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Literature Study GuidesThe Brothers KaramazovPart 3 Book 7 Chapters 1 2 Summary

The Brothers Karamazov | Study Guide

Fyodor Dostoevsky

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The Brothers Karamazov | Part 3, Book 7, Chapters 1–2 : Alyosha | Summary



Many people both inside and outside the monastery are excitedly waiting for a sign of Zosima's blessedness, and although Fathers Iosif and Paissy and the Father Superior are trying to calm "this vain excitement," they also expect a miracle (Chapter 1). Madame Khokhlakov has sent Rakitin to the monastery to find out any news. Alyosha is crying in the garden, mostly upset because Zosima's body has started to stink.

The "odor of corruption," quite natural when death occurs, is considered to be scandalous in Zosima's case, especially because it is believed that the previous two elders did not show this sign. Very quickly, Zosima's enemies take the smell emanating from the elder's coffin as a sign that he was unrighteous and proud and taught false doctrine. Zosima's worst enemy, Father Ferapont, appears at the monastery to denounce Zosima. Ferapont, a "holy fool," lives in a small wooden cell, fasts continuously, and imposes other penances on himself. He is also mentally unbalanced and sees demons everywhere. Ferapont says Zosima was an arrogant glutton, which is why he suffers the shame of corruption. Paissy scolds him and asks him to leave. Later, Father Paissy sees Alyosha outside, and he waves at the priest without a proper leave-taking, walking out of the hermitage.

Alyosha is angry because the being that he loved most in the world is being disgraced (Chapter 2). Rakitin begins taunting Alyosha about being angry with God because "they passed you over for promotion." Seeing Alyosha is in an unusual mood of rebellion, he suggests that they go to Grushenka's. Rakitin hopes to see "the disgrace of a righteous man," and also will profit from the visit, because Grushenka has promised him money if he brings Alyosha to her.


The upset about the corruption of Zosima's body is based on a childish and immature understanding of his teachings. For the second temptation of Jesus, the devil told him to throw himself down so the angels would catch him. This temptation is essentially the longing for "proof" of God's existence or of God's love. The hardest test for the Christian is to have faith without external theatrics. The proof of God's love comes with the practice of active love, as Zosima teaches, not the "miracle, mystery, and authority" of the Grand Inquisitor.

Ferapont's version of Christianity is shallow and childish. He thinks he is a better Christian than Zosima because he has created an elaborate drama of asceticism. Yet for all of his self-imposed suffering, he has not purified himself because he cannot let go of his egotism. When the priests chase him out, he says pathetically, like a little child, "Tomorrow they will sing 'My Helper and Defender' over him—a glorious canon—and over me when I croak just 'What Earthly Joy'—a little song." It is hard for readers not to feel sorry for Ferapont, who has spent his whole life as a monk and so utterly missed the boat. Ultimately, there will be no rewards for anybody. The spiritual path is not about accumulating medals.

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