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Literature Study GuidesThe Brothers KaramazovPart 2 Book 5 Chapters 1 2 Summary

The Brothers Karamazov | Study Guide

Fyodor Dostoevsky

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The Brothers Karamazov | Part 2, Book 5, Chapters 1–2 : Pro and Contra | Summary



Alyosha has returned, as promised, to the Khokhlakovs, to continue his conversation with Lise (Chapter 1). He tells her the story of the insulted captain and talks out a strategy to give him the money. Because the captain has already proven his honor, he will relent if Alyosha offers the money again. Lise is impressed with Alyosha's ability to look into another's soul. She confesses that she loves him "terribly," and he says he is carrying her letter around with him. She notices he is sad, and he confesses he is worried about his family members and grieving for Zosima. She says they will be happy together when they marry, and urges him to go to his elder. When he comes out from Lise's room, Madame Khokhlakov, who has been eavesdropping, scolds Alyosha for entertaining her daughter's ideas about marriage. Alyosha says she is worrying unnecessarily, because their union is at least 18 months away. Madame Khokhlakov is reassured but demands that he show her the letter; he refuses.

Alyosha wants to see his brother Dmitri before returning to the monastery, so he goes to the garden where Dmitri has been stalking Grushenka (Chapter 2). After he sneaks into the gazebo to wait, he hears Smerdyakov singing and talking with a young woman—Maria Kondratievna, the daughter of the old woman who lives next door to his father. In love with Smerdyakov, she compliments his intelligence. He says he would have gone far if not for the circumstances of his birth, claiming he would have left long ago if he had money, because he could open a restaurant in Moscow. He goes on to insult Dmitri, who is "worse than any lackey," although "he gets honor from everybody." Alyosha suddenly sneezes and must reveal himself. He asks them if his brother will be back soon, and Smerdyakov replies, "It's not as if I were his keeper." Smerdyakov tells Alyosha that Dmitri has been harassing him incessantly about his father's whereabouts, and has threatened to kill him if he somehow misses Grushenka. He also tells Alyosha where Ivan is dining and that Dmitri might meet him there. Alyosha departs for the tavern, and Ivan spots him and asks him to come in and dine with him.


The sweetness in the innocent love scene between Alyosha and Lise shows that the two know each other well and appear to be compatible. Lise listens to Alyosha carefully and has an understanding of the emotional implications of what he tells her, even though she is only 14. Although her mother likes Alyosha, she does not think he is an appropriate match for her daughter, especially because Lise is "sickly" and prone to hysterics. He demonstrates that he can stand firm when necessary, because he will not show Madame Khokhlakov the letter from Lise.

In his conversation with Maria Kondratievna, Smerdyakov shows his deep-seated resentment about his unfortunate parentage. His dream of opening a café in Moscow is significant because, later in the novel, he confesses to Ivan that he took old Karamazov's 3,000 rubles to start a new life somewhere else. Also significant in this scene is that he makes an oblique reference to the story of Cain and Abel. In the Bible, Abel is favored by God; Cain is jealous and kills his brother. When God asks him where Abel is, he responds, "Am I my brother's keeper?" This question will be asked again by Ivan in subsequent chapters.

Smerdyakov does not call Dmitri his brother, because "the broth-maker" has never been acknowledged as a Karamazov and because he does not consider Dmitri to be his brother. He is also making an ironic, if oblique, reference to their blood relationship. In another Biblical tale, one brother (Jacob) sells his birthright to the other (Esau) for a bowl of soup. The two references bode ill for Dmitri and heighten both the bond and the contrast between Smerdyakov and Ivan.

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