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Literature Study GuidesThe Brothers KaramazovPart 2 Book 4 Chapters 3 4 Summary

The Brothers Karamazov | Study Guide

Fyodor Dostoevsky

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The Brothers Karamazov | Part 2, Book 4, Chapters 3–4 : Strains | Summary



Alyosha heads toward his next errand but is distracted by a quarrel among schoolboys. A group of them are fighting with one, solitary, pale, and sickly 10-year-old (Chapter 3). They are throwing stones at each other. When Alyosha intervenes, they tell him the lone boy has started it and even stabbed someone with a penknife. Alyosha approaches the boy, who begins throwing stones at him. When he gets closer to him, the boy bites his finger hard. He asks the boy, now crying, what he has done to wrong him, but he simply runs away. Alyosha reaches Madame Khokhlakov's (Chapter 4), and Lise's mother tells him she is having hysterics, which the girl denies. When Alyosha asks her for a clean rag to wrap his wounded finger, Lise calls for supplies and takes care of his wound. They are able to speak privately, and she demands her love letter back. Alyosha claims not to have it with him. He tells her that he will leave the monastery after Zosima dies and marry her.


Alyosha's natural kindness toward children makes him something of a Christ figure. He approaches them as if they were equals, immediately gaining their trust. When the lone boy repeatedly attacks him, he shows Christian mercy and restraint, which reduces the offending boy to tears, showing how powerful and lacking compassion can be.

Lise is hysterical when Alyosha gets there because she is embarrassed about the letter she has written him. He reassures her, and her declaration seems to fit into the elder's plan that he journey in the world. Zosima did tell him that he will have to marry. He is not in love with Lise, but he does love her and has known her since she was a child, so it makes sense to him that they should marry.

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