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Literature Study GuidesThe Brothers KaramazovPart 1 Book 3 Chapters 10 11 Summary

The Brothers Karamazov | Study Guide

Fyodor Dostoevsky

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The Brothers Karamazov | Part 1, Book 3, Chapters 10–11 : Sensualists | Summary



In Chapter 10, Alyosha finally arrives at Katerina's by late evening. Alyosha repeats Dmitri's message, and Katerina mentions the money Dmitri took from her. She says she wants Dmitri to know he need not be ashamed in front of her. Suddenly Katerina reveals that Grushenka has come to see her, and she emerges from behind the curtain. Katerina praises her and kisses her, telling her story. The man with whom Grushenka originally fell in love and who seduced her five years previously (when she was 17) is coming to claim her. Katerina kisses Grushenka's hand, but suddenly Grushenka turns on Katerina and will not kiss hers in return. Perhaps she will not leave with her old flame, Grushenka says, and she may not give up Dmitri after all. Katerina loses her temper and calls her a "slut," and Grushenka then reveals she knows how Katerina went to Dmitri to save her father. Katerina lunges at Grushenka, who is able to escape, and calls Dmitri a scoundrel. Alyosha leaves after Katerina gives him a letter, apparently from Madame Khokhlakov.

As Alyosha travels back to the monastery, he crosses paths with his brother Dmitri, who has been waiting for him (Chapter 11). Alyosha begins to cry because Dmitri is making jokes after almost killing their father. When Alyosha reports to his brother the scene at Katerina's, Dmitri explains the context in which he told Grushenka about Katerina's actions: he was weeping, not making fun of her. Dmitri then strikes himself on the chest and says he is carrying a dishonor, which he can still rectify but will not.

When Alyosha gets back to the monastery, he learns that the elder is resting, and the monks have not gathered in his cell for their usual nightly, public confession. Alyosha realizes that the elder is dying. He suddenly remembers the letter Katerina gave him and opens it to find that Lise has written him a love letter. Young Lise wants to see him the next day. The letter makes Alyosha happy, and he falls into a peaceful sleep.


In many novels from this time period, women are caregiving, nurturing figures who work as redemptive forces in the lives of the male characters. Readers accustomed to this expectation may be surprised by Grushenka and Katerina, and should keep in mind that Dostoevsky is developing other themes, themes connected to man's place in society and his responsibility to his family and to himself.

Grushenka's motives in going to see Katerina are uncertain. Perhaps she is influenced by Alyosha's message to Katerina from Dmitri and Katerina's desire to be a god to Dmitri—someone to whom he confesses his sins and gains absolution. Grushenka is jealous over Dmitri. Although she is not yet aware of it, she is in love with Dmitri. Grushenka, like Katerina, is full of spite, but her spite is directed at other people, and at men in particular, because she was seduced and abandoned. The seducer is now coming back to resume the relationship, although at this point he has only written. Grushenka has been nursing both her love and resentment for this man for five years and must come to a decision about him.

In her behavior with Grushenka and Alyosha, Katerina shows that she is not to be trusted. When she tells Grushenka's story to Alyosha, she takes the opportunity to humiliate her rival—first, by not kissing her hand, and second, by saying that she might not give up Dmitri. Katerina is of a higher social class than Grushenka and is morally above reproach, which may be why she wants to spite her. In addition, she probably senses in Grushenka a rival for Dmitri's affections.

It is no surprise that Dmitri feels trapped in the web of Katerina's double-edged love and mixed motives. Because these feelings are bound together with the debt he owes her, they are also tied to his inheritance and thus his father, further complicating matters.

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