she died three years after that, having spent the entire time worrying and mourning.

A youthful revelation and the inspiring story of Job—One of the starets’s fondest memories of his childhood home was of studying the Holy Scriptures. But before that, when he was only eight, he had his first revelation. There in the church, inspired by the sight of the incense rising to meet the sun’s rays, he felt a sudden understanding of the sacred teachings. Zinovy then witnessed a boy carrying a large book from which he read the story of Job, in which Satan gets permission from God to tempt his most faithful servant. But Job remains faithful, even praising God through Satan’s terrible torments.

The praise of God over the illusions of this world—The story had a profound impact on young Zinovy, especially in the inspiring church atmosphere, with its incense, singing, and prayer. For Job’s life was not about material loss and gain—the things of Satan—but about the praise of God, his true origin and reason for being. Even if God rewarded him in the end with material blessings, that was not the point.

The starets now related this story to his own condition as he neared his death. Like Job, he was grateful for whatever God saw fit to send his way, and this gratitude sprang from deep within his soul and informed his whole vision, which acknowledged the healing, loving presence of God in all things. And like Job, who was given a new family after the death of the old, the starets saw his impending death as an opening into a new life.

Love and simplicity in teaching the sacred Word—On a related note, the starets brought up the fact that many priests were discontent with their low wages and lack of time and were therefore losing interest in guiding their flocks. The starets’s advice was to make the most of whatever resources they had, no matter how little. From that point, they could teach the faithful in love, humility, and simplicity, trusting the power of the sacred Word to reach the hearts of the people, even if only as a little seed. Gradually, it would do its work within their souls, no matter how bad their current state.

Creation as God’s expression—In fact, to love God’s creations—his children—was to love God himself, and vice versa. All it required from the priests was one hour per week. For if that single hour was given in love, God’s people would respond in gratitude, and the priests who complained of having too little would find that they already had more.

Indeed, not only man but all creation expressed God’s order, beauty, and love. The starets illustrated his point by telling them about a young man, a peasant who worked the barges, whom he and Father Anfim met during their travels across Russia. It was summertime, and as Father Anfim slept, Zinovy(Zosima) and the young man sat on the riverbank and spoke to each other of the goodness and beauty of nature as an expression of God. As the young man finally drifted off to sleep, Zinovy rejoiced in his innocence and spiritual understanding.

Part C: Young adult life; the duel


Army days—The starets was a cadet in St. Petersburg for almost eight years, afterwards serving as an officer for four years. His training and experiences didn’t change him fundamentally, but his impressionable nature did make him susceptible to outside influences. As a result, he became wild, drunken, and shallow in his sense of honor and manners. All this was compounded by the fact that he had money, which gave him leeway for out-and-out self-indulgence. During those days, he still carried the Bible with him everywhere, but though he read regularly, he rarely opened it.

A misguided love; challenge to a duel—At one point, he ended up in a town with a lively social scene, a good fit because he had money and was cheerful. He started wooing a beautiful young woman from an influential, rich family who had extended their hospitality to him despite his lower social standing. What he didn’t know was that the daughter was already engaged to a young landowner whose wealth, position, and education outranked his own. Marriage was not a great concern of Zinovy’s, anyway, since he was enjoying his young bachelor days. But he still harbored the desire of eventually proposing to the young woman, and he was too blinded by his own self-estimate to notice her subtle hints that his feelings were not appropriate. So when his career took him elsewhere for two months and he returned afterwards to find the young woman already married to someone with better credentials, he became offended, confused, and angry. Obsessed with the desire for revenge in spite of his normally cheerful nature, Zinovy used the opportunity of an important social event to insult his “competitor” to the point that the latter challenged him to a duel, to take place the next morning.

Striking his servant—But things did not turn out as expected. That evening Zinovy lost his temper at his personal servant and struck his face so hard that the blood gushed out. His servant, however, made no move to defend himself but simply stood at attention. Decades later, the cruelty of that action still filled the starets with shame and regret.

A change of heart; begging forgiveness—The next morning, the freshness and beauty of nature was in such stark contrast to the torment Zinovy was feeling that he was compelled to pinpoint its source. Realizing that it was not the duel but his cruelty towards his servant, who refused to defend himself, he thought of his brother Markel—and in doing so, he underwent a complete transformation. Never again did he want to harm another person, especially one who didn’t deserve it. When his second arrived to accompany him to the duel, Zinovy took a moment to go to his servant and, bowing before him, begged his forgiveness. Stunned, the servant burst into tears, claiming not to deserve it—so contrary was Zinovy’s action to the standards of the times.

The duel is canceled; consternation and condemnation—From that point, Zinovy was in a good mood the whole way to the duel. On arriving, he let his opponent shoot first, and then, barely grazed by the bullet, he threw his own gun into the trees and asked his opponent’s forgiveness for his foolish behavior. Confused at first, his opponent eventually concluded that he was sincere, while the seconds, his own included, called him a disgrace to the regiment.

From disgraced officer to holy fool: Zinovy’s decision to become a monk—The news of the event spread, and consternation and condemnation continued until Zinovy informed everyone that he was resigning from the regiment and becoming a monk. That changed everything. He became the town favorite—no one could get enough of him. Suddenly, he was a “holy fool,” the butt of good-natured laughter but still welcomed and listened to with interest. One person, however, was not making fun of him: it was the young woman he had courted. Instead, she graciously extended her hand and thanked him for his admirable deed. Soon a number of people, her husband included, were shaking Zinovy’s hand. And among them was one man in particular, whose name Zinovy knew but to whom he had never spoken.

Part D: The mysterious visitor

An unexpected visitor—After handing in his resignation, Zinovy released his servant from duty, being still too ashamed to look him in the face, and rented other lodgings. Now sitting in his room the next evening, he found himself confronted by the same gentleman he had noticed the night before. A middle-aged man of means and importance in the town, he was known for his charity. He also had a younger wife and three children, though he had married late. Silent and stern, as was his habit, he entered Zinovy’s apartment with the desire to learn more about him, having listened with interest to his statements at the different social gatherings. In his estimate, it took great strength to risk everything for the truth, as Zinovy had done, and he wanted to understand his thought processes better. Zinovy, too, began to realize that this man’s interest was of a different kind from usual, and he wondered what lay behind it.

Zinovy bares all—Zinovy told the man everything, including the incident with his servant, which he hadn’t mentioned to anyone else. Over the period that followed, the man visited him every evening, but in all that time, he never said much about himself except to share his thoughts on things; so although Zinovy trusted him from the beginning and learned from his wisdom, they never became close.

A deep understanding—Even so, the two of them talked about many of the profound points Zinovy had raised at the social gatherings, and it came out that the man had a deep practical understanding of them, even more than Zinovy, who had only begun to comprehend the full import of what he had learned from his brother. The man knew, for example, that paradise was hidden within each person and instantly available for those who wanted it. But first, there had to be a mental change for paradise to become an external reality. That meant dispensing with self-isolation and reestablishing universal brotherhood and unity. But that change had to take place within each individual, and the current widespread preference was for isolation in the form of material well-being, power, etc. Ironically, it was all in the name of fully experiencing life, when in truth this approach led only to death. Still, it was just a matter of time before heaven would come to earth, but in the meantime, all should ideally practice brotherhood to keep the idea alive. That included admitting personal responsibility not only for your own sins but also for your neighbors’.

A terrifying confession—These nightly conversations became Zinovy’s main social activity, but as much as he enjoyed them, he realized that his visitor had some large secret goal. Zinovy never pried, even though the man would sometimes promise to reveal his secret. It was obvious that he wanted to say something, though he never did. Then one day, after increasing anxiety and complaints of headaches, his face suddenly looked sick and twisted, and he confessed that he had killed someone. Zinovy didn’t believe him at first, but as he listened, he became convinced.

Confession of a murder and cover-up—Fourteen years earlier, he had been passionately in love with a young, beautiful, rich widow, to whom he proposed. Already involved with an officer who was away on duty, she declined his proposal and terminated his visits. In a jealous rage, he broke into her house, climbed the stairs to her bedroom, and finding her alone (the two chambermaids having gone to a party), he stabbed her in the heart and then stole various items to make it look like a servant had committed the crime. As it happened, the circumstances surrounding one male servant fit the situation: his behavior was drunken and rowdy; he had fled when he found out the lady meant to send him to the army as part of her duty; and the following day, he was found lying drunk in the road with a bloody hand (supposedly from a bloody nose) and a knife in his pocket. Conveniently, the suspicion quickly fell on him, and no one suspected the actual killer since he appeared to be a mere acquaintance. Then, when the accused servant suddenly died a week into the trial, the case was closed and forgotten.

No guilt feelings until much later—Oddly, the man felt no guilt at first, and he dismissed whatever thoughts occasionally tried to penetrate his determination to forget. His only regret was that he had killed the woman he loved, but in his mind, it was better to have her dead than married to someone else. The rest of the crime was either resolved by fate, like the servant’s death, or seemed too trivial to worry about. He gave the money he stole to the poor and then threw himself into his work and charitable activities, becoming widely known and respected even in the larger cities. Finally, he married a younger woman and became a dedicated husband and father of three in an effort to eliminate whatever haunting thoughts remained. But the effect was the opposite. He could not reconcile his new role as a giver of life and love with his old action of taking those same things away. He started having nightmares, which he kept to himself. He tried atoning through more charitable works, but the respect he gained only compounded the irony he felt. He even considered suicide.

A decision and a problem—Finally, the man concluded that the sole action that would bring him peace would be to confess in public. He thought about it for three years, but it was only when he witnessed Zinovy’s unusual behavior in the duel that he made up his mind—except for one thing. Now he was in a quandary: what terrible effect would such an action have on his wife and children? He needed Zinovy to decide for him.

Zinovy counsels the man to tell the truth—After sitting there quietly listening, Zinovy finally told him to confess. His children would understand eventually, and they would realize that it was an honorable deed. The important thing was to tell the truth, for that was all that remained in the end.

Indecision, anger, and fear—But for the man, it wasn’t that simple, and it would be weeks before he finally achieved the necessary resolve. He was afraid of being judged, of losing his children’s love, of being parted from his family forever, of causing them pain. He would leave the decision in Zinovy’s hands, finding comfort and resolve in that; but then he would return, angry, rebellious, resentful. It was easy for Zinovy to quote from the Bible and tell him what to do, but did he know what he was going through?

The midnight visit—The night before his birthday (unbeknownst to Zinovy), the day he had chosen to make his public confession, he came back to see Zinovy a second time at midnight. At first, he pretended he had forgotten something but then admitted he hadn’t. Calling Zinovy by name for the first time, he asked him to remember that second visit, even though he said little, only hugging Zinovy and smiling strangely at him. Zinovy was sure he would confess the next day.

The public confession; shock, disbelief, illness—And he was right. The next day, the man held his birthday dinner with the whole town present, including his superiors. After dinner, he not only read his confession, denouncing himself as a “monster,” but he also produced every bit of incriminating physical evidence he had saved over the years: the victim’s jewelry and personal effects, including her crucifix; a letter from her fiancé; and her own partially finished response to him. The reaction was shock, the general consensus that he had lost his mind. No one believed him despite the evidence, which was deemed insufficient by the limited investigation that began but was called off because the man became gravely ill within the week.

A final visit; the dying man finds peace and joy—Zinovy, who doubted the verdict of mental illness, tried to visit his friend but was barred by his wife, who, along with the rest of the town, blamed him for her husband’s sudden illness and his increasing mental agitation over the last year. Finally, the man insisted on seeing Zinovy, so he was allowed in. It was clear that the man was on his deathbed, but he had finally achieved the joy and peace he had craved for so long, and he was now able to love, something he could not do before. He was also glad that his family was spared from pain by the general disbelief in his statement.

A terrifying confession—Then he made a strange confession. Reminding Zinovy of the night he had returned a second time, he admitted that he had originally come to kill him, so profound was his hatred for the only person who knew his secret and could therefore judge him. But he finally got a handle on himself and resolved to go through with his public confession, as he knew he had to.

An honored life; ostracism and curiosity; Zinovy moves on—The man soon died and was honored by the whole town at his funeral. Zinovy, on the other hand, was blamed and shunned at first, but gradually people began to believe the man’s story and wanted to know the details. However, Zinovy never revealed anything, and within a short time he moved on to a new place and a new holy life in God. But he never forgot his friend, Mikhail, and he still prayed for him.

Teachings of the Starets

Part E: Thoughts on the Russian monk

Modern times and monkhood—Having finished talking about his life, the starets launched into a discourse on the nature of the Russian monk and his place in society. In modern times, many viewed the monks as useless parasites or sensualists in disguise, and the starets admitted that that was true for some monks. But there were others, quiet and humble, who just wanted to pray and purify their souls, and these representatives of Christliness would be Russia’s salvation.

The rise of materialism—As for the world, it was lost in its notions of science and freedom, both based on a materialism that discarded spirituality as useless, when spirituality was man’s highest nature and deepest essence. Interestingly, the starets’s comments mirror our own times. He speaks of the desire for instant gratification and the multiplication of material “needs.” And when those needs and desires aren’t met, people forsake the causes that are dear to them or even commit suicide. The rich isolate themselves amidst material things, while the poor, who are taught to crave the same things, resort to drunkenness and bloodshed.

The spiritual path as the answer—But true happiness and freedom were to be found in the renunciation of self-indulgence: in prayer, fasting, and obedience to God. Modern society might ridicule it, but Russia’s monks were in tune with the heart of the people, and ultimately the true leaders would come from the monasteries. The people would never believe an atheist, no matter how brilliant or honest. The Orthodox faith would be universally restored, and Russia would be a beacon for God’s word.


Part F: Masters and servants

The ultimate goodness and faith of the Russian people—Unfortunately, as things stood, even the peasants were corrupted. Everywhere there was greed, pretentiousness, drunkenness, and abuse. Innocent children were subjected to horrid conditions and deprived of a healthy, happy childhood. The hope lay in the conscience of the poor and simple, whereas the higher classes, having discarded religion in favor of science, had lost touch with morality and denied that sin or crime even existed. The repercussions of these beliefs were already manifesting in Europe, where the people felt justified in rising up against the rich. But the starets trusted in the natural goodness, self-respect, and faith of the Russian people, and he urged the monks to do so, too. In the future, the humility and compassion of the poor would inspire the true shame of the rich. Real brotherhood and equality would come from Christianity and no other way.

Meeting Afanasy—The starets himself had had a striking experience along these lines when he coincidentally met his former servant Afanasy in a marketplace. By then, Afanasy was married with two babies, and though he was poor, he treated the starets (still a simple monk at the time) like an honored visitor, joyfully inviting him to his home and extending his hospitality. When he asked Zosima what had happened to all his money, he said he had donated it to the monastery. And so, despite his poverty, Afanasy urged his own donations on Zosima, one for the monastery and one for Zosima himself. They parted by embracing each other in a spirit of joy and brotherhood.

Spiritual brotherhood over outward equality—To the starets, there was no reason why this couldn’t happen universally. Why could a master not serve a servant in humility, embracing him as a family member? And why could the servant not receive it in dignity and trust? But this could not come about without Christ, for without Christ, man would resort to mutual bloodshed. In other words, without spiritual brotherhood, love, and sharing, the outcome of faith in God, any striving towards equality would degenerate into mutual destruction because of its outward, material focus and because it began in bloodshed—for what begins in bloodshed must also end in bloodshed.


Part G: Prayer, love, and other worlds

The power of prayer—The starets urged the young monks to always remember to pray, for prayer would both elevate and inform their souls. And they should also pray for the souls of others, even those lonesome souls they didn’t know, so that those souls might also find rest, comfort, and forgiveness on departing this earth.

The power of a deep and humble love—The starets’s next injunction was to love all creation, no matter how small or sinful. For to love like this would begin to mirror divine love. In doing so, the plan (or “mystery”) of God would gradually unfold and strengthen our ability to love. Man should also not interfere with the nature of things, as reflected in animals and children, but should recognize the blessings they bring—their purity and joy. Here the starets pointed to Father Anfim as a great lover of children.

Also, when confronted by sin, one should always choose humility and love over force; for humility and love were the ultimate power. But this was no easy task and required constant watchfulness and untiring dedication. It meant understanding the unity of things and asking forgiveness of the whole and all its creatures. For the smallest careless act could adversely influence some unknown innocent and would certainly affect the whole.

Joy versus pride; other worlds—The starets also encouraged the monks to be joyful and not to succumb to dejection because of the world’s sins. If they could understand that they were responsible for the sins of the whole world, then they could avoid the satanic pride that was the cause of passion, self-deception, and blame. On earth, human life was a mystery because its real seeds lay in other worlds. If they could stay in touch with that link within themselves, they could realize God’s intention to grow his garden on earth. If not, they would lose their joy in living and ultimately be destroyed.


Part H: Refraining from judgment and maintaining faith

Responsibility, not judgment—Here the starets repeated his injunction to refrain from judging others and instead take their suffering upon themselves, realizing that others’ sins were their own sins. If people ridiculed or judged them, it meant they weren’t ready to understand, but sooner or later they would. Even the law should judge people’s actions in the same spirit.

Faithful to the end—Taking responsibility also meant being fastidious about their actions, both deliberate and accidental. It meant fulfilling their duties fully and immediately and knowing that if they saw no reward or even lost everything and everyone, their faithfulness and goodness would still bear fruit. But again, that goodness was everyone’s goodness, and everyone else’s sins were their sins. Knowing this would put them in touch with the truth and ease their sense of burden. And if they connected with only one person in the world, that connection was a world in itself, rooted in love.

Faith in the light—Being faithful, then, meant being faithful to universal love and spiritual light. It meant seeing through the darkness of people’s deeds and moving beyond it. And it meant being faithful to the end, for the light would outlive them and wield its effect beyond their lifetimes. This was the way of the saviors of the earth, who were maligned while alive and worshipped after death by the same people who tortured and killed them. But the saints did not live for earthly reward but to bring truth and healing, and their reward was the incomparable bliss of God.


Part I: The real definition of hell

Hell as the inability to love; hope in humility; prayer for the suicides—The starets’s simple but profound definition of “hell” was the loss of the ability to love. He tells of a being placed on earth whose original nature was life and love. But the being rejected its gift of love, seeing it as worthless. So when it died and rose to heaven, it found itself unable to receive and reciprocate the love that was there, and this was the source of its suffering, intensified by its yearning to make up for its lack of love but finding it could not. But the starets still believed there was hope for such a soul: in seeing the compassion of the heavenly souls and its own dearth of love, that soul might awaken to the nature of real, active love. As for those on earth who committed suicide, this was the worst thing; but though the Church ostracized such souls, the starets still prayed for them. The Church might be against prayer for the suicides, but Christ could never reject an act of love.

The lost proud ones—Then there were those who rejected God, life, and love entirely, demanding their destruction. Refusing forgiveness, their pride was such that they willfully chose hell, preferring unending torment and unfulfillment to life and God. And though they longed for death, they would not receive it.

Death of the starets—Throughout his talk, the starets was alert and cheerful, and his condition even seemed better. So it came as a surprise to all when he was suddenly seized by chest pains and, falling to his knees, bowed down, praying and kissing the ground in a spirit of peace and joy as his soul departed the earth.

An unexpected distraction—The news spread quickly, and by the next day, most of the town had learned of the starets’s death. But that same day, another event took place that would send shock waves throughout both the town and the monastery.



 Odor of Putrefaction

Pre-burial rituals—On the starets’s death, Father Païsy performed the ritual preparation of the body for burial, which included sponging down the body but not washing it. He would have also read from the Gospels earlier in the day (Father Yosif took over) had it not been for a growing agitation among both the monks and the laity, who now gathered inside the monastery in expectation of a miracle, even bringing their sick. This troubled Father Païsy, though he admitted that he wasn’t completely free from the expectation himself. He was especially troubled by Rakitin and the little monk from Obdorsk, who was being a regular busybody. Rakitin’s purpose there was to take detailed notes for Mrs. Khokhlakova, who, being female, could not come herself. Believing him to be devout (which he wasn’t, but he fooled her), she had sent him to take detailed notes and report back to her every half hour.

Alyosha’s tears—As Father Païsy was touring the hermitage, he noticed Alyosha sitting on a gravestone, crying bitterly. The father tried to comfort him, explaining that it was the starets’s greatest day, but Alyosha just covered his face with his hands again and resumed crying. Realizing that Alyosha needed this and that he might cry himself if he stayed any longer, Father Païsy headed back to relieve Father Yosif from the Gospel readings.

Smell of decay—By now it was early afternoon, and the starets’s body was resting in a coffin in his anteroom, having been duly prepared for this final “reception” of the people. The problem was that, like most corpses, his body started to smell, contrary to expectation. Someone even mentioned opening a window, but the suggestion was ignored.

Expectations and reactions—The expectation of a sweet scent from a deceased saint, among other unusual positive phenomena, had several precedents in the monastery’s history. One of these was the starets buried in the grave where Father Païsy had found Alyosha weeping. That monk, an ascetic who had died long ago, had lived to 105. The other instance was the starets’s immediate predecessor, a holy fool. So when the starets’s own corpse began to smell, the significance ran deeper for some than just the usual effect of bodily decay. For his enemies, it was a chance to debunk his holiness and the cult of the startsy. For non-believers, it was proof that it was all a sham. Even some of his followers immune saw it as a personal offense.

Increasing agitation—By three or so, the news had spread through the town, and those townspeople who had not yet come now appeared to check on the situation, just like many of the monks throughout the day. Finally, the town clerk, a devout man, blurted out that the judgment of God was not the same as the judgment of man, and whatever propriety remained soon gave way to a malicious, gossipy atmosphere that prevailed even though it represented a minority.

Father Therapon appears—It didn’t help that the stench had started before one day had elapsed, earlier even than regular corpses. Father Yosif tried to explain that the smell was not one of the most important signs of glorification. But being unconvinced himself and seeing the malevolence of the starets’s detractors, he finally held his peace, with the starets’s other supporters gradually following suit. Their fear that something bad was about to happen was corroborated by malicious comments from the starets’s enemies and, finally, the appearance of his arch-enemy, Father Therapon himself.

Casting out devils—The narrator assumes that the monk from Obdorsk informed Therapon of the situation, and this seemed likely since he followed him almost all the way into cell, unlike the Father’s other numerous followers, who remained outside. There was a general anticipation that he would do something unusual, and he did not disappoint. Immediately on entering, he lifted his arms and began shouting, his chains rattling, as he presumably cast out Satan and his devils. Father Païsy, who had been watching the casket, had also anticipated the scene. Now he calmly and fearlessly questioned Father Therapon as to what he was doing. He even suggested that Therapon himself was serving the devil.

Therapon’s objections; Father Païsy orders him out—But Father Therapon yelled back that he did not see himself as being saintly. He strenuously objected to the startsy cult that had others bowing down before them. Addressing the crowd, he added that the late starets, who had not believed in devils, now stank because of it. The one time he had been confronted with a serious case of demons, he had even prescribed herbs in addition to prayer and fasting. This was unacceptable. Father Païsy stood his ground, ordering Father Therapon out of the cell. He was disrupting a peaceful gathering; nor were any of them in a position to interpret God’s signs. Father Therapon left, but not before expressing all his objections, including his envy of the late starets. Then falling down before the setting sun, he wept as his followers rushed towards him, proclaiming him the true holy one.

Alyosha leaves the hermitage—Watching the scene, Father Païsy felt a sudden pang in his heart, though he himself had not gotten caught up in the frantic atmosphere. Then seeing Alyosha, he recognized the source of his emotion. The narrator states earlier that the scene in the cell with Father Therapon had a profound effect on Alyosha, so when the bell rang to call the monks to prayer, Alyosha, who was avoiding Father Païsy’s gaze, did not go. When the father asked him about it, Alyosha only gave him an ironic smile and hurried out of the hermitage, leaving Father Païsy looking sadly after him, although certain he would return.

An Opportunity


Alyosha’s troubled state—Father Païsy was right in his intuition that Alyosha would be back, but there was no need for concern about his faith or his love for God and the starets. Still, that faith and love made the scene with Father Therapon all the more disturbing for Alyosha, and the day as a whole was a sad and confusing one for him. What troubled him was not the lack of a miracle, even though he, too, had expected one. Instead, it was the seeming injustice of it all. Why was his beloved mentor suddenly disgraced by those lower and less deserving? Why had God, nature, and man turned their backs on him when they should have glorified him? Such thoughts would normally be considered rebellious, but in Alyosha, they proceeded from his deep spirituality, even if his youth still made him immature in his understanding. All this was compounded by a vague, painful sense that was now rising to the surface and was related to his recent conversation with Ivan. Amidst all this anguish, he also completely forgot his determination to find Dmitry and to redeliver the 200 rubles to the staff captain.

Encounter with Rakitin—It was in this state that Rakitin found Alyosha that same evening, face down on the ground in the woods near the monastery. He had been looking for him, and now he expressed surprise, which quickly turned to mockery. No great fan of the “holy fool,” Rakitin began chiding Alyosha. Alyosha himself was not thrilled to see Rakitin. He refused to look at him directly and even ordered him to leave. Seeing Alyosha’s expression and behavior, Rakitin immediately realized that something changed: had the angel finally fallen to mortal status? What was the cause of this rebelliousness? The starets’s putrefaction? Surely Alyosha wasn’t foolish enough to believe in miracles. But Alyosha blurted out that he did believe. Nor was he rebelling against God but against the world He had made.

A definite change; Rakitin’s surprise—Suddenly bored with the conversation, Rakitin changed the subject to (in his view) more important things. Had Alyosha eaten at all? He looked like a wreck. To Rakitin’s surprise, Alyosha accepted his offer of sausage and vodka at his place. This was a dramatic turn of events for Rakitin, and he was thrilled to have a front row seat. And wouldn’t Ivan have been surprised had he been here? Mention of Ivan produced a haunting reminder in Alyosha of something to do with Dmitry, but the moment was brief and vague, and he didn’t voice it out loud. Rakitin noted that both Ivan and Alyosha had insulted him at different times, calling him annoying or lacking in honor. Now he was eager to see how these two brothers would turn out, but he only mumbled this to himself.

A sudden change of plan—Suddenly, Rakitin suggested taking a different route. He wanted to drop by Mrs. Khokhlakova’s, explaining that he had been keeping her posted on events at the hermitage and that she had been shocked and angered by the starets’s “behavior.” Rakitin was exclaiming how ridiculous the believers were, when he suddenly got an idea that made him stop. It took him a moment to fully come out with it, but finally he suggested going to Grushenka’s instead of his place. To his surprise, Alyosha calmly agreed, upon which Rakitin grabbed his arm and picked up his pace, as though Alyosha might change his mind. Rakitin’s secret double plan was to watch Alyosha’s downfall and to reap some unknown material benefit.

Spring Onion


Grushenka’s place—Grushenka rented a small addition to a large, old stone house in the town’s liveliest section. Her landlady, a reclusive elderly widow, was a relation of Grushenka’s late benefactor, the wealthy old Samsonov, also rumored to be Grushenka’s lover. When she first arrived four years earlier at eighteen years old—thin, miserable, poor, and forsaken—Samsonov persuaded his relative to rent to her. Since then, Grushenka had grown into the opposite: confident and beautiful but also cheeky, mean, and manipulative.

Grushenka’s mysterious background; hard to get—Originally, Samsonov had wanted his landlady relative to spy on Grushenka, but that ended up being unnecessary. In fact, the only consensus about her was that her seductive manner was as far as it went with the men she entertained, her patron being the sole exception. Otherwise, little was known of her, though she supposedly came from a good family and had been seduced and subsequently deserted at 17 by an officer who married another woman.

A talent with money—In the last year, Grushenka had demonstrated considerable talent as a speculator, at one point profitably trading bills of exchange together with Fyodor Pavlovich, who fell in love with her. She had also cast enough of a spell on her benefactor, a known miser, that he gave her 8000 rubles (and no more, as he clearly spelled out), advising her to maximize it. As stingy as he was with money, the old man was liberal with advice. Observing the feud between Fyodor Pavlovich and Dmitry over Grushenka, and being himself on his last legs, Samsonov advised Grushenka to marry the father for his money and get a pre-nuptial agreement.

Grushenka’s unknown thoughts; Rakitin and Alyosha arrive—Grushenka’s real feelings towards the rival Karamazovs were not at all known. At this point in the story, her thoughts on Fyodor Pavlovich are still unclear. However, Dmitry terrified her, having made his usual threats to kill.

Having been screened and admitted by the maid, the two young men found Grushenka standing next to the couch, beautifully dressed and anticipating a message from an officer friend. She had jumped up in fear when they came to the door, thinking it might be Dmitry, and was relieved when she discovered who it was. It took her a moment to recognize Alyosha in the dim lighting, but once she did, she was thrilled to see him.

Fear of Dmitry’s anger—Rakitin’s manner with Grushenka was familiar, even cheeky, and vice versa. He wondered if they had come at a bad time, so she explained that she and her maid were on the lookout for Dmitry. Grushenka had lied to him, saying she would be out all evening helping Samsonov with his accounts. If Dmitry discovered the truth, there would be trouble.

A different view of Grushenka—Rakitin wanted to know why Grushenka was all dressed up, but all she would reveal was that she was waiting for a message and would be gone as soon as she got it. She kept fending off Rakitin’s curiosity and then turned her attention to Alyosha and started flirting with him. Alyosha was too engulfed in his mourning to be susceptible, but he did notice that Grushenka’s manner had completely changed. Instead of acting mean or affected like he expected, she was now happy, spontaneous, and decisive. Alyosha didn’t even resist when she sat on his lap and put her arm around his neck. He even found himself feeling pleasantly curious about her, with not a shred of the old fear or any susceptibility to her female charms.

Rakitin demands his reward—Meanwhile, Rakitin had grown impatient. He had had a deal with Grushenka that if he brought Alyosha, she would give him champagne. Now he demanded his reward. Grushenka obliged, ordering the maid to serve the champagne Dmitry had brought before. Still curious about the mysterious message, Rakitin prodded Grushenka, who confirmed that her officer friend was in Mokroye at the moment and was coming to see her. She was excited, but she wouldn’t explain anything further.

Grushenka’s feelings about Alyosha—Grushenka was afraid she had offended Alyosha with her behavior towards Katerina Ivanova. She admitted that she had been vicious, but she figured it would all turn out for the best. After all, Katerina Ivanovna’s real goal in inviting her was to lord her superiority over her. Rakitin, who was waiting for Alyosha’s downfall, was trying to figure out the dynamic between them. But though Grushenka originally meant to seduce Alyosha, her intentions had changed. She now blurted out that she loved Alyosha with all her heart, though not in the same way that she loved her officer. She had been interested in him for a long time, but his effect on her was like a conscience, sometimes bringing on terrible feelings of shame.

Champagne for Rakitin—Finally, the champagne arrived. Rakitin was disappointed that it was already uncorked and warm, but he decided to make do. Alyosha agreed to have a glass, but as soon as he took a sip, he decided against it—another disappointment for Rakitin’s malicious plan. Seeing Alyosha’s restraint, Grushenka also decided against drinking since she didn’t feel like it, anyway.

Grushenka learns of the starets’s death—Rakitin had been making sarcastic quips all along, and now he started to sneer even more. Both Grushenka and Alyosha were behaving out of character, and he wanted an explanation. He had also been hinting to Grushenka about the starets’s death and putrefaction as the cause of Alyosha’s sadness and “rebellious” behavior, but she hadn’t picked up on his meaning. Now he blurted it out: the starets was dead. Hearing that, Grushenka leapt off Alyosha’s lap and crossed herself. Impressed and grateful, Alyosha rebuked Rakitin for ridiculing his love of the starets, adding that Grushenka had shown kindness and consideration for his feelings. Rakitin was convinced they had both gone mad, but Grushenka protested, insisting that a real change had taken place and that she was about to cry. Besides, even if she were a bad person—and she was the first to admit it—she had at least offered someone a spring onion once.

The wicked woman and the spring onion—What Grushenka meant was that she had done one good deed in her life, and that was her potential salvation. The spring onion, or scallion, was a metaphor taken from a story she’d heard in childhood about a wicked old woman who died and went to hell. Desiring to save her, her guardian angel remembered that she had once given a beggar a spring onion, so he told this to God. God’s bargain with him was to let the angel hold out the same spring onion to the woman, who was in the middle of a burning lake. If it broke, she would be damned forever; if not, she would be saved. Of course, the woman took hold of the spring onion. But when the other sinners grabbed onto her in the hope of also escaping, she tried to kick them off. Responding to her selfishness, the spring onion broke, leaving the woman to burn eternally.

Grushenka’s confession—Grushenka’s point was that she was no better than the woman. Telling Rakitin about her one generous deed might be bragging, but she now confessed to Alyosha that it was her only generous deed. Grushenka was on a roll now, figuring she might as well be completely honest: Rakitin had not only bargained for the champagne but for 25 rubles, which she threw at him. Embarrassed and furious, Rakitin first denied it, then took it but kept insulting Grushenka out of anger. But Grushenka had also had enough and ordered Rakitin to be respectful and go to the corner. What she was about to say was for Alyosha alone.

Grushenka had been angry and disturbed because Alyosha refused to look at her for the longest time, so she’d planned to seduce him to prove her power. Then the unexpected happened. A month earlier, she received a letter informing her that her officer from before was now a widower and wanted to visit her. That took her back five years, when she first arrived in town, having been abandoned by him. Shamed and miserable, she had lost sleep at night dreaming of revenge. Then, realizing that these were just idle thoughts, her rage would turn to tears, only to revert to rage. Now all her girlish torment came back to her—but worse. She wondered what she would do when she saw him. Would she crawl back to him or bring a knife? She even confessed that toying with Dmitry had just been a distraction. Having made her confession, Grushenka burst into tears.

Alyosha’s compassion for Grushenka—Feeling deep compassion for Grushenka, Alyosha pleaded with Rakitin to forgive her for her actions toward him that evening. Rakitin immediately accused Alyosha of being holier-than-thou, but Alyosha denied it. He confessed that he had come there to be seduced, to lose himself, little suspecting that Grushenka herself had been suffering for so long yet was so ready to love and forgive. Alyosha did not believe that she would resort to violence with her officer, but he knew that her soul hadn’t settled yet and that she needed forgiveness and mercy. But Rakitin couldn’t let go of his arrogance and his materialistic viewpoint: as far as he was concerned, Alyosha had fallen into Grushenka’s clutches after all.

Love or vengeance—Looking affectionately at Alyosha, Grushenka advised him to ignore Rakitin. Then, addressing Rakitin, she added that she had been about to forgive him but had changed her mind because of his attitude. As for her officer, she couldn’t decide whether to forgive him or not, so she placed that decision in Alyosha’s hands. Alyosha believed she’d already forgiven him, but Grushenka’s reaction indicated more complex feelings. She recklessly swigged down a glass of champagne, then threw it on the floor. Her look hinted at malice. She thought she might be clinging to her misery instead of the officer, and she didn’t know if she was ready to forgive.

Grushenka’s willful self-destructiveness—Sarcastic, as usual, Rakitin wanted to know why Grushenka was all dressed up in that case. But Grushenka explained that it had nothing to do with love. She wanted revenge. She wanted to dangle her wealth and beauty in front of the man who had abandoned her back when she was poor and unattractive. Alyosha was wrong—she was mean and willful. She would do only what she wanted, even if that meant destroying herself.

Desperate for love—By now, Grushenka was in hysterics and crying again. Tired of the drama and remembering the time, Rakitin recommended they leave so as not to be locked out of the monastery. Hearing this, Grushenka pleaded with Alyosha not to leave her. He was the first person in her life to forgive and love her purely, not just physically. She had always hoped for someone like that, and now she didn’t want to lose him. Alyosha, also in tears, was tenderly explaining that he had only given her a little spring onion.

