BOOK I: A NICE LITTLE FAMILY
Fyodor Pavlovich Karamazov
Alexei Fyodorovich Karamazov was the third son of a landowner from our district, Fyodor Pavlovich Karamazov, well known in his own day (and still remembered among us) because of his dark and tragic death, which happened exactly thirteen years ago and which I shall speak of in its proper place. For the moment I will only say of this “landowner” (as we used to call him, though for all his life he hardly ever lived on his estate) that he was a strange type, yet one rather frequently met with, precisely the type of man who is not only worthless and depraved but muddleheaded as well—one of those muddleheaded people who still handle their own little business deals quite skillfully, if nothing else. Fyodor Pavlovich, for instance, started with next to nothing, he was a very small landowner, he ran around having dinner at other men’s tables, he tried to foist himself off as a sponger, and yet at his death he was discovered to have as much as a hundred thousand roubles in hard cash. At the same time he remained all his life one of the most muddleheaded madcaps in our district. Again I say it was not stupidity—most of these madcaps are rather clever and shrewd—but precisely muddleheadedness, even a special, national form of it.
He was married twice and had three sons-the eldest, Dmitri Fyodorovich, by his first wife, and the other two, Ivan and Alexei, by his second. Fyodor Pavlovich’s first wife belonged to a rather wealthy aristocratic family, the Miusovs, also landowners in our district. Precisely how it happened that a girl with a dowry, a beautiful girl, too, and moreover one of those pert, intelligent girls not uncommon in this generation but sometimes also to be found in the last, could have married such a worthless “runt,” as everyone used to call him, I cannot begin to explain. But then, I once knew a young lady still of the last “romantic” generation who, after several years of enigmatic love for a certain gentleman, whom, by the way, she could have married quite easily at any moment, ended up, after inventing all sorts of insurmountable obstacles, by throwing herself on a stormy night into a rather deep and swift river from a high bank somewhat resembling a cliff, and perished there decidedly by her own caprice, only because she wanted to be like Shakespeare’s Ophelia. Even then, if the cliff, chosen and cherished from long ago, had not been so picturesque, if it had been merely a flat, prosaic bank, the suicide might not have taken place at all. This is a true fact, and one can assume that in our Russian life of the past two or three generations there have been not a few similar facts. In the same way, the action of Adelaida Ivanovna Miusov was doubtless an echo of foreign influences, the chafings of a mind imprisoned.1 Perhaps she wanted to assert her feminine independence, to go against social conventions, against the despotism of her relatives and family, and her obliging imagination convinced her, if only briefly, that Fyodor Pavlovich, despite his dignity as a sponger, was still one of the boldest and most sarcastic spirits of that transitional epoch—transitional to everything better—whereas he was simply an evil buffoon and nothing more. The affair gained piquancy from elopement, which strongly appealed to Adelaida Ivanovna. As for Fyodor Pavlovich, his social position at the time made him quite ready for any such venture, for he passionately desired to set himself up by whatever means. To squeeze into a good family and get a dowry was tempting indeed. As for mutual love, it seems there never was any either on the bride’s part or on his own, despite the beauty of Adelaida Ivanovna. This was, perhaps, the only case of its kind in Fyodor Pavlovich’s life, for he was a great sensualist all his days, always ready to hang onto any skirt that merely beckoned to him. This one woman alone, sensually speaking, made no particular impression on him.
