HomeLiterature Study GuidesThe Brothers KaramazovPart 2 Book 4 Chapters 12 Summary

The Brothers Karamazov | Study Guide

Fyodor Dostoevsky

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The Brothers Karamazov | Part 2, Book 4, Chapters 1–2 : Strains | Summary

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Summary

Back at the monastery the next day, the elder is giving his last teachings and takes his leave of the faithful. He tells Alyosha he might not live through the day (Chapter 1). Some people around him are beginning to look for signs of miracles, and his most ardent followers expect some divine sign or miracle as Zosima draws closer to death. The elder reminds Alyosha of the promises he has made to his family and others to go see them and charges him to go; he will not die before he returns. Alyosha first goes to his father, who is alone and brooding (Chapter 2). He is 55 and plans to live a great deal longer and use all his money for himself, especially to lure women in his older age, he says. He has no intention of giving any money to either Ivan or Dmitri, and Dmitri is a cockroach. Moreover, he does not believe in heaven. "A man falls asleep and does not wake up, and that's all," he says. When Alyosha kisses him goodbye, he asks him why, saying, "We'll still see each other. Or do you think we will not?"

Analysis

Zosima has both supporters and detractors in the monastery, and because he is close to death, anything that can be construed as a miracle will be proof of his sainthood and could make the local monastery famous after he dies. This is a double-edged sword for both the monastery and the true believer, like Alyosha. Would a miracle prove the truth of Zosima's teachings, and would a lack of one mean his life and teachings were pointless? Neither question is easily answered.

The contrast between Zosima and Old Karamazov could not be more apparent. The old man not only is not concerned for others, he despises his own children and refuses to leave them a rightful inheritance. For Dostoevsky, atheism and immorality go hand in hand, because he could not conceive how someone could be moral and love mankind without believing in God. Karamazov's question to his son about whether he will see him again foreshadows his imminent death.

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