Literature Study GuidesThe Brothers KaramazovPart 4 Book 10 Chapters 6 7 Summary

The Brothers Karamazov | Study Guide

Fyodor Dostoevsky

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The Brothers Karamazov | Part 4, Book 10, Chapters 6–7 : Boys | Summary

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Summary

Since the doctor has come, everyone temporarily leaves, and Kolya and Alyosha have a conversation (Chapter 6). Kolya has read a lot of books that are not appropriate for his age and is a budding socialist. He begins showing off what he knows, and then suddenly asks Alyosha if he despises him. Alyosha reassures him but says he is sad that "such a lovely nature as yours, which has not yet begun to live, should already be perverted by all this crude nonsense." Kolya then confesses many things to Alyosha, including that he is insecure, egotistical, and profoundly unhappy, thinking everyone is laughing at him. Alyosha tells him not to be afraid of being ridiculous. Kolya declares his love for Alyosha, and he is pleased. He also tells Kolya he will be an unhappy man, and Kolya agrees.

The doctor Katerina has called in does not give the captain much hope about Ilyusha or the other sick family members and recommends impractical and expensive treatments (Chapter 7). Kolya angrily insults the doctor, calling him a leech. Ilyusha feels sorry for his father and says he should find another boy to love after he dies. He tells his father not to forget him, however, and to visit his grave. Kolya is overcome, and runs out into the hall and begins to cry. He tells Alyosha he is sorry he has not come sooner. Now the captain comes out and begins a frenzied weeping. Kolya leaves with his dog and promises to come back.

Analysis

For Dostoevsky, socialism is the equivalent of atheism, so Alyosha is shocked that Kolya is espousing ideas that are so dangerous to his soul. The doctrinal beliefs Kolya describes further align him with Ivan, and continue the interlude's significance in terms of the way Ivan will react to Dmitri's crime and their father's death. Not surprisingly, the boy drops his guard with Alyosha and shows himself to be looking for acceptance from others, and especially from those he admires. Alyosha again shows the redemptive power of love, mercy, and compassion.

The last scene in Chapter 7 is a typical heart-rending example of pathos found in a Dostoevsky novel. The child who is dying comforts the father and pathetically tells him to choose another boy to love, when, of course, he cannot be replaced. The father breaks down in his unimaginable grief, and the young Kolya bitterly regrets staying away from Ilyusha and leaves in tears and sorrow. At least, he has learned a lesson. But like Shakespeare, Dostoevsky tempers tragedy with comedy, so the earlier scene with the fancy doctor is comical, with the physician drawing out his words slowly, perhaps so the ignorant (in his mind) people can understand him. Moreover, when he advises the captain to take his family on expensive trips to the continent and Snegiryov invites him to look around, the doctor grins, saying "that is not my business." The author is also being satirical in this episode, making fun of the rich for their lack of understanding and compassion for the poor.

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