A sealed fate—Suddenly, the scene was interrupted by a commotion out front. The maid burst in, announcing the officer’s arrival and handing Grushenka a note. Reading it, Grushenka declared that her officer had called and she would come. But her words and expression indicated defeat, a loss of power, even self-destruction, as though she had no control over her fate. Grushenka then rushed into her bedroom after ordering Alyosha and Rakitin out of her life forever. But as they were leaving through the courtyard, past the waiting horses and carriage, Grushenka shouted to Alyosha from her window one last time: let Dmitry know that she had loved him for one hour, and let him never forget that hour! She, being wicked, was now off to her fate with a wicked man!

Rakitin’s anger—Those were Grushenka’s words, but her tears spoke otherwise as she shut the window behind her. Alyosha was too engrossed in his own thoughts to hear Rakitin’s sarcastic quips as they walked to the monastery. What had transpired at Grushenka’s came as a complete surprise to him, and not all good. Rakitin had his own view of the situation. Grushenka’s “officer” was no longer an officer at all and just wanted to take advantage of her now that she had money. Then he turned on Alyosha. Was this the salvation he had offered her? And did Alyosha resent him for taking the bribe? Alyosha assured him that was not the case. But Rakitin’s anger kept escalating and, cursing everyone, he veered off in another direction, leaving Alyosha to return to the monastery alone.

Cana of Galilee


Back at the monastery—By the time Alyosha returned to the monastery, it was already 9 p.m., and things had mostly shut down. Entering the starets’s cell, he found Porfiry asleep in the adjacent room, while Father Païsy was reading the scriptures before the coffin. The window was open, and the smell of the corpse had cleared. But all this was incidental. Right now, Alyosha just wanted to pray out of joy and gratitude, and he knelt down before the coffin, unheeded by Father Païsy. Yet praying was no easy feat for Alyosha at the moment. His heart was at rest now, but his mind kept flitting from one thought to the next. Eventually, he fell asleep to the sound of Father Païsy’s reading, which soon infiltrated his dreams.

Twilight thoughts on the marriage feast at Cana—Father Païsy was reading about Christ’s first miracle when Alyosha drifted off to sleep. This was the miracle of changing water into wine, which took place at a marriage feast in Cana. As Father Païsy read the opening lines, Alyosha’s mind flashed on Grushenka, who had gone off to her own marriage feast—to her officer and to love. Alyosha was sure she had not brought a knife. That had only been a moment of human pain that needed expression to be bearable. And in general, this was how Alyosha thought: his loving, forgiving heart, which had learned from the all-forgiving starets, always led his mind. As the day’s events flashed through his twilight dream state, they took on symbolic significance. His mind flashed on Rakitin, who clung to his grudges, running from his own issues on the side streets of life. Then, when Father Païsy started reading about Christ changing the water into wine, Alyosha remembered the starets’s teaching that to love the people was to love their joy, too. That thought reminded him of Dmitry, who had spoken of joy and forgiveness as essential to life.

Alyosha sees the starets in his dream; the new wine; the starets’s command—Father Païsy was now reading the part where Mary, Jesus’ mother, commanded the servants to follow her son’s instructions. Once again Alyosha’s mind turned towards joy and generosity, especially generosity towards the poor. Surely the feast’s host must have also had this quality if he had run out of wine.

Suddenly the scene grew, and Alyosha found himself right there at the wedding. As he looked around, he saw the starets there, too—joyful, beaming, and coming towards him to invite him to participate more fully and not to fear Christ, who, though he appeared formidable, was merciful and kind. After all, he had come to earth to save the people, who now thronged the wedding. And why were they invited? Because at some time in their lives they had offered someone a spring onion, just as the starets himself had done, just as Alyosha had also done. Now they were there to drink the new, joyous wine offered by Christ. Finally, the starets told Alyosha that the time had come for him to embrace the earth and begin his mission—immediately. In that moment, overcome with joy, Alyosha awoke to find himself standing. He had been kneeling when he dozed off. Now we went directly to the coffin and gazed intensely at the starets. Father Païsy noticed but did not interrupt, knowing that something unusual was happening.

Alyosha begins his earthly mission—Then, all of a sudden Alyosha left without a word, without so much as looking at Father Païsy, and headed straight out into silent, star-studded night. Overcome by the mystery and beauty of the sky and the earth, Alyosha suddenly found himself down on the ground, overcome with joy, crying and kissing the earth. Everything and everyone seemed to unite within him, and he was aware of a great change taking place in his soul. When he stood again, he was no longer a timid and shy boy, but strong, powerful, unflinching—a warrior for God, ready to begin his mission. The change was a permanent one, and in three days Alyosha obeyed his late master and left the enclosed world of the monastery behind.



Dmitry’s torment—Meanwhile, Dmitry was struggling with his soul. The only ones who knew where he was were his landlord and landlady, who were under strict orders to reveal nothing to anyone. But there was much more going on with Dmitry than just watching for Grushenka, and despite his persistence in this, he also went out of town on a brief but urgent errand.

Knowledge of Grushenka’s officer—Dmitry was aware of the existence of Grushenka’s officer. She had even shown him a letter from him, sent a month earlier, in which the officer declared his love and mentioned coming to see her, though Grushenka hid that last part from Dmitry. But even with that knowledge, Dmitry didn’t take the situation seriously.

Expectations—Dmitry was also aware of the struggle going on within Grushenka, but he didn’t know its source. Nor could he figure out her motives in relation to him. In his mind, his only real rival was his father, and he guessed that Grushenka’s main goal there was money. At some point, he figured there would be a showdown between him and Fyodor Pavlovich. But he also knew Grushenka’s impetuous nature, and he imagined that she would suddenly make up her mind in his favor, when they would run off together to some distant place and start a new, good life, unburdened by the torment and mistakes of the past or the negative influences of the present environment. This notion that you had to have a perfect situation before making a life change was a common mistake in many people, and Dmitry was no exception.

Money issues—The problem was that he was completely broke. He no longer got a stipend from his father, and he refused to ask Grushenka to bear the financial burden of a move. He wanted to be the saving white knight in her life, not some rogue who took women’s money. To clear his conscience and ensure a good reaction from Grushenka, he decided he had to return Katerina Ivanovna’s money. That way, she couldn’t accuse him of using it to run off with Grushenka. Even imprisonment for theft and murder—though he never intended to kill anyone—would be better than that. Working never occurred to him. Whatever he had had, he’d inherited, and being a spendthrift by nature, he had no clue about how to earn it. Now he feverishly racked his brain for ideas, finally coming up with a bizarre scheme that had occurred to him two days earlier.

Dmitry’s naivety—For all his passion and outward worldliness, Dmitry was naive, and it showed in his plan. That plan was to propose what he felt was a viable commercial idea to old Samsonov, Grushenka’s patron. Somewhere he had gotten the notion that Samsonov favored him over Fyodor Pavlovich as a marriage partner for Grushenka, though this wasn’t true. As for Samsonov’s own relationship with Grushenka, Dmitry considered that obsolete, partly because Samsonov was on his last legs and partly because Dmitry saw Grushenka’s past as being over. To an outsider, his approaching Samsonov would have seemed questionable and naive; to Dmitry, it seemed logical. In spite of all this, he wasn’t sure how Samsonov would receive his idea.

An audience with Samsonov—At 10 a.m. the next morning, Dmitry appeared at Samsonov’s home, a large, grim old house with two floors, an addition, and separate servant’s quarters. The entire upper floor was reserved for Samsonov himself, who spent most of his time in his small bedroom, while the rest of the upper floor remained unused, his grown offspring and their families being squeezed together on the ground floor.

Dmitry’s request for admittance was not greeted with enthusiasm. At first, he received two denials, but having anticipated this, he wrote a note saying that his visit had to do with an urgent matter regarding Agrafena Aleksandrovna (Grushenka). That got him his audience, though the old man, who was virtually crippled and needed help getting down the stairs, made sure to have his tall, strong youngest son with him. He knew of Dmitry’s reputation for drunkenness and violence, and though he wasn’t afraid, he wanted his son there as a witness.

Initial encounter—Dmitry was seated by the door of the huge, dreary entrance hall when Samsonov arrived, supported by his son and his boy attendant. Dressed formally for the occasion, Dmitry immediately jumped up and strode toward Samsonov as the old man studied him with an uncompromising gaze. Samsonov had become obviously swollen—not just his legs but also his face—and he was clearly in great pain. But this did not stop him from going through the formalities of bowing and offering Dmitry a seat. Dmitry himself couldn’t help but feel a sense of humility in Samsonov’s presence.

Dmitry’s idea—Samsonov began the conversation, politely asking Dmitry what he could do for him. He would preserve an emotionless demeanor throughout Dmitry’s nervous, heated, and desperate speech, as he begged for help in his hopeless situation. Dmitry rambled on and on, telling his host about how his father had cheated him out of almost half his inheritance; how he knew this from a visiting lawyer who had informed him that he could sue his father for the village of Chermashnya, which by rights belonged to him through his mother; how there were certain documents proving this, though he wouldn’t specify which; how, on returning to this town, he discovered that his father had filed a counter-claim.His idea was that Samsonov could take over the case and profit from it, and in return Dmitry would settle for 3000 rubles. He assured Samsonov that he was guaranteed to gain at least 6000 rubles for his efforts, the hitch being that the matter had to be resolved that day. Moreover, he would do anything to facilitate things. But that wasn’t the end of Dmitry’s request. He begged for an immediate advance so that he could embark on his “noble” intention of marrying Grushenka, bluntly informing Samsonov that the old man was no longer in the running and that only he and his father, who was the bad one of the two, remained. He finished by threatening to drown himself if Samsonov failed to understand his desperate need.

Samsonov’s reply; another option—As he was speaking, Dmitry felt an increasing sense of the ridiculousness of his idea, which had seemed so viable earlier. By the time he finished, he was consumed with a despair that only became compounded when Samsonov gave his unemotional and decisive reply: he did not participate in business ideas involving lawsuits. But there might be someone who could help him. A man named Lurcher, a timber merchant, was in a dispute with Fyodor Pavlovich over some land in Chermashnya. Maybe he would be interested in Dmitry’s proposal. However, Dmitry should go there as soon as possible, before Fyodor Pavlovich himself went to Chermashnya to settle the matter. Currently, Lurcher was staying in the village of Ilyinsky, about eight miles from, with a priest named Father Ilyinsky.

Dmitry’s hope?—Suddenly Dmitry was buoyant with hope again. What an excellent idea! But the subsequent exchange between them did not bode well. Samsonov was startled by the hollowness of Dmitry’s enthusiastic laugh; and Dmitry, on saying goodbye, noticed a malicious expression in the old man’s eyes. Still elated, though, Dmitry left immediately, shouting as he went that it was all for Grushenka. The thought crossed his mind that the old man might have tricked him, but his enthusiasm took over, and he chose to believe that Samsonov’s idea was sound business advice.

Samsonov’s rage—With Dmitry now gone, the truth came out. Samsonov had no intention of helping Dmitry, whom he despised. In fact, he was enraged by the meeting. Whether his fury came from Dmitry’s stupidity, nervousness, or presumptuousness over Grushenka was unclear, but he was adamant that there would be trouble if Dmitry returned. Finally, Samsonov’s rage exacerbated his illness so that he had to call the doctor.



Money for the coach—Dmitry was so broke that he had to scrape together nine rubles for the coach ride to Volovya by selling his old, broken silver watch and borrowing three additional rubles from his landlord and wife—all they had, though they gave it happily. Being close to them, he also excitedly told them about his meeting with Samsonov.

High pressure—Dmitry’s thoughts were racing along with the speeding coach as it headed to Volovya. The only problem now was getting back to Grushenka in time, in case she decided to accept Fyodor Pavlovich’s proposal today. That meant being back that same night, even if it meant bringing Lurcher with him.

Bad luck—Unfortunately, life didn’t cooperate. The coach driver took the long way to Volovya, and Father Ilyinsky had gone to another village. Dmitry managed to track him down, but by then it was nighttime. To make matters worse, Lurcher had also moved on to another village, presumably on business. Dmitry finally convinced the priest to take him there, though they went on foot at the priest’s suggestion, which further slowed things down, especially since the way there ended up being three times as long as the priest had estimated.

Lurcher’s real name; the priest’s silent suspicions—Dmitry babbled incessantly the whole way there—about his plan, his dispute with his father, his questions about Lurcher. The priest could not offer much advice, though he did inform Dmitry that Lurcher’s real name was Gorstkin and that calling him Lurcher was an insult. When Dmitry told the priest that he had learned that name from Samsonov, the priest was silent, suspecting that Samsonov was up to no good.

Drunk and asleep—On arriving at the forester’s hut where Gorstkin was staying, they found him fast asleep, having drunken himself into a stupor. Desperate, Dmitry tried to wake him, but Gorstkin was in too much of a stupor to respond, and Dmitry finally listened to the priest’s suggestion to wait till morning.

The priest’s dilemma—Having done his part, the priest was happy to be heading back home. But he was concerned. Hearing of Dmitry’s dispute with his father, he wondered if he shouldn’t inform Fyodor Pavlovich, with whom he had a business relationship. He didn’t want to lose out in case word got back about this to Fyodor Pavlovich.

No luck waking Gorstkin—And so Dmitry sat there, desperate and depressed, waiting for Gorstkin to awaken. But Gorstkin kept snoring away. Dmitry got up to take a closer look at the drunken peasant on the bench, then suddenly lost his temper and started yanking, shoving, and beating Gorstkin. Nothing worked. By now Dmitry had a terrible headache and was completely exhausted. Even so, he was determined to stay up all night but instead fell asleep for two hours.

Fumes; the unimpressed forester; Dmitry falls asleep—Dmitry awoke to the smell of fumes. His head pounding, he immediately went to wake the forester, who was sleeping in the other room. Unsurprised, the forester got up, did what needed to be done, and went back to bed. He was not impressed by Dmitry’s futile attempts to wake Gorstkin, and he even viewed Dmitry with contempt. Still determined to watch, Dmitry again fell asleep instead and didn’t awaken until nine.

A fruitless exchange—By now, Gorstkin was awake and had downed half a bottle of vodka and some tea. This infuriated Dmitry, who realized that Gorstkin was already drunk. Gorstkin’s own attitude towards Dmitry appeared cunning and apathetic, even disdainful, but that didn’t stop Dmitry. With his usual passion and impetuousness, he introduced himself as Karamazov’s son, giving his full military title. Gorstkin immediately replied that he was lying and trying to cheat him. But Gorstkin himself was stroking his beard, which, as Fyodor Pavlovich had explained to Ivan, meant that he was lying and that he intended to cheat the person he was dealing with. If his beard shook and he was angry, all was well—he would negotiate. But the expression in his eyes revealed nothing of his true intentions.

Dmitry sees the light—Dmitry protested that he had an advantageous proposal, mentioning both the priest and Samsonov. But after a fruitless exchange with Gorstkin, he suddenly realized that he’d been sent on a fool’s errand, and he wondered how he could have fallen for it.

Dmitry leaves for home—Silently and without argument, Dmitry rose, picked up his coat, and left his payment for the forester, who had gone out. On exiting the hut, he found himself surrounded by forest, without a clue as to how to get back. His anger and impulsiveness were gone now, and all he felt was weakness and dejection. As he came out of the forest, he was greeted by vast stretches of bare fields, a sight that only compounded his sense of desolation and death.

A new plan—Dmitry was lucky enough to get a ride back to Volovya, where, realizing he was starving, he downed some food and vodka. That made him feel better, but there was still the painful matter of Grushenka, whom he would immediately visit on returning. And so, on the way home he concocted a new plan—and this time, it would work.

Prospecting for Gold


Scene timing—The previous scene was a flashback to what had happened before Rakitin and Alyosha visited Grushenka. Dmitry’s current action in the narrative, as he heads over to see Grushenka, pertains to his meeting with her where she had him escort her to Samsonov’s on the pretext that she would be there all evening doing the books, though her real intention was to distract Dmitry from the arrival of her officer.

Dmitry’s jealousy; pawning his pistols—But Dmitry was too fixated on his rivalry with his father to even think of that. He was plagued by constant feelings of jealousy: when he was with Grushenka, he felt reassured; but as soon as he left her, he suspected her of cheating. That was where his mind turned now as he made his way to the summerhouse next to his father’s place. He wondered whether Grushenka had gone to his father’s the night before, and decided to immediately find out from Smerdyakov. But before that, he had to deal with his money issues. He was broke again, so his first order of business was to pawn his most precious possession—his dueling pistols—to a clerk who enjoyed collecting weapons. That got him ten rubles, and off he went again.

New developments—Now back at the summerhouse, Dmitry learned that Smerdyakov was sick, which meant that Dmitry had lost his informant. He also found out that Ivan had left for Moscow and deduced that he must have arrived in Volovya ahead of him. At least, Grushenka hadn’t visited Fyodor Pavlovich—that much was good. Dmitry decided to watch for her from both the summerhouse and by Samsonov’s gate. And he had to attend to his new plan, but that would only take an hour. Once that was done, he would go back to Samsonov’s to pick up Grushenka.

Dmitry’s new plan—Dmitry’s “guaranteed” new plan was to approach Mrs. Khokhlakova for the 3000 rubles he needed to pay back Katerina Ivanovna. He was sure she would agree to it because she disliked him so much and probably would love the idea of having him out of Katerina Ivanovna’s life altogether. As he approached her door at 7:30 that evening, Dmitry sensed that this was his last chance. If this didn’t work, he would have no choice but to murder and steal.

Mrs. Khokhlakova’s plan—Mrs. Khokhlakova had been expecting Dmitry. She even knew how much he intended to ask for and was ready to give it to him—and much more. So when Dmitry knocked at the door, he was immediately admitted and promptly greeted by Mrs. Khokhlakova.

Part of Mrs. Khokhlakova’s original objection to Dmitry was his rudeness, confirmed now by how he got right down to business and kept interrupting her, explaining that he was in hurry. She had digressed to tell him of the starets’s death the previous night, but he interrupted her again, even shouting in the hopes of cutting her off. Luckily, this didn’t bother her much. She had been studying him closely for the past month and was determined to “save” him, as she had saved her cousin by suggesting stud farming as a business. She had ended up being right: her cousin was now doing well. But for Dmitry she had something else in mind: had he ever considered prospecting for gold? His energy and drive, as evidenced by his walk, convinced her that he would succeed. Once a believer in miracles, she had a newfound practicality following the upsetting events around the starets’s death. She had now put such things behind her and would focus on reality instead. As for Dmitry, she had big plans. Not only would he quickly become a millionaire but the savior of the town as well, taking it into modern times with building and railway construction.

The icon and the blessing—Dmitry, however, had other things on his mind, and once again urged Mrs. Khokhlakova to give him the 3000 rubles now. But Mrs. Khokhlakova wanted a firm answer on the gold prospecting plan: would Dmitry do it or not? Dmitry had no choice but to say yes, upon which he began to again remind Mrs. Khokhlakova about the money. When she ran over to the dresser and began a frenzied search through the drawers, he thought he was in luck. But instead of money, she produced a little icon, which she hung around Dmitry’s neck to bless him at the beginning of his new life. Having done so, she informed him that he could go.

Mrs. Khokhlakova’s unshakable focus—Dmitry was now embarrassed and disappointed. He knew Mrs. Khokhlakova meant well, but she seemed oblivious to his desperate situation. To clarify, he explained his remorse for his behavior toward Katerina Ivanovna and his love for Grushenka, though he didn’t mention her directly. But Mrs. Khokhlakova was not to be moved: for now, he was to put women behind him and focus on gold. When he was successful, he would have no problem finding the right kind of woman with an excellent pedigree—a new, modern, savvy kind of woman that would appear with the resolution of the feminist question, a subject dear to her heart.

A disappointing revelation—By this point, Dmitry was threatening to cry. Could she not give him the promised money now? When Mrs. Khokhlakova finally realized what he was saying, she informed him that she had no money. She had only been referring to the gold prospecting plan. She didn’t believe in lending, anyway—in the long run, it wouldn’t help him. She was adamant that he belonged in the gold mines. Now thoroughly disgusted, Dmitry slammed down his fist and cursed. Then, to Mrs. Khokhlakova’s horror, he spat and strode out of the house.

A desperate search—By now, it was nighttime, and in Dmitry’s mind, there was nothing left to do but commit suicide. Beating his breast and weeping, he walked through the streets until he literally bumped into Samsonov’s old female attendant in the town square. Remembering her from his meeting with the old man (though she couldn’t place him), Dmitry inquired about Grushenka and learned that she had only been at Samsonov’s for a minute, when she had said something funny to him and promptly departed. Dmitry yelled that the old woman was lying but then immediately set out for Grushenka’s, missing her by barely 15 minutes. Next, he burst in on her maids, terrifying them at first but then falling at Fenya’s (the younger one’s) feet, imploring her for information on Grushenka’s whereabouts. Fenya pretended that Grushenka had never come back from Samsonov’s and that she had no idea where she was. Dmitry was convinced that she was lying, but he was in too much of a rush to quibble or—as Fenya feared—to hurt her, and he headed for the door. But on his way out, he suddenly backtracked to grab a seven-inch pestle, leaving Fenya terrified that he would kill someone.

In the Darkness


Straight for Grushenka—Dmitry figured that Grushenka was with Fyodor Pavlovich. He also figured that there was a plot to keep him away from there and that everyone was involved, including Marya Kondratyevna and Smerdyakov. That meant avoiding the summerhouse and taking the long way around to the back alley by his father’s garden and the bathhouse. That way, he could sneak in undetected.

By Fyodor Pavlovich’s window—Havingscaled the fence, Dmitry noticed the light in his father’s bedroom and concluded that Grushenka must be there. He crept closer to the house in the stillness of the night, in the process noticing that the door from the left side of the house to the garden was closed.Once at the window, he peered inside. From what he could tell, Fyodor Pavlovich was alone—all dressed up and obviously waiting for Grushenka, but alone. Still, in his jealousy, Dmitry couldn’t decide whether that was true or not, so he tested it by tapping on the window with the secret code that meant Grushenka had arrived. Fyodor Pavlovich responded immediately, looking out the window, calling for her, and promising her a present. Dmitry figured it had to be the 3000 rubles. As he stood in the shadows with a full, lit view of his father’s detested profile, the feeling of rage he had feared so much came over him, and he unconsciously took hold of the pestle.

Grigory’s mishap—But nothing happened, and later Dmitry would say that God had saved him from committing the fateful deed.For right around then, old Grigory, still racked with pain, stirred in his bed. MarfaIgnatyevna was sound asleep, and Smerdyakov, who usually slept outside Fyodor Pavlovich’s room, was in bed in the other room because of his recent fit. And so, with everyone else asleep and recalling that he had left the gate to the garden open, Grigory went out to close it. But when he noticed that Fyodor Pavlovich’s window was open, he suspected that something was wrong. Just at that moment, he saw someone run across the garden, and he instinctively dashed over to stop him, latching on to Dmitry with all his might just as he started climbing the fence. When he realized who it was, Grigory yelled out that Dmitry had killed Fyodor Pavlovich, but before he could say anything else, he fell down, having been struck on the head with the pestle by Dmitry. Instead of fleeing, Dmitry turned back to check on Grigory and, without thinking, threw the pestle several feet away onto the walkway. The blood was gushing out of the wound, but Dmitry couldn’t tell if the old servant was dead or just hurt. After trying to clean up the blood with his handkerchief, he found there was too much to manage and finally began questioning his actions,concluding that if the old servant was dead, there was nothing he could do. As he shouted that it served Grigory right, he ran off to Grushenka’s at top speed with the bloody handkerchief in his pocket.

News of Grushenka’s desertion—Back at Grushenka’s, Fenya had informed the maintenance man to bar Dmitry from entering, no matter what. But when Dmitry arrived, the maintenance man was upstairs, having been called up by the landlady. He had left his young nephew in charge of the gate but forgot to tell him about Dmitry. Since Dmitry was on friendly terms with the young man, he had no trouble getting in. On learning that Grushenka had left two hours before to see her officer, Dmitry flew into a rage and went looking for Fenya.

A Sudden Decision


Dmitry discovers the truth—Dmitry immediately found Fenya, grabbed her by the throat, and demanded to know where Grushenka was. Fearing for her life, Fenya told him everything, upon which he promptly let her go and sank into a chair, having realized the truth. Fenya’s grandmother, Grushenka’s long-time cook, was also in the kitchen, and the two women’s fear worsened on seeing Dmitry’s hands covered in blood, which he’d also unconsciously wiped on his face. Now in a stupor, Dmitry was trying to understand how he could have missed the significance of the officer’s existence. Then he gently but pointedly started questioning Fenya, who promptly answered in an effort to help him. She also told Dmitry about Grushenka’s message that she’d loved him for an hour, and for a moment this encouraged him.

Questions about the blood; Dmitry’s cryptic goodbye—But Fenya still wanted to know about the blood on Dmitry’s hands. She even asked him twice, but he was too distracted to explain or to understand the fearful impression he was making. Finally, he left on a mysterious metaphorical note, inspiring even more fear when he told them that the next day at sunrise he would leap over a high fence, and they would hear about it the following day.

Dmitry retrieves his pistols—Dmitry’s next stop that evening was the clerk, Pyotr Ilyich Perkhotin, to whom he’d pawned his pistols. He wanted them back, explaining that he was in a rush and that he had the money. For the first time now, the narrator mentions that Dmitry was holding a thick wad of 100-ruble bills in his hand, later estimated by the clerk to be about two to three thousand. Dmitry seemed unaware that there was anything strange in this, and he was still oblivious to the blood, even though the horrified clerk also asked about that. Assuming that Dmitry had hurt himself, he showed him a mirror, and on finally realizing how he looked, Dmitry pulled out his blood-covered handkerchief to wipe his face but quickly recognized that it was a futile exercise. That was when the clerk grasped that it wasn’t Dmitry’s own blood, and seeing his confusion, he offered him the sink to clean up.

Champagne and a feast—But Dmitry wasn’t ready to wash up. Pointing to the wad, he told the clerk that he didn’t know what to do with it. And he wanted those pistols immediately—he was out of time. Dmitry had nothing smaller than 100-note bills, so the clerk sent his servant boy to Plotnikov’s, a nearby grocer who was still open. That gave Dmitry an idea: he would order cases of champagne and masses of food, just like the time he’d celebrated in Mokroye with Grushenka.

Washing up—Now, however, it was time to get Dmitry clean. Removing Dmitry’s coat, Perkhotin noticed that there was blood on that, too, and seeing Dmitry’s haste, he ordered him to be more thorough and to put on a different shirt since the one he was wearing was also bloodstained. But Dmitry was in too much of a rush and instead just folded the cuff over.

A muddled story and odd behavior—Perkhotin was still trying to find out where the blood had come from, and he wondered whether Dmitry had been in a fight or killed someone. Dmitry denied killing anyone, but then he lied about knocking down an old lady in the town plaza, afterwards changing it to an old man. Supposedly, they had fought and made up, but to Perkhotin, Dmitry’s facts sounded muddled. The sequence of events also made no sense: a fight followed by a large champagne order? Then again, it was classic Dmitry.

Dmitry, however, had other things on his mind: he was running out of time and wanted those pistols. Then, forgetting where the money was, he started frantically searching for it when it was on the table the whole time. Perkhotin, who pointed this out, was amazed at his forgetfulness and also at the fact that he was already reclaiming the pistols. Pawning them meant that he’d had no money just hours ago: now he was swimming it. Something was strange. Dmitry’s explanation was that Mrs. Khokhlakova had paid him up front for committing to her gold prospecting scheme. When Perkhotin didn’t believe him, Dmitry challenged him to ask the lady himself the next morning.

Strange plans—In the meantime, Dmitry was off to Mokroye, another baffling fact to Perkhotin, who observed that just recently he’d had his heart set on Siberia. But after some brief allusions to his empty-handedness, women’s fickleness, and the drunken state of his soul, Dmitry began loading a gun and then stopped to examine the bullet. He planned to shoot himself in the head. Once done preparing the pistols, he asked for some paper, scribbled a note, and stuck it in his pocket. He was ready to go. Perkhotin hesitated—hadn’t he just said he was going to kill himself? Dmitry explained that he wanted to live, but from his cryptic statement about clearing the way for the beloved and the detested one, it sounded like he wanted to say a dramatic goodbye to Grushenka and her officer and then blow his own brains out. For all his objections to Dmitry’s wildness, Perkhotin had grown fond of him, and even though Dmitry refused to explain things, Perkhotin was smart enough to figure out that he was about to commit some mad act that needed to be stopped.

The servant boy returns; more hints at suicide—Right around then, the servant boy Misha returned, gave Dmitry the change, and informed them that Plotnikov’s was busily preparing the order. After paying Perkhotin for the pistols and tipping the boy, Dmitry suggested that Perkhotin come along to Mokroye. Perkhotin hesitated, but Dmitry insisted on at least having a drink with him. He didn’t have time for the tavern, but there was Plotnikov’s back room. First, however, Dmitry presented Perkhotin with the “riddle” he’d written on the piece of paper: it said that he was punishing himself for the way he’d spent his life. Now Perkhotin was sure he would have to get someone to stop Dmitry, but Dmitry told him that it would be too late.

A large order and a waiting carriage—At Plotnikov’s, the first part of Dmitry’s order was waiting for him, along with the carriage he’d hired. A month ago, when he’d made a similar order and wiped himself out of a large sum of money, he had the whole town gossiping about it. Yet in return for his extravagance, Grushenka had only given him her foot to kiss. On seeing Dmitry, the coach driver estimated that Grushenka’s carriage was only an hour ahead of them, so Dmitry gave him an extra 50 rubles to make sure their own carriage would arrive no more than one hour later.

Perkhotin’s concern—Dmitry had ordered 400 rubles worth of food and alcohol, mostly champagne, which seemed exorbitant to Perkhotin. At the same time, the box that was waiting on their arrival seemed way too small, but the grocery clerks explained that it was only a fraction of the order. The rest would go in a separate coach and arrive no more than one hour after Dmitry. Still irritated, Perkhotin bargained the order down to 300 rubles but then realized that it wasn’t his concern, though the extravagance of it all still baffled him. Unperturbed, Dmitry took him to the back room, where they sat down at a dirty little table to have their champagne.

More strange behavior—In a sudden change of tone, Dmitry tried to explain the rationale of his thinking, including phrases like “higher order,” but he only succeeded in confirming Perkhotin’s impression that he’d lost his mind. Above all, Perkhotin could not forget the pistols. Dmitry brushed him off, denying that they meant anything. He raised a toast to life and to his “queen,” both of which he loved, but he also seemed profoundly troubled. There was a recklessness but also a wistfulness about him. He kept hinting that things were at an end, that nothing mattered anymore. His actions and speech also reflected this: he insisted on giving the young servant boy champagne, made morbid comparisons of himself to the dead jester in Shakespeare’s Hamlet, and generally rambled on, toying with Perkhotin a bit, until the coach driver alerted him that they should leave. At that, Dmitry sprang up, paid the bill, and got in the coach.

Fenya reveals the truth; Dmitry leaves—Just as they were about to leave, Fenya appeared, pleading with Dmitry not to harm Grushenka and her officer. Listening to her, Perkhotin began to understand what was going on and shouted at Dmitry to return the pistols immediately. But Dmitry denied that he would ever hurt anyone again, and after asking Fenya’s forgiveness for harming her earlier, he repeated that nothing mattered.

Perkhotin’s dilemma; pub gossip—As the coach began to drive away, Perkhotin wondered how Dmitry could make so little sense without even being drunk. On the other hand, it was typical of Dmitry, which made it hard to take his threats of self-annihilation seriously. Now torn by the urge to look out for him and to let the whole matter go, he concluded that he wasn’t Dmitry’s keeper, and having originally planned to spend the evening playing billiards at the pub, off he went. Of course, he had to mention the day’s events to his fellow players, and his story about Dmitry’s sudden change of fortune proved to be a showstopper. The question arose as to where he could have gotten that much cash, which in turn spawned recollections of Dmitry’s need for 3000 rubles and his threats to kill his father.

From concern to alarm—The gossip left Perkhotin disturbed and unwilling to reveal anymore. He kept the business about the blood to himself and left the pub early, even skipping dinner. He considered checking on Fyodor Pavlovich but changed his mind. What if nothing had happened? It was late, and he would probably only end up disrupting the household. But Perkhotin was not happy. He wished he’d asked Fenya for more details, so instead of going home, he decided to visit her. The household seemed asleep, and once again he tried to convince himself that it wasn’t his problem. But his genuine, passionate concern overpowered his doubts, and he banged on the gate as loud as he could.

Here I Come!


Thoughts along the way—Dmitry had some time to himself as the coach raced along to Mokroye. In her final passionate plea, Fenya had informed him that Grushenka’s officer was also her first love. To Dmitry, that meant that he had no right to interfere, so his usual feelings of jealousy and rage didn’t apply. His life was over, anyway—he had already decided that. Still, he felt deeply depressed that he would never be able to make up for all the pain he had caused. His misery reached such a pitch that he even considered getting out and shooting himself right then. But Grushenka’s image soon took over, inspiring a range of loving emotions that approached religious fervor. He so looked forward to seeing her one last time, even if she was with someone else.

Unexpected news—Suddenly it occurred to Dmitry that Grushenka and her officer might be asleep already. That would ruin everything. He shouted at Andrei, the driver, to speed up. But Andrei informed Dmitry that there was a good chance they were awake. According to Timofei, Grushenka’s driver, they were playing cards with some other gentleman and strangers, and besides, it was only 11 p.m. This was disturbing news to Dmitry, who hadn’t expected it, and he kept yelling at Andrei to go faster anyway.

Andrei’s doubts; Dmitry’s frenzied answer—A few moments later, Andrei took the chance to respectfully express his doubts about Dmitry’s current mission, hinting that he didn’t want to be responsible for any tragedies. Dmitry gave a wild and puzzling answer. Grabbing Andrei by the shoulders, he used a coachman’s analogy to explain that you should not run over other people and that if you did, you should pay for your misdeeds and disappear from their lives. Andrei agreed: hurting any of God’s creatures was wrong.

Hell and forgiveness—Dmitry wanted to know if Andrei, whom he’d assessed as a good and honest soul, thought he would go to hell. Andrei replied that Christ had descended into hell to release the sinners there, but when hell grumbled that it would be empty, he assured it that it would be filled with the rich and mighty. In Andrei’s view, Dmitry was not in that category: he was more like a child—hot-tempered but honest, and his honesty would earn him God’s forgiveness. Dmitry wanted to know if Andrei would also forgive him for his sins against others. He said this so passionately that Andrei was afraid to keep driving because of the strangeness of Dmitry’s request.

A prayer of love—But by now, Dmitry was fervently praying to God about his love for Him despite his sinfulness. Even in hell, he would always love Him. But now his love was riveted on Grushenka, and his only desire was to say goodbye to her before destroying himself.

Mokroye at last!—At that moment, Andrei shouted that Mokroye was in view! And the lights were still on at the inn! Dmitry ordered him to pull up in front with maximum clatter. It worked: the innkeeper, who was retiring for the night, came out to see what all the noise was about.

The innkeeper—Trifon Borisych was a wealthy widower with four adult daughters. A peasant himself, he nevertheless used the other peasants, extracting as much as he could from them to build his own fortune. His was stern with them, though he was also capable of being enthusiastic and flattering if he thought it would benefit his bank account. That was how he now approached Dmitry, knowing that he could easily drop a couple of thousand of rubles in one sitting.

Questions about Grushenka—But Dmitry was interested in only one thing: he wanted to know how and what Grushenka was doing. The innkeeper assured him there was nothing to worry about. The “officer” was neither young nor a real officer, and he appeared to be Polish. The rest of the group consisted of a random traveler, possibly the officer’s friend; Kalganov, Miusov’s young relative; and Maksimov, the landowner from the monastery. They had been playing cards and were now drinking tea and ordering liqueur. Grushenka herself didn’t seem especially happy—on the whole it was not a party atmosphere. Nor were there any gypsies or peasants. The gypsies had been cleared out of the area, and the innkeeper disliked the peasants because they were smelly, dirty, and—in the case of the girls Dmitry had hired last time—lice-ridden.

Dmitry’s party plans—Dmitry still wanted to hire a chorus, especially the girls. Hearing this, the innkeeper offered to wake his own daughters and fetch some Jewish musicians instead. He didn’t think the peasants or girls were worth treating to champagne (he had secretly kept a case for himself), as Dmitry had done before.

Dmitry took out his wad of money and waved it in front of the innkeeper. He informed him that the food for his party would be arriving in an hour, and in the meantime, whatever champagne was already there should be taken upstairs immediately. He also insisted on hiring the chorus of girls, even if the innkeeper had offered his own daughters for free.

Strange actions—Dmitry then removed his pistol case and gave Andrei an extravagant tip—it was to be in memory of him. But Andrei had too much integrity and wouldn’t accept more than five rubles. Angered and impatient, Dmitry threw the five rubles at him and went on to his business with the innkeeper.

First, he wanted to see Grushenka’s party without being noticed by them. His appearance was to be a surprise. By now, the innkeeper was beginning to suspect something strange, but he went along with Dmitry’s instructions and led him to a dark, hidden corner where he could look into their room.

A sudden entrance—But Dmitry couldn’t stay put for long. As soon as he spotted Grushenka, he started losing control. She was laughing and holding Kalganov’s hand. For a moment, he observed the others—Maksimov laughing, Kalganov seemingly frustrated, a plump older man who looked annoyed, and his tall companion. Dmitry couldn’t wait any longer. Having set the pistol case down, he strode into the room to Grushenka’s screams of fear.

The Former and Indisputable One


Dmitry’s entrance—Nervous and distraught, Dmitry stammered his way through his opening speech, basically a request to be admitted to their gathering on his last night. The plump Pole, whom he particularly addressed, informed him that the party was private; but before Dmitry could answer, Kalganov cordially invited him to join them. Grateful, Dmitry almost injured Kalganov’s hand as he shook it. But Kalganov laughed it off good-naturedly, which broke the ice for Grushenka, who was now less worried that Dmitry would create a scene. Above all, she was curious about what he would do next. Maksimov also welcomed him.

A sudden outburst—Heartened but still distraught, Dmitry babbled nervously as he expressed his wish to drink and party in the presence of his “queen,” after which he would slink into oblivion. At the same time, he took out his wad of money to show to everyone. The Polish gentleman was attentive but confused, while Grushenka, though welcoming, admonished Dmitry to not make a scene. Then he surprised everyone by suddenly falling into a chair and crying as he turned away from the others. Grushenka tried to explain his behavior as typical, but she was annoyed and embarrassed, even scolding Dmitry and adding that there was no reason to cry.

Grushenka’s support—To cheer up Dmitry, Grushenka firmly stated to the guests—and especially the plump Pole—that she wanted him to stay and that she would leave if he left. On that note, the Polish man finally also welcomed Dmitry, affirming that Grushenka, his “queen,” had the last word. In response, Dmitry jumped up and proposed a drink, which made everyone laugh because they thought he was about to make another speech. Still anxious but in control of the situation, Grushenka told him to stop leaping up and down—and where had all that money come from? He should put it away. But she was all for a drink and a little more excitement, which Dmitry now provided. Dmitry cooperated but was still acting erratic.

Dmitry’s happiness at feeling welcome—After downing some champagne (without waiting for the toast), Dmitry’s demeanor suddenly changed to childlike happiness—happy to be near Grushenka, happy to be welcomed into the guests’ company. He had been observing the two Poles and found nothing bothersome about them, though he concluded from the extraordinary height of the younger one that he must be the short man’s bodyguard. Then noticing that the room had gone quiet, he urged the guests to continue their conversation.

Kalganov’s explanation—Kalganov explained that he had been traveling with Maksimov for four days and that Maksimov had been entertaining them with a number of stories whose truth he doubted. Kalganov himself was a stylish, handsome, good-natured, intelligent young man, though also unpredictable. His interest in Maksimov had begun when Ivan threw him out of the coach. Their presence there was pure coincidence, having arrived at the inn and met the two Poles for the first time. He was aware of the relationships surrounding Grushenka but had little interest in any of it, even in her flirtatious advances towards him.

Maksimov’s “lies”—Maksimov’s great fib was his assertion that all Russia had married Polish women in the’20s. The plump little Pole, who kept speaking in Polish and whose Russian was better than he let on, interjected that Kalganov’s disbelief was based solely on his ignorance of what a fine Polish woman—not the peasantry—looked like. The conversation continued on this subject until the two Polish men, now annoyed, started speaking to each other in Polish. Their disdainful attitudes annoyed Grushenka, who found them boring. At least, the others were fun to listen to.

As it turned out, Maksimov was not making up stories after all—at least, not completely. One of the cavalry had brought his future wife to Russia, where Maksimov had met her. Not knowing that her odd way of walking was a limp, he married her, only to discover the truth the night of his wedding. And that wasn’t all. His second wife convinced him to sign over his entire estate to her, including the village, upon which she ran off with another man. Then there was Maksimov’s contention that Gogol had used him as a character in his novel Dead Souls. Whether these stories were true or not—and Kalganov wasn’t convinced they all were—they were immensely entertaining to the Russians in the group. On that count, Kalganov forgave Maksimov any tendencies to exaggerate or lie: at least, his motive was simply to entertain.

The Poles’ boredom; Grushenka’s annoyance—Meanwhile, the Polish gentlemen were acting bored again and talking among themselves, to Grushenka’s annoyance. She wanted to hear Maksimov’s story, so she angrily quipped that they should stop interrupting. But Grushenka’s gesture had something provocative in it, and the short Polish man protested that he had no problem with their conversation. Meanwhile, Dmitry noticed something odd going on.

A toast! and more aggravation—On Grushenka’s urging, Maksimov continued explaining the real-life background to the characters in Gogol’s novel, including his own role. Now it was Grushenka’s turn to be bored—the story was not what she expected. The Polish men were also acting annoyed again, so to lighten things up, Dmitry proposed a toast. To Poland! The Polish men obliged. And to Russia! That got the Russians to join in, but the Poles declined. Then the tall Pole altered the toast: to pre-1772 Poland. He was referring to the first partition of Poland by Prussia, Austria, and Russia. That got Dmitry calling the two Poles a couple of fools, which almost started a fight until Grushenka intervened.

A game of cards—Apologizing, Dmitry suggested a card game. The Poles tried to back out on the pretext that it was late. That irritated Grushenka, so, calling her “goddess,” the short man quickly changed his decision to please her. Excited, Dmitry announced that he wanted to lose a great deal of money to the short Polish man, who agreed to play as long as they used the landlord’s cards.

Dmitry leaves the room for a moment—Arriving with a fresh pack, the landlord informed Dmitry that the gypsy girls and the Jewish musicians had arrived, though not all the girls were there, nor had the order arrived from the grocer’s yet. Dmitry quickly leapt up and ran out to give instructions, including vodka for Andrei to make up for his earlier insult. As he was doing so, Maksimov asked him for five rubles to make a bet, upon which Dmitry gave him ten, urging him to ask for more if he needed it.

Podwysocki’s story—Soon, they were all back at the card table, with the atmosphere visibly improved. Only Kalganov wanted to back out now, having lost earlier. But Dmitry was excited. With only one or two hundred in the bank, he was betting a million. Speaking in Russian for once, the short Pole wondered if he had heard of the story of Mr. Podwysocki, who bet everything on his word. At the time, he didn’t know that the bank was holding a million, as opposed to the thousand he saw with his eyes. But the banker, who also bet on his word, kept his promise and gave him the full million.

Kalganov intervenes; Dmitry asks to speak to the short Pole—Dmitry’s first bet was a winner, as was Maksimov’s small one-ruble bet. But Dmitry’s luck quickly took a downward turn, while Maksimov’s little bets kept winning. That didn’t stop Dmitry from doubling his bets as he became more and more agitated. All of a sudden, Kalganov stopped him. He was adamant: Dmitry should quit now. Grushenka agreed. Incensed, the two Poles leapt up, but by now Dmitry had noticed that something strange was going on. He wanted a word in private with the short Pole and did not object when the man asked to bring his friend.

Dmitry’s offer—Once in a separate room, Dmitry pulled out his wad of money and offered the man the full three thousand rubles if he would leave on the spot. Tempted, the man was about to agree but wanted a 700-ruble advance instead of the 500 Dmitry was offering. Now Dmitry, who had been so confident, began to lose his nerve, saying that he couldn’t produce it immediately. Sensing the change, the man called his bluff, and both Polish men rose and spat in disdain. But Dmitry wasn’t done. He accused the man of proposing to Grushenka for her money and called both men scoundrels.

Indignation, the truth, and a change of heart—In utter indignation, the short Pole and his cohort marched into the other room and stood huffing and puffing before Grushenka, addressing her in Polish. But she, too, was done with his games and yelled at him to speak Russian. Obliging, the short Pole explained that he had come to forgive the past and marry her. Assuming that the others were her lovers, he added that Dmitry had tried to bribe him. Dmitry protested that he was not her lover and that the short Pole had been all too willing at first to take the money. Incense at being treated like a commodity, Grushenka quickly saw that he wanted nothing more than her wealth, despite all his protests to the contrary. This was not the man she had been in love with for five years. She felt like a fool.

More truth; settling the score; the Poles leave … sort of—When the gypsy girls entered the room to sing, Wrublewski, the tall Pole, took it as a cue to keep acting the part of a virtuous, wronged person. But the landlord caught him and his partner out. He had seen them stash his brand-new, sealed deck of cards and use their own marked cards instead. Kalganov, too, had witnessed them cheating. Doubly embarrassed, Grushenka could not believe her ears. When Wrublewski called her a tramp in response, Dmitry grabbed the seven-footer, carried him into the other room, and from what he said, laid him out on the floor. He was not likely to get up. Addressing the short Pole, he asked whether he would like to join his partner. Meanwhile, the landlord encouraged Dmitry to take back the money he had lost, but Dmitry refused, and so did Kalganov. On Grushenka’s approving response, the short Pole started heading towards the room where his friend lay knocked out. After giving Grushenka one last chance to join him, he walked through the door. Kalganov suggested locking them in. But there was no need: they had done so themselves.



The party begins—After that, the room went wild. Grushenka wanted to drink and party, just like the time before. But she wasn’t ready for Dmitry’s advances and kept fending him off, so instead he ran around orchestrating things in the next room, which was bigger. By now the chorus, dancers, musicians, and even the food and drink had arrived. The peasants had also awoken on hearing the noise and were crowding into the room, hoping for treats. Dmitry was feeling especially wild and generous, greeting people and giving them whatever they asked for, so the innkeeper decided to keep an eye on him to make sure he didn’t overdo it. Then there was Andrei, the driver. Dmitry was still feeling bad about throwing the five rubles at him earlier, so he wanted to make up for it by giving him punch. As for the original group of partiers, Kalganov only started to warm up after some champagne, when his natural distaste for the chorus girls changed into general mirth. Maksimov, who stayed close to Kalganov, was already tipsy and in his element. Grushenka, also tipsy and getting progressively drunker, kept exclaiming over Kalganov’s “cuteness” and at the same time throwing Dmitry passionate looks.

Grushenka hints at her real feelings—Eventually, Grushenka pulled Dmitry close to her and asked him whether he had planned on leaving her with the Pole. She had been impressed by the way he walked into their gathering, even though it had scared her. She kept doing this sort of thing all night and then sending him back to the party. And Dmitry would try to explain his side of things, though chaotically. Finally, he blurted out that he was worried about the injured man he had run off on. But Grushenka brushed it off, not understanding. She teased him about wanting to shoot himself and promised to tell him something later—but not now. And she sent him back to the party again. But Grushenka was perceptive. She saw that Dmitry was sad, and she wanted to know why. She reassured him, hinting that she loved him, though she didn’t directly say it.

More partying—Being tipsy, Grushenka was easily distracted and soon turned to Kalganov who, annoyed by the vulgarity of the entertainment, had sat down and promptly fallen asleep. But as soon as Grushenka kissed him on the forehead, he awoke, although he was impervious to her constant flirtations. He wanted to know what Maksimov was doing. Maksimov had been drinking and enjoying himself with the girls, and now he wanted to entertain everyone with a dance. After that, it was more chocolates, liqueurs, and girls. Dmitry, who had enjoyed Maksimov’s dancing, was happy to give him all of it, except the girls—though he started to vacillate on that, too.

Dmitry goes outside to clear his head—But Dmitry suddenly needed a break from the partying. He was confused, so to clear his head, he went outside to the porch facing the courtyard. Up till now, things had been simple: he would enjoy himself on his last night and then kill himself. But now it was becoming clear that Grushenka loved him after all. Hope had entered his dark world, and the great obstacle that had stood in the way—her former lover—was no longer there. Yet how could he enjoy this newfound promise of love when he had left a man bleeding on the ground, maybe even dead? He prayed for the victim’s resurrection and his own absolution. And he also made up his mind to return the money he stole.

Grushenka’s private confession—Then the thought of Grushenka’s love lifted his spirits again. Didn’t that make it all worth it? His passion drove him to head back to the party when he came face to face with innkeeper, who looked troubled. He was looking for someone, though he wouldn’t say whom, but as soon as Dmitry started looking for Grushenka, he realized that she was in none of the usual places. Finally, he found her in the back bedroom of the blue room, the room where they had been playing cards earlier. She was seated on a chest, crying, and she held Dmitry’s hand as she told her sad story of disappointed love. The Pole she had known five years ago was not the same man who just now had confronted her. He didn’t even look the same. She felt she had wasted five years of her life. But now it was time to reveal her secret to Dmitry. When he had walked into the room earlier that night, she realized that he was her real love. She begged his forgiveness for tormenting him all that time, and she asked whether he loved her, too. But Dmitry, overcome with passion, simply took Grushenka in his arms and kissed her.

The party reaches its pitch; too drunk to go on—At first, Grushenka wanted more, but then she suddenly changed her mind and put him off. Breaking away, she declared that she wanted to dance and get drunk. After downing another glass of champagne, she became noticeably more seductive—it even struck Kalganov. She insisted that Dmitry get drunk, too, which he was quick to do. But their drunkenness was reaching its pitch. Dmitry suddenly felt drowsy, and he felt the room begin to spin. Grushenka herself was becoming more and more talkative and gregariousness. She babbled on about joining a convent, about seeking forgiveness and how, if she were God, she would forgive all. The room was spinning for her, too, but it wasn’t until she got up to dance for the expectant crowd that she realized she was too drunk to do so.

More confessions; dreams of love and a new life—On Grushenka’s bidding, Dmitry ran over to rescue her, picking her up in his arms and carrying her into the bedroom. After putting her down, he kissed her passionately, but Grushenka still wasn’t ready, and she didn’t want it to happen there. She wanted their life to be different from now on—clean, good, and far away from their present, horrid surroundings. Dmitry wanted the same thing, but his guilt about the bloodied man came out again. He had mentioned it earlier, though he hadn’t uttered the word “blood,” so Grushenka had brushed it off.  But the mention of blood now caught her attention, though Dmitry wouldn’t explain further. He did mention the money he had stolen from Katerina Ivanovna, and Grushenka agreed that he should give it back, and then they would leave together for a new, good life. She knew that he was wild—she loved him for that—but his heart was good, too.

A bell in the distance—As they lay there talking of the future, Grushenka noticed the sound of a bell in the distance. But she was tired, and as she closed her eyes, she momentarily drifted off to sleep. As he laid his head on Grushenka’s breasts, Dmitry noticed neither the bell nor the fact that it stopped nor the silence that replaced the partying sounds.

Charged with murder—Grushenka had reawoken and was telling Dmitry about her dream, when she noticed someone looking in at them. Feeling the change in her mood and turning to look, Dmitry leapt up and immediately went over to the man, who took him into the other room, now filled with a new set of people. Dmitry recognized a number of officials: the chief of police, the assistant prosecutor, the examining magistrate, the district police officer. Before the arresting officer could even finish his initial statement, Dmitry blurted out what he had done, nearly causing a row between the officials, who disagreed on how to handle the situation. But by the time the examining magistrate pronounced the official charge of murder, Dmitry was in too much shock to take it all in.

Judicial Investigation

Perkhotin: Career Beginnings

Perkhotin questions Fenya—After Dmitry left for Mokroye, Perkhotin felt compelled to ask Fenya for further details, so even though it was already late at night, he headed over to her place and banged on the gate until the janitor let him in. Fenya was still terrified from the earlier scene with Dmitry, and her account reflected this in its partly skewed and exaggerated description of what had happened. She described the blood on his hands as “dripping” (which it wasn’t) and said that Dmitry had admitted to killing someone, even though he only briefly mentioned shedding human blood but never used the word “kill” or “murder.” More accurately, she also noticed that his hands were clean later on as he was leaving for Mokroye from the grocer’s.

Perkhotin’s next move—Having heard Fenya’s account, Perkhotin still wasn’t as convinced as everyone else that Dmitry had murdered his father, although there was some circumstantial logic to the idea. In debating whether to check on Fyodor Pavlovich to determine whether he needed to go to the police immediately, Perkhotin decided that it was too risky. If nothing had happened after all, Fyodor Pavlovich was likely to cause a public scandal over Perkhotin’s investigatory efforts. He decided to visit Mrs. Khokhlakova instead to ask whether she had indeed given Dmitry the 3000 rubles, as he had claimed. Never mind that this move was potentially even more scandalous: Perkhotin felt driven to unravel the mystery.

At Mrs. Khokhlakova’s—By now, it was 11 p.m., and Mrs. Khokhlakova had already retired for the night after a stressful day and with an oncoming migraine. Perkhotin had to be persistent, but he finally managed to get an audience with the lady, though she was hardly hospitable, especially on hearing that the matter concerned Dmitry. She, too, exaggerated and skewed her story, saying that he had come to kill her and had attacked her and directly spat on her, even though she was on the other side of the room by the time he let fly. But Perkhotin was mainly interested in whether she had given Dmitry the money, since that would determine whether he should go to the police chief that night or the next day. He finally got her to listen on mentioning that a murder might already have been committed. Between his calm, rational statements, she still babbled hysterically and twisted her story (instead of being a potential gold prospector and town savior, Dmitry was now her would-be murderer), but at least she was becoming more cooperative.

Perkhotin obtains a written statement from Mrs. Khokhlakova—Perkhotin had heard enough. He rose, announcing that he was off to inform the police chief (whom they both knew) of what he had learned. Meanwhile, Mrs. Khokhlakova’s attitude towards Perkhotin had changed from hostile to encouraging and enthusiastic as she praised him for his ingenuity. She insisted that he return immediately afterwards, even in the wee hours of the morning, to inform her of the outcome. Perkhotin, who had kept his cool the whole time, resisted her next offer to go with him, but he did take the opportunity to get a written statement saying that she had never given Dmitry any money.

Perkhotin leaves; Mrs. Khokhlakova’s change of heart—Perkhotin finally managed to extricate himself from Mrs. Khokhlakova’s enthusiastic and admiring clutches (she was now ready to help in any way she could). In spite of her continuous rambling, he was favorably disposed towards her. Mrs. Khokhlakova herself was in raptures over his manners, appearance, intelligence, and detailed approach, especially considering his youth; and except for the grim reason for their meeting, she felt uplifted. Here Dostoevsky interjects that all this would be irrelevant had it not spelled the beginning of Perkhotin’s career. But he adds that that story might have to wait until after he finished this novel.



Mikhail Makarov, Chief of Police—Mikhail Makarovich Makarov was an army officer before he transferred to the police force. A widower whose daughter, also widowed, and two adult granddaughters lived with him, Makarov was a people person who enjoyed entertaining on a regular basis. There was almost always someone there other than his family, whether for dinner, cards, billiards, or dancing.

As far as his work was concerned, Makarov still related more to the military than to civilian life and was a generalist when it came to the details of interpreting the new peasant reform laws. Relatively uneducated, he blamed his less than stellar performance on a lack of time, but his haphazard approach sometimes resulted in obvious mistakes.

The evening’s guests—Makarov’s guests tonight were the deputy prosecutor, Dr. Varvinsky, and the investigating magistrate, all young men. The prosecutor, Ippolit Kyrillovich, had a good heart and mind but felt that his self-assessed “unusual” insight into people and especially the criminal mind had been overlooked by his superiors. Varvinsky had recently graduated from medical school in St. Petersburg and, like other of the school’s graduates, was considered exceptionally intelligent. The investigating magistrate, Nikolai Parfenovich Nelyudov, was considered a joker in spite of his refined background. But for all his love of practical jokes, he took his job seriously and had a talent for finding out who—among the peasants, anyway—was guilty. The fact that they were all there that night was a coincidence brought about by various unrelated events: the prosecutor’s wife’s toothache, Makarov’s older granddaughter’s “secret” birthday (found out by Nelyudov, who wanted to tease her), and the doctor’s love of playing cards.

Perkhotin’s news precedes him—By the time Perkhotin arrived, all of that was irrelevant. As it turned out, Fyodor Pavlovich had indeed been killed and robbed, and they already knew about it from Marfa Ignatyevna. She had awoken to Smerdyakov’s screaming, as he always did before an epileptic fit. But after getting up in the dark to help him, she realized that Grigory was not in bed, and on looking for him outside, she found him lying on the ground. He tried telling her what had happened, but his speech was too weak, and she was too hysterical to comprehend anything. Finally, she discovered the news for herself when she went over to Fyodor Pavlovich’s window to see why the light was on and was met with the sight of her dead, bloodied master on the floor. She immediately ran over to the neighbor’s house and told Marya Kondratyevna and her mother what had happened. They had heard the ruckus earlier, when Grigory yelled “murderer.” Now, together with a homeless male guest they had taken in for the night, the two neighbors accompanied Marfa Ignatyevna back to Fyodor Pavlovich’s garden, where they brought Grigory inside and cleaned his wounds. Checking on Smerdyakov, they observed that he was still having seizures. When they saw that both Fyodor Pavlovich’s window and door to the garden were open, they decided not to enter the house for fear that it might incriminate them, since Fyodor Pavlovich normally kept himself locked in at night. Finally, on Grigory’s urging, Marfa Ignatyevna rushed to the police chief to tell him the news. She arrived just minutes before Perkhotin, whose own account of events—in spite of his reluctance to believe in Dmitry’s guilt—was taken as confirmation that Dmitry was indeed the killer.

An immediate investigation—The investigation was carried out immediately, with all four abovementioned officials present. They determined that Fyodor Pavlovich’s head had been fractured with the pestle, which they found outside. But other than his cracked skull, the only thing out of order in Fyodor Pavlovich’s room was the torn envelope that had contained the 3000 rubles. It was affectionately addressed to Grushenka.

Protocol, delays, and precautions—The other piece of information that seemed right in line with Dmitry’s behavior patterns was his threat to shoot himself before dawn the next the day but party the night before. Yet despite their desire to arrest Dmitry as soon as possible, the members of the investigating party had to abide by the rules and regulations, which took them another two hours. In the meantime, they dispatched a police officer to watch Dmitry until their arrival in Mokroye. The attending police officer also knew the innkeeper, who hid the pistol case after learning in part about what was going on.

The investigating party arrives in Mokroye; the doctor’s observations on Smerdyakov—At around 4 a.m., the investigating party pulled up in front of the inn. Only the doctor remained behind: he had to perform the post-mortem in the morning, and he was also interested in the unusual frequency, length, and intensity of Smerdyakov’s seizures. In fact, the severity of his condition was so rare that the doctor’s prognosis for him was imminent death, a detail that both the magistrate and the prosecutor remembered.

First Torment


Grushenka tries to take the blame—Back at the inn in Mokroye, Dmitry was trying to fathom what was happening. Once it started to sink in, he leapt up and protested that he hadn’t killed his father, even though he had wanted to. Grushenka then ran out and, falling down before the police chief, claimed that she was at fault for teasing both men. She was willing to die for Dmitry, but Dmitry, now kneeling beside her and holding her in his arms, wouldn’t let her take the blame. The police chief, however, who was swept away by his moral indignation, was too ready to point the finger at Grushenka. Fortunately, the assistant prosecutor and examining magistrate insisted on going by the rules and reprimanded him for being out of line.

The questioning begins; Nelyudov’s solicitousness—With Grushenka now out of the room, Dmitry sat down at the table with the various officials. The police chief preferred to position himself across the room, next to the window and near Kalganov, who was still present. Nelyudov was being particularly kind and polite to Dmitry, urging him to have water and telling him not to worry. But all Dmitry could do was stare at Nelyudov’s gem-encrusted rings, finally blurting out that they should get the sentencing over with.

Dmitry discovers that Grigory is alive—The investigators began with Dmitry’s assertion that he was not guilty of his father’s death. Dmitry’s response was honest: he denied killing his father but admitted to killing Grigory. Still, he didn’t think he should be arrested for killing the wrong man, and he couldn’t understand who would have done it. To Dmitry’s grateful surprise, the prosecutor informed him that Grigory had survived and was expected to recover. Grateful that his prayers had been answered, Dmitry wanted to rush off and tell Grushenka, but the officials prevented him. Still, his whole mood had changed now, and he felt that he had gotten his life back, even exclaiming that he and Grushenka were engaged, as though anticipating a happy future. He was so ecstatic at this new development that as he was recalling how Grigory had cared for him during childhood, he seemed not to hear the prosecutor’s statements that Grigory had made serious allegations against him—though he did register them on some level, as becomes clear later.

Prior relationships with the investigators—To some extent, Dmitry was familiar with all his interrogators. He knew the police chief best, having visited his home numerous times on a friendly basis until a month ago, when the chief’s attitude towards Dmitry took a noticeable downward turn. The prosecutor was familiar to him mostly through his wife, who had extended her hospitality to Dmitry several times; while his acquaintance with the examining magistrate, who was new in town, was merely casual. He knew, of course, that they were there to interrogate him, but he became so elated on discovering that he hadn’t killed Grigory that his manner immediately changed from fearful and dazed to cheerful and direct. He wanted to get through the interrogation as quickly as possible and was confident that it would be no problem.

The questioning progresses—There was also the matter of recording what Dmitry said, and except for the police chief, who remained aloof and physically distant from the interrogation, Dmitry’s questioners all seemed eager to guide him through the process, only taking statements with his permission. Dmitry himself made no attempt to hide anything—weren’t the details of the case public knowledge, anyway? But how he felt, what he said, and what he did were not necessarily the same thing. He admitted to being jealous but was also adamant that the money he stole—and much more—was rightfully his. For all his earlier hatred and anger towards his father, Dmitry regretted the extreme extent of it, even though he was still disgusted by Fyodor Pavlovich’s boastfulness, cunning, and irreverence. Even so, Dmitry could  not understand who would kill his father, and he insisted on learning the circumstances of Fyodor Pavlovich’s death, which were that he was found with a cracked skull lying on his back on the floor.

A positive turn in the questioning—By now, Dmitry’s former confidence had waned, and he was becoming depressed and had a bad headache. Right then, Grushenka burst in from another room, screaming and running towards him, which prompted Dmitry to run towards her, too. The two of them were soon parted, but the incident changed the police chief’s perspective. He had gone out to calm down Grushenka, and he had returned with a completely different view of her. He now regarded her with compassion and saw that she was innocent and good-hearted. Relaying all of this to Dmitry, he also looked at him with the warmth that was such a part of his nature, and he asked Dmitry if he would cooperate. Dmitry was only to happy to do so, and as the police chief headed back to reassure Grushenka, the whole group felt that the questioning had a taken a positive turn.

Second Torment


Close interaction between investigator and prosecutor—Nelyudov,the examining magistrate, was particularly enthusiastic about Dmitry’s willingness to cooperate, more so than the prosecutor, whom Nelyudov admired a great deal. Ippolit Kyrillovich, the prosecutor, saw himself as being professionally underrated, and Nelyudov agreed with this. As a result, Ippolit Kyrillovich, who was normally cold, genuinely liked his colleague. They would often exchange looks during the interrogation, and Nelyudov was attuned to every small change on the prosecutor’s face. But the narrator also mentions that Nelyudov was extremely shortsighted and that he removed his glasses right as he began his encouraging speech to Dmitry.

Dmitry’s impatience with “trivial” details—Dmitry was in a hurry to get the investigation over with, so while his mood was cheerful, that did nothing to eliminate his natural rudeness and impatience, in contrast to the courtesy of his questioners. More than once, he urged them to avoid questioning him about “irrelevant” details, including his emotions, how much money he had taken, the timing of events, and other items generally considered important to any investigation. His questioners were especially interested in why he had pawned his pistols for ten rubles, which led to the topic of his trip out of town, something they hadn’t known about till then. Consequently, they instructed him to tell his story from the beginning, which Dmitry informed them was the morning of the previous day, when he set out on his journey out of town.

Dmitry cooperates, more or less—For all his impatience to get through the investigation, Dmitry himself continually babbled on about his state of mind (claiming that he was no longer drunk but sober and lucid), his emotions, his personal rights, and his relationship to the interrogators. He wanted a trusting, friendly interaction, though he also recognized his position as someone under investigation for serious criminal action. Yet he was so convinced of his own nobility and good-heartedness that he kept belittling his interrogators’ need to inquire into every detail of the facts. For the most part, he cooperated, informing them of his comings and goings during the previous days and even talking at length about his jealousy over Grushenka. However, when it came to his reason for procuring the 3000 rubles, all he would say was that he owed someone a debt, but he refused to disclose who it was. The prosecutor acknowledged his right to refuse to answer any question, but he also warned Dmitry that withholding information could work against him.

Dmitry’s increasing anger and careless admissions—As the investigation continued, Dmitry’s mood gradually degenerated from cheerfulness to dejection and anger. He didn’t feel that these relatively young men deserved to know all about the details of his life and the inner workings of his mind and heart. By the time they questioned him about the pestle, which the magistrate produced from his briefcase, Dmitry was less than cooperative, and his bad mood was causing him to blurt out things that were against whatever better judgment he still had—like his comment that he would have killed Fenya if he hadn’t been in such a rush. His confusion about why he took the pestle also didn’t help: first, he resorted to the excuse that it was to fend off the dogs; then he exclaimed that it was to kill his father.

A sense of being hunted—During this time, the investigating magistrate’s assistant was noting down every word, which added to Dmitry’s increasing feeling of being hunted by his questioners. He even told them about a recurring dream, where he was being chased in the dark, although his chaser knew exactly where he was. The chaser’s sole purpose was to torment him. That was how he now saw his questioners, and he said so outright. The prosecutor found this interesting, though he saw no need to record it. There seemed to be some truth to it, too: both interrogators’ expressions had meanwhile changed from friendly encouragement to minute, detached watchfulness of Dmitry’s every word and move.

Third Torment


Dmitry cooperates—Dmitry’s good mood was now ruined, but he had understood the investigators’ message and was cooperating as much as he could, giving details about all the “trivialities” he had wanted to avoid. His questioners faces still maintained an attentive, expressionless look. But as attentive as they were, they missed Dmitry’s first mention of the signal he had used to tap on his father’s window.

A lack of trust—For all his cooperativeness, Dmitry had lost his trust and was angry at the investigators. Toying with them, he sometimes said what he thought they wanted to hear, only correcting his account afterwards. This even happened when he told them about seeing his father by the window: first he said that he killed him, and only after that did he correct his account. Yet in spite of Dmitry’s volatility, the prosecutor and investigator mostly maintained the same attentive, indifferent attitude.

Questions about the door and the signal—Having heard Dmitry’s version of events—that he did not go inside his father’s house but ran off instead—the prosecutor wanted to know whether he had noticed if the house door to the garden was open or closed. Dmitry was sure it was closed, but the prosecutor said that they had found it open and that their investigation proved beyond a doubt that the murder was committed inside the house. This made no sense to Dmitry, who was sure the door was shut. There was also the issue of the signal, without which no one could get into the house, anyway, and the only other people who knew it were Smerdyakov and Fyodor Pavlovich. Here the prosecutor perked up: this was the detail both questioners had missed before, and the prosecutor wanted to know more. After toying with them again, Dmitry finally explained the signal system and that he had used the one indicating that Grushenka had arrived.

Smerdyakov mentioned as a suspect—The prosecutor wondered if Dmitry suspected Smerdyakov, but Dmitry’s first reaction was that his questioners were trying to entrap him. Yet he refused to blame Smerdyakov: it was a question of honor, a word that repeatedly came up in his protests against his questioners’ methods. He had briefly suspected Smerdyakov but decided that he was a coward and weakling who was incapable of murdering his master. Besides, there was a good chance that Fyodor Pavlovich was his illegitimate father. The investigators themselves considered Smerdyakov a suspect, even though they had witnessed the severity of his epileptic attacks at the time. As for blood ties, they pointed out that these had not stopped Dmitry from wanting to kill his father. But Dmitry protested that even if he had wanted to and had told everyone so, in the end he didn’t do it. He was saved from that by his guardian angel when he suddenly changed his mind and ran.

The run-in with Grigory—The prosecutor now wanted exact details on Dmitry’s run-in with Grigory: his precise sitting position on the fence, how he had hit the old man with the pestle, why he had gotten down to check on him, and so on. Dmitry recalled much of it exactly, but when he got to the part about examining Grigory, he neglected to mention his compassion and concern for the old man. Consequently, the prosecutor concluded that Dmitry’s sole motive for checking on Grigory was self-preservation: to assess the state of his only potential witness.

Next the examining magistrate wanted to know how Dmitry could think of going to Fenya’s in his bloody condition. But Dmitry hadn’t been conscious of it, and the prosecutor agreed that that was normal. (It’s important to note, however, that by now the prosecutor was also intent on entrapping Dmitry.)

The visit to Mokroye and the suicide note—The investigators then asked Dmitry to tell about his visit to Mokroye, which he did only briefly because of his unwillingness to open his heart in their cold-blooded presence. Consequently, he did not mention the feelings between him and Grushenka, but he did admit that he had decided to commit suicide at dawn after a final night partying—that is, before he realized that the situation with Grushenka had changed. As proof of his intention, he pulled out his suicide note, which was then included with the rest of the evidence. The prosecutor found it curious that Dmitry still hadn’t thought of washing his bloodstained hands by the time he arrived at Perkhotin’s. But Dmitry answered that such things are irrelevant when someone is intent on committing suicide.

Questions about the money—Next the examining magistrate wanted to know how Dmitry managed to get so much money by the time he returned to Perkhotin to retrieve his pistols. But Dmitry absolutely refused to reveal the source of the money, even though he realized that this would count against him. When the investigator asked for a hint, Dmitry would only say that it was an immensely shameful issue for him. He also refused to tell his questioners exactly how much money was in the original wad, although they knew about his desire to procure 3000 rubles. But this point about the exact amount of money was important to Nelyudov, the examining magistrate, and after some additional questioning about Dmitry’s expenditures, he concluded that the original verifiable total was 1500 rubles. That still didn’t explain why Dmitry and others perceived the amount as being much more.

A final indignity—As though all this weren’t enough, the examining magistrate now informed Dmitry that he would have to remove his clothes, and he implied that he might also have to undergo a cavity search. At least, they let Dmitry undress behind the curtain.



Humiliation—Dmitry was feeling severely insulted and humiliated. Here he was, a man of decent social standing and a former officer who prided himself on his honor. But now he was being treated with disdain and ordered around by two younger individuals. They didn’t even allow him his privacy but accompanied him behind the curtain along with some peasants on top of it all. So far Dmitry had only taken off his outer clothing and pants, and he was asking whether he should remove his shirt as well. But the investigators were so busy examining the blood on his outer garments that Dmitry had to ask twice to get their attention.

The prosecutor searches Dmitry’s clothing—The prosecutor was also trying to determine whether Dmitry had hidden or sewn the money into his clothes, which made Dmitry feel like a common thief. When the prosecutor noticed the bloodstained cuff, he insisted that Dmitry remove his shirt as well as his socks and underwear. Being the only naked person in the room was humiliating enough, but the fact that Dmitry’s socks and underwear were dirty and his feet were ugly made him feel even more ashamed. He was allowed to wrap himself in the blanket from the bed, and then he sat alone with the peasants while his interrogators were in another room. After some time, the prosecutor returned with some clothing loaned by Kalganov: Dmitry could wear it in the meantime. But the clothes were tight, which only made Dmitry feel like a clown and added to his anger and shame.

Dmitry starts tripping over the details—Once Dmitry was dressed, he was instructed to come out into the other room. But since he refused to name the source of the money, the investigators now started questioning the witnesses. Dazed at first, Dmitry soon snapped out of his mesmerized state and launched into a long speech about how he would have behaved completely differently if he were guilty. For one thing, he would have killed himself by now, but he was also convinced that the real killer was the same person who had gone in through the door to Fyodor Pavlovich’s room. Hotly denying that he had anything to do with the murder, he still refused to tell them where he got the money, no matter what the consequences. Doing so would only add to the unjustified shame he was experiencing.

The “hard evidence” of the open door—Picking up on the topic of the door from the garden to the house, the prosecutor related Grigory’s statement that it was already open when he saw Dmitry running through the yard. On the other hand, Dmitry himself observed that this same door was shut as he was approaching the window. The notion that it was open struck him as odd, and for a moment, he stopped to think about it; but he could not imagine who would have opened it. According to the investigators, Grigory was sure that Dmitry had gone through that door, though they admitted that he never saw him do it. But Dmitry passionately protested, saying that the old man was either lying or delirious from his injury. Here the prosecutor reminded him that Grigory’s observation took place before, not after, Dmitry injured him on the head.

The envelope and Dmitry’s confusion—Dmitry protested again, so the prosecutor ordered the examining magistrate to show him the next piece of evidence: Fyodor Pavlovich’s envelope, which had contained the 3000 rubles. Dmitry knew exactly what it was and all the details associated with it—the note to Grushenka, where Fyodor Pavlovich had hidden it, etc. But he still denied taking the money and, now frantic, started accusing Smerdyakov. But the more he spoke, the more he incriminated himself. In one breath, he mentioned that his father kept it under his pillow; in the next, he denied knowing anything about that. He also repeated that Smerdyakov was the only other person who knew the signal, but again the prosecutor reminded him that with the door being open already (supposedly rock-hard evidence), the signal would have been unnecessary.

No way out: Dmitry agrees to tell the truth about the money—Throughout the interrogation, the prosecutor and examining magistrate would confer quietly with each other or give each other communicative looks. As for Dmitry, he had reached a point where he saw no hope. He had to tell them the truth to save his neck.

Dmitry’s Secret Is Ridiculed


The truth emerges—Dmitry’s story came out in confused bits and pieces, but at last he explained that a month ago he had stolen the 3000 rubles he was supposed to deliver for Katerina Ivanovna. It pained him to reveal her name to his “undeserving” hearers, and he refused to say anything more about their relationship except that she had been his fiancée and that her character was impeccable. He then explained that he spent half the money on partying with Grushenka and carried the rest in a pouch around his neck. At the time, he had told everyone that he’d spent the full 3000, but this wasn’t true. Yet no one knew that except Dmitry, and the story was so well known around town that the prosecutor and police chief had heard it, too. They even knew that the money was from Katerina Ivanovna. Consequently, the prosecutor could not understand why Dmitry made such an agonizing secret of it, while the examining magistrate was having trouble believing it at all.

A question of honor—In the prosecutor’s view, Dmitry had exaggerated the vileness of his act, which seemed more stupid and reckless than bad. But Dmitry’s emphasis was not on taking the original 3000 or even on squandering the 1500. His shame came from not telling Katerina Ivanovna that he still had the other half. That was what made him not just a scoundrel but a thief, and keeping this secret for a whole month was even worse. During that time, he could have also returned the remaining half, but he didn’t, a grave breach of honor in his mind.

Dmitry’s motive—To Dmitry’s interrogators, this seemed a minor distinction, but it raised the question as to what he planned on doing with the 1500 if he was holding onto it so relentlessly. Dmitry then explained his rivalry with his father over Grushenka. What he hadn’t yet realized was that her first concern wasn’t money or that she would love him even if he were poor. Still, if she had chosen to flee somewhere with him, he wouldn’t have had the means to make it happen. And so he kept the money. That torturous secret was the reason for his erratic and violent behavior throughout that month.

To die with honor—Still unable to see what was wrong with keeping the money, Dmitry’s questioners burst out laughing. But Dmitry repeated that it was stolen money: that was what made it wrong. Then again, keeping it around his neck meant that he still had the option to return it to Katya Ivanovna and prove that he wasn’t a thief—at least, not yet. But when he decided to commit suicide, he ripped the money pouch from his neck and removed the wad of rubles. In his mind, that act condemned him to die a thief. At the time, he thought it would make no difference since he was going to die anyway, but that night he was so tormented by the memory of his misdeeds that he realized that to die with honor was just as important as to live with honor.

A conflict of interests—The prosecutor was still mystified as to why Dmitry didn’t just go to Katerina Ivanovna and ask her for help. Dmitry was aghast at this suggestion, though he had thought of it himself. Yet despite his desperation, he couldn’t bring himself to ask his former fiancée for a loan so that he could run off with another woman—one who had insulted her, no less. Besides (by now, Dmitry was shouting), though he was sure Katerina Ivanovna would have given him the money, her generosity masked immense anger and disdain, and Dmitry wanted to avoid that. Still, he admitted that he had been sorely tempted till just recently, before the “incident.” He didn’t specify which incident he meant, and Nelyudov’s inquiry about it escaped his notice.

Human drama vs. bureaucracy—Feeling great shame at baring his soul to his two questioners, Dmitry wondered aloud whether they were worth it. For them, however, it was not such a dramatic experience, and they continued recording his statements with bureaucratic perfunctoriness, which upset Dmitry even more. Did they have to write everything down? They assured him that this was important evidence and that he would have a chance to request amendments later.

Lies, truth, or both?—But the prosecutor still wasn’t convinced of Dmitry’s statement about keeping the secret of the 1500 rubles for an entire month. Yet Dmitry was adamant—he hadn’t said a word to anyone. The prosecutor reminded him that he’d told everyone that he had spent 3000 rubles, but Dmitry insisted that he had lied and that people had just believed him.

The question of the purse—Now began the interrogation about the little purse into which Dmitry had sewn the money. Where did he get the cloth? Who sewed it for him? Where did he throw it away? How big was it? And so on. Exasperated, Dmitry couldn’t remember exactly but thought he had disposed of it in the dark as he was crossing the square after seeing Fenya. The material was old and worn, probably from some calico scrap he’d taken from his landlady without telling her, so ripping it hadn’t required any special tools or strength. As for who sewed it, he did it himself: soldiers had to know that sort of thing.

Gloomy spirits and a gloomy day—By now it was eight in the morning. The interrogators were tired, and Dmitry was exhausted and despondent. Outside, it was cloudy and raining hard, as though in response to their state. Dmitry asked if he could look out the window and was promptly granted his wish. The dismal sight of black shacks and muddy roads seemed an appropriate backdrop for suicide, more so than the sunrise he had imagined.

Dmitry asks about Grushenka’s well-being—One thing still preyed on Dmitry’s mind: what was to become of Grushenka? He was worried and insisted that she was innocent regardless of her claims to the contrary. The prosecutor assured him that there was no reason to worry about her and that they would do their utmost to keep it that way.

Preparing to question the witnesses—The prosecutor then explained thatit was time to question the witnesses, and as tired as the three men were, they postponed a real tea break till later. But they did have tea brought up to them, and as Dmitry drank his, he realized how exhausted he was and felt that he would soon lapse into delirium.

Witnesses’ Reports and Dmitry’s Dream


The witnesses’ testimonies—The investigation was focusing on the exact amount of money spent by Dmitry on both partying occasions, but unfortunately the witnesses’ reports did not match Dmitry’s own.

The innkeeper—Witness #1 was Trifon Borysich, the innkeeper, whose love for Dmitry had changed to anger and whose testimony did nothing to support his one-time favorite customer. While Dmitry claimed to have spent only 500 rubles on the gypsies at the first party, the innkeeper insisted that it was at least 1500, though his only proof was what he heard and saw, sometimes out of Dmitry’s own mouth. He added that at the last party, Dmitry was boasting loudly about spending close to a total of 6000 rubles. The investigators, who found this extremely interesting, understood that to mean that he had spent 3000 rubles on each occasion.

The two peasants and Andrei—The innkeeper mentioned that there were others who heard the same thing, most notably two peasants, Andrei the driver, and Kalganov. The first three testified without hesitation, and Andrei also told the investigators about Dmitry’s musings in the coach on whether he was destined for heaven or hell, which the prosecutor took to be psychologically significant.

Kalganov—Kalganov also cooperated, but not happily. He admitted that he had heard Dmitry mention 6000 rubles, told the investigators about the Poles cheating at cards and their expulsion from the room, and reluctantly informed them of Dmitry’s budding love relationship with Grushenka, whom he respectfully called Agrafena Aleksandrovna. But though he knew the investigators socially, he acted distant and left his interview unhappy. Dmitry, who was present for all the interviews, had energetically protested some of the earlier witnesses’ statements in spite of his extreme fatigue and hopelessness. But he said nothing to Kalganov’s account.

The Poles—Next up were the Poles, who acted in their usual pompous manner. At this point, we discover that the short one’s name is Mr. Mussjalowicz and that he had been a low-ranking government official, now retired. Wrublewski, his cohort, pulled teeth on a freelance basis. The most notable element of their testimony was about Dmitry’s attempt to bribe them with 700 rubles up front, to be followed by 2300 the next day—so 3000 altogether. Before that, Mussjalowicz had angered Dmitry with talk of his own romance with Grushenka. But seeing that this subject was causing problems, Nelyudov—who was running the investigation—prohibited any further references to it. For all the detailed recording of the Poles’ testimony, Nelyudov didn’t consider the card-cheating incident worth mentioning, ascribing it to drunkenness.

The question of the money—But the money issue continued to be of primary interest to the investigators. This new testimony raised the question of whether Dmitry had extra money hidden somewhere else, since all he was currently carrying was 800 rubles and had himself only claimed to have 1500 altogether. He explained that instead of cash, he had planned on signing over his Chermashnya estate to the Poles, insisting that it was worth much more than the cash amount. This was mildly amusing to the prosecutor, who found it naive, though he kept this to himself.

Maksimov—Next in line was Maksimov, who had been sitting downstairs next to Grushenka, weeping. Like Kalganov, he was unhappy about testifying. Unlike him, his testimony was not particularly useful. On being questioned about how much money he estimated to be in Dmitry’s possession—especially considering that he’d had a good view of it—Maksimov answered 20,000 rubles. In short, his testimony came across as confused, and Nelyudov soon dismissed him.

Grushenka—The last witness questioned was Grushenka. Before her arrival, Nelyudov discreetly asked Dmitry to restrain himself during the interview, which he did. When Grushenka entered escorted by the police chief, her manner was somber. She was also not feeling well, being on the verge of illness, but she came across as calm and refined in her manner, which impressed Nelyudov. When questioned about Dmitry, she did not delve into their blossoming love but mentioned that he had been visiting her for a month and that she had led both him and his father on. She had never had any serious intentions, being concerned with another relationship (meaning the Pole). But she declined to talk about this, so the investigation once again turned to the money.

More about the money—Like the other witnesses, Grushenka had to confirm that Dmitry boasted of having and spending 3000 rubles, and he spoken of it not just once but several times, both openly and privately. She also knew that it had come from Katerina Ivanovna, adding that Dmitry often mentioned being broke after the first party at Mokroye. He was counting on getting money from Fyodor Pavlovich and had also spoken of killing him. But Grushenka stressed that Dmitry’s murder threats were always made in anger and that he was too honorable to actually do it. At that point, Dmitry requested permission to make his own brief statement to Grushenka in which he claimed that he was not guilty of his father’s murder. Grushenka herself was relieved to hear it and confirmed to the investigators that Dmitry would never lie about anything that would weigh on his conscience.

A vivid dream: a burnt village and a crying “bairn”—After some more questions about the money, Grushenka went back downstairs to wait for the outcome. It would take another hour to get the records into their final form, and in the meantime, Dmitry lay down on a chest and fell asleep, dreaming a vivid dream that he was traveling in a horse-drawn carriage through the snowy steppe country, when they came upon a little village that had burned down. Along the road stood a number of starving peasant women, one of whom—thin, shriveled, and badly aged—held a crying baby, referred to in dialect as a “bairn.” Moved, Dmitry asked the driver why the child was crying and learned that it was freezing.

A profound transformation—The scene had a profound effect on Dmitry. His passion for life and love could not accept such a dismal reality, and every fiber of his being questioned it. His newfound compassion demanded immediate action to end the horrible suffering he was seeing. Still dreaming, he heard Grushenka’s voice pledging to stay by his side, and he felt himself drawn to a new and powerful sense of light and life.

Dmitry signs the records and mentions his dream—Dmitry awoke suddenly to find Nelyudov standing beside him. The records had been finalized, and Nelyudov was asking Dmitry to sign them. But Dmitry, whose whole demeanor had changed to one of joy, was distracted by the pillow that someone had placed under his head. He never learned who it was, but that small act of compassion moved him deeply. As he went to sign the papers, he mentioned that he had had a good dream.

Dmitry Goes to Prison


Dmitry is charged—But no one seemed to hear Dmitry’s statement about his dream. Instead, he found himself being formally charged, his own statements having failed to hold up against those of the witnesses. He would therefore have to go to prison for the time being. Nelyudov explained this to him as humanely as possible, adding that Dmitry’s main escort would be Mavriky Mavrikyevich, a policeman Dmitry knew and had previously treated to drinks at the pub.

A final protest of innocence; Nelyudov’s good wishes—Dmitry understood and even made a speech about how he was ready and willing to suffer in prison for his misdeeds. He admitted that he never would have reformed without this blow from fate. But he insisted that regardless of anything else he had done, he had not killed his father and would fight to prove that. In a farewell gesture, he extended his hand to Nelyudov, but Nelyudov would not shake it, explaining with some awkwardness that the investigation was not yet over. But he added that he and the other members of the investigating party preferred to view Dmitry as a man of honor whose rash actions had worked against him. He hoped that things would go well for him.

Goodbye to Grushenka—Dmitry’s sole remaining request before leaving was to see Grushenka. Their meeting was brief and restrained, since they had to say goodbye in the presence of the others. But it was also deeply respectful and emotional, and Grushenka was crying as she repeated that she would always stay with Dmitry. She, too, viewed him as a basically good person whose rashness had brought about his downfall. And Dmitry in turn begged Grushenka to forgive him for destroying her life.

A mixed general farewell; Kalganov’s deeply felt goodbye—The time had come to take Dmitry away, and he was struck by the total change in mood among those who had previously welcomed him as a friend. One of these was Mavriky the policeman, who treated Dmitry with anger and disdain. The other was Trifon Borisych, who refused to even acknowledge Dmitry’s repeated attempts to say goodbye to him. But as Dmitry shouted farewell to the crowd from the peasant cart that was now carrying him away, some among the crowd still answered back. As the new prisoner sat there shivering in the cold, young Kalganov came running out to give him his hand in a heartfelt farewell shake. As the cart drove away, a dejected Kalganov returned inside. Finding a corner, he wept. And as he wept, he wondered if life was worth living when people could be so cruel.



Kolya Krasotkin

The widow Krasotkin—Kolya Krasotkin was one of the schoolboys who taunted Ilyusha, the sickly little son of the poor staff captain. Kolya’s mother was an attractive young widow who since the death of her husband, a one-time civil servant, had dedicated her entire life to the success and health of her son. That meant not only keeping a neat, modest house but also immersing herself in his school subjects and being friendly towards the teachers and students.

Kolya’s character and intelligence—At first, this backfired, when the other boys teased Kolya as a result. But Kolya’s character and intelligence enabled him to hold his own, and he also knew how to get along with both his peers and the authorities. That didn’t mean, however, that he wasn’t prone to his own style of schoolboy antics. As for sentimentality, he had no tolerance for it—even from his mother, who sometimes felt unloved by him. This wasn’t true, though: he did love her, just not in an obvious way. Kolya also enjoyed reading and had helped himself to some of the books on his late father’s bookcase, which meant that he had come in contact with ideas that others his age weren’t usually exposed to.

The train track incident—Kolya’s most legendary feat arose from his typical schoolboy desire to prove himself to his peers. But what set this feat apart was its daring. He knew a fair amount about railroads and had figured out that he could come away unscathed when lying down on the tracks as a train rushed over him. No one believed that he would go through with it—but he did, to the boys’ surprise and his mother’s horror. That won him the respect of the other schoolboys, but when news of the event eventually reached the school, the reception there was less enthusiastic. Kolya’s mother made her usual efforts on behalf of her son, and Dardanelov, the school’s principal—who was infatuated with her and had even proposed to her unsuccessfully at one point—supported her. This improved his relationship with Kolya’s mother, though she still seemed standoffish towards him. But that was mostly because of her devotedness to her son, who always came first in her life. The incident on the train tracks produced a change in Kolya. His mother had been upset to the point of hysteria, which deeply upset Kolya in turn, and he swore to refrain from all such antics in the future. After that, even though Kolya still remained essentially unsentimental, his previous disdain for Dardanelov’s emotionality and interest in his mother softened, and it seemed that his mother’s feelings towards the principal were not as standoffish as first appeared.

Additional facts about Kolya—Kolya also had a dog, a stray that he had taken in off the street and taught a number of tricks. True to its dog nature, the creature loved Kolya and was always thrilled to see him. And last but not least, Kolya was the boy Ilyusha had stabbed the day the schoolboys were pelting him with rocks.



Home alone, with a quandary—On this frigid winter Sunday morning, Kolya was alone at home with two young children.Their mother, a friend of his mother’s, rented two of the house’s rooms. Her doctor husband, who had left a year before, had disappeared completely six months ago, so now she was left alone with her two children. But today both she and Kolya’s own mother were out. The doctor’s wife’s maid had somehow managed to hide the fact that she was pregnant until the last minute, when she suddenly announced that she was about to give birth. At that point, the doctor’s wife, accompanied by Kolya’s mother, decided to bring her to a suitable place to take care of the matter.

Normally, Kolya would have left the children with his own mother’s maid. However, she was also out grocery shopping and taking an unusually long time to return. That left Kolya with a problem: he had an important errand to run but couldn’t leave the two children alone.

Checking with the children—At 11 a.m., having gotten tired of waiting, Kolya pulled on his outdoor clothing and then stopped by the children’s room to make sure that they would be all right if he left. The two children—Nastya, 8, and Kostya, 7—were in the middle of arguing about how babies were born. The argument was full of silly conjecture, like babies coming from cabbage patches. Kolya stood there listening for a while and finally interrupted. When he broached the subject of leaving them alone, the children became worried, so he tried bribing them by demonstrating the firing of a miniature cannon. This distracted them for a while, but it wasn’t enough to keep them from crying. Feeling responsible for them, Kolya decided to stay with them after all until Agafya, the maid, returned. On the children’s request, he had the dog entertain them with tricks in the meantime.

Kolya leaves on Agafya’s return—Finally, Agafya walked in, and after a rude but lighthearted exchange between her and Kolya about whether she would take proper care of the children (which she would have, anyway), Kolya and Perezvon the dog exited into the cold winter’s day.

Smurov, the Schoolboy


Meeting Smurov—The first part of Kolya’s secret errand was to meet Smurov, another of the schoolboys who had thrown rocks at Ilyusha. Smurov’s parents had strictly forbidden him to meet with Kolya, who was considered a troublemaker, so Kolya had to whistle when he arrived outside the house.

Heading over to Ilyusha’s—The first hint that they were heading over to Ilyusha’s was Smurov’s idea about pretending that Perezvon was Ilyusha’s old dog Zhuchka, who had disappeared. Smurov, who was several years younger than Kolya and held him in high regard, seemed eager to comfort the terminally ill Ilyusha. But as usual, Kolya would not allow any show of sentimentality and insisted that they should be truthful under all circumstances.

As it turned out, Smurov and the other schoolboys had been visiting Ilyusha daily, initially on Alyosha’s insistence. They wanted to make up for their earlier bad behavior, and in the process they had made both Ilyusha and his father happy. Only Kolya hadn’t gone yet. For various reasons, mostly mysterious ones that he wouldn’t explain, he had refused to show up. One of his excuses was that he wanted to make up his own mind and not feel compelled to go by Alyosha, whom he didn’t yet understand. The other reason may have been tied to his outward pride and unwillingness to appear sentimental. In any case, Smurov was sure that Ilyusha would be thrilled to see him. He had, after all, been asking for him.

Kolya’s observations; teasing the peasants—On the way to Ilyusha’s, the two boys passed through the square, where the Sunday market was going on. Kolya had been making intellectual observations as they walked—about the uselessness of medicine, dogs’ social habits (or the logic of nature versus human concepts of behavior), socialist ideas, and the relative nature of temperature sensation (people felt colder at higher temperatures at the beginning of winter than at lower temperatures in mid-winter). Now as they walked through the market, he began toying with the peasants, guessing their names as he greeted them—even though he didn’t know them at all. Sometimes his guesses were right, sometimes not. But he never failed to get a response. His motives for doing this appeared to vary. He obviously found it amusing and would sometimes use it as a way to distract the peasants or to study human (or at least peasant) nature. But it wasn’t a completely condescending activity. Along the road, Kolya greeted another peasant, but this one proved too intelligent and secure in himself to fall prey to Kolya’s playful manipulations. Seeing that, Kolya readily admitted to Smurov as they walked away that some peasants were indeed intelligent.

Asking for Alyosha—Realizing that it was already 11:30 a.m., Kolya and Smurov rushed the rest of the way to Ilyusha’s. When they arrived there, however, Kolya was hesitant to go in at first without first meeting Alyosha outside. There was something he needed to find out, though he wouldn’t say what, so he sent Smurov in to fetch him.



Chapter overview—The title of this chapter is “Zhuchka,” but only part of it is about Ilyusha’s lost dog. Much of it concerns Kolya’s interaction with Alyosha and, before that, his expectations and insecurities about meeting him. A large part of the rest details Kolya’s relationship with Ilyusha as told to Alyosha, which was much more involved than indicated until now. Kolya’s account of that relationship included Zhuchka and what happened to him.

Kolya’s concerns—Kolya’s great hope was that Alyosha would not treat him as a child, and as he stood there waiting in the cold, whatever insecurities he had about his appearance emerged. These were not many: he mainly worried that he was too short for his age and that his face was ugly, which it wasn’t. Even his conviction that he looked intelligent wavered for a moment. But in general, Kolya preferred to concern himself with ideas and facts, avoiding unnecessary emotionality.

Meeting Alyosha—It did not take long for Alyosha to appear. He came straight out, even neglecting to put on his outerwear despite the freezing weather. By this point in the story, he had changed from his monk’s clothing to well-made lay clothing and had cut his hair. That, together with his warm, welcoming expression, instantly made a good impression on Kolya and helped put him at ease.

Both Kolya and Alyosha had heard a great deal about each other and were eager to get to know one another. Alyosha immediately confirmed what Smurov had said earlier—that Ilyusha was doing poorly and that he longed to see Kolya, even talking about him in his sleep. The topic of Zhuchka also came up immediately, and Alyosha was direct about it, asking if Perezvon wasn’t actually Zhuchka. But Kolya denied it and promised to tell him the story of what had happened to Ilyusha’s dog. And on that note, he launched into the full story of his relationship with Ilyusha.

Kolya’s account—Being poor and small, Ilyusha immediately became an object of bullying by the younger boys. Noticing this, Kolya beat them up and got their respect that way, although he explained that he liked kids and often tried to broaden their horizons by playing with them. In any case, the boys stopped their bullying, and Kolya and Ilyusha became friends. But when Ilyusha started to vacillate between overattachment and rebelliousness, Kolya pretended to be cold in order to help his younger friend unlearn sentimentality, which he despised.

The Zhuchka incident—Then Kolya noticed another change in Ilyusha and, digging deeper, discovered that the boy—on Smerdyakov’s suggestion—had put a pin in a chunk of bread to see how Zhuchka would react on eating it. Zhuchka, of course, went wild with pain and disappeared, leaving Ilyusha with a terrible conscience, which he believed to be the cause of his consumption. In an effort to train Ilyusha not to do such things again, Kolya gave him a harsh scolding and cut off the friendship, though he only intended this to last a few days. But Ilyusha didn’t know this and reacted badly, threatening to throw bread with pins to all dogs.

The loofah incident—With Kolya out of the way, the other boys started bullying Ilyusha again, and this was heightened by the “loofah” incident with his father. Kolya remembers standing on the sidelines watching one of these bullying sessions and being almost ready to help Ilyusha, when Ilyusha himself suddenly came towards him and stabbed him with a penknife. Kolya claimed the injury was nothing much, and he made the others promise to say nothing. He even dared Ilyusha to do it again, but Ilyusha was too distraught and ran away crying.

Kolya’s desire to reconcile and help—Now Kolya regretted not visiting Ilyusha sooner and reconciling things between them. Alyosha was also sorry that he hadn’t come earlier and that he hadn’t known more about their relationship before, since he would have pushed for their reconciliation. But with Ilyusha’s guilt over Zhuchka’s disappearance and especially with his illness, Alyosha considered it essential to find Zhuchka and prove to Ilyusha that he wasn’t dead after all. Everyone had been looking and even brought him other animals—a rabbit and a puppy—but nothing seemed to penetrate his sorrow and guilt. Kolya was their last hope, and Kolya in turn assured Alyosha that they would come up with something for Ilyusha, if only Perezvon’s tricks. Earlier, Kolya had also asked about Ilyusha’s father, and Alyosha’s view was that if the boy died, the captain would either go insane or kill himself. Whatever buffoonery he showed on the surface only masked his shame when he was around people who made him uncomfortable.

Mutual respect; going inside—By now, Kolya had gained a definite respect for Alyosha, perceiving him to be a good and perceptive person. Both were glad they had finally met each other, and Kolya was especially grateful that Alyosha had treated him in a direct but respectful manner. Even Alyosha’s view of Kolya’s playing with the children—something Kolya himself was self-conscious about—was mature and balanced. They had both hoped to learn from each other, and neither was disappointed. But now it was time to go inside. Kolya figured Alyosha must be freezing without his outer clothing. And so they headed into the house, where Perezvon was instructed to play dead until called.

Visiting Ilyusha


Alyosha’s peace-making touch; Kolya’s stubborn resistance—Some of the boys were already by Ilyusha’s bedside when Alyosha and Kolya entered. Alyosha had managed to make peace between them all by bringing them to see Ilyusha one at a time. No one acknowledged this, though, in part because he had done so without any fanfare and had made it seem unplanned. Only Kolya had resisted, insisting angrily and disdainfully on going in his own time and on his own terms.

Ilyusha’s illness; family emotions—Meanwhile, Ilyusha’s illness continued to worsen. It had started the day he bit Alyosha’s finger, and since then he had not been back to school and could barely walk. This upset his father terribly, and when the captain wasn’t secretly crying, he would try to soften his son’s suffering with stories and entertainments such as imitating people and animals. But the only person who enjoyed these things was the captain’s wife, who otherwise sat around complaining about the lack of attention and respect she received.

The good effect of the boys’ visits; Katerina Ivanovna’s gifts—Initially, the captain’s wife did not like the boys’ visits, but she soon grew to love them. The captain himself welcomed them warmly, showing all manner of hospitality with food, gifts, and games. Their presence had greatly increased his son’s happiness, and this meant a great deal to him. As for Ilyusha’s health, the captain had always believed Ilyusha would recover, but now he was beginning to lose hope. The narrator digresses here to say that the captain had meanwhile accepted Katerina Ivanovna’s gift of 200 rubles. Katerina Ivanovna had gone even further, visiting the family, providing for their ongoing needs, and paying for doctor’s visits. Most recently, she had even sent for a famous doctor from Moscow to see Ilyusha.

Presentation of the puppy; Kolya’s entrance—Just as Kolya and Alyosha were entering, Ilyusha was meeting his new puppy, a newborn mastiff that his father had just given him. This was a mixed experience for him: he was happy about the puppy, but the memory of Zhuchka was still painful.

Kolya’s first move on entering was to greet Ilyusha’s mother and crippled sister Ninochka (Varvara had returned to the university by now) with great decorum, which pleased the mother. Afterwards, Kolya went over to Ilyusha. It had been two months since they had seen each other, and by now Ilyusha looked pale, thin, and feverish. It was all Kolya could do to maintain control, so moved was he by the sight of his sick young friend.

Zhuchka returns—The conversation soon turned to the mastiff puppy, which naturally led to talk about Zhuchka and, finally, Perezvon. Despite several signals from Alyosha to avoid talking about Zhuchka, Kolya ignored him. But behind Kolya’s seeming heartlessness was a practical joke: Perezvon was Zhuchka after all, and Kolya knew it. Zhuchka had hurt himself on the pin but hadn’t swallowed it, and when Kolya found him two months earlier, he realized that the dog exactly matched the description given by Ilyusha. Determined to teach him a number of tricks, Kolya had kept the dog’s survival a secret for two months—to Alyosha’s dismay on hearing this, since in doing so Kolya had created much pain for Ilyusha. But Kolya seemed blissfully unaware of this or of his tactlessness in making the dog lie down and “die” for its first trick.

The miniature cannon; a family in pain—After Perezvon had performed a few more tricks and was happily nestled next to Ilyusha, Kolya pulled out his next trick: the miniature cannon. With the ladies’ permission and the captain’s help, the little cannon fired a shot to the delight of all. But the one who liked it most was Ilyusha’s mother, so much so that she insisted on having it all to herself, which Ilyusha graciously granted. The scene, in which the mother rolls the mini cannon on her knees like a little girl while her family caters to her and humors her, shows several things: the mother’s feeblemindedness and immaturity; little Ilyusha’s graciousness, understanding, and his consciousness that he will soon die; and the family’s—especially the father’s—deep pain.

Kolya’s emotional denial—Kolya’s own emotional expression was more complicated, but the family’s pain—especially Ilyusha’s—and Alyosha’s quiet but steadfast emotional honesty and unfailing perception slowly cracked his arrogant, overly intellectual veneer and forced his deeper emotions to the surface. Still, his statements about people were mixed. In one breath, he said that he loved and respected the simple Russian people; in the next, he spoke of them with disdain. It’s obvious that he was playing games with others and with himself.

Kolya explains his bad reputation—The conversation rambled on, and the topic of gunpowder (in relation to the cannon) turned into a discussion of Kolya’s brilliant but troublemaking reputation, which had won him the admiration of the schoolboys and others but caused problems with the authorities. There was the railway incident, but even worse was the instance in which he orchestrated the beheading of a goose out of sheer, cold curiosity. Clever as always, he set things up so that another boy did the dirty work of tugging the reins, causing the cart to move right as the goose was sticking its head through the spokes of the wheel to get some grain. The boy he had manipulated took most of the blame in court, and Kolya seemed to find his fear and distress funny. When questioned by the magistrate about his own role in the incident, he used the excuse that his statements about the goose’s likely reaction were just theoretical speculation. The school authorities heard about it, though, and Kolya’s bad reputation grew. Luckily for him, Dardanelov defended him again.

The secret of Troy almost unveiled: more unfeeling arrogance—Mention of Dardanelov led to the subject of how Kolya had bested him on the subject of the founding of Troy. This impressed the other boys. But one boy, now present at Ilyusha’s house, knew the secret source of his information—one of Kolya’s late father’s books—and he had peeked at it in class while Kolya wasn’t looking. While the others, including Ilyusha, were reveling in Kolya’s amazing intelligence, this little boy was bursting with the wish to disclose the fact that he, too, knew who had founded Troy. He realized it was dangerous, though: Kolya would rake his ego over the coals. But the little boy couldn’t help himself and finally blurted it out. Of course, Kolya couldn’t give up his superior position that easily, and he questioned the boy on the details, on how he got the information, etc. But the boy was too embarrassed to respond with more than the minimum information, so Kolya once again usurped the conversation, changing the topic to how he didn’t believe in history, anyway. In his view, both history and the classical languages were a load of tedious bunk designed to keep the educated populace in check by dulling their minds.

Alyosha’s silence; the doctor arrives—Throughout the conversation, Alyosha had been mostly silent, and Kolya feared that his silence might indicate disdain, a thought that caused him discomfort and uncertainty. Yet even though Alyosha disagreed with Kolya’s opinions and saw through his arrogance, he did not look down on him. But before Kolya could question him much, the doctor from Moscow arrived, and everyone had to leave the room. Most of the schoolboys went home, but Alyosha and Kolya, who summoned Perezvon to come with him, chose to wait in the hall while the doctor examined Ilyusha.



Kolya’s pride—As Alyosha and Kolya waited for the doctor, they talked in more depth. Still in denial, Kolya resisted the idea that Alyosha had already accepted—that Ilyusha was going to die. But their conversation centered mostly on their budding friendship. It began with Kolya showing off his intellectual cleverness, though he was aware that this did not impress Alyosha, who replied honestly, calmly, and non-judgmentally. Kolya, too, was honest in his admiration of Alyosha, but whenever he was on the verge of being open about his feelings, he would quickly resort to showing off his pseudo-intellectual knowledge. Being perceptive, intelligent, and patient, Alyosha did not let this get in the way of a genuine conversation. It was obvious to him that Kolya statements lacked depth and real thought: he was merely parroting things he had learned in books. Alyosha didn’t try to set himself up as superior in knowledge or maturity, but he also didn’t allow Kolya to get away with throwing out tidbits of apparent wisdom and knowledge. Instead, he openly challenged him, even almost making fun of him sometimes. The conversation progressed through such topics as God, socialism, Voltaire, Eugene Onegin, women’s rights, moving to America, etc.—topics that were usually outside the scope of a fourteen-year-old’s knowledge and experience. Kolya’s shallow opinions indicated that he had also been influenced by another person, and it turned out that he had indeed been talking to Rakitin. But when he wasn’t agreeing with Rakitin’s “revolutionary” opinions, Kolya’s views sometimes seemed ultra-conservative, such as his statement that women were inferior and should be subservient. Then again, it was never clear whether he meant what he was saying or was just manipulating the conversation.

Breaking through the nonsense—In his heart of hearts, Kolya knew that he was lacking in both knowledge and honesty with others. His real struggle was for respect and acknowledgment, and that kept him resorting to presumptuous statements and stubborn challenges to Alyosha’s replies. Finally, his genuine concerns started to break through, and he asked Alyosha if he thought he was silly. Alyosha didn’t think so: it just bothered him that Kolya’s young mind was already being influenced by so much garbage.

For all his pretentiousness, Kolya was genuinely observant. His question about his silliness had sprung from his observation that Alyosha was smiling over something, so Alyosha explained that he had been thinking of one German’s observation that Russian schoolboys were quick to think and act as though they knew everything, when they didn’t. Kolya reacted with enthusiastic agreement to this idea, but then he started babbling nonsense again. At least, he was aware of his habit.

But soon the topic changed to more urgent matters. Why, Kolya wondered, was the doctor taking so long? Was he examining the mother and daughter as well? Mention of the daughter led him to express his admiration for Ninochka, who had quietly scolded him for not coming before. Her reproach implied a strong, fine character. Alyosha agreed wholeheartedly and recommended that Kolya spend more time with such people: their influence on his own character would be beneficial.

Kolya’ deeper feelings start to emerge—Now Kolya’s real emotions started to come out, and he expressed regret at taking so long to visit Ilyusha. He admitted that his pride had kept him away, and he began to beat himself up over it. But Alyosha protested warmly that Kolya’s only problem was that he had succumbed to bad influences.

Alyosha’s genuine friendship and opinion meant a lot to Kolya. He was also impressed by Alyosha’s perceptiveness when he mentioned how surprised he was at Kolya’s skeptical attitude at such a young age. As Kolya spoke of his inner struggles, he admitted to being unhappy and worried again that he appeared silly. But Alyosha reassured him: why should he worry about that? Many of the youth were similarly already affected by this attitude, but that didn’t mean that Kolya had to join them.

The sealing of a new friendship—The more they spoke, the more Kolya admitted his fears. But he also confessed his gratitude and enthusiasm over this newfound friendship and his love for Alyosha. Alyosha felt the same way, and he blushed and admitted to being confused when Kolya pointed out that their conversation was like a mutual profession of love. But Alyosha’s embarrassment made Kolya love him even more, and in that moment he placed Alyosha above himself in human development—the opposite of his original opinion, which held that Alyosha’s mysticism was a flaw. Alyosha soon recovered his poise and grew serious as he informed Kolya that though he would do good in life, he would not be happy. Kolya knew it was true, but just as he was exclaiming over Alyosha’s prophetic ability, the doctor emerged from the other room.



Ilyusha’s death sentence; his distressed father—The doctor was on his way out, having already dressed to leave. He was soon followed by the captain, who was distressed over the news of his son’s imminent death. A pompous and irritable man, the doctor did little to reassure Ilyusha’s father. His only suggestion, perhaps to distract from the blow of the news (though his manner was still harsh), was to send the mother and crippled daughter to a spa in the Caucasus in the springtime and afterwards to have the mother psychiatrically treated in Paris. The captain tried to point out that he was too poor to afford such things, but the doctor didn’t care—that wasn’t his department.

Kolya infuriates the doctor with his rudeness; Alyosha tries to intervene—At this point, Kolya broke in, unable to contain his anger any longer. He had seen the doctor looking at the dog, and addressing him as “quack,” he assured him in a loud voice that Perezvon wouldn’t bite him. Naturally, the pompous doctor was incensed and couldn’t believe his ears. Alyosha immediately jumped in, telling Kolya to shut up and trying to smooth things over with the doctor, who had demanded to know who this rude boy was. But even Alyosha’s admonishment wouldn’t silence Kolya, who had meanwhile decided that Perezvon might bite the “quack” after all. Alyosha even threatened to never deal with Kolya again if he kept it up, and this was the only thing that worked, though barely. After informing the “quack” that he only took orders from Alyosha, Kolya exited the hallway and went into Ilyusha’s room with Perezvon following. Moments later, Alyosha and the captain came, too, the latter having seen the doctor to his coach.

Facing the bitter truth of Ilyusha’s fatal prognosis—The captain tried to assure Ilyusha that he would recover, but Ilyusha knew better and did not try to hide it. He hugged his father and Kolya, and as the captain wept openly, Kolya was also having trouble containing his emotion. Like the captain, he tried to deny that Ilyusha was going to die, but Ilyusha was meanwhile attempting to console his father by telling him to adopt another little boy just like him and to love him and even call him by the same name. But Ilyusha also didn’t want his father to forget him. The captain, Kolya, and Perezvon were to visit his grave, which would be where he and his father used to take their walks together. By now, everyone in the room was overcome with emotion, including the mother, who began to cry out on seeing her whole family in tears.

A father’s resistance; departing friends and promises to return—It was now time for Kolya to go. His mother was waiting for him, but he promised to come right back with Perezvon after his midday meal (he figured Perezvon would howl if he left him there) and then stay the rest of the day. Kolya had managed to control himself somewhat until then, but as soon as he left the room, he burst into tears. Finding him in this state, Alyosha reminded him of his promise to come back. But Kolya was already determined to do so and regretted once more that he had waited so long to visit Ilyusha. Then the captain came out of the room. He was in deep distress over the notion of replacing his little boy with another and could not bring himself to accept the idea. As the captain knelt and wept, Alyosha and Kolya said their parting words, both promising again to return later that day.

Ivan Fyodorovich

At Grushenka’s

Grushenka’s transformation—Alyosha’s next stop was Grushenka’s place, which he had regularly visited since Dmitry landed in jail two months earlier. During that time, Grushenka had fallen severely ill and was even comatose for a week. She had significantly improved over the last two weeks and was active again, but though she still retained her cheerful personality, she had changed dramatically both physically and spiritually. She was thinner and paler, and her character was more serious.

A relative recluse—Alyosha’s role in Grushenka’s life was that of a friend and advisor, though he often had no idea what to tell her. Still, he enjoyed visiting, especially with the recent changes in her character, which had deepened her spiritually. Maksimov was now staying with her, having supposedly had nowhere else to go and also being in poor condition. Grushenka had taken him in out of compassion, and these days he was a regular fixture on her couch. But Maksimov’s charming storytelling ways had also made Grushenka genuinely fond of him. Otherwise, she saw next to no one. Even Samsonov, who had fallen ill and was on his deathbed (he died shortly before the trial), refused to see her.

Dmitry’s tantrums—Grushenka had been eagerly awaiting Alyosha. After ordering Fenya to bring coffee and pirozhki, she explained that she had brought some pirozhki to Dmitry and that he had thrown a tantrum and refused to eat them. Such irrational behavior by him was standard these days: he and Grushenka fought whenever she visited, always for no good reason. Today’s argument was about the Pole. Dmitry had become abusive, accusing her of taking care of her ex-lover. She couldn’t understand the source of his behavior, but Alyosha assured her that Dmitry was just upset over the start of the trial the next day.

The begging Pole and Grushenka’s help—Meanwhile, Fenya arrived with a letter from the Pole, who for several weeks had been bothering Grushenka for loans. Originally, his requests were for thousands of rubles, but when he received no reply, the amounts kept falling until they finally dipped to a single ruble. At that point, Grushenka felt sorry for him and paid him and his friend a visit. Finding them in a state of poverty, she ignored their arrogant attitude and kindly gave them ten rubles. After that, they continually pestered her for money, and she helped them a little. Dmitry even knew about it, and it had never bothered him until that day. Out of spite over Dmitry’s tantrum, Grushenka decided to send the Poles some pirozhki, and she wanted Alyosha to be sure to inform Dmitry when he visited him. But Alyosha knew better and refused good-naturedly.

Grushenka’s jealousy—It turned out that Grushenka herself suffered from irrational feelings of jealousy. She didn’t actually mind if Dmitry was jealous—that meant he loved her. What she couldn’t stand was the thought that he loved Katerina Ivanovna instead. So far, “Katya” had never even visited Dmitry, but she had started helping him by procuring the best doctor and lawyer to support his case. In Grushenka’s mind, Dmitry’s praise of Katya meant that he loved her. As she started to cry, Alyosha assured her that that was not the case.

Talk of the coming trial—But Grushenka’s real concern was the trial. From what she could tell, she was the only one who cared about Dmitry’s fate. She wondered whether Smerdyakov couldn’t have been the real culprit, but Alyosha denied it: Smerdyakov’s dire condition precluded that possibility. Alyosha then revealed that he and Ivan had paid a 1000 rubles each for the lawyer, in addition to another 1000 from Katerina Ivanovna, who had also paid for the doctor. The lawyer had agreed to a lower rate based on the fame the case had generated. He had told Alyosha that he already had his defense argument in place but would consider Alyosha’s statements. As for the doctor, his purpose was to prove Dmitry’s insanity at the time of the murder. The problem was that Dmitry hadn’t committed the murder, and in spite of the many witness reports against him and widespread hostility among the townspeople, Grushenka was sure he would not agree to pleading insanity. She worried that he didn’t stand a chance.

Dmitry’s strange behavior—Another thing that troubled her was that Dmitry was indeed acting insane lately. He kept talking about a “bairn” and lamenting its poverty. He claimed to be innocent of the murder but was willing to go to Siberia, anyway, for the “bairn’s” sake. Grushenka couldn’t understand any of it.

Secret meetings with Ivan—Grushenka also revealed that Ivan Fyodorovich had secretly been visiting his brother in jail. Alyosha was surprised. Ivan had repelled him lately, so Alyosha had stayed away. But he had no idea that he had been visiting Dmitry, and he wondered what it was about. Feeling bad for having revealed it, Grushenka begged Alyosha to keep the information to himself.

Alyosha promises to discover the secret—Despite Dmitry’s recent behavioral changes, he was generally cheerful. Yet he was also obviously troubled, and his demeanor could alter in an instant. Grushenka attributed this to the impending trial. But above all, she wanted to uncover the two older brothers’ secret, so she set that as Alyosha’s task for the day when he went to visit Dmitry. Then once again, she thought of Katerina Ivanovna—surely she had something to do with it, and didn’t Ivan love her? Alyosha denied it. Ivan didn’t love her, and Alyosha was sure the secret was something else. He would find out what and relay it to Grushenka. As for Dmitry’s true love, she was the only one. Grushenka was still in tears as Alyosha left, which made him feel bad. But he still had a full schedule ahead, so he headed out.

Painful Foot


An urgent summons—Alyosha next went to see Lise, who had asked him to come on some “urgent” matter. But Mrs. Khokhlakova had caught wind of his visit and also wanted to see him, so Alyosha figured he had better attend to her first.

Mrs. Khokhlakova’s swollen foot and sudden seductive ways—Mrs. Khokhlakova had been lounging around in her private quarters for the past three weeks, ostensibly because of a mysteriously swollen foot, supposedly caused by Rakitin shaking her hand too hard. The text hints that Alyosha thinks—if only for a moment—that Mrs. Khokhlakova’s recent adoption of suggestive clothing, hair ribbons, etc. were an attempt to attract Perkhotin, one of her frequent guests during the previous two months.

A rambling monologue—The visit with Mrs. Khokhlakova was supposed to be brief, but with her tendency to ramble, her definition of “brief” was loose. As soon as Alyosha walked into the room, she started flitting from one subject to another, exaggerating half the time. At the same time, she claimed to have something important to say but kept forgetting to get to the main point or even remembering what it was. It never does become clear.

Some interesting items amid a torrent of words—Even so, a few significant items did come out during her rambling. One was that Lise had changed her mind about marrying Alyosha, which in her mother’s view had only been a childish whim, anyway. The other was that Lise could now walk, apparently the result of seeing the new doctor from Moscow. After that, Mrs. Khokhlakova continued rambling half hysterically. She had heard about the change in Grushenka, though she thought it came too late. Then the issue of the trial came up, along with Mrs. Khokhlakova’s determination to be a witness. Alyosha wasn’t sure she was fit to do so in her current condition, but she insisted she was. The trial got her thinking about Katya Ivanovna, her strange relationship with Dmitry and Ivan, and their determination to go to Siberia. The whole thing was driving her crazy (like everything else). From there, her mind flitted to the gossip columns, which had described her as being in love with Dmitry (her supposed motive for the gold-prospecting suggestion) and mentioned her “ageing charms.” This last bit upset her terribly, and she figured Rakitin was behind it. Her reasoning was that he had been visiting her a lot more, and she had begun thinking that he was falling in love with her. Then he wrote her a flattering poem about her painful foot, and just as he finished reading it to her, Perkhotin walked through the door. This did not sit well with Rakitin, especially when Perkhotin made fun of the poem. The two young men started shouting at each other, and after much confusion on her own part, Mrs. Khokhlakova joined in, shouting at Rakitin to get out. She thought highly of Perkhotin and even seemed a bit taken with him. Still, in spite of Perkhotin’s joking criticisms, she had admitted earlier that she thought the poem was good, and she later regretted throwing Rakitin out and hoped he would return. In any case, she figured that Rakitin had retaliated by writing the article.

Diminished responsibility—Alyosha was starting to feel pressured and impatient, and he muttered that he would have to leave soon if he wanted to see Dmitry. But Mrs. Khokhlakova wasn’t finished yet. She wanted to know what Alyosha thought of the concept of “diminished responsibility,” a new notion of the new court system in which the accused could plead to not being fully in his right mind at the time of the crime. This seemed like a good way out for Dmitry. Alyosha protested that Dmitry hadn’t killed their father, and Mrs. Khokhlakova agreed. She was convinced that Grigory had done it, but she still thought that “diminished responsibility” was a good angle for Dmitry’s case. That, incidentally, was the reason for the doctor’s involvement, which brought her back to the subject of Katerina Ivanovna’s role in the case and finally to the subject of Lise, another example of someone suffering from “diminished responsibility.” Her daughter seemed to be out of her mind lately, and it was worrying her terribly.

Ivan’s visit to Lise; Lise’s subsequent crazy behavior—Then she revealed that Ivan Fyodorovich had unexpectedly been to see Lise recently. This was a big surprise to Alyosha. In the past week, Ivan had first come while Katerina Ivanovna was visiting. When he came again later that week, Mrs. Khokhlakova was apparently sleeping, so he stopped by briefly to see how Lise was doing. Soon afterwards, Lise started acting insane, throwing tantrums, claiming to hate Ivan and wanting him banned from the home, and experiencing sudden radical mood swings. Mrs. Khokhlakova was counting on Alyosha to find out what was going on.

Perkhotin arrives and Alyosha slips out—But before she could continue, Perkhotin entered and Alyosha finally saw his chance to slip away and see Lise. He didn’t even wait to hear Mrs. Khokhlakova shouting after him that he absolutely had to return to see her before he left the house.

Little She-Devil


Lise’s agitation—When Alyosha entered, Lise was sitting in her wheelchair, even though she could walk by now. Physically, she looked ill, and she made no attempt to be welcoming or warm. She admitted that she had been eavesdropping on his conversation with her mother, which was how she knew that he needed to leave soon to make it to the prison on time.

Throughout the conversation, Lise was open with Alyosha, but her behavior and talk indicated that she was upset. Like her mother, she would flit from one topic to the next, not necessarily with any logic, and she used Alyosha as a confessor. She insisted that she wasn’t embarrassed to tell him anything, though she said this with a certain arrogance and defiance. Occasionally, Alyosha would ask Lise questions about her wild statements, but mostly he listened in a quiet, honest, accepting way, though he didn’t always believe her.

Rejecting Alyosha; toying with marrying Kalganov—Lise claimed to be glad that she had declined to marry Alyosha. In her view, he was a monk first and foremost, and that would never change. He would always think and act like a monk, which meant that he wasn’t subject to her game playing. His reactions wouldn’t be passionate enough if, for example, she adopted another lover. Kalganov, on the other hand, would make a good husband because she would be able to manipulate him indefinitely. According to her, he also loved her, implying that they planned on marrying.

A destructive mentality—Lise also claimed to have a desire for abuse and chaos, with one of her goals being to set the house on fire. Alyosha figured that her problem was excessive idleness, and it was true that she was bored with everything. But she also claimed to not care about anyone (though she kept saying she would love him forever) and to have a strong urge to destroy and to do evil. And according to her, it wasn’t just talk. It even extended to destroying herself—she just wanted to annihilate everything. Lise also didn’t believe that people actually liked goodness. They might say they did, but in reality, they loved evil. They loved, for example, that Dmitry had murdered his father, even though they openly condemned him for it. Alyosha didn’t judge her statements and even admitted that they contained a degree of truth.

A dream about devils—Thrilled with his honesty and openness, Lise told him about a dream she had had of being surrounded by devils, who only fled when she made the sign of cross but otherwise would approach her and never left entirely. They especially liked it when she turned against God, but as soon as she made the sign of the cross, they would retreat in fear. For Lise, this was exciting and fun. Alyosha surprised her when he quietly admitted to having had the same dream in the past. The fact that they had had the same dream, irrespective of its content, seemed significant to her, and she wanted to make sure he meant it. That was also when she begged him to never stop visiting her. He was, after all, the only person she could speak to so openly. Alyosha wholeheartedly gave her his word that he would do so for the rest of their lives.

The little boy who was crucified; the secret summons—Then, as usual, Lise abruptly changed the subject. She had read about a Jew who had crucified a boy and felt no compunction at watching him suffer for four hours before he died. To him, it was like looking at his own creation, a notion Lise enjoyed and related to, imagining herself as the crucifier. Her twist on her personalized version of the story was that she got distracted by pineapple compote, something she loved eating. She had cried all night over the image of the crucified child, but the thought of the pineapple compote simply wouldn’t go away. That was when she wrote to someone, whose name she didn’t mention, asking him to come at all costs. This person, who only stayed for five minutes, laughed both at the story (apparently a true court case) and her notion that it was “good,” and then he left.

Alyosha’s perceptions about Ivan—Perceiving that she was talking about Ivan, though without his name, Alyosha asked if Lise had sent for him herself and whether her original intention had been to talk about the child’s crucifixion. She said that she had sent him a letter but that she had not intended to talk about the child. Yet she felt compelled to do so once he arrived, and she was worried that her visitor held her in contempt. But Alyosha assured her that he didn’t—or rather that since he believed no one, he hated everyone. He was himself a sick person.

Suicide and cries for salvation—After another perverse statement about how it was good to be hated and good for the child to suffer, Lise suddenly leapt up, threw her arms around Alyosha, and pleaded with him to save her. She was suicidal, and she didn’t believe that he loved her. But he passionately protested that he did. Lise was frantic at this point, still proclaiming that she hated everyone and extracting a promise from Alyosha to cry for her. His tears were important to her.

A note for Ivan; self-mutilation—Then she suddenly pulled away, and even though Alyosha didn’t want to leave her in her frenzied condition, Lise practically pushed him out. As he exited the door, she shoved a note for Ivan in his hand, insisting that that was her main reason for summoning him and that she would kill herself if he didn’t deliver it that day. Then she slammed and bolted the door behind her. But as soon as Alyosha was gone, Lise reopened the door and then slammed it again, this time with her finger deliberately placed in the crack. As she sat there looking at her bruised and bleeding finger, she exclaimed the word “bitch” multiple times.

The Hymn and the Secret


Easy access—Alyosha was on good terms with both the police chief and the jail superintendent, so he had no problems getting access to Dmitry’s cell even when it was late and dark, as on this November day. The other two with easy access were Grushenka and Rakitin, who for different reasons had also earned the trust of the police chief and prison superintendent.

Frequent visits from Rakitin; Dmitry’s spiritual crisis—As Alyosha entered the cell, he saw Rakitin preparing to leave and was struck by his refusal to acknowledge him. He was in a bad mood and seemed angry with Dmitry, who was cheerful and laughing. Once Rakitin was gone, Alyosha asked about his visits to the cell, which according to Dmitry had become more frequent. Dmitry sounded confused at first, rambling on about this and that—Rakitin’s lack of humor and his roguish nature, his cleverness and ability to write, and some chemist named Bernard who represented the godless idea that life was all about chemistry. Alyosha couldn’t help remarking that Dmitry was discussing everything except the trial, which seemed of little concern to him, even though it would decide his fate. What did concern Dmitry was the state of his soul. When he mentioned coming to the “end of the line,” he was referring to a spiritual crisis that had completely transformed him. But Rakitin had apparently been feeding him atheistic, socialist ideas, and right now he was toying with those.

Rakitin’s ulterior motive—Rakitin’s real purpose in visiting Dmitry was to write an article about him. The idea had a couple of problems, though. First, Rakitin believed that Dmitry was the murderer, and he wanted to use the “victim of society” angle. Second, his view that life was based on chemistry left God out of the picture (he believed that man had invented God), which Dmitry couldn’t accept. Dmitry didn’t believe that it was possible to love man without loving God, and Rakitin loved neither God nor his fellow man. As Alyosha and Mrs. Khokhlakova suspected, he was the author of the disparaging article about her, and Dmitry knew all about the “love poem” he had written about her foot. Dmitry even had it on him and read it to Alyosha. But the truth was that Rakitin didn’t love Mrs. Khokhlakova at all: he had only wanted her money and had had plans to lure her and marry her so that he could move with her to St. Petersburg, build a house, and start his career as a writer and publisher. His real feelings towards her were closer to contempt. However, Mrs. Khokhlakova was more interested in Perkhotin, who luckily walked in at just the right moment and inadvertently foiled Rakitin’s attempt at seduction by belittling his poem. Angry and insulted over the incident and at being tossed out by his hostess, Rakitin retaliated by writing a nasty article about Mrs. Khokhlakova—and she wasn’t his only target. Dmitry mentioned that he had also dredged up dirt on Grushenka and Katerina Ivanovna. Consequently, Dmitry didn’t think too highly of Rakitin.

Dmitry’s spiritual epiphany—Alyosha was still astonished that Dmitry wasn’t focusing on the trial. But Dmitry had had a spiritual epiphany in the meantime, which was why he had eagerly awaited Alyosha’s arrival, since he was the only one who would understand. He poured out his heart, mentioning his feeling of being reborn; his desire to suffer even if it meant spending the rest of his life as a prisoner; the child (or “bairn”) in his dream, his inspiration for taking on others’ suffering. There was something heroic, even Messianic, in his speech, and he later referred to the trial as his “Calvary.” Much of his enthusiasm came from his belief that even the worst criminal in the most remote prison, forced to go underground to the mines, had the capacity to be close to God, to love life and people, to be redeemed. This deep sense of life and joy was at the heart of his powerful newfound desire to live, no matter what the conditions. He believed that the seed of this recognition had been there earlier but that he had tried to drown it out with drinking and carousing. To him, although virtue might be relative, being based on social context, God was essential. Nor could he understand how people could go through life without ever thinking about these things.

The mystery of Ivan—Dmitry added that someone like Rakitin, with his head buried in worldly goals and affairs, could never understand these ideas. Ivan, however, was different. He held some secret and wasn’t talking, although it was clear to Dmitry that he didn’t believe in God. He suspected that Ivan was a Mason and mentioned that Ivan himself had hinted that for all his disrespect of their father’s behavior, his own ideas were along the same lines. But Ivan would say nothing more. These statements about Ivan grabbed Alyosha’s interest, and Dmitry himself had to admit that if what Ivan had hinted was true, his ideas were even more extreme than Rakitin’s.

Fear of humiliation through Katerina Ivanovna’s testimony—Dmitry also made it clear that he had no interest in an insanity defense, as the lawyer hired by Katerina Ivanovna planned to do. Katerina Ivanovna was another sore subject. In Dmitry’s view, she was cruel, and he pleaded with Alyosha to ask her not to testify about curtsying to him when he gave her the money. He felt it would be humiliating. He realized, though, that even if the court did find out, he would manage.

Another secret revealed: fleeing to America—The mention of Katerina Ivanovna had reminded him of Grushenka. Here was someone who had truly sacrificed for him and who loved him, and he was worried that she would suffer terribly for his sake. Still, he refused to apologize for their earlier spat, claiming that a woman would never let a man live it down if he admitted his mistake to her. But the truth was that he loved her deeply and passionately. Earlier, Dmitry had mentioned another secret that he would reveal on the condition that Alyosha not ask any further questions about it: there was a chance that he would flee with Grushenka to America. This was the great secret, but first they had to wait for the results of the trial. He didn’t feel he could make a decision now, and more than anyone else’s views, he would need Alyosha’s input. But not yet. Alyosha was simply to listen for now.

Dmitry’s inner struggle—The idea to flee had not been Dmitry’s, and he had mixed feelings about it. What would happen to his strong spiritual calling to attain redemption through suffering? He referred to this as his “hymn,” and he had even told Ivan about it. On the other hand, Dmitry was overwhelmingly in love with Grushenka and couldn’t live without her (he kept asking if convicts were allowed to marry). Perhaps chemistry was his real driving force after all.

Ivan’s plan; Dmitry’s joy about Alyosha’s faith in him—The idea to flee had come from Ivan, who suddenly showed up a week ago after no prior visits and practically demanded that Dmitry go along with his plan. He had procured the money—30,000 rubles all together—and he would organize everything. Ivan had also asked Dmitry to not mention the plan to anyone, including Alyosha, which struck Alyosha as odd. One thing that bothered Dmitry was that Ivan believed him to be the murderer. Holding Alyosha by the shoulders, Dmitry wanted to know the truth: did Alyosha think so, too? Alyosha was shaking, but he blurted out that did not and never had. Dmitry confessed that it had taken him a long time to ask—such was his doubt—but he was overjoyed at Alyosha’s faith in him. That knowledge gave him the courage to face the trial.

Leaving to see Ivan—It was time for Alyosha to go, and he wept out of deep compassion for his brother’s pain as he walked away from the prison. His next stop was Ivan, which also made him apprehensive. But Dmitry had said to love their other brother, and so he headed over to see Ivan with mixed feelings of love and pain.

Not You!


Katerina Ivanovna’s upset and malice—Alyosha had to pass Katerina Ivanovna’s house to go to Ivan’s, and noticing a light, he realized that his brother might be there. Having rung the doorbell, he entered and was met by Ivan on the stairs. Ivan’s matter-of-fact greeting on seeing Alyosha was followed by the warning that Katerina Ivanovna was upset and that Alyosha would be better off avoiding her. But that statement was quickly countered by Katerina Ivanovna herself, who loudly invited Alyosha in and practically ordered Ivan to return. She wanted to know if Alyosha had come from Dmitry, referred to only as “him.”

Katerina Ivanovna was in a demanding, distressed, and even vicious mood, and her words indicated that she had no love for Dmitry, though she still had some compassion left. In relaying Dmitry’s message, Alyosha was extremely tactful, but Katerina Ivanovna saw right through his vague words and immediately guessed that he meant the time she curtsied on receiving the money from Dmitry. She doubted that Dmitry cared about sparing her feelings: it was only himself he was trying to save from embarrassment. As far as her testimony in court, Katerina Ivanovna was undecided, even when Alyosha reminded her to tell the truth. She seemed confused about who the murderer was. Apparently, she had believed it to be Dmitry, but then she got the notion from Ivan that it might have been Smerdyakov and had even gone to visit him. She wasn’t convinced, though, and had only considered the idea because of Ivan.

A touchy relationship—Meanwhile, though Ivan had returned without a word, he refused to sit down or remove his coat. Katerina Ivanovna didn’t sit, either, though she had invited Alyosha to do so. Hearing her doubts about Smerdyakov, Ivan announced he was going again. Alyosha couldn’t help noticing how familiar and unceremonious they were with each other, and Katerina Ivanovna now urged Alyosha to follow his brother out. She was certain that Ivan was insane and ill.

Concern for Ivan—Ivan had not gone far when Alyosha caught up with him. Ivan guessed immediately that Katerina Ivanovna had sent him and knew exactly why. It was nothing new, and he seemed impatient and frustrated. Alyosha quickly added that he didn’t think Ivan was mad, but he could see for himself that he was ill. In a completely different, quiet tone, Ivan asked Alyosha whether he knew anything about the progression of madness. Alyosha didn’t, and Ivan asked him to avoid the subject when speaking to him.

Ivan rips up Lise’s note—Alyosha suddenly remembered that he had a note for Ivan from Lise. But on learning who had sent it, Ivan tore it up and threw it away without reading it, calling her a “she-devil.” To Alyosha’s horror, he also called Lise a “loose woman” who was “offering herself”—even at her young age. Alyosha instantly came to her defense, saying that she was ill and still a child. He had thought Ivan would be more helpful. But Ivan wasn’t interested in babysitting and dropped the subject.

Manipulating Katerina Ivanovna for Dmitry’s sake—Returning to the topic of Katerina Ivanovna, Ivan guessed that she would spend the night praying for guidance on what to say at court the next day. She was confused, and Ivan felt that she also needed babysitting, meaning that she depended too much on his input. Alyosha gently informed him that Katerina Ivanovna loved him, but Ivan didn’t care. Alyosha wanted to know why he would sometimes lead her on in that case, so Ivan explained that his main concern was Dmitry. He wanted to be sure that the trial went in Dmitry’s favor, and with Katerina Ivanovna being so volatile, he realized that she could easily testify against Dmitry to spite him (meaning Ivan himself). Even with his concern for Dmitry, he clearly believed his brother was guilty, calling him a “scoundrel” and “monster,” just as Katerina Ivanovna had earlier. Alyosha wondered how Katerina Ivanovna’s testimony could prove Dmitry’s guilt, but Ivan replied that the proof lay in an incriminating document, handwritten by Dmitry and now in Katerina Ivanovna’s possession. Alyosha was adamant: that couldn’t be true because Dmitry didn’t murder their father. But Ivan answered that he had read the document himself.

Who did it? Ivan panics, then cuts Alyosha off—Suddenly, it struck Ivan: if Alyosha didn’t believe Dmitry was the killer, who was? Alyosha wouldn’t give a straight answer, and Ivan, guessing his thoughts, quickly dismissed the idea that it was Smerdyakov. Panicking, he insisted on knowing who Alyosha thought it was, but all Alyosha would say was that it wasn’t Ivan. This was not a comforting response, though according to Alyosha, it was intended as a rebuttal to Ivan’s own self-accusations during the months he had spent in seclusion. Ivan didn’t remember, but then it occurred to him that Alyosha must have been present when someone, whose name he didn’t mention, had come to see him. By now, he was trembling, even though Alyosha didn’t know what he meant. Ivan’s panic increased. He was sure Alyosha must have been there. Then something else occurred to him, and he calmed down again. When Alyosha stressed that he had been sent by God to give Ivan the message of his innocence, Ivan told him that he hated both epileptics and prophets and that he was terminating their relationship, most likely forever. Warning Alyosha to not come by to see him that night, Ivan turned and left. Alyosha called after his brother to think of him before acting, in case anything happened that evening.

Ivan’s detour—But Ivan did not go home. Instead, he made his way to the Kondratyevnas’ hut, where the still sick and worsening Smerdyakov was also staying.

Flashback: First Visit to Smerdyakov


Return from Moscow—Ivan had only learned of his father’s death days after it happened. He had left no contact information, so Alyosha had had to go through Katerina Ivanovna, who left a message with her relatives in Moscow. But Ivan didn’t see them until four days after arriving in the city, so by the time he returned to his hometown the next day, Fyodor Pavlovich’s funeral and burial had already taken place.

Before seeing Smerdyakov—Ivan’s first contact on returning was Alyosha, who surprised him with his firm conviction that Smerdyakov, and not Dmitry, had committed the murder. After consulting on the facts with the prosecutor and police chief, Ivan figured that Alyosha was blinded by his deep brotherly affection for Dmitry, an affection Ivan did not share. In fact, he despised Dmitry and looked down on Katerina Ivanovna for loving him. But Ivan was thorough in his investigation of the matter. After visiting Dmitry in jail that same day, he concluded for himself that his half-brother’s conversation and emotional outbursts were incoherent. On top of that, Dmitry had insulted Ivan with his claim that people with permissive philosophies (like Ivan) were unsuited to judging his case. In short, he did nothing to ingratiate himself with Ivan.

The hospital visit—Ivan’s next stop immediately after the jail visit was Smerdyakov. It’s important to realize that this was still the first day after Ivan’s return from Moscow, so the visit referred to here is not the one indicated at the end of the previous chapter. On this day, Smerdyakov was still hospitalized, having been in life-threatening condition after his seizure. Ivan’s blunt suggestion to the doctors that Smerdyakov might have faked his attack surprised the them. His seizures were genuine, though the attacks on the day of the murder were unusually severe and frequent. The medical verdict was that Smerdyakov was out of danger and recovering slowly but still showed mental abnormalities that in Dr. Herzenstube’s opinion could persist for the rest of his life. This statement was too vague for Ivan, so he determined to visit Smerdyakov himself.

Mutual suspicion—On first entering, Ivan thought he detected a fleeting look of suspicion from Smerdyakov. Ivan, too, had had suspicious thoughts while on his way to Moscow as he recalled his last meeting with Smerdyakov on the night before he left. But earlier that day, he had deliberately neglected to mention this meeting to the investigative authorities. He wanted to visit Smerdyakov first.

Smerdyakov’s condition—On seeing Smerdyakov, Ivan immediately concluded that the doctors were right: he was in terrible shape—thin, sallow, weak, and in pain, with one eye partly shut and obvious speech problems. Yet even in this desperate condition, Smerdyakov’s old arrogance wasn’t entirely gone. After his initial suspicious look, he seemed calm and composed as he answered Ivan’s questions during the twenty-minute meeting. By contrast, Ivan himself became perturbed and angry at times, though he showed consideration at first when he saw Smerdyakov’s state.

Questions about the epileptic attack—But Ivan’s solicitous manner didn’t last long, and soon he was bluntly questioning Smerdyakov about the epileptic attack on the day of the murder and whether he had faked it. What most bothered Ivan was that the night before his departure for Moscow, Smerdyakov had not only predicted his attack but also where and when it would happen. He had even admitted to Ivan that he could fake a seizure. When Ivan questioned him about this, Smerdyakov argued that you could have a premonition of a seizure, though he agreed that you couldn’t predict the time and place. As far as the place was concerned, he regularly went down the cellar stairs, so it made sense that it should happen there. But Ivan’s pointed questions were bothering Smerdyakov enough that he wanted to discontinue the topic. Then, having inquired whether Ivan had mentioned any of this to the authorities, Smerdyakov added that he had personally told the criminal investigators about his fear of falling down the cellar stairs, along with some other details of his earlier private conversation with Ivan. What Smerdyakov had not mentioned to anyone else was that he could fake a fit. The investigators, however, seemed satisfied with his testimony, and the doctors concluded that Smerdyakov’s epileptic attack came on because of fear.

The question of Chermashnya—Ivan next wanted to know why Smerdyakov had urged him to go to Chermashnya. Smerdyakov’s main answer was that he was trying to hint to Ivan to not go too far away because he sensed that something bad was about to happen in the household. On the one hand, he wanted to warn Ivan to not get involved; on the other, he had hoped for his protection, both of himself and of his father. Ivan’s sudden departure had upset him, which heightened the fear that later caused his attack. Granted, Smerdyakov’s hints to Ivan about the impending disaster had been cryptic and indirect, i.e., suggesting that Ivan visit Chermashnya, giving him the secret signal for Grushenka, telling him about Grigory’s illness, quoting his own favorite statement (about how he liked to talk to intelligent people) on Ivan’s departure, etc. But Ivan still figured that he should have guessed what Smerdyakov had meant. Listening to his final argument, it occurred to him that Smerdyakov was even making sense, which spoke against Dr. Herzenstube’s “mental abnormality” verdict.

Truth or lies?—But Smerdyakov still seemed to be lying and playing games, and that angered Ivan. When Ivan asked Smerdyakov whether he had mentioned the signal to the investigators, Smerdyakov said that he had, which made an impression on Ivan. Then, still unconvinced by his arguments, he pressed Smerdyakov on his statement about being able to fake a fit. Smerdyakov claimed that even if he had said that privately to Ivan, he had never actually done it. And his admission that he could fake his epilepsy spoke in his defense: why would he admit to such a thing if he planned on carrying it out? That would only incriminate him.

Ivan leaves; momentary doubts—Ivan was done for now. He ended the conversation by saying that he didn’t suspect Smerdyakov. He wished him well, promised to return, and even asked him if he needed anything. His final words were to advise Smerdyakov to keep quiet about his ability to fake seizures. Ivan would also keep this information to himself. Smerdyakov’s response was that he agreed to say nothing about their previous conversation, though earlier he’d already admitted to telling the investigators about it. The strange impertinence of this comment didn’t hit Ivan until after he left room, but he brushed the thought off as quickly as it came to him.

Convinced of Dmitry’s guilt and happy about it—The meeting with Smerdyakov reinforced Ivan’s belief that Dmitry was guilty, so he was satisfied. It didn’t matter that there was something perverse in this: Ivan didn’t want to acknowledge that right now. Instead, in the days that followed, he focused on the shaky evidence against Dmitry, questioning the investigators and witnesses himself. His findings added to his conviction of Dmitry’s guilt. The only troubling thing was Alyosha’s firm disagreement, though Alyosha himself didn’t force his opinion on Ivan.

Love for Katerina Ivanovna—Despite his earlier protests to the contrary, Ivan was also passionately in love with Katerina Ivanovna. But though she was aware of this, Katerina Ivanovna was too preoccupied with her guilt feelings over Dmitry to fully give herself to Ivan, and that angered him and was the cause of many arguments between them.

Haunting memories—But for all his other distractions, Ivan couldn’t help thinking back to the night before his trip to Moscow. Memories of his own actions then and on the following day came back to haunt him two weeks after his hospital visit to Smerdyakov: eavesdropping on his father, feeling inexplicable regret on the train, and labeling himself a “scoundrel.”

The encounter with Alyosha—As he was recalling these things, Ivan ran into Alyosha and asked him whether he had believed his earlier statement, before Moscow, that he wanted to kill their father. Alyosha said he had. Ivan also asked whether Alyosha had believed Ivan’s “dog-eat-dog” insinuation that he wanted Dmitry to kill Fyodor Pavlovich and that he would facilitate it. Alyosha hesitated but, after pressure from his brother, quietly admitted that, too.

Off to see Smerdyakov again—Ivan had urgently wanted the truth, though his manner was hostile and panicked, and he no longer went to see Alyosha after that. He did, however, return to Smerdyakov immediately following that encounter.

Second Visit to Smerdyakov


At the Kondratyevnas’—Smerdyakov was out of the hospital by now and had moved into the ramshackle hut belonging to Marya Kondratyevna and her mother. His was the better of the two rooms, which wasn’t saying much. The two women lived in the other, down the hallway from him.

Smerdyakov’s view of Ivan—When Ivan arrived, Smerdyakov was writing. He looked much better than he had two weeks ago, and Ivan observed that he was now wearing glasses, which annoyed him for some reason. That annoyance was worsened by Smerdyakov’s unwelcoming and arrogant attitude. But Ivan wanted to get to the point: what had Smerdyakov meant by his final promise to say nothing more to the investigators as long as Ivan didn’t tell them about Smerdyakov’s seizure-faking ability? What dark secret was he supposedly hiding about their conversation the night before his trip? But Smerdyakov’s answer was simple: he was hiding the fact that Ivan had been warned of the possibility of his father’s murder and had left, anyway. The authorities might view that suspiciously, along with Ivan’s strong desire to see his father dead.

Ivan had had to yell at Smerdyakov to extract this second bit, and when Smerdyakov finally came out with it, Ivan hit him so hard that he cried. Overall, though, Smerdyakov’s attitude was impudent and condescending, and Ivan was appalled that Smerdyakov had imagined him to be capable of the same murderous instincts as Dmitry. He even accused Smerdyakov of the murder, but Smerdyakov denied it, though he had been afraid that he might end up being a suspect. In fact, he didn’t think Ivan was capable of carrying out his father’s murder, but he did believe that he had wanted him dead. The most obvious motive was financial: if Fyodor Pavlovich married Grushenka, Smerdyakov figured that all three sons would lose their inheritance through Grushenka’s manipulations. But if Dmitry killed their father and was found guilty, then Ivan and Alyosha could split their inheritance two ways instead of three. Ivan was becoming increasingly angry about Smerdyakov’s views, exclaiming that if he had suspected anyone, it would have been Smerdyakov himself. That didn’t surprise Smerdyakov, whose twisted analysis of the situation went like this: having prodded Ivan to go to Chermashnya, Smerdyakov figured that when Ivan finally agreed with him to do so after resisting his father’s earlier pleas, that meant that he figured Smerdyakov would be doing the dirty work of killing Fyodor Pavlovich.

Smerdyakov’s threat—It was all Ivan could do to keep himself from hitting Smerdyakov again. In spite of this, Smerdyakov seemed to be enjoying the fact that he was aggravating Ivan. But Ivan was now convinced that Smerdyakov was guilty and planned to accuse him before the court. Smerdyakov was ready for him: if Ivan dared to that, then he would reveal everything about their conversation. At least, the public would be on his side, even if the court was not.

Ivan’s confusion—Ivan didn’t care about Smerdyakov’s threats, or so he thought at first. He was disgusted with his insolence and decided to leave right away without another word. But as he walked along through the moonlit night, he realized that he wasn’t convinced of Smerdyakov’s guilt after all, and Smerdyakov’s threat to reveal all only strengthened his doubts. Nor was Ivan sure of his own innocence, and his memories of the night before his trip confused him—his eavesdropping, his cloudy motives for going to Chermashnya, his desire to see his father dead. Smerdyakov was right: Ivan had had a sense that something dreadful would happen that night. He concluded that he would have to kill Smerdyakov, but first he wanted to sound things out with Katerina Ivanovna, who was his next stop.

Dmitry’s incriminating letter—Now wild and frenzied, Ivan told Katerina Ivanova everything, concluding that if Smerdyakov had done it, then he, Ivan, was also guilty as an accessory to the murder. After listening to him, Katerina Ivanovna produced a letter Dmitry had written to her stating that he would kill his father. He had scribbled it while sitting in a pub totally drunk, after Grushenka’s visit to her. The gist of the letter was that if he could not get the funds to repay Katerina Ivanovna, then he would kill his father and steal the money. The condition, however, was that Ivan should be gone. He didn’t care if he ended up in prison in Siberia: he just wanted to pay her back. His intention at that time was also to no longer see Grushenka, since doing so was torture for him (this was before the change in their relationship). And finally, if he were forced to kill his father, he would also kill himself.

Ivan’s doubts—At first, Ivan took this letter as proof of Dmitry’s guilt as well as of his own and Smerdyakov’s innocence. For a whole month, he stopped thinking about Smerdyakov altogether until he heard that he was extremely sick both physically and mentally. Ivan himself was not feeling well, and his passionate but rocky relationship with Katerina Ivanovna, who still could not forget Dmitry, was no help. By now, he had also recognized that his real hatred of Dmitry stemmed from his belief that his older brother was indeed their father’s murderer. But in spite of this conviction, Ivan was still plagued by the guilty memory of Smerdyakov’s statement that he and his younger brother would inherit more if Dmitry went to prison. Ivan therefore decided to sacrifice a large part of his inheritance (30,000 rubles) to fund a plan of escape, which he presented to Dmitry a week and a half before the start of the trial. He also still wasn’t convinced of his own innocence, at least not in spirit.

Back to the present; Ivan resolves to see Smerdyakov again—But something else was bothering Ivan, and he had to get to the bottom of it. The time period now jumps back to the end of Chapter 5, where Ivan has just parted from Alyosha after the two of them saw Katerina Ivanovna together. Ivan was especially troubled by her assertion that she had only believed Dmitry to be the murderer because Ivan had convinced her of it. She’d added this immediately after saying that she’d gone to see Smerdyakov herself. What especially confused Ivan was that he couldn’t remember saying any such thing, not to mention her visit to Smerdyakov. He needed to see Smerdyakov and find out for himself, so he set off for the ramshackle hut with an angry heart and the thought that he might even kill Smerdyakov.

Third and Final Visit to Smerdyakov


The drunken peasant in the snow—Ivan met with windy, snowy weather as he went to see Smerdyakov one more time. On the way, he literally ran into a drunken peasant who was singing a song that had a curious relevance to Ivan’s life—about not waiting for “Vanya” because he had left for the city. But Ivan didn’t notice this consciously. He only felt anger and irritation toward the peasant, even before registering him consciously. So when the man fell down in the snow, Ivan was content to let him freeze.

An unwelcoming reception—Marya Kondratyevna greeted Ivan at the door of the hut and expressed great concern for Smerdyakov’s mental state: he wasn’t doing or saying anything and even refused to drink to tea, so she asked Ivan to please keep the conversation short. As Ivan entered Smerdyakov’s room, he noticed that it was more crowded than before. There was an added sofa with bedclothes, and Smerdyakov was sitting on it, not doing anything and looking extremely pale and sick. The narrator also mentions a yellow book (yellow being the symbol of illness and madness) that was lying on the table. Smerdyakov showed neither interest nor surprise at Ivan’s arrival and just stared at him at first.

Ivan’s questions; Smerdyakov’s games—Ivan quickly got to the point: he wanted to know if Katerina Ivanovna had been there and what they had discussed, but Smerdyakov brushed him off, saying it was none of his business. His attitude that day was even more insolent and sullen than usual. He had dropped all terms of respect (he usually addressed Ivan as “sir”) and was uncooperative, mostly either staring at Ivan or totally ignoring him and refusing to answer his questions. Earlier, on entering, Ivan had commented on how ill Smerdyakov looked. Now Smerdyakov noted Ivan’s own sickly condition and especially his yellow eyes. But he refused to answer Ivan’s insistent questioning and instead taunted him for being so worried. Guessing that Ivan’s fears had to do with the start of the trial the following day, Smerdyakov assured him that he could rest easy: he would tell the court nothing. Statements like this made Ivan angry and panicked, since he didn’t know what Smerdyakov meant, though it was becoming clear that he was implicating Ivan in the murder. But Smerdyakov was playing games: after first saying that Ivan had not killed Fyodor Pavlovich, he then said that he had. This angered and panicked Ivan even more. He wanted to get to the bottom of things but was afraid at the same time.

The truth comes out—Finally, the truth began to emerge: Smerdyakov considered Ivan responsible, the instigator of the act that he, Smerdyakov, had committed. Without Ivan’s tacit permission, Smerdyakov wouldn’t have done it. In fact, there had never been any outright permission or approval that Ivan could remember. Smerdyakov’s twisted mind had concocted it in response to different things Ivan had said and done: his permissive philosophy, which Smerdyakov had taken literally; his statements about wanting his father dead; and his agreeing to go to Chermashnya instead of Moscow. As Smerdyakov talked about this, Ivan suddenly remembered the peasant’s song. But the proof of Smerdyakov’s guilt came when he calmly reached deep into his stocking and pulled out the 3000 rubles stolen from Fyodor Pavlovich. By now he was addressing Ivan as “sir” again and even offered his guest some lemonade (which Ivan declined) to counter the heat of the room. It was clear that Smerdyakov was in control, and not Ivan, who was trembling.

Details of the murder and theft—Both, however, had calmed down by the time Smerdyakov decided to reveal the whole truth. In great detail, he recounted exactly what had happened: how he had taken his cues from Ivan to go through with the murder; how he had faked the first seizure at the base of the cellar stairs, though the following seizures and his unconsciousness were real; how he had gotten up from his bed and gone outside after hearing Grigory scream; how he had lured Fyodor Pavlovich to the door and convinced him to let him in by fooling him into thinking that Grushenka was there, hiding in the bushes; how he had cracked Fyodor Pavlovich’s skull with a heavy paperweight, which he had cleaned afterwards; how he had then stolen the money from its hiding place behind the icons—not under the mattress (also referred to as the “pillow” in other parts of the text), as he had told Dmitry; how he had deliberately tossed the ribbon and envelope originally holding the money onto the floor to deceive the investigators into thinking that Dmitry was the thief (Smerdyakov figured Dmitry would have checked the envelope first, not knowing where the money was, and then tossed it down, being unused to stealing); how he had then hidden the money in a tree trunk (something he had thought out in advance) for two weeks afterwards; and finally, how he went back to bed and then deliberately awoke Marfa Ignatyevna with his groaning so that she would go in search of Grigory. He had realized that if Grigory didn’t survive, he would not be able to testify against Dmitry, which would ruin Smerdyakov’s plan. Hopefully, Grigory was not dead but only unconscious, and Marfa Ignatyevna wouldn’t be too late.

Using Dmitry as a distraction—As indicated above, Dmitry had nothing to do with the murder. although Smerdyakov had planted the idea in his head and hoped that he would go through with it. Having deliberately misled him about the location of the money, Smerdyakov had figured that even if Dmitry did kill Fyodor Pavlovich, he would end up leaving empty-handed. If Dmitry didn’t conveniently commit the murder, Smerdyakov at least counted on his coming that night so that he could later use his presence there to distract the investigators from the truth. And if Dmitry only managed to knock out Fyodor Pavlovich, Smerdyakov could still sneak in later, steal the money, and blame the theft on Dmitry. Dmitry would be the fall guy in any case. That was why Smerdyakov had told him about the signal. But had he not come at all and had Ivan not left town, Smerdyakov would not have risked going through with his plan, which was originally just to steal the money. The fact that Dmitry did come but failed to kill his father provided Smerdyakov with the ultimate impetus for going through with the murder. By then, Grigory was lying unconscious—maybe even dead—in the garden, so there was no question of his being a witness. Then again, there was Marfa Ignatyevna to consider, but by the time Smerdyakov thought of her, his sudden drive to kill had taken over.

A hole in the story—Only one thing in Smerdyakov’s account seemed out of place to Ivan: by the time Fyodor Pavlovich opened the door for Smerdyakov, Grigory was already unconscious. Why then had Grigory noticed the open door before being injured? Smerdyakov dismissed this detail as resulting from the confused mind of an old man.

Smerdyakov’s conviction of Ivan’s guilt—Smerdyakov’s only reason for being honest with Ivan was his conviction that Ivan was the instigator of the crime and would therefore cover for him. And what was his motive for going through with it? On the surface, he believed he was doing Ivan a favor by securing his inheritance. In return, he imagined that Ivan would support him, a notion Ivan resented, since to him it spelled more manipulation by Smerdyakov.

Ivan’s shifting state—Ivan had never ceased looking at Smerdyakov throughout the whole account, while Smerdyakov himself had barely looked at Ivan and seemed panicked by the time he finished. The narrator also especially notes that Ivan was calm and even friendly when he asked about the timing of the door, implying that there was something strange in this, as though it implicated Ivan but he wasn’t aware of it yet. In fact, Ivan’s memory was not working well. Aside from being sick, he was also distracted and easily lost his train of thought. His reactions to Smerdyakov vacillated between astonishment, horror, anger, dejection, and occasional supportiveness. Now, having heard Smerdyakov’s meticulously planned account of the murder and theft as well as his accusations of him as guilty, Ivan suddenly flew into a rage again. He informed Smerdyakov that the only reason he was keeping him alive was so that they could both testify in court and go to jail together, even though Ivan did not believe himself to be as guilty as Smerdyakov was suggesting. He acknowledged that he had wanted his father dead, but he refused to admit that he had agreed to the murder. Yet he still felt strongly that they should both testify, and he was prepared to tell all.

A profound change in Smerdyakov—But Smerdyakov had no intention of cooperating with Ivan’s demand to testify in court. If Ivan told all, he would deny all, using the excuse that Ivan was ill or that he was covering for Dmitry. Besides, there was no proof. Ivan wanted to know why Smerdyakov had shown him the money then, if not as proof. In response, Smerdyakov handed him the money, saying that he didn’t need it anymore. He had planned to use it to forge a new life somewhere else, but now he didn’t think it was worth it. He seemed resigned and dejected but also certain that Ivan would not testify against himself: it wasn’t in his intelligent, proud, materialistic character. Smerdyakov added that of all the brothers, Ivan was the one who was most like his father.

A final interchange—Throughout the conversation, Ivan had been slowly admitting that Smerdyakov wasn’t stupid, as he had previously thought, though he would later revert to his condescending view of him. Now, though, he seemed embarrassed by his admission of Smerdyakov’s perceptiveness. But Smerdyakov no longer cared about Ivan’s opinion. He had let go and was simply speaking his mind. Ivan picked up the money, certain that he would use it as evidence in court. Smerdyakov wasn’t encouraging, which again riled Ivan, who claimed to want to kill him except for his usefulness at the trial. But Ivan’s rage had no impact—for all Smerdyakov cared, Ivan could kill him. Then again, Smerdyakov didn’t think he would do it. Ivan no longer was the brave person Smerdyakov had once looked up to. Oblivious to Smerdyakov’s mood, Ivan left, sure that they would see each other the next day. As Ivan was exiting, Smerdyakov, who had asked to briefly look at the money one more time, stopped him and respectfully wished him goodbye.

Spiritual struggle in the face of amorality and unbelief?—As in earlier chapters, there are occasional hints of spiritual questioning in Smerdyakov’s behavior, though he also exhibited a profoundly amoral state. The yellow book that Ivan had noticed was a book of sermons by St. Isaac the Syrian, popular in Moscow at the time;* and at one point, Smerdyakov mentioned God as being the “third person” in the room with Ivan and him, implying the importance of conscience. But were Smerdyakov’s mentions of God just another form of manipulation, or was something else going on? Later in the chapter, when Ivan asked him whether he believed in God after all, Smerdyakov said no. Ivan had asked because he was under the impression that Smerdyakov had changed his view from all things being permitted to doing the right thing by not keeping the money. But Smerdyakov’s apparent reason for changing his mind—and hisgreatest disappointment—was Ivan’s lack of courage in the face of his own permissive philosophy, which had gotten such a hold on Smerdyakov’s imagination.

Certainty and elation followed by sudden distress—Ivan felt elated as he walked back out into the snow. He was surprised to find himself swaying all of a sudden but brushed it off as a physical response. Above all, he was happy that he had finally come to a decision. As he walked along, he almost tripped over the peasant, who was still unconscious and now almost covered with snow. Ivan picked him up and, with the help of a nearby resident, brought him to the police station. Once there, he ordered medical help and paid both the resident who had helped him and the doctor for their service. He noted with interest that his newfound certainty and his recent decision had changed his mood from uncaring and self-involved to willing to help, as he had just helped the peasant. He even almost visited the prosecutor that night but decided to wait till the next day. Yet as soon as he entered his room, his happiness was instantly replaced by a sudden chill. Something was bothering him terribly, and he wasn’t feeling well. He kept looking around until one object, undefined and disturbing, caught and held his attention.

The Devil and Ivan’s Nightmare


Ivan’s illness—Ivan’s illness had been diagnosed as mental in nature, complete with the hallucinations that were a feature of his condition. The doctor had recommended immediate hospitalization and treatment to prevent future complications, but with the trial looming, Ivan decided to ignore his advice for the time being. He felt that he was too busy and the timing was bad, and he believed he could forestall the illness through will-power.

An unexpected guest—That still left Ivan with a problem, which he now studiously attempted to ignore: sitting before him on the sofa was a man, around fifty years old. Judging from his once stylish but worn dress and his mildly pleasant, genteel manner, he was a member of the impoverished gentry, the type who generally survived through the good graces of his friends in return for his friendly, entertaining company. What was strange, though, was that he hadn’t been there when Ivan came in.

Conversation with the Devil … or a figment of Ivan’s mind?—The gentleman, who sported a goatee, sat there for a while waiting for Ivan to begin the conversation. Ivan, however, refused to acknowledge him, so his guest finally broke the silence with a concerned reminder that Ivan had not succeeded in getting the information he originally wanted from Smerdyakov, namely, the content of his conversation with Katerina Ivanovna. Ivan knew that his guest was right but informed him that he could have figured that out himself. It quickly became clear that the man on the sofa was a hallucination—the Devil materialized in the form of a gentleman. He understood perfectly that Ivan did not want to acknowledge him, and he had no desire to pressure him into believing something he didn’t want to. The visitor’s mode of expressing himself was not exactly concise: he had a tendency to ramble and philosophize in a way that annoyed Ivan.

Fear of madness—Refusing to admit his guest’s reality, Ivan promised himself that he wouldn’t let his presence upset him, that it was just a manifestation of his own sick mind. At the same time, he felt driven by an undefined sense of shame to pace the room, and he also had a headache. Maybe a cold, wet towel on his head would make both his hallucination and his headache go away. But the cold, wet towel didn’t work, so not knowing what else to do, he encouraged the gentleman to entertain him with gossip—as long as he didn’t start philosophizing again.

Figment or reality?—Ivan’s willingness, albeit reluctant, to interact with his guest did not mean that he wasn’t desperately afraid of landing in an insane asylum. Still, since he considered his guest a hallucination, he had no qualms about calling him “idiot” and “parasite.” The gentleman, though content to put up with Ivan’s insulting comments and entertain him, directed his host’s attention to the evidence that he was starting to believe in his existence. Hadn’t he mentioned “him” to Alyosha as though he were a reality? The man seemed to know everything—all about the devil incident surrounding the starets’s death (implied by his desire to apologize to Alyosha about something to do with the starets), about Ivan’s chance meeting with Alyosha, and also about his recent noble decision to testify on Dmitry’s behalf.

Human form—But Dostoevsky’s Devil is also endearingly humanlike. He had heard that he was once an angel but didn’t remember. Now he only wanted to enjoy respectability, claiming to love people and being woefully misjudged by history, even rambling on about his own surprisingly mundane enjoyments and fantasies. These were things he either had experienced or wished to experience in material form—like dreaming and being superstitious, experiencing life as a wealthy fat woman, or getting vaccinated. He even suffered from arthritis, proof in his mind that he was material at present. Ivan wasn’t interested. As far as he was concerned, the gentleman was nothing more than a projection, and the thoughts he spewed were Ivan’s own.

Something unexpected—Then the Devil surprised his host with a Latin phrase that Ivan could not have thought of himself, and Ivan was the first to acknowledge it. Ironically, the Devil then launched into a psychological explanation that defined him as a hallucination, part of a vivid type of nightmare often experienced by writers, though anyone could have them. Now Ivan was even more suspicious: this had to be some kind of trick to lure him into thinking that this projection was real. His guest admitted that he was using a particular technique but, without explaining what it was, continued rambling on about his experiences on earth and in space, while Ivan wondered why he wouldn’t disappear.

A witty, sometimes poignant take on life—The man’s (or Devil’s) stories turned out to be quite witty. He rambled on about his ailments and how all the doctors these days were specialists who could diagnose diseases but who cured nothing. Their expertise was also so limited that they kept referring you to the next doctor, who referred you to someone else, usually in another city. After trying different things, the Devil-gentleman finally found an unexpected cure in something mundane—malt extract. Thrilled, he wanted to post a thank you note in the newspaper, but no one would print it because he wanted to publish it under his own name, and no one believed in the Devil. That left him feeling frustrated, along with the common misunderstanding about his real nature, which he claimed to be benevolent and friendly. But he understood his position as the “negator,” the disrupter who kept things lively. After all, without someone to disrupt things, life would become intolerably dull—all that holiness and nothing else! Still, he couldn’t understand why people took the whole thing so seriously, and at the same time, he still yearned to give up his position and just be a devout fat lady who lit candles in a church.

More doubt and discourses—Ivan wondered whether his guest believed in God, since he seemed not to. He was testing him, figuring that if he just parroted his own beliefs, then that would prove he was a hallucination. But the man, whose beliefs were similar to Ivan’s own, stopped himself short in his explanation because Ivan was showing signs of mounting anger and possible violence. When Ivan decided he’d rather be entertained, his guest obligingly told him about how things in heaven were similar to earth—they even gossiped. Heaven was particularly distressed by the latest scientific developments, which lacked the orderliness of ancient theories.

Legend of the agnostic philosopher—Next, the Devil told a story that Ivan himself had concocted when he was seventeen but had forgotten in the meantime. It was the story of an agnostic philosopher from ancient times, whose complete lack of belief in anything resulted in an afterlife experience of first having to walk a quadrillion versts before entering paradise. Here the gentleman interjected that the afterlife’s methods of torment had changed, having been modernized to match the present lack of morals. Instead of fire and brimstone or other torments, people were confronted with their own guilt feelings, for example. Unfortunately, these more cerebral torments only worked on moral people. In any case, once the agnostic completed his torment, he entered heaven and immediately experienced the greatest joy.

The Devil’s game—The Devil had to remind Ivan that heaven’s realities were not like his earthbound concepts of reality; furthermore, Ivan’s concepts of earth were limited to his own time period. (Interestingly, the gentleman Devil’s descriptions of reincarnation, endless cosmogonic cycles of destruction and renewal, etc. had a strongly Eastern flavor.) But the story had meanwhile captured Ivan’s attention when he suddenly realized that it was his own story! Excited to have caught the Devil at his game, he insisted that he wasn’t real after all but just a product of his subconscious mind. His guest, however, countered that he had his own methods and design. He knew that Ivan secretly wanted to believe, and his goal was to help him do so. But his method was to manipulate his thoughts to switch between belief and disbelief. At one point, he also commented that a thoughtful person like Ivan might even hang himself out of despair—a statement that takes on more significance later.

The Devil’s real goal and function—Understanding that the Devil’s real goal was to save his soul, Ivan asked him if he had ever tempted a true believer, the kind that gave up everything for his faith. The Devil replied that that was all he ever did. Such souls were priceless: their intellects were formidable, and their capacity to plumb both doubt and faith was profound. He then continued with some stories about his escapades, until Ivan, frustrated at not being able to get rid of him, again yelled at him to get out. But the Devil’s response was just to ramble on about mildly related trivia. Significant among his ramblings, though, was the statement about Jesus rising into heaven immediately after his crucifixion. The Devil had wanted to break out into a song of praise but realized that if he did so, the whole of earth—or at least all negativity—would disappear in a flash. He would no longer be fulfilling his purpose to disrupt, so he resisted the impulse.

Ivan recognizes his own philosophizing again—Ivan was not impressed. He had thought of all this before and was done with it. He couldn’t believe that he had come up with such an inferior mental projection as this Devil. He was fed up and wanted to kill him. But the Devil insisted on continuing his monologue. With the way things were going, humans would no longer believe in God or the afterlife, and having been set free from morality and religion, they would elevate themselves to the level of gods. Morality would cease altogether, and men’s goals would be purely earthly. But although people would also do good, their motive would be pride.  Everything would be permitted, since rules would no longer exist … etc. It was clear that the Devil was parroting Ivan’s own philosophy and even making fun of him.

The end of the dream—Finally, Ivan threw a glass at the man in anger, but before the Devil could go on too much about this latest display of belief, someone knocked at the window. The Devil already knew that it was Alyosha and that he bore a strange message. But Ivan had had the same sense that his brother would come, and he never came for no reason. Yet try as he might, he couldn’t bring himself to answer, even though the knocking intensified. Then all of a sudden, the spell broke and Ivan found himself alone again, with everything as normal. Even the knocking sound now seemed quiet. Still, he was sure his “dream” had been real, and he realized that he wanted to believe.

An unhappy message—Alyosha’s news was not good. Just an hour before, Smerdyakov had committed suicide by hanging.

He Said That!


Smerdyakov’s suicide note—Alyosha had found out about Smerdyakov’s suicide from Marya Kondratyevna, who immediately ran to him without even thinking to first report the incident to the officials. On finding out, Alyosha had gone back to Smerdyakov’s room with her, where they found a suicide note stating that his death was voluntary and that no one else was to blame. Leaving everything as it was, Alyosha then reported the suicide to the police, only visiting Ivan after that.

Ivan’s confusion—On speaking to Ivan, Alyosha immediately noticed that something was wrong. Ivan seemed distracted and unable to comprehend what his brother was saying. As Alyosha listened to him, he grew afraid: Ivan kept talking about “him,” protesting that “he” had been there and that his experience had not been a dream. “He” had even told Ivan about Smerdyakov’s hanging, which Ivan seemed to find gratifying, probably because it “proved” that the episode was real. But looking around, Ivan could see that things were as they had been before, as though he had never wet the towel or thrown the glass. Yet he was sure the whole thing had happened, protesting that it couldn’t have been a dream.

More confused rambling; Alyosha’s concern—When Alyosha asked who “he” was, Ivan promptly replied that he was a devil and that he’d been there once or twice before. Ivan didn’t believe “he” was Satan, though, but just some minor devil who was posing as Satan and not doing too good a job at it, what with his petty concerns. Earlier, Alyosha had suggested a wet towel for Ivan’s head, which was what originally drew Ivan’s attention to the still dry towel. Now Alyosha moved to get it to help his brother out of his obvious delirium. But it didn’t stop Ivan from rambling. He went on about how he liked Lise and hadn’t meant what he said about her before; about his fear that Katerina Ivanovna would dump him; about his plan to testify on behalf of Dmitry; about his love of life. In response to Alyosha’s question about whether he thought his experience with the devil was real, Ivan told him about his impressions—how “he” was the worst parts of himself, how he taunted and manipulated him, and how he disappeared when Alyosha came. In a burst of affection, he added how much he loved Alyosha’s face, referring to his innocence. The more Alyosha listened, the more concerned he became, admonishing his brother to calm down and forget the whole incident.

Total delirium—But Ivan couldn’t forget: the devil’s statements were too entangled with his own mind, and sounded more and more confused as he talked. As Ivan continued, his ramblings no longer sounded only like his hallucination but more like a combination of the hallucination, his own thoughts, and his conversation with Smerdyakov. Alyosha didn’t know that, though—he only knew that his brother was delirious. But what sent a real chill down his spine was Ivan’s contention that the devil told him about Smerdyakov’s suicide. How, he wanted to know, could he know about it before anyone else? Ivan was talking even more wildly now. He insisted that the devil had told him, that he hated everyone including Alyosha, that he needed to kill Smerdyakov, that Katerina Ivanovna would reject him, that he hated his father’s murderer.

A spiritual crisis; a brother’s prayer—Ivan’s illness was reaching its climax. He was hallucinating as though in his sleep, and when he started swaying violently, Alyosha caught him and coaxed him into bed. Finally, unwilling to leave his brother, Alyosha lay down on the sofa and prayed for both his brothers as he drifted off to sleep. As he did this, he realized that Ivan was going through a spiritual crisis: his hatred and pride were at war with God, and Alyosha’s hope and prayer was that God would be the victor.

Judicial Mistake

The Fateful Day

 Major excitement—Dmitry’s trial began the following morning, and the narrator is quick to add that his account of it is not at all comprehensive or knowledgeable but merely his impression of what struck him as significant. Interestingly, he talks as though he were there as an actual witness of the event, but he never specifies who he’s supposed to be. In any case, the excitement about the trial was high, attracting not only the locals but also important spectators from the big cities, both lawyers and laypeople, ladies and gentlemen.

Divided opinion between genders—The court was packed, with many people having to stand. More than half the spectators were ladies. Their special interest in the trial lay in Dmitry’s popularity with women as well as the rivalry between Katerina Ivanovna and Grushenka. Katerina Ivanovna was particularly interesting to the lady audience because of her high social standing and the incongruousness of her pride and wealth in relation to her passion for Dmitry. On the other hand, they looked down on Grushenka, whom they considered ordinary even in her looks—hardly worth the passionate response she received from the men whose lives she had turned upside down.

Unlike the ladies in the audience, the gentlemen were largely against Dmitry, partly because of the moral issues involved, partly because he had insulted many of them, and partly because their wives had vehemently argued with them about their negative attitude towards him. The lawyers, who took a more professional interest in the case, were the main exception to this. And then there were those who didn’t care about Dmitry one way or another but, like everyone else, wanted to follow the proceedings.

The lawyers—The excitement was further heightened by the appearance of Fetyukovich, a talented and famous defense lawyer known for taking celebrity cases and generating national interest. Rumor had it that Ippolit Kyrillovich, the young prosecutor, resented him from back in his university days and was afraid of facing him in court. But the fact was that the prosecutor enjoyed a challenge and was more earnest than his colleagues believed. His reputation had suffered mainly because of his long-time sickliness, his impulsiveness in the way he handled his cases, and his strong interest in psychology, which his colleagues ridiculed. That day, he looked particularly sickly and pale, and the change had been sudden.

The judge—Already in his fifties, the presiding judge was financially and socially well-off, had little desire to move forward in his career, and had no personal interest in the case. He was, however, interested in the latest ideas, so the case was intriguing to him in that way. But on the whole, he took an objective, intellectual, humane approach.

Description of the court and jury selection—By the time, the judge, prosecutor, and other bench officials entered at 10 a.m., the large courtroom was full, and all the evidence laid out on a table in front of the bench. The jury members were already seated to the right of the bench, while Dmitry and his counsel would sit to its left. With the arrival of the bench, the jury selection process began, resulting in the rejection of only two jurors and a final distribution that included merchants, civil servants, townsfolk, and peasants—to the horror of some spectators (mostly among the ladies), who could not believe that such an uneducated group was competent to judge such a complex case.

Dmitry arrives with the defense counsel—Finally, Dmitry entered, followed by his counsel, a tall, thin, pale man with a birdlike face. Dmitry was dressed in a custom-tailored, dandyish outfit that, along with his casual but typically forceful attitude, was inappropriate to the setting. Once the proceedings began, the judge even had to admonish him more than once for breaking protocol, while his lawyer tried to contain him. The first time he let fly was during the reading of the list of experts and witnesses, four of whom—Miusov, Mrs. Khokhlakova, Maksimov, and Smerdyakov—were unable to attend for various reasons. On hearing of Smerdyakov’s death, Dmitry yelled that it served “the dog” right, which quickly earned him a reprimand from the judge. Later, in response to the judge’s question of whether he pleaded guilty to the charges, Dmitry gave a dramatic reply that although he was a scoundrel and guilty of various things, he was not a murderer and a thief, and specifically, he had not killed his father or stolen his money. He was a victim of fate, and consequently he refused to plead guilty. Once more, the judge had to admonish him to contain himself and only give brief, specific answers.

Swearing in of the witnesses—Next, the witnesses entered and were sworn in, except for the two Karamazov brothers, who were not required to take an oath.

Dangerous Witnesses


The evidence speaks against Dmitry—As the case unfolded, it quickly became clear that the evidence, especially one unspecified clue, strongly favored the prosecution—and this despite the skill of the defense. But so far the prosecution had proved equally capable, and even the ladies, for all their good wishes for the defendant, had to admit that Dmitry was guilty. In fact, the trial seemed almost superfluous.

The defense lawyer’s confidence and skill—Given the strong evidence against Dmitry, the crowd of spectators, and especially the men, were curious to see how Fetyukovich would handle the case. Even with his all his brilliance and skill, he was up against a daunting task. He certainly knew the details of the case inside out, and he managed to cast doubt on both the evidence as well as on the characters of the prosecution’s witnesses. But his confidence suggested that he had more up his sleeve.

Questioning Grigory—One of the main witnesses was Grigory, who took the stand with great calm and dignity, seemingly unperturbed by either the formal setting or the counsels’ questioning. Grigory’s character was unimpeachable—humane, honest, loyal, devout, and modest without being servile. Because of his long history with the family, he could give a comprehensive testimony that included some perspective on the family relationships. With his characteristic fairness, he mentioned Fyodor Pavlovich’s early neglect of Dmitry, adding that he had since forgiven the latter for injuring him the night of the murder.

With such an unimpeachable witness, the defense counsel’s approach was to play on his age and simplicity, along with finding several holes in his testimony. One of these, unquestioned till now, was the widely agreed-upon statement about Fyodor Pavlovich’s cheating Dmitry out of his full inheritance. Although Grigory affirmed that this was true, neither he nor anyone else had any material proof. Next, Fetyukovich pointed out that Grigory had drunk a fair amount of alcohol that night as part of his cure. The defense counsel’s goal was to cast doubt on Grigory’s statement about the open door, in the process also drawing repeated laughter from the audience. Finally, he questioned the old servant’s memory and awareness: could he swear that he wasn’t sleepwalking that night? And did he even know the current year? When Grigory couldn’t respond positively to either question, the defense started overdoing his mockery of Grigory by asking him if he knew how many fingers he had. But at that point, Grigory’s dignity took over, and he refused to be made fun of. The judge promptly warned the defense, but by then the questioning was over, and Fetyukovich had accomplished his goal. When the judge asked Dmitry if he wanted to add anything, Dmitry confirmed everything but the statement about the door and passionately thanked Grigory for all the good he had done in his life, also admitting that he had been cruel to both Grigory and his father. Unfortunately, he called his father a few irreverent names, so once again the judge had to remind him to watch what he said for his own sake.

During his testimony, Grigory had also mentioned a few things about Smerdyakov, whom he described as talented but stupid, sickly, and “godless,” blaming the last characteristic on the influence of Fyodor Pavlovich and Ivan. He also insisted that Smerdyakov was perfectly honest, mentioning how he had once returned some money that Fyodor Pavlovich had lost, thus gaining his master’s trust.

Rakitin takes the stand—Next up on the witness stand was Rakitin, who at first came across as upright, informed, and intelligent. He was writing an article on the case, so he had detailed knowledge on both the family and the murder, along with up-to-date ideas on the social changes in Russia. Unfortunately, Rakitin’s natural arrogance also slipped out when he spoke insultingly of Grushenka as Samsonov’s mistress.

At first, the audience found him impressive, but the defense was ready for him. First on Fetyukovich’s list was a question about a previous writing of Rakitin’s on the starets’s life. Like his testimony so far, that writing, which had been published by the diocese, presented Rakitin as a conscientious and moral thinker. Having confirmed that Rakitin wrote the article and even praised him for it, the defense proceeded to ask him about his close relationship with Grushenka. Ashamed, Rakitin immediately protested that he was young and that he couldn’t account for everyone he knew. But the defense was not interested in Rakitin’s social and sexual affairs: his one concern was the 25 rubles Grushenka had promised him if he brought her Alyosha. Again, Rakitin protested that that was a joke and that he had intended to give back the money. But again, the defense caught him out, pointing out that so far, he hadn’t paid her back. Rakitin left the stand with a blemished reputation, and the defense managed once again to cast doubt on the prosecution’s evidence. Once again, too, Dmitry said his passionate bit, having been asked by the judge if he wanted to add anything: offended at Rakitin’s comment about Grushenka, Dmitry called Rakitin an unbeliever who only cared about his career.

Additional testimonies marred—And so it went. The staff captain, filthily dressed and having been asked by Ilyusha to say nothing, only sobbed on the floor before the judge’s bench. Trifon Borisych, who seemed to miss not a single detail, especially when it came to money, ended up tripping over one small money-related item. During Dmitry’s first drunken party at his inn, the driver and a peasant had found 100 rubles of Dmitry’s on the floor and given it to Trifon Borisych, who had rewarded each of them with one ruble, promising to give the hundred back to Dmitry. The problem was that he had denied finding it in his earlier testimony. To skirt the issue, he claimed to have returned it to Dmitry but that Dmitry was too drunk to remember. His evasive tactics didn’t work, though, and his honesty was now suspect. Then there were the Poles. They entered with their usual pompousness but ultimately could not deny, with the help of Trifon Borisych’s reluctant testimony, that they had cheated at cards. They, too, could not be trusted.

A lurking question—The defense’s technique of casting doubt and defamation on the witnesses was certainly impressive, but it did not succeed in toppling the immediate evidence surrounding the murder. That still seemed airtight, and the spectators wondered what this brilliant and ambitious defense lawyer still had up his sleeve.

Medical Evidence and a Pound of Nuts


The doctors take the stand—The driving force behind the medical testimony was Katerina Ivanovna, who figured Dmitry should plead temporary insanity. But the actual outcome of her attempt to sway Dmitry’s fate was mixed, with each of the three doctors—Herzenstube, the famous doctor from Moscow, and the young Varvinsky—having a different opinion.

Dr. Herzenstube—Dr. Herzenstube was well known, respected, and liked in the town, having lived and served there for many years. An old-school doctor and a person of great humanity and integrity, he still visited his patients in their homes and gave free service to the poor. He was also deeply religious and had known the Karamazov family since Dmitry’s early childhood. Yet despite Herzenstube’s attentive care, the doctor from Moscow thought little of his competency and made no effort to hide his opinion from those who, also dissatisfied with Herzenstube, hired the famous out-of-towner to examine their ailments. None of this was news to Dr. Herzenstube.

A comic touch—The testimony of the three doctors, delivered in sequence, has a comic element to it, partly because each had a different opinion, partly because of some of the reasons they cited as “proof” of Dmitry’s abnormal mental behavior, and partly because of the vast difference in their styles. First, there were the elderly Herzenstube’s long-winded and sometimes irrelevant explanations, occasionally punctuated by gestures when he forgot a word and insisted on remembering it before continuing. By contrast, the Moscow doctor’s presentation was educated, impressive, and strong-minded. And finally, there was young Dr. Varvinsky’s direct and independent no-nonsense testimony.

Herzenstube’s opinion—Herzenstube was the first to take the stand. Part of his “proof” of Dmitry’s abnormal mental condition (the rest having been left unmentioned by the narrator) was that when the defendant first entered, he strode into the court in military fashion, looking straight ahead. Herzenstube figured that, being a ladies’ man, Dmitry would have normally looked left at the ladies. Aside from generating titters in the audience, this came across as an incongruous comment coming from such a devout man who had never been married.

The Moscow doctor’s testimony—The doctor from Moscow had the opposite opinion: Dmitry’s entrance was indeed strange, but he should have looked right at his lawyer, not at the ladies. After all, his lawyer was the essential positive determinant in his case. This doctor’s main argument was that Dmitry was both manic and insane, at least, temporarily. He had observed this himself during his interview of him. Aside from Dmitry’s inexplicable staring, emotional excitement, and strange talk, the doctor noticed that he would become especially frantic whenever talking about the 3000 rubles. This made no sense to him. Then there were other personality factors, such as nobility, kindness, and generosity, that both older doctors had either heard of or observed and that contradicted Dmitry’s current behavior.

Varvinsky tips the scales—Dr. Varvinsky was of a completely different opinion from the two other doctors. To him, Dmitry’s behavior was thoroughly explainable by his drunkenness, jealousy, rage, etc., and did not suggest insanity or any other mental abnormality. And as far as he was concerned, looking straight ahead as he did upon entering made perfect sense, since that meant he was looking at the bench, whose members had the most influence on his fate. When Varvinsky finished, Dmitry shouted out his approval and was naturally kept in check from exhibiting any further outbursts. But Dmitry was not the only one who agreed with the young doctor’s assessment: so did the judge and the spectators.

Herzenstube’s heartwarming story—One other aspect of the doctors’ testimony made an impact on the court. Dr. Herzenstube, now in the capacity of a regular, non-medical witness, remembered Dmitry as a young boy, sorely neglected, barefoot, and in tatters. Out of compassion for him, the doctor, still new in town at the time, bought the boy a pound of nuts (he took a long time telling this story and also remembering the word for “nuts,” which added to the comic effect of the scene). Nuts were a special treat, and the doctor figured that Dmitry had never gotten them as a present. On giving Dmitry the nuts, he also taught him to say “God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.” But then Dmitry left town for a long while, having been sent to live elsewhere by his father. When he returned years later as an adult, he went to visit the doctor and, presenting himself, spoke the devout words he had learned so long ago and thanked the doctor for the pound of nuts. Dmitry’s long memory and heartfelt gratitude impressed Dr. Herzenstube, and their brief reunion was happy and emotional. Now moved again by the doctor’s speech, Dmitry announced that he was crying, and the audience, too, was touched. This marked the beginning of a turnaround for the accused.

Fortune Smiles on Dmitry


Alyosha’s testimony—The last chapter ends with the statement that it would be Katerina Ivanovna’s testimony that made the decisive change in Dmitry’s fate. But it also notes an important element in Alyosha’s testimony that forced the prosecution to reconsider its case.

Like his brother Ivan later on, Alyosha was not required to take an oath, and being generally well-liked and respected by all, he was also treated kindly by the judge and the questioners.

A significant detail remembered—Although Alyosha’s testimony was honest, it was also clear that he loved Dmitry deeply and believed in his innocence regardless of any self-incriminating statements his brother had made. At first, his testimony added nothing new or conclusive, but when the defense began to question him, Alyosha suddenly remembered one small detail that had slipped his mind. During an earlier conversation with Alyosha, Dmitry had repeatedly pointed to the upper part of his chest while beating his breast, at the same time saying that he had the means to restore his honor. He never specified what that meant, but he was referring to the pouch around his neck. In it were the 1500 rubles he owed Katerina Ivanovna.

The realization that Dmitry was pointing too high for his heart had flashed through Alyosha’s mind at the time, but he then forgot about it, not knowing what to make of it until the present moment. As the defense questioned him, it all suddenly clicked, and Alyosha excitedly presented his new theory right there before the court. This, of course, dealt a blow to the prosecution who had to cross-examine him once more. But the prosecutor’s renewed questioning only confirmed Alyosha’s statement that Dmitry was pointing above his heart with his fingers, not his fist. The new information went a long way towards explaining Dmitry’s frantic distress over the money, a mystery till now. Dmitry himself passionately confirmed both Alyosha’s observations and his theory, even adding the shameful but honest admission that he had known before that he wouldn’t give back the money despite his best intentions.

Katerina Ivanovna’s testimony—Next up was Katerina Ivanovna, whose entrance created a great stir among the audience, with both ladies and gentlemen straining to see her more closely. Looking particularly lovely, Katerina Ivanovna entered dressed all in black and with a modest, restrained air that belied her inward anxiety. She gave her testimony quietly and calmly, doing her best to put Dmitry in the best light possible. She noted, first of all, that she had been Dmitry’s fiancée and that he had left her. As for the money, it was never that important to her. She had known that Dmitry was in financial straits, and the 3000 rubles intended for her relations was also meant as loan to Dmitry. There was no rush for him to mail it to them, and she wished Dmitry hadn’t fretted so much over it. She also trusted absolutely that he would send it when he was ready and claimed to have given him a month’s leeway. Besides, she insisted that she had no right to be demanding when he had previously helped her with even more money at a time when she was in dire straits and uncertain about her ability to repay him. She even told the court about the “shameful” curtsy and the fact that Dmitry had asked nothing of her, only bowing to her as she left. The defense had known nothing of this anecdote until this moment, since Katerina Ivanovna had withheld it, having been undecided about whether she would relay it or not. But now everyone knew, and the story inspired a significant amount of gossip. People were convinced that some important piece of information was missing—as indeed there was: to protect Dmitry, Katerina Ivanovna had neglected to mention that it was his idea, transmitted through her sister, to have her come to him. Regardless of the gossip and conjecture, the information Katerina Ivanovna gave significantly strengthened the defense’s case, casting Dmitry’s character in a different light and eliminating the motive for theft. But Dmitry himself did not react well. “Katya’s” testimony threw him into a state of despair: he was convinced that she had ruined his hopes.

Grushenka’s testimony—The final witness in this chapter is Grushenka, who also entered dressed in black but, in contrast to Katerina Ivanovna, made an unfavorable impression on most of the audience. Although she did her best to contain herself, Grushenka was noticeably uncomfortable and at times would burst out with some statement that betrayed her anger and irritation. But she was also honest and remorseful, even blaming herself for the whole mess, admitting that she had mercilessly teased both Dmitry and his father, whom she had never intended to visit. She, too, vouched for Dmitry’s honesty while describing Katerina Ivanovna as a shameless manipulator. But perhaps her most significant statement had to do with Rakitin: when asked about their relationship and why she had given him the 25 rubles, she stated flatly that he was her cousin, a fact he had wanted to hide. She added that she was constantly responding to his demands for money, which he would usually waste and certainly didn’t need for the basics. That was the end of Rakitin’s “moral” reputation and another coup for the defense. Dmitry himself, usually so vocal, said nothing during or after Grushenka’s testimony but only looked down, paralyzed by fear.



Ivan’s erratic testimony—The court had actually summoned Ivan earlier, but being too unwell to appear, he had postponed his testimony. When he finally entered, his pale, sickly face made him look so close to death that Alyosha stood up in shock. The narrator adds that both these incidents—Ivan’s postponement and Alyosha’s sudden rising—both went unnoticed. He also mentions that the public had grown tired of the proceedings.

Despite his perfect dress, Ivan’s behavior was erratic. His entrance was introverted and reluctant, but this quickly changed. As he listened to the judge’s introductory explanations, he started smiling, then laughing, and finally shouting the equivalent of  “And then what?” at the judge, so that the latter had to ask whether he was well enough to testify. In one breath, Ivan said he had something new to add to the evidence; in the next, he contradicted his previous statement and lapsed into sullen uncooperativeness, pretending to know nothing, though he did admit to being aware of his brother’s desire to kill Fyodor Pavlovich as well as the existence of the 3000 rubles in the envelope, learned from Smerdyakov.

Ivan loses it; the 3000 rubles and the real murderer—All of a sudden, something snapped in Ivan. He had just excused himself on the pretext of not feeling well and was leaving the courtroom when he suddenly returned to the podium and started hinting that he might give the court information and he might not. When the judge pressed for an explanation, Ivan took out the 3000 rubles, explained what it was and where and when he got it, adding that Smerdyakov was the killer and that he, Ivan, was the instigator. When the judge asked if he was in his “right mind,” Ivan said that he was, given that it was an evil mind. Then he turned to the audience, insulting them and exclaiming that they were just like him and that all they wanted was a spectacle. Besides, who didn’t want his father dead? It was just a natural human instinct.

A panicked reaction; the judge asks for proof—At this, Alyosha, Katerina Ivanovna, and Dmitry all leapt up, with Alyosha shouting that his brother was ill and didn’t know what he was saying. Dmitry and Katerina Ivanovna both looked panicked, and Ivan himself was laughing. Having conferred with the prosecutor, the judge finally asked Ivan for proof of the money’s origin. But Ivan’s impudent response was that he had no proof: his only witness, Smerdyakov, was dead.

Ivan loses it completely—Then it occurred to him: perhaps there was another witness. The judge wanted to know who, but the answer only threw more doubt on Ivan’s testimony. The witness he had in mind was the devil. Mention of this opened the floodgates of his mind, and he started talking about his hallucinations in detail, even looking around for the devil. But without understanding his references, his ramblings were so incoherent that no one in the courtroom could make sense of them. Even if they had understood, they would have seen them as the product of a deeply troubled mind. As Ivan looked upon the now agitated spectators, both Alyosha and the court usher ran towards him—Alyosha to help and the usher and guards to escort him out, with Ivan shouting all the way.

Katerina Ivanovna changes her testimony—No sooner had the courtroom begun to simmer down than Katerina Ivanovna, by now completely hysterical, rose to amend her testimony. Suddenly, the man she had been protecting—Dmitry—was a “monster” who only wanted to use her for her money and didn’t love her at all. She now told the court the whole truth about that fateful meeting where she had humiliated herself by asking for money to bail out her father, and she also produced the murderous letter Dmitry had written while drunk in the pub and that he had delivered to her the night before the murder. She denied that Ivan had anything to do with the murder, saying that he was sick and merely covering for his brother. Her love of Ivan and her hatred and resentment of Dmitry had not been obvious to her until now, although she still only spoke of Ivan as a good friend. Also evident in Katerina Ivanovna’s testimony was her intense jealousy of Grushenka, whom she kept referring to as “that creature.” But instead of approaching Dmitry directly, she played manipulative games, testing him by giving him the money, when she knew full well that he would use it for Grushenka. Of course, he failed the test by taking the money, which further incensed Katerina Ivanovna. Ironically, Dmitry agreed with her and shouted his approval at this more honest version of her testimony. But even this latest version was not completely accurate. Now on a roll, Katerina Ivanovna theorized that Dmitry, after wasting the money she gave him, murdered his father to steal his money, too. In her view, he had been counting on her to say nothing, and she encouraged the bench to absorb the letter’s detailed description of the murder and theft, including where the money was hidden. Never mind that the information was wrong and that Ivan had produced another 3000 rubles out of the blue. Just as Smerdyakov had predicted, no one would believe him.

A warped testimony—But by now, everyone seemed to have forgotten all about Smerdyakov and any contradictory evidence, and Katerina Ivanovna’s purpose of getting back at Dmitry was succeeding. She even admitted that she had lied to “save” him with her “love,” though her real motive was pride and resentment at having been humiliated. She figured that he was manipulating her emotions, while she conveniently ignored the fact that she also did the same to others. Dmitry himself denied nothing except for the claim that he had not loved her: his love had indeed been mixed with hatred, but it was she who had had no love at all.

Saving Ivan—But Katerina Ivanovna also had another goal at this point: to “save” Ivan, and in characteristic fashion, she would sacrifice everything to do so. She related how Ivan had been determined to spare Dmitry and had refused to believe that his brother was guilty until she showed him Dmitry’s note. She also mentioned his daily visits to her as well as his talks with Smerdyakov and how those discussions had left Ivan feeling responsible for his father’s murder as the instigator of Smerdyakov’s actions. But Katerina Ivanovna’s view was that Ivan’s self-torment was driving him insane, and she couldn’t bear the thought of his taking the blame for his “monster” brother.

Grushenka’s protest—By now completely hysterical, Katerina Ivanovna finished with mixed feelings of vengeful satisfaction and total remorse for betraying Dmitry. As she was taken from the courtroom, Grushenka leapt up, loudly announcing to Dmitry and everyone else that Katerina Ivanovna had shown her true colors. She, too, was removed in hysterics as the guards held Dmitry back.

The Moscow doctor’s amended testimony—After Katerina Ivanovna’s testimony, the doctor from Moscow took the stand to supplement his prior testimony, informing the court that Ivan had been having hallucinations—seeing dead people, ghosts, and the Devil, who visited him daily. The doctor’s opinion was that Ivan was on the verge of a nervous breakdown and in dire need of hospitalization.

Prosecutor’s Speech


The climax of a short career—After some additional witnesses (who added nothing new) and a half-hour break, it was time for the prosecutor’s speech. This speech would be the apex of a career that would soon end in death by consumption. At the time the prosecutor was unaware of this, and he was extremely nervous, but his nervousness gradually gave way to confidence, and his honesty, integrity, and understanding did him credit.

Russia’s dangerous apathy—Ippolit Kyrillovich began by commenting on the general apathy in Russia towards morality and crime, which was growing constantly worse. Even the current case was mere child’s play compared to some of the atrocities being regularly committed and, worse, taken for granted by the general public. Where was society headed if this was the case now? He cited the many suicides among the young as well as those individuals who might not commit any crimes but who reflected on it without any moral or spiritual underpinnings to steer them. He did not believe his statements were exaggerated, but even if they were, the country’s future was in peril. The general public either treated crime like an entertainment or preferred to focus on more pleasant things rather than contending with the issues. This case was a prime example of the first instance, with the obvious audience satisfaction over the uproar that followed the final dramatic and hysterical testimonies. But taken on a large scale, what did such attitudes imply for Russia? Ippolit Kyrillovich even started waxing poetic with a Russian literary quote that compared the country to a troika speeding on its way towards progress. But with things as they were, did it have what it took to reach its goals? This was one of the dramatic high points of the prosecutor’s speech,even drawing limited applause, a first for him.

The Karamazovs: Russia in miniature—How did all this tie in with the Karamazov case? The prosecutor saw that family as a miniature representation of Russian society, starting with Fyodor Pavlovich. Here was an excellent example of someone who cared only about his own welfare and pleasure, and this only got worse with age. The prosecutor then briefly described the younger sons. Ivan, for all his intelligence and education, exhibited the modern amorality that was undermining Russian culture, making him most like his father. The prosecutor gave due credit for this astute observation to Smerdyakov, whom he had otherwise deemed a “halfwit.” He recounted how Smerdyakov had been in tears during his interrogation over Ivan’s completely permissive philosophy, saying that that was what he had learned from him. The prosecutor concluded that this similarity to his father did not bode well for Ivan, though he still had a sense of truth and family loyalty. As for Alyosha, Ippolit Kyrillovich interpreted his love, spirituality, and devotion to the people as a way of running from the modern cynical outlook by taking refuge in older Russian values. But as much as he applauded Alyosha’s altruism, he hoped that it wouldn’t degenerate into introverted mysticism and thoughtless nationalism.

Dmitry: symbol of the true Russia—After a lengthy introduction, the prosecutor finally got to the heart of the matter, beginning with his ideas about Dmitry. Here, in his view, was the real Russia in miniature—not complete, but a good representation and without any of the foreign influences (like Enlightenment philosophy) observable in the others. Like the Russian character, Dmitry was a mix of good and bad: noble ideals beside drinking and carousing, that is, as long as those ideals didn’t require sacrifice; the desire for all good without the need to pay; the love of generosity (from others) and the tendency to spend money like water, as though it didn’t matter; and when things got desperate, the willingness to do whatever it took to get that money. After a quick review of the key points of Dmitry’s life, the prosecutor focused on his interaction with Katerina Ivanovna, ending with the challenge to consider which view of the events was true and which side of Dmitry’s character dominant—the good or the bad. His ultimate contention was that, being a Karamazov, both aspects were true; for the Karamazovs could easily embrace the extremes of good and evil.

The question of the 1500 rubles—Ippolit Kyrillovich’s one doubt in that regard (though he didn’t see it as an inconsistency in his argument) had to do with the 1500 rubles Dmitry claimed to have carried around his neck for a month. Given Dmitry’s intense, impulsive character coupled with his often debauched state, the prosecutor considered it unlikely that he had the fortitude to resist using that money for whatever desperate or sudden needs presented themselves. His contention was that Dmitry would have used warped, self-serving reasoning to talk himself out of returning the money so that he could ultimately spend it all. At no point did the prosecutor mention Dmitry’s desire to commit suicide, nor did he seem to understand the complexities of Dmitry’s relationship with Grushenka or the battle between his strong sense of honor and the real reason he kept the money, namely, his overwhelming desire to move away and start a new life with the woman he loved. Instead, he focused on Dmitry’s relationship with Fyodor Pavlovich and the confusing inheritance issues, which proved inconclusive.



The prosecutor’s psychological analysis—As far as Dmitry’s mental condition was concerned, the prosecutor agreed with Dr. Varvinsky that Dmitry was not insane but mentally sound. His real issue was his obsession with Grushenka, which began when she started toying with him and his father. The 3000 rubles was his father’s attempt to lure her away, supposedly strengthened by his promise to her of his whole estate upon marriage. Not knowing Grushenka well at the time, Dmitry concluded that if he could get his hands on the same amount of money, he could prevent her from going over to his father.

Motive and evidence—But the prosecutor didn’t know much about Grushenka judging from his one-sided presentation of her background and character as originally described by Rakitin, whom he characterized as an “intelligent” youth. The prosecutor’s view was that having been betrayed and abandoned at an early age, Grushenka became hardened, manipulative, and materialistic. Consequently, she had no qualms about pitting the Karamazov father against his son. Unfortunately, it drove them both crazy, which explained Dmitry’s irrational and criminal behavior. Part of that behavior, which was also characteristic of his flamboyant and forceful personality, was his vocal sharing of his plans with his pubmates, who didn’t always agree with his thinking. When that happened, he would get violent, as in the staff captain’s case. That only added to the believability of his loud threats of more violence. Of course, kicking his father in the head help didn’t help, either, in that it only made Dmitry’s threats of murder more credible.

Evidence of premeditation—Even with all this evidence, the prosecutor still doubted whether the murder had been premeditated on Dmitry’s part, that is, until he saw the murderous letter that Dmitry had written while drunk and later sent to Katerina Ivanovna. What convinced the prosecutor was Dmitry’s foreknowledge of the events and details surrounding the murder, coupled with his strong motive and determination to get the money at all costs. These included the exact description of the envelope with the money, its hiding place under Fyodor Pavlovich’s pillow, Ivan’s absence from town that night, and Dmitry’s blatant statement that if he couldn’t get the money by other means, he would resort to killing his father. The prosecutor also cited Dmitry’s unusual reserve the night before the crime, when, instead of his typical loud and social behavior, he mostly kept to himself. Never mind that not all these details were accurate (such as the money’s actual hiding place, at least according to Smerdyakov): the prosecutor didn’t know that, and what he did know was convincing to his hearers.

Events leading up to the murder—In keeping with his plan, Dmitry then went out of his way to obtain the money by other means, including visiting Samsonov, Lurcher, and Mrs. Khokhlakova. But before visiting Mrs. Khokhlakova, he checked on Grushenka and, relieved to find her still in town, escorted her to Samsonov’s, where she would presumably spend the evening. The prosecutor pauses to note here that it’s psychologically significant that Dmitry was not jealous of Samsonov. Then, still obsessed with the idea that Grushenka would run to Fyodor Pavlovich at some point, Dmitry returned to watch from the summerhouse. On discovering that both Grigory and Smerdyakov were ill and out of commission, he realized (according to the prosecutor) that he now had the perfect occasion to commit the murder, especially since he knew the signal to get Fyodor Pavlovich to open the door. However, at this point he was still intent on getting the money by some other means, so he tried Mrs. Khokhlakova but ended up rejecting her gold-mining idea. Having left Khokhlakova’s, he learned by chance of Grushenka’s deception, and on rushing to her apartment to verify the information, he terrified Fenya so much that she failed to inform him that Grushenka was not at Fyodor Pavlovich’s but in Mokroye. Now convinced that Grushenka was at his father’s, Dmitry left in a rush, grabbing a pestle—the soon-to-be murder weapon—on his way out. The prosecutor paused once again in his retelling of events to state that he considered this sudden action significant, part of a monthlong premeditated plot and not a random act. And so, driven by rage and jealousy, with the murder weapon in hand and all clear under cover of darkness, Dmitry rushed to Fyodor Pavlovich’s. The prosecutor concluded this part of his argument by insisting that there was no way, given the circumstances and Dmitry’s temperament, that he would have left the scene without committing a crime. But before finalizing his argument, he deemed it necessary to discuss Smerdyakov’s case in more detail in order to do away with any remaining notions of his guilt.

The Prosecutor’s View of Smerdyakov


Smerdyakov’s guilt: origins of the accusation—Who suspected Smerdyakov to begin with, and did those suspicions have any validity? These were the first questions the prosecutor addressed in this section. First on the list of Smerdyakov’s accusers was Dmitry himself, but not once could he substantiate his statements. Next was Ivan, who vacillated between agreeing that Dmitry was guilty and accusing Smerdyakov, though he was obviously hysterical in the second instance. Promising to get back to Ivan’ testimony later, the prosecutor then brought up Alyosha’s firm claim, unfortunately based on nothing more than Dmitry’s own statements. Finally, there was Katerina Ivanovna’s testimony, likewise based only on hearsay.

Smerdyakov’s character—Why then did the accusation persist? Here the prosecutor saw fit to describe Smerdyakov’s character in detail. There was his mental weakness, including his lack of education and his stupidity, made worse by his epilepsy. His exposure to Fyodor Pavlovich’s degenerate behavior and Ivan’s permissive philosophy only added to his confusion. Then there was his fearfulness. Dmitry had him so frightened that Smerdyakov told him various secrets and went along with his wishes to hopefully prevent him from going through with his threats to kill him. Next there was Smerdyakov’s honesty, evident from the time he returned the money that Fyodor Pavlovich had lost, thereby gaining his master’s trust. The prosecutor also argues that, according to the psychiatrists of the day, epileptics were prone to guilt feelings, often imagining themselves at fault when they were innocent. This tendency, coupled with Smerdyakov’s natural cowardice and his sense of impending disaster in the household, explained his growing fear of being accused of a crime. The prosecutor added that Smerdyakov had tried to hint to Ivan to stay at the house in the hope that his presence would offer protection, but his hints were too vague and went unnoticed.

Dmitry’s only option for a scapegoat—His upset now made worse by Ivan’s departure, Smerdyakov had an epileptic seizure shortly afterwards out of sheer fear. The prosecutor was appalled by the suggestion that Smerdyakov had faked his seizure, above all because he could see no purpose in it, adding that the only reason Smerdyakov was accused at all was because there were no other possibilities. Out of the five people present at Fyodor Pavlovich’s that night, three—Grigory, MarfaIgnatyevna, and Fyodor Pavlovich—were too unlikely to consider. Since Dmitry denied committing the murder, that left Smerdyakov as the only remaining possibility, but even Dmitry would not have pointed the finger at this unlikely option if he had had another choice.

Just the “facts”—Even a cursory review of the prosecutor’s argument shows that it’s based on incomplete, misinterpreted evidence that relies heavily on conjecture, which may be why his inclination towards “psychology” was widely ridiculed by his peers. Perhaps he recognized that when he promised to stick to the “facts” for now to see what they would reveal. Unfortunately, his “facts” began with more psychological conjecture, in this case, with a “what would have happened if …” scenario. The first such scenario considers Smerdyakov as the lone perpetrator of the crime, which raised the question of motive. Not fully understanding Smerdyakov’s dependency on Ivan, the prosecutor concluded that it would have been money. However, if Smerdyakov intended to commit the crime alone, why did he tell Dmitry all the details of his plan and potentially incriminate himself? Or why would he give away his secrets to Dmitry and thereby lose the chance to get the money himself? The notion that he was afraid made no sense, since that he had just planned a murder and theft … and so on and so forth. The prosecutor concludes that Smerdyakov had no reason to be afraid of a murder accusation—in fact, Dmitry would have been the first suspect because of his open hatred of his father. Thus, the prosecutor rules out the notion that Smerdyakov committed the crime alone.

The prosecutor’s argument went on like this, based on partial information and consequently on an incomplete understanding of the participants’ characters and the actual unfolding of events. Continuing his conjecture about Smerdaykov’s possible motives, he dismissed the idea that he faked his initial seizure. In addition, he denied the credibility of Dmitry’s assertion that the murder and theft took place after he knocked down Grigory and fled. He simply did not consider Smerdyakov clever enough to imagine and execute such an intricate plan.

The question of complicity—Next, the prosecutor raised the possibility of complicity between Smerdyakov and Dmitry. In his opinion, various things spoke against this. One was Dmitry’s insistence that Smerdyakov committed both the murder and theft alone: that assertion on Dmitry’s part was simply not the typical behavior of an accomplice. Even if Smerdyakov had been an accomplice, his involvement would have only been passive and motivated by fear. Furthermore, Smerdyakov would have come forward in sheer self-defense with an admission of their complicity, rather than timidly accepting Dmitry’s accusation of his guilt. Since his involvement would have been merely passive, he would have gotten himself a lighter sentence through his admission. Finally, the prosecutor doubted their complicity because of Smerdyakov’s willingness to inform the investigative team that he had told Dmitry his secrets about the signal, the money’s hiding place, etc. The reasoning was that if Smerdyakov had been an accomplice, he would have tried to hide it.

Additional “evidence”—Then there was the suicide note. Ippolit Kyrillovich figured that Smerdyakov had hanged himself because he was depressed, a side effect of his illness. If he had been guilty, would he not have admitted it in his note? What did he have to lose? Ivan’s presentation of the 3000 rubles was also not convincing. First, there was Ivan’s hysterical state of mind, which cast doubt on his every action and statement. Second, Ivan himself had plenty of money to draw from, having recently cashed two bonds worth 10,000 rubles. Finally, there was Ivan’s delayed reporting of Smerdyakov’s confession. The prosecutor concluded (as Smerdyakov had predicted) that Ivan, seeing an opportunity to save Dmitry, took 3000 of his own money and presented it to the court as the missing 3000 rubles, while accusing Smerdyakov of the deed.

The “certainty” of Dmitry’s guilt—With all this “evidence” pointing away from Smerdyakov, the obvious alternative was Dmitry. Had he not written the murderous letter detailing every aspect of the crime? Did he not have a powerful motive in his passion for Grushenka, whom he believed to be in his father’s room? With characteristic dramatic flair, the prosecutor imagined the scene as it must have unfolded, with Dmitry killing his father with the pestle (recall here that Smerdyakov had wiped the actual murder weapon clean) and then taking the money. Besides, the way the envelope had been sloppily ripped open and disposed of also pointed to Dmitry since, not knowing what the envelope looked like, he had to verify its contents; and being a passionate sort unused to theft and murder, he would have thoughtlessly tossed the envelope aside. Bit by bit, unbeknownst to him, the prosecutor had fallen for every detail of Smerdyakov’s plan as revealed to Ivan. As for Dmitry’s compassion towards Grigory, the prosecutor could not bring himself to believe that was what Dmitry was feeling, especially after he had pounded Grigory on the head with the pestle. In his view, Dmitry’s only motive was self-protection: he was checking to see whether Grigory was alive. The only thing he cared about was Grushenka, and that was his next stop—to find out where she was and to discover, to his upset, that she had run off to see her one true love.

Final Section of the Prosecutor’s Speech


Analysis of Dmitry’s thoughts—The prosecutor found it strange that Dmitry, having been so jealous of Grushenka and also aware of her former lover, should have ignored his existence as irrelevant until that moment. However, now that he realized that he was real and Grushenka’s true love returned from her past, he instantly made way for him. Some of his decision stemmed from having just committed the murder and realizing that his life was over, while her “true” love could offer her a life of possibility. Dmitry’s answer to his dilemma being suicide, he planned to honor the love of his life with the night of her life, after which he would kill himself. The prosecutor then recounted in detail all the arrangements Dmitry made and how his decision to die added to his recklessness, even revealing to some (like the driver) that he had committed murder. This detailed, comprehensive, and dramatic retelling of events had a strong effect on the courtroom.

A surprise and a change of heart—Of course, on arriving in Mokroye, Dmitry discovered that Grushenka’s attitude towards her “true” love was not what he expected. That realization changed everything, and as the prosecutor put it, he entered a new phase. Suddenly, the woman he loved loved him, too. Just hours from his doom, his whole world opened up, and like a condemned criminal on his way to execution, that final hour seemed light-years away, giving him time to devise an alternate plan. The prosecutor theorized that Dmitry then hid half the stolen money somewhere in the inn, which he knew well. It didn’t seem to matter that the investigators never found it. In the prosecutor’s view, Dmitry must have retrieved it at some point, or it was so thoroughly hidden that the investigators missed it. He further theorized that the neck pouch containing the 1500 rubles had never existed. But like a true Karamazov, who lived for the moment and could embrace both extremes at once, Dmitry had put all of this out of his mind. And so, engrossed in his new love at the time of his arrest, he was taken totally unawares.

More psychology—Having described his take on events in copious detail, the prosecutor reverted to his analysis of the accused’s state of mind and the tactics he used on the investigators. Now faced with his interrogators, the desperate criminal went into a heightened instinctual mode in an attempt to save himself. In Dmitry’s case, he tried to fool them by admitting his desire to kill his father but denying that he actually did it. In similar fashion, when the investigators first mentioned Smerdyakov as a possible murder suspect, Dmitry hotly denied it but then changed his mind later when he realized he had no other recourse. The same thing happened with the missing 1500 rubles: Dmitry only thought of the neck pouch when the issue of the missing money arose.

Trapping the suspect—The prosecutor then described one of the investigative techniques used in catching criminals off guard by presenting them with unexpected information. In this case, that information was the open door observed by Grigory. The prosecutor’s assumption was that Dmitry’s story about looking through the window and then leaving did not hold water: he must have gone into his father’s room and left through the door. This assumption was based on Dmitry’s response when he first heard about the door, which was to instantly leap up and accuse Smerdyakov. But that accusation seemed implausible to the prosecutor, who pointed out that Grigory noticed the open door before Dmitry knocked him unconscious and that Smerdyakov was moaning with pain in his bed behind the screen when Grigory went outside.

More tactics and psychology—It’s at this point, feeling trapped, that Dmitry came up with the neck pouch story to save himself. Ippolit Kyrillovich’s main point is that Dmitry was entrapped by the inconsistency and unbelievability of the details of his story. His impatience with trivia ended up being his downfall. In the case of the purse, he couldn’t remember where he got the cloth to sew it and after first changing his story, he then got upset because he was being asked to remember something he considered unimportant. To the prosecutor, this was proof that he was lying, since doomed men normally remember every detail.

The summary—Here the prosecutor paused to say that he would welcome any bit of positive evidence in the defendant’s favor, but it would have to be hard facts, not circumstantial evidence or conjecture. He then launched into his final passionate plea to the jury to remember the traditional Russian values of decency and family. He even turned the case into a nationalistic cause and, bringing back the troika analogy he had used in his opening speech, he urged the jury to not give Enlightenment Europe any reason to denounce Russia on her headlong, uncontrolled path towards progress.

Court recess and general gossip—Now finished, Ippolit Kyrillovich left the room, exhausted. The court then took a short recess, during which the narrator observes the people’s reactions. Dmitry himself had managed with difficulty to remain quiet throughout the whole speech, though some sections—like those about Grushenka and the description of his arrest—were harder for him than others. But the prosecutor’s speech had made a deep impression on many, except for the ladies, who still believed that the defense would best him. Otherwise, the general spectator gossip was mixed: some thought the prosecutor overdid the psychology and drama; some believed he had made a good summarization and analysis of both the case and its political aspects, while others thought he was unfair or incorrect; some thought he was eloquent, while others considered his language overdone and longwinded; some criticized how he bragged about himself; and almost everyone—aside from those who preferred to just people-watch—was curious to see what the defense would do. With the recess being over, they would now have their chance.

The Defense’s Speech: Psychology Unveiled


A straightforward delivery—The defense counsel’s confidence was immediately clear in how he began with a resounding though simple, direct delivery that treated his listeners as friends and avoided formality and excessive emotionality. On the other hand, he was fully capable of a dramatic delivery, and the audience knew this.

The prosecution’s shaky legal footing—The first part of the defense counsel’s speech was a refutation of the prosecution’s argument, and according to the narrator, his delivery in this half was rambling but also brutal. The second half marked the turning point of his argument with the much-awaited dramatic delivery and what the defense considered to be the main issue: that the prosecution’s case had not a single legal foot to stand on. Fetyukovich, the defense counsel, had already noticed this back in St. Petersburg before taking the case, which he only did because he was certain of Dmitry’s innocence; so when the family contacted him, he was ready and willing.

The danger of psychology—One of Fetyukovich’s first points was that Dmitry, though welcomed by local society, had still managed to offend a lot of people. Even the prosecutor, whose speech the defense applauded as being fair and objective, had had him in his home. Consequently, being local and aware of the widespread prejudice against Dmitry, the prosecutor himself must have absorbed some of this influence. In spite of this, he had done an admirable job of remaining impartial. However, the defense quickly adds that if one thing is more dangerous than open prejudice and hostility, it is a seemingly impartial analysis based on imagination and psychology, which can twist the facts to suit whatever approach it deems useful to its purpose.

Example #1: Cold-blooded killer or distressed human being?—The defense’s first instance of this was the prosecution’s argument that Dmitry was too distressed to think clearly when he cast down the envelope that had held the money; yet only shortly afterwards, his state of mind suddenly changed to cold calculation, so that instead of being capable of examining Grigory out of compassion, his only possible motive would have been self-preservation—even though that same instinct wasn’t working just a few minutes earlier. Under this particular set of circumstances, where Dmitry examined Grigory for five long minutes, this assertion made no sense. The defense argued that if Dmitry had actually killed his father and cared only about protecting himself, he would have struck Grigory on the head one more time instead of fussing over him, even bloodying his own handkerchief to wipe the old man’s head. And how logical was it that he forcefully flung the bloody pestle into the yard, where it was sure to be found? The defense concluded that Dmitry, not having self-preservation foremost on his mind, was not guilty of his father’s murder after all. Fetyukovich’s ultimate point was that psychology, being so easily twistable to suit any argument, was not a reliable tool. His intention now was not to examine the whole of the prosecutor’s argument but only to cite a few more instances of this to prove his overall point.

No Money, No Theft


No proof of the money’s existence—The defense’s strangest assertion was that the fabled 3000 rubles, which he claimed no one had ever seen except Smerdyakov, did not exist. Although this isn’t mentioned at this point, he apparently discounts the idea that Smerdyakov gave Ivan the money that the latter presented as evidence to the court.

Clean bedding—In a related observation, he noted that Fyodor Pavlovich’s bedclothes, which had been newly changed, remained clean and unrumpled. The defense was going from the assumption that the money was hidden under the mattress (evidently interchangeable with the pillow for both the prosecution and defense). But since the bedclothes were neat and had no sign of bloodstains, Dmitry could not have looked for the money there. And couldn’t Fyodor Pavlovich have moved the money elsewhere and not mentioned it to Smerdyakov? However, he neglects to address the question of how Dmitry would have known that, instead moving on to the next issue: the open envelope.

No proof in an envelope—Unlike the prosecution, who considered the open envelope to be clear proof that the money existed, the defense argued the opposite. The open envelope was just an envelope: it proved nothing. Pointing out that Smerdyakov last saw the money two days before the murder, the defense then presented an entirely different scenario as a possibility. What if Fyodor Pavlovich had removed the money to entice Grushenka or for some other reason and then tossed the envelope down? This was just as likely a scenario as the other. He cites a different crime that took place in St. Petersburg, in which there was detailed evidence of the money’s existence, not to mention the criminal’s confession of his crime. In the case at hand, however, no such evidence existed.

Fact versus fable—Not only that, he argued, but the timing didn’t work. The defense contended that Dmitry never had a private moment between the time he saw Grushenka’s maids and his visit to Perkhotin, meaning that he had no time while in his hometown to split the stolen money and hide half of it. His argument then jumps to Mokroye, insisting that the prosecutor’s claim that Dmitry hid the money in the inn there is unproven and absurd. His point is that the prosecution’s argument is based too much on imagination and conjecture to be valid. Besides, Dmitry’s explanation of how he got and held the 1500 rubles makes perfect sense in the context of his past actions and personality. The prosecution’s elaborate detailing of how Dmitry could not have possibly held on to the money for a month because of his spendthrift habits was pure imagination. Both the defense’s and, earlier, the prosecution’s rambling arguments can get a little confusing, but it helps to remember that they were discussing two different bundles of money: one from Katerina Ivanovna and one supposedly stolen from Fyodor Pavlovich.

Unreliable witnesses—Part of the argument against Dmitry hanging on for a whole month to the 1500 rubles from Katerina Ivanovna was that witnesses had seen him spend much more than that at his first Mokroye bash. But as the defense insisted, what was the quality of those witnesses? They were hardly accurate in their observations, with Maksimov claiming to see as much as 20,000 rubles in Dmitry’s possession. Even Katerina Ivanovna, who was held in such high regard, gave a shaky testimony, first presenting things one way and then changing her testimony later.

Love and honor: Dmitry’s motives to keep the money—Assuming then that Dmitry kept the 1500 rubles from Katerina Ivanovna instead of spending it, what was this motive? The defense maintained that his love for Grushenka was a much more powerful force than any spendthrift tendencies he had: to flee with her in the event that she did love him, he had to have money, and thus he kept it in his makeshift neck pouch. The prosecution’s argument that a Karamazov could encompass extremes only reinforced this theory: why couldn’t a spendthrift Karamazov simultaneously choose the opposite instinct to hoard, assuming his motive was powerful enough, as Dmitry’s passion certainly was?

Dmitry also had another powerful motive that only lent force to his need to keep the money: to restore his honor by paying back Katerina Ivanovna. He had counted (naively) on his father anteing up the money he felt was his right by inheritance, but when Fyodor Pavlovich instead decided to play his rival and use the money to lure Grushenka, Dmitry lost it and kicked him in the head in a fit of anger. That ensured that his father would never voluntarily give him the money, leaving him in a hopeless financial quandary. That meant having to make the painful choice between honor and love, which accounted for why he beat his breast in front of Alyosha and pointed towards his neck.

The murderous letter: proof or not?—The defense continued that it was shortly after that incident that Dmitry wrote the murderous letter, considered theprimary bit of evidence. But here Fetyukovich reminded his hearers that Dmitry was drunk and frantic at the time and that though the letter revealed a plan, there was no proof that things actually turned out that way. Focusing on Dmitry’s panicked desire to first and foremost find Grushenka, Fetyukovich questioned whether there was a theft at all, since there was no proof; and if no theft, then a murder without a theft? He suggested that the prosecution’s evidence was weak and fictitious.

No Murder


No real proof—The defense reminded the jury that a man’s life was at stake and that the prosecution had made no outright accusation of Dmitry until Katerina Ivanovna submitted his letter. But no matter what Dmitry’s letter said about a plan, it was not his plan but Grushenka that was on his mind when he ran to Fyodor Pavlovich’s. The pestle, too, might not have featured at all had it not been lying in full view, where Dmitry could instinctively grab it. Nor did Dmitry’s public shouting about wanting to kill his father prove anything. Here the defense resorted to psychology, in part to show how unreliable it was: someone planning a murder would avoid all contact with people before doing so, unlike Dmitry, who spent time in a pub and even got into a fight. His threats were just bravado, like those of a child or a drunk, and the same could be true of the letter, which he wrote when he was drunk. Yes, the letter was convincing, especially coupled with the circumstantial evidence of the dead man, Grigory’s injuries and the fact that he saw Dmitry escape from the garden, and the pestle Dmitry had tossed upon leaving. But Dmitry’s presence in the garden did not prove that he murdered his father. Psychologically speaking, why couldn’t he have suddenly changed his mind and run?

A two-edged sword—Fetyukovich’s central point was that psychology could cut both ways and was therefore unreliable. In the case of the open door, Grigory was the only witness, and he was in a compromised state (meaning even before the injury). Dmitry could also have figured out that Grushenka was not inside the house without going in himself—perhaps by something his father said. But even if he had entered, that didn’t prove that he murdered Fyodor Pavlovich. Moreover, his compassionate treatment of Grigory showed that his conscience was clear, for a cold-blooded murderer would never act that way. Dmitry’s remorse and his prayers that the old man should recover only strengthened this argument. Nor could his realization that Grushenka loved him after all have brought him so much joy if he had killed his father: his guilt would have interfered too much.

So who did it?—Given all this, who then was the actual murderer? For various reasons, the prosecution had excluded Smerdyakov as a suspect, which left Dmitry by default. The defense agreed with the prosecution that the other three individuals present that night were not viable suspects. But having argued in favor of Dmitry’s character, he put forth a different view of Smerdyakov and the events surrounding him: the fit on the cellar stairs; his sudden suicide; and Ivan’s equally sudden change in his testimony, which now accused Smerdyakov. Granted, Ivan was not in his right mind, and he could easily have had an ulterior motive. But his testimony provided an impetus for revisiting the details around Smerdyakov, starting with his personality.

Smerdyakov’s character: another view—Unlike the weak, helpless, naive character the prosecution had perceived, the defense saw a completely different person in his interview with Smerdyakov: proud and arrogant, ambitious and vain, malicious and spiteful, jealous of the three legitimate sons, and capable of meticulous planning. Contrary to the prosecution’s view, Smerdyakov was not stupid at all. He despised his station in life, his history as an illegitimate son with no inheritance, even his mother country. Having gained his master’s trust, he could carefully observe Fyodor Pavlovich’s actions and had even helped him put the 3000 rubles in the envelope. This was proved by his awareness of the money’s exact denomination and newness, details the defense had specifically asked about. In Fetyukovich’s opinion, seeing so much money and knowing its purpose could not have sat well with Smerdyakov and must have only added fuel to the fire of his sick mind and selfish aims.

A different view of events—The question remained of when Smerdyakov committed the murder. The defense maintained that even if his fit had been real, he could have recovered somewhat in the meantime, heard Grigory scream and then gone out, gained admission to Fyodor Pavlovich’s room and, learning from his master that Dmitry had been there, decide to take advantage of the situation by using Dmitry’s presence as a cover. The defense even broached the issue of the torn envelope and the possibility of the money being hidden in a different place. Listening to the prosecutor’s theory on the envelope, the defense had realized that Smerdyakov had presented the same idea during his interview, though from a different angle (it was actually the same scenario Smerdyakov had outlined to Ivan as a deliberate plot on his part, though neither the defense nor the prosecution knew this). In other words, Smerdyakov may have manipulated the investigation.

The defense then addressed the issue of Marfa Ignatyevna’s assertion that she had heard Smerdyakov groaning behind the screen all night. Yet people often complained of being disturbed all night when in fact they had slept most of the time. Smerdyakov could have easily murdered his master during one of those periods. And finally, the question arose of why he neglected to admit his guilt in his suicide message. The defense argued that Smerdyakov may have been so embroiled in his despair that he felt no remorse and only intensified hatred towards those he envied.

Reasonable doubt and a shaky case—Whatever Smerdyakov’s motives and the real facts, there was plenty of reason to doubt the prosecution’s argument, which as a whole might be convincing and seductive, but its details were shaky. Here the defense reminded the jury that a man’s life was at stake and that honesty was of the utmost importance. At this point, the whole courtroom applauded, and the judge had to issue a warning to maintain order. The defense then launched into the next, dramatic phase of his argument.

Truth Perverted


Not a model father—One detail in particular could make or break the case: the murder of a father, a shocking fact in itself. Here the defense launched into an emotional speech about the role of the ideal father in a person’s life. There was just one problem: Fyodor Pavlovich was not an ideal father in any way. And since Fyodor Pavlovich was amoral, degenerate, unkind, and neglectful of his fatherly duties, to call Dmitry an evil monster was unfair. Even with his meaner, more reckless qualities, Dmitry’s nobility and goodness could have easily made him willing to forgive his father and trust that he would grant him his rightful inheritance. Yet not only did his father refuse to give him the money, but as Dmitry’s rival, he also intended to use it to lure the woman they both loved.

Dmitry’s complex character—The defense then digressed to repeat that although individuals like Dmitry might seem hopelessly cruel, passionate, and reckless on the surface, beneath that they often harbored finer, noble sentiments that they longed to fulfill. These subliminal yearnings frequently manifested in a love of the good and the beautiful as expressed through poetry, for example, or through their attraction to others who exemplified these qualities. Implying that Katerina Ivanovna was one such person, the defense now raised the issue of Dmitry’s relationship with her. This, however, was only to warn the jury to refrain from believing her latest testimony, which was nothing more than the vengeful outburst of a hysterical woman. Quoting the Bible, he insisted that no person deserved to be condemned outright, as she did by labeling Dmitry a “monster.”

The demands of true parenting and youth’s natural reaction—Going back to the issue of fatherhood, the defense quoted the Bible again, citing a decent father’s responsibilities and reminding his hearers of the Christian teaching that our actions rebound upon us. Ignoring the Christian rules for filial piety, he asked how we could expect a son to react well to such a degenerate father. He then gave the example of a mother who killed all three of her children at birth, his point being that it took much more to be a parent than merely giving birth to a child. For Fetyukovich, the notion that physical birth was a sufficient claim to true parenthood was too metaphysical in nature (why is not clear, since it’s basis is physical); and metaphysics, or faith, was too flimsy a foundation for genuine philanthropy, which should take its cue from experience and reason. Here the audience applauded, and the defense had to motion his hearers to be silent so that he could continue. The mistreated youth, he argued, would look around and compare his inadequate parent to better examples. He would start to question what he saw and his relationship towards it. Did his parent love him? And if not, must he love his parent in return? According to the defense, not if the parent was unable to prove that he deserved that love; and if not, then the offspring could disown the parent and even choose to see him as an enemy. This, too, received loud, enthusiastic applause from many of the parents in the courtroom—about half the audience—to the annoyance and frustration of the judge, who earlier had threatened to clear the room if such behavior continued.

A dramatic plea for diminished capacity—The defense now wound up his argument, which was reaching its dramatic climax. Having set up his logic on evil fathers and their just deserts, he constructed a hypothetical scenario in which Dmitry, not intending to kill or steal but only to find Grushenka, grabbed the pestle on impulse, used the signal to gain entry to his father’s room, and became enraged on seeing his long-time abuser and current rival. With his listeners now fully primed, the defense finally introduced the insanity plea: Dmitry had lost his reason and struck his father with the fateful pestle—but it was not premeditated and therefore not murder or even patricide. Quoting the Bible again, the defense pleaded with the jury members for mercy and to consider the heavy responsibility now entrusted to them. Here was a man whose abuse and neglect as a child had sealed his fate, which would now be permanently damaged if the jury chose to convict him. The result would be a man who once and for all would turn against society, feeling justified in his own cruelty because of society’s cruelty. But if the jury extended mercy and love to the desperate man, their merciful act would create the basis for genuine repentance. Not only would they have spared an innocent man but also saved a soul, just as Russian law originally envisioned. Taking his cue from the prosecutor, the defense finished on a nationalistic and religious note. A merciful decision would prove that Russia was not a troika galloping to her doom but that she embodied law as it was meant to be: the purveyor of justice and the savior of souls.

Trust the Peasants


Wild applause and an upset prosecutor—The audience went wild with applause and tears at the end of the defense counsel’s speech. Even the judge decided not to interfere, feeling that it would be wrong. Only the prosecutor was upset, to the point that he was trembling and incoherent as he began his rebuttal.

The prosecutor’s rebuttal—Ippolit Kyrillovich rightly pointed out that although the defense accused him of fiction, he, too, was guilty of concocting fictitious scenarios. These included the notion that Fyodor Pavlovich himself removed the money and tossed the envelope down; his portrayal of Smerdyakov as a vengeful antihero rather than a stupid weakling; his confused depiction of how and whether Dmitry killed his father and even whether the act of killing could be defined as killing (the prosecutor considers this one impossible to unravel); and his related argument about the definition of patricide. Here the prosecution raises the issue of filial piety and responsibility, asserting that society would crumble if all children questioned their need to love their fathers. The prosecution further asserts that the defense’s interpretation of scripture is perverted: Christ’s statement that our behaviors rebound upon us does not mean that we should treat others as they treat us. In fact, Christianity teaches the opposite, namely, to not retaliate. Yet the defense had tried to classify retaliation under common sense and truth, and he even dared to reduce Christ, whom all Orthodoxy viewed as God, to the level of a mere philanthropist.

The defense’s contained but dramatic reply—Here the judge interrupted, feeling that the prosecutor was getting carried away and should contain himself. With the now restless and unhappy public still on his side, the defense gave an outwardly dignified response that nevertheless made fun of the prosecutor and openly objected to the statements about his religious attitudes, which he termed “slander”—and that, after coming all the way there from St. Petersburg to take the case. Feeling that the defense, too, was getting carried away, the judge quickly put an end to his digressions. However, the defense made full use of the drama of the moment and upon finishing his statement bowed to the whole audience, who was still on his side.

Dmitry’s statement; the jury withdraws—Next it was Dmitry’s turn. He was tired and weak from the long day in court, and his delivery—so different from his strong, determined entrance—reflected that. He thanked the prosecutor for his insightful speech, claiming to have learned much; but he protested that he did not kill his father. In essence, he said the same to the defense, though he added that the defense counsel should not have even imagined that he was guilty of his father’s murder. Finally, he pleaded with the jury to show mercy and acquit him. After the judge’s summary, the counsels’ final statements, and the judge’s official admonition to the jury, the jury retired to deliberate.

General certainty of an acquittal—At this point, the spectators could have taken a break from the courtroom, but they were too tense with anticipation to leave,despite the extremely late hour (1 a.m.) and the certainty among most of them that Dmitry would receive an acquittal. Even the defense was so convinced of his victory that he was already accepting congratulations. The narrator then describes some of the gossip that was going on among the men during the break. Earlier, he had mentioned that the women, though frenzied on the outside, were inwardly convinced of a merciful verdict. So were many of the men, and though there were silent dissenters in the audience, the more talkative among them were enjoying themselves. One thing that concerned these men was how the peasants on the jury would react, though some quickly corrected that statement with a reminder that not all the jury members were peasants. One in particular, a merchant, was said to be so smart that he could outdo even Fetyukovich. Yet even some of these more talkative men were concerned about the fate of Russia if such random acts of murder were allowed to run wild. What would become of law and order in that case?

The surprise verdict—An hour after deliberations had begun, the jury returned to give the verdict. Silence fell upon the room, and though the narrator did not remember all the details, he recalled the main question about whether Dmitry had committed premeditated murder with the intent to steal. One by one, the foreman returned the verdict for each charge: guilty on all counts with no allowance for mitigating circumstances.

Chaos in the courtroom—This surprised everyone. Even those in favor of a guilty verdict had expected some consideration of the circumstances. Bedlam broke loose. The men were divided, though a number were happy. But the women broke into hysterics. Dmitry himself rose to make one final desperate plea of his innocence, and after forgiving Katerina Ivanovna and begging leniency for Grushenka from his friends and family, he broke down crying. Grushenka, who had wheedled her way back into the room, let out a scream. As the narrator left the still full courtroom, he overheard people commenting on how it figured that the peasants would come up with such a verdict.

Plans for Dmitry’s Escape


Alyosha visits Katerina Ivanovna—After seeing Ivan Fyodorovich’s state in the courtroom, Katerina Ivanovna immediately had him removed from the hospital to her home, where he now lay unconscious and in a fever. She didn’t even care about the inevitable gossip but wanted to be there for him and tend to his every need. Ivan was also under the care of the two local doctors, the Moscow doctor having been unwilling to make any further determinations and since gone back to Moscow. Alyosha also came two times a day to see Ivan, but that was not the urgent reason for his visit that morning, now already five days after the trial.

Talk of the escape plan—Alyosha was still trying to figure out how to raise the difficult topic he had come to discuss, when Katerina Ivanovna began talking about Dmitry’s escape. She explained that Ivan had informed her of the plan and even given her an envelope with instructions and the 10,000 rubles belonging to him.She also explained that the escape was likely to take place during one of the more remote stages of the convicts’ march to Siberia and that she would give Alyosha more details the following day.

Pride, guilt, jealousy, and confusion: a woman at war with herself—This plan had been the actual subject of her fight with Ivan the day Alyosha came to see her and she called both him and Ivan back. But the reason she was fighting with him was not the plan but the mere thought of Grushenka, which infuriated her. It wasn’t even jealousy over Dmitry’s wanting to leave with Grushenka, for Katerina Ivanovna had since realized that she loved Ivan, not Dmitry. Still, she kept referring to Grushenka as a “slut” and admitted that her own behavior towards Ivan was complex and perverse. She had already told Ivan that she loved him and not Dmitry, so she couldn’t believe that he would suspect otherwise. But instead of coming forth with her real feelings during the fight, she displayed the opposite. Between her fury over Dmitry leaving with Grushenka and her behavior towards Ivan, Ivan naturally concluded that she still loved Dmitry. That only produced disdain in him towards Katerina Ivanovna, which further intensified the problems between them. Still, she was deeply moved by the fact that he trusted her alone to take over the execution of the escape plan in the event that anything should happen to him. In fact, she admitted that her earlier statement to Ivan—that he was the one who told her Dmitry was the murderer—was a lie. She was just getting back at Ivan, and she was sure that someday he would give up on her and move on to someone less complicated, at which point she would commit suicide. She was even sure that Ivan had only come to testify to show her that he would stand behind Dmitry even when he believed that she loved Dmitry and not him. Now she blamed her own hysterical court testimony as the cause for Dmitry’s conviction.

Alyosha’s perceptiveness; Katerina Ivanovna’s pride—With his usual profound psychological perception, Alyosha realized that Katerina Ivanovna’s pride had reached its breaking point and was about to transform into deep remorse. But he also suspected that she was so tormented by guilt over her court testimony that she couldn’t yet talk about it. Her pride hadn’t crumbled that much. Again, he tried to broach his original message, which was about Dmitry, but Katerina Ivanovna interrupted. She was sure Dmitry would be fine and that Ivan would recover and handle the escape. But Alyosha had to agree to it, too—that would be important to Dmitry. She also spoke of the hymns Dmitry had mentioned to Ivan and how, though deeply moved, Ivan seemed to love and hate his brother at the same time. But her intense guilt over Ivan’s illness and Dmitry’s conviction continued to appear alongside her other statements, and it was clear that she was trying to avoid Dmitry.

Alyosha demands that Katerina Ivanovna visit Dmitry—Katerina’s facial expressions were twisted and hateful, and Alyosha noticed that she was challenging him, especially on the matter of approving Dmitry’s escape. Now he turned to her with his own challenge. Dmitry was extremely unhappy and had asked for her to visit him—now, immediately. This was too much for Katerina Ivanovna, who tried to refuse and gave the excuse that she didn’t want to meet anyone there by chance. But Alyosha insisted that that was precisely why she should go right then. Dmitry was innocent and though convicted to twenty years in the mines, he still harbored the hope for happiness. He now realized what he had done to her and wanted desperately to see her. That was all—he wasn’t even hoping for forgiveness. Katerina Ivanovna resisted till the end, more concerned with her own feelings than finding the compassion within herself to help Dmitry. But Alyosha insisted and thereupon returned to Dmitry. The two brothers would be awaiting her.

A Lie Briefly Conquers Truth


Dmitry in the hospital—Dmitry was currently in the hospital from exhaustion after the trial. He was staying in a separate ward from the other prisoners, in response to requests from Alyosha, the Khokhlakovas, and others who felt that a prison ward would be too much for him to handle. Unofficially, he was allowed to have visitors, though apart from attempts by Rakitin—whom he refused to see—his sole guests at present were Grushenka and Alyosha.

Anticipating Katerina Ivanovna: hope and dread—Dmitry had been depressed and distracted since the trial, only lighting up when Grushenka came by. Even Alyosha’s presence, though valued, did not lift his spirits and inspired fear this time because of Katerina Ivanovna’s possible visit. He couldn’t even bring himself to ask about it, and it was Alyosha who had to broach the subject. Dmitry wanted to see her—he felt his peace of mind depended on it—but at the same time, he dreaded her visit. At least, he had taken precautions to prevent Grushenka and Katerina Ivanovna from meeting coincidentally. He had asked Grushenka to come in the evening, although exactly when Katerina Ivanovna planned on coming was uncertain. Grushenka knew that Katerina Ivanovna would be in charge of the escape if Ivan failed to improve, but she had grimaced just on hearing her name.

No Siberia without Grushenka—Alyosha and Dmitry continued talking about different things, including Ivan’s recovery. Finally, Dmitry came out with what was bothering him so deeply: his overwhelming love for Grushenka and the fact that the authorities would not allow her to go with him to Siberia. His old impetuousness was showing again as he spoke of killing anyone who dared to attack him. Yet with Grushenka by his side, he could tolerate almost anything. Without her, he didn’t want to.

Alyosha’s approval of the escape—Hearing this, Alyosha reassured him that he agreed with the escape plan: he didn’t think Dmitry would be able to handle the harsh prison circumstances at this point. He also didn’t think that he deserved the punishment, being innocent of their father’s murder. It was too great a sacrifice for him to make. Nor would it help him in his goal to cultivate the better person he had begun to sense in himself: Alyosha thought it was enough to just keep that person in mind. He added that the escape plan seemed well under control, with the route commander having pledged his help to Ivan. In principle, Alyosha didn’t approve of bribery, but he felt he had no right to judge the situation and that he would even perform the bribe himself, if necessary.

Dmitry’s life plan—On the one hand, Alyosha’s assurance didn’t matter to Dmitry. He would make his escape, but he would also judge himself and make up for his misdeeds throughout the rest of his life. On the other hand, he was overjoyed that Alyosha could be so honest, and he decided to tell him his other thoughts. He had decided to flee to America with Grushenka, but he also knew what torture that would be for them both, being Russian through and through. Consequently, his plan was to go to America, find some remote place, till the ground and learn the language for three years, and then return to some equally remote part of Russia as American citizens. He figured they would both look different at that point, but he was willing to do whatever it took to alter his appearance—even surgery or self-mutilation. Nor did he did care if he were ultimately caught and imprisoned. To him, it meant everything to die in his homeland.

A dramatic reunion with Katya—Alyosha naturally expressed his approval, and the topic soon changed to the unfairness of the trial and Dmitry’s sense that he had exhausted his relationship with the people there. He then couldn’t help asking if Alyosha thought Katerina Ivanovna was coming—the doubt and anticipation was too much for him. At the same time, he was plagued by uncertainty about his real reasons for wanting to see her. As he was going on about this, Katerina Ivanovna herself appeared at the door. In one of the book’s most moving moments, there’s an instant of simultaneous fear, doubt, and hope as Dmitry extends his hands and Katerina Ivanovna rushes towards him and takes them. For several minutes, they both sit looking at each other, unable to speak until Dmitry finally manages to ask for forgiveness—to his own surprise and joy. Katerina burst out in a passionate reaction, recalling his best qualities and their best moments. And though they both realized that they now loved others, they knew that they would also love each other forever. Finally, Dmitry asked her if she had ever believed that he was guilty. She confessed that she had not but had only convinced herself in a moment of hysteria. On remembering that, her mood changed: she was still unable to forgive herself for that, even though Dmitry understood.

An unexpected confrontation—Now disconcerted, Katerina Ivanovna got up to leave when she suddenly found herself confronted with Grushenka, who had unexpectedly appeared in the doorway. Still in shock, she softly begged Grushenka for forgiveness as she passed her, but Grushenka refused, calling both herself and Katerina Ivanovna “wicked.” Surprised, Dmitry objected, while Alyosha exclaimed that he had no right to judge her. On her way out, Katerina Ivanovna promised to ensure Dmitry’s escape, anyway. Once she had left, Grushenka added that she would forgive her if she kept her word but that her plea for forgiveness came from pride, not honest emotion.

Pride spared—Dmitry begged Alyosha to follow her—it bothered him that Katerina Ivanovna had had to leave like that. But when Alyosha caught up with her, her response was surprising. Her eyes betrayed anger, but she was grateful to Grushenka for her unwillingness to forgive her. Her intention had been to humble herself, yet her pride had prevented her from truly going through with it before Grushenka.

But now Katerina Ivanovna hurried Alyosha along. Ilyusha’s funeral was about to begin, and he should not be late. She herself was headed to the hospital and would not be attending, but she had sent flowers and promised to take care of the family’s needs indefinitely. Now emotional from what had just happened, she ordered Alyosha to go.

Ilyusha’s Funeral


Meeting the schoolboys—Alyosha was supposed to meet Ilyusha’s dozen or so schoolboy friends by the staff captain’s home, where the procession with the little boy’s coffin would begin. They were about to give up on Alyosha when he finally arrived to joyful cheers. Kolya was especially glad to see him. He was having a hard time with the family’s emotionality, but he also had a question for Alyosha: was his brother guilty or innocent in his eyes? Alyosha answered without hesitation that Dmitry was innocent and Smerdyakov was guilty (Kolya’s question had included this). Thrilled, Kolya exclaimed how much he respected Dmitry and wished he could suffer an equivalent fate, having his innocent name besmirched and dying for truth and humanity. The same little boy who had figured out Troy’s origin let out an enthusiastic cry—followed by total embarrassment—that he would like to do that, too.

A family in mourning—When Alyosha entered the house, he found Ilyusha lying in a small coffin strewn with flowers from Lise, while the captain was busy adding the flowers newly arrived from Katerina Ivanovna. Ilyusha had died several days earlier but still appeared more or less unchanged, even beautiful in some ways. The smell, too, was minimal. Ninochka was sitting next to the coffin, crying. The mother, also crying, kept trying to catch glimpses of her dead son despite the pain that standing caused her. The captain, completely focused on his dead son, was ignoring everyone and refused to cater to his wife, even blaming her for lack of love and selfishness toward Ilyusha. He was also unhappy about the idea of burying Ilyusha in the cemetery instead of at the family stone. But the stone was unconsecrated, so his landlady and the others had convinced him that the church graveyard would be better. Finally, the boys brought the coffin over to the upset mother and sister and then carried it out into the snow to the nearby church.

Funeral and burial; a father in distress—The captain was obviously in deep distress, judging from his frantic movements. Suddenly, he stopped, remembering a crust of bread Ilyusha had asked him to break over the gravesite to attract the birds. That way, Ilyusha wouldn’t feel lonely. The captain would go and do this daily. During the liturgy and service, the captain was still understandably distraught, adjusting things compulsively or critiquing the reading, until he finally broke down crying during the chanting. When it came time to close the coffin, the hysterical captain embraced it, kissing his son and grabbing some of the flowers. From that moment, he became distracted and less present.

By then, the funeral party was heading to the grave, where the father had to be reminded to sprinkle the bread crumbs onto the freshly tossed dirt. And even though holding the flowers made crumbling the bread difficult, the captain refused to let anyone else take them. Once the burial was finished, he immediately calmed down and started heading home at a fast pace. His thoughts had turned to “mummikins,” Ilyusha’s disabled mother, whom the captain had ignored and scolded earlier. Now he wanted to make up for his harsh behavior.

All the boys followed him, weeping, and Kolya was one of the most affected in spite of his distaste for emotion. Then, still unwilling to accept his little boy’s death, the captain suddenly turned and ran back to the grave, so that the others—above all, Kolya and Alyosha—had to coax him to return home. But his mourning wasn’t over. On arriving home and seeing his little son’s boots, the captain immediately became distressed again, and the whole family started wailing and crying. Seeing that, both the boys and Alyosha decided it would be best to leave them alone for a while.

A break outside to give the family space—Once outside, Kolya confided to Alyosha how sad he was and that he would give anything to bring Ilyusha back, and Alyosha heartily agreed. They decided to return that night by themselves, but in the meantime, there was also the wake, which they would attend once the landlady finished getting things ready. Kolya was commenting on the strangeness of the wake tradition, which followed mourning with pancakes, when the little boy who had figured out Troy’s founding piped up about having salmon, too, and received a prompt and mean order to shut up from Kolya.

Arrival at the stone—As they were walking, they came to the stone originally intended as Ilyusha’s burial site, and Alyosha remembered Ilyusha’s pain on seeing his father humiliated. It was a difficult memory, but it now prompted him to speak his beloved young friends, who looked at him in anticipation.

Changes—Alyosha began by saying that their time together was coming to an end, at least for now. He would be dedicating himself to his two brothers, who both needed him. Without mentioning his brothers’ names, he told the boys that Ivan was dying and Dmitry was being banished to penal servitude. Whether he fully believed this statement was unclear, considering things he had said earlier to others (e.g., about Ivan recovering and Dmitry escaping). In any case, to the boys it meant that he was going away for an indefinite period.

Alyosha’s parting speech—Alyosha’s first point in his parting speech was that he wanted them all to always remember Ilyusha, each other, and how what had begun as enmity ultimately brought them all together in a spirit of love. His second point was that memories such as these—good, holy memories—had the power to guide people and even prevent them from going too far astray, which was easy to do in this world. Looking at each of them with love, he stressed how precious they each were in their own way as well as how precious Ilyusha was and that they should never forget him. The boys, now beaming with joy, all cheered with approval as they vowed to remember him. Alyosha continued, emphasizing the power of good, honest deeds to make life beautiful. The boys were all growing more and more excited as they proclaimed their love for him, and then Kolya burst out wanting to know whether the resurrection of souls was true and whether they, including Ilyusha, would all see each other again. Alyosha affirmed that it was.

A joyful ending—But now it was time to go to the wake, and Alyosha assured them that it was all right to eat pancakes, seeing as it was an ancient Russian custom. And so, they all headed off amidst cries of joy, and in a complete turnaround from the novel’s start, the boys all praise Karamazov.



*Information from an endnote by Ignat Avsey, translator of the Oxford University Press edition of The Karamazov Brothers.



Dostoevsky, Fyodor. The Karamazov Brothers. Translation, introduction, and notes by Ignat Avsey. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2008.

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