They had no sooner eloped than it became clear to Adelaida Ivanovna that she felt only contempt for her husband and nothing more. Thus the consequences of their marriage revealed themselves extraordinarily quickly. And though her family even accepted the situation fairly soon and allotted the runaway bride her dowry, the married couple began leading a very disorderly life, full of eternal scenes. It was said that in the circumstances the young wife showed far more dignity and high-mindedness than did Fyodor Pavlovich, who, as is now known, filched all her cash from her, as much as twenty-five thousand roubles, the moment she got it, so that from then on as far as she was concerned all those thousands positively vanished, as it were, into thin air. As for the little village and the rather fine town house that came with her dowry, for a long time he tried very hard to have them transferred to his name by means of some appropriate deed, and he would probably have succeeded, merely because of the contempt and loathing, so to speak, that his shameless extortions and entreaties aroused in his wife, merely because of her emotional exhaustion—anything to be rid of him. Fortunately, Adelaida Ivanovna’s family intervened and put a stop to his hogging. It is well known that there were frequent fights between husband and wife, but according to tradition it was not Fyodor Pavlovich who did the beating but Adelaida Ivanovna, a hot-tempered lady, bold, dark-skinned, impatient, and endowed with remarkable physical strength. Finally she fled the house and ran away from Fyodor Pavlovich with a destitute seminarian, leaving the three-year-old Mitya in his father’s hands. Fyodor Pavlovich immediately set up a regular harem in his house and gave himself to the most unbridled drinking. In the intermissions, he drove over most of the province, tearfully complaining to all and sundry that Adelaida had abandoned him, going into details that any husband ought to have been too ashamed to reveal about his married life. The thing was that he seemed to enjoy and even feel flattered by playing the ludicrous role of the offended husband, embroidering on and embellishing the details of the offense. “One would think you had been promoted, Fyodor Pavlovich,” the scoffers used to say, “you’re so pleased despite all your woes!” Many even added that he was glad to brush up his old role of buffoon, and that, to make things funnier still, he pretended not to notice his ridiculous position. But who knows, perhaps he was simply naive. At last he managed to find the trail of his runaway wife. The poor woman turned out to be in Petersburg, where she had gone to live with her seminarian and where she had thrown herself wholeheartedly into the most complete emancipation. Fyodor Pavlovich at once began bustling about, making ready to go to Petersburg. Why? He, of course, had no idea. True, he might even have gone; but having undertaken such a decision, he at once felt fully entitled to get up his courage for the journey by throwing himself into more boundless drinking. Just then his wife’s family received news of her death in Petersburg. She died somehow suddenly, in some garret, of typhus according to one version, of starvation according to another. Fyodor Pavlovich was drunk when he learned of his wife’s death, and the story goes that he ran down the street, lifting his hands to the sky and joyfully shouting: “Now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace.”2 Others say that he wept and sobbed like a little child, so much so that they say he was pitiful to see, however repulsive they found him. Both versions may very well be true—that is, that he rejoiced at his release and wept for her who released him, all at the same time. In most cases, people, even wicked people, are far more naive and simple-hearted than one generally assumes. And so are we.
The First Son Sent Packing
Of course, one can imagine what sort of father and mentor such a man would be. As a father he did precisely what was expected of him; that is, he totally and utterly abandoned his child by Adelaida Ivanovna, not out of malice towards him and not from any wounded matrimonial feelings, but simply because he totally forgot about him. While he was pestering everyone with his tears and complaints, and turning his house into an iniquitous den, a faithful family servant, Grigory, took the three-year-old Mitya into his care, and if Grigory had not looked after him then, there would perhaps have been no one to change the child’s shirt. Moreover, it so happened that the child’s relatives on his mother’s side also seemed to forget about him at first. His grandfather, that is, Mr. Miusov himself, the father of Adelaida Ivanovna, was no longer living. His widow, Mitya’s grandmother, had moved to Moscow and was quite ill, and the sisters were all married, so that Mitya had to spend almost a whole year with the servant Grigory, living in the servants’ cottage. But even if his papa had remembered him (indeed, he could not have been unaware of his existence), he would have sent him back to the cottage, for the child would have gotten in the way of his debaucheries. Just then, however, the late Adelaida Ivanovna’s cousin, Pyotr Alexandrovich Miusov, happened to return from Paris. Afterwards he lived abroad for many years, but at the time he was still a very young man, and, among the Miusovs, an unusual sort of man—enlightened, metropolitan, cosmopolitan, a lifelong European, and at the end of his life a liberal of the forties and fifties. In the course of his career he had relations with many of the most liberal people of his epoch, both in Russia and abroad; he knew Proudhon and Bakunin personally;1 and he particularly liked to recall and describe—this was already near his journey’s end—the three days of the February revolution in Paris in forty-eight,2 letting on that he himself had almost taken part in it on the barricades. This was one of the most delightful memories of his youth. He had independent property, valued according to the old system at about a thousand souls.3 His splendid estate lay just beyond our little town and bordered on the lands of our famous monastery, with which Pyotr Alexandrovich, while still very young, having just come into his inheritance, at once began endless litigation over the rights to some kind of fishing in the river or wood-cutting in the forest—I am not sure which, but to start a lawsuit against the “clericals” was something he even considered his civic and enlightened duty. Hearing all about Adelaida Ivanovna, whom he of course remembered and had once even shown some interest in, and learning of Mitya’s existence, he decided, despite his youthful indignation and his contempt for Fyodor Pavlovich, to step into the affair. It was then that he first made the acquaintance of Fyodor Pavlovich. He told him straight off that he wanted to take responsibility for the child’s upbringing. Years later he used to recall, as typical of the man, that when he first began speaking about Mitya with Fyodor Pavlovich, the latter looked for a while as if he had no idea what child it was all about, and was even surprised, as it were, to learn that he had a little son somewhere in the house. Though Pyotr Alexandrovich may have exaggerated, still there must have been some semblance of truth in his story. But all his life, as a matter of fact, Fyodor Pavlovich was fond of play-acting, of suddenly taking up some unexpected role right in front of you, often when there was no need for it, and even to his own real disadvantage, as, for instance, in the present case. This trait, however, is characteristic of a great many people, even rather intelligent ones, and not only of Fyodor Pavlovich. Pyotr Alexandrovich hotly pursued the business and even got himself appointed the child’s guardian (jointly with Fyodor Pavlovich), since there was, after all, a small property, a house and estate, left by his mother. Mitya did, in fact, go to live with his mother’s cousin, but the latter, having no family of his own, and being in a hurry to return to Paris for a long stay as soon as he had arranged and secured the income from his estates, entrusted the child to one of his mother’s cousins, a Moscow lady. In the event, having settled himself in Paris, he, too, forgot about the child, especially after the outbreak of the abovementioned February revolution, which so struck his imagination that he was unable to forget it for the rest of his life. The Moscow lady died and Mitya was passed on to one of her married daughters. It seems he later changed homes a fourth time. I won’t go into that now, particularly as I shall have much to say later on about this first-born son of Fyodor Pavlovich, and must confine myself here to the most essential facts, without which I could not even begin my novel.
First of all, this Dmitri Fyodorovich was the only one of Fyodor Pavlovich’s three sons who grew up in the conviction that he, at any rate, had some property and would be independent when he came of age. He spent a disorderly adolescence and youth: he never finished high school; later he landed in some military school, then turned up in the Caucasus, was promoted, fought a duel, was broken to the ranks, promoted again, led a wild life, and spent, comparatively, a great deal of money. He received nothing from Fyodor Pavlovich before his coming of age, and until then ran into debt. He saw and got to know his father, Fyodor Pavlovich, for the first time only after his coming of age, when he arrived in our parts with the purpose of settling the question of his property with him. It seems that even then he did not like his parent; he stayed only a short time with him and left quickly, as soon as he had managed to obtain a certain sum from him and made a certain deal with him concerning future payments from the estate, without (a fact worth noting) being able to learn from his father either the value of the estate or its yearly income. Fyodor Pavlovich saw at once (and this must be remembered) that Mitya had a false and inflated idea of his property. Fyodor Pavlovich was quite pleased with this, as it suited his own designs. He simply concluded that the young man was frivolous, wild, passionate, impatient, a wastrel who, if he could snatch a little something for a time, would immediately calm down, though of course not for long. And this Fyodor Pavlovich began to exploit; that is, he fobbed him off with small sums, with short-term handouts, until, after four years, Mitya, having run out of patience, came to our town a second time to finish his affairs with his parent, when it suddenly turned out, to his great amazement, that he already had precisely nothing, that it was impossible even to get an accounting, that he had already received the whole value of his property in cash from Fyodor Pavlovich and might even be in debt to him, that in terms of such and such deals that he himself had freely entered into on such and such dates, he had no right to demand anything more, and so on and so forth. The young man was stunned, suspected a lie or a trick, was almost beside himself, and, as it were, lost all reason. This very circumstance led to the catastrophe, an account of which forms the subject of my first introductory novel, or, better, the external side of it. But before I go on to this novel, I must introduce the other two sons of Fyodor Pavlovich, Mitya’s brothers, and explain where they came from.
Second Marriage, Second Children
Fyodor Pavlovich, having packed off the four-year-old Mitya, very soon married for a second time. This second marriage lasted about eight years. He took his second wife, Sofia Ivanovna, also a very young person, from another province, where he happened to have gone for a bit of contracting business in the company of some little Jew. Fyodor Pavlovich, though he led a wild, drunken, and debauched life, still never stopped investing his capital, and always managed his deals successfully, though of course almost always somewhat shabbily. Sofia Ivanovna was one of our “little orphans,” left without relations in early childhood, the daughter of some obscure deacon, who grew up in the rich house of her benefactress, mistress, and tormentress, an aristocratic old lady, the widow of General Vorokhov. I do not know the details but have only heard that, it seems, the ward, who was a meek, gentle, uncomplaining girl, was once taken out of a noose that she had hung from a nail in the closet—so hard was it for her to endure the willfulness and eternal nagging of the old woman, who was apparently not wicked but had become a most insufferable crank from sheer idleness. Fyodor Pavlovich offered his hand, inquiries were made, and he was turned away; and then once again, as with his first marriage, he suggested elopement to the little orphan. Most likely she would not have married him for anything if she had learned more about him in time. But she lived in another province, and what could a sixteen-year-old girl understand except that she would rather drown herself than stay with her benefactress. So the poor girl traded a benefactress for a benefactor. Fyodor Pavlovich did not get a penny this time, because the general’s widow was furious, refused to give anything, and, moreover, cursed them both; yet this time he did not even count on getting anything, but was tempted only by the innocent girl’s remarkable beauty, and above all by her innocent look, which struck the sensualist who until then had been a depraved admirer only of the coarser kind of feminine beauty. “Those innocent eyes cut my soul like a razor,” he used to say afterwards with his disgusting little snigger. However, in a depraved man this, too, might be only a sensual attraction. As he had gotten no reward, Fyodor Pavlovich did not stand on ceremony with his wife, and taking advantage of the fact that she was, so to speak, “guilty” before him, and that he had practically “saved her from the noose,” taking advantage, besides that, of her phenomenal humility and meekness, he even trampled with both feet on the ordinary decencies of marriage. Loose women would gather in the house right in front of his wife, and orgies took place. I should report, as a characteristic feature, that the servant Grigory, a gloomy, stupid, and obstinate pedant, who had hated his former mistress, Adelaida Ivanovna, this time took the side of the new mistress, defended her, and abused Fyodor Pavlovich because of her in a manner hardly befitting a servant; and on one occasion even broke up the orgy and drove all the scandalous women out of the house. Later this unhappy young woman, who had been terrorized since childhood, came down with something like a kind of feminine nervous disorder, most often found among simple village women, who are known as shriekers because of it. From this disorder, accompanied by terrible hysterical fits, the sick woman would sometimes even lose her reason. Nevertheless she bore Fyodor Pavlovich two sons, Ivan and Alexei, the first in the first year of marriage, the second three years later. When she died, the boy Alexei was in his fourth year, and, though it is strange, I know that he remembered his mother all his life—as if through sleep, of course. After her death, almost exactly the same thing happened with both boys as had happened with the first one, Mitya: they were totally forgotten and forsaken by their father and wound up in the same cottage with the same servant, Grigