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The Brothers Karamazov | Study Guide

Fyodor Dostoevsky

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The Brothers Karamazov | Epilogue, Chapter 3 | Summary



The last chapter of the novel describes the funeral of Ilyusha. By now, Kolya has taken charge of the boys, who are waiting for Alyosha. Kolya asks Alyosha before they go in the house if his brother is innocent or guilty, and he says, "The lackey killed him, my brother is innocent." The scene around the coffin is pathetic, with the captain nearly out of his mind with grief and Ilyusha's mother not quite understanding the full meaning of what is going on. After the funeral meal, Alyosha makes a speech to the boys at the stone where Ilyusha wanted to be buried, although he was buried in the churchyard. He says that they all will be parting soon, but they should remember one another all of their lives and never forget how good they were in this place, "united by such good and kind feelings," and how they loved the poor boy who died there. At the end of his speech, the boys send up a cheer for Alyosha.


The final chapter of the novel provides closure for the subplot—with the young boy Ilyusha finally dead, which is a sorrow beyond reckoning. Nonetheless, some good has come of it, because it has been an occasion for the children to practice Christian charity under the guidance of Alyosha and has served as a rite of passage into the next stage of development for the boys—as compassionate and caring young men. Alyosha is hailed as a hero, but he shows himself less than perfect in this last scene. When Kolya asks him about who killed old Karamazov, he says "the lackey did it." Not even Alyosha has been able to acknowledge this twisted soul as his brother—either in point of fact or as a brother in Christian charity. Christian charity has failed the unfortunate Smerdyakov, who was accepted by no one. Even Alyosha can find no sympathy in his heart for this man's suffering. Clearly, Alyosha is not at the end of his spiritual journey.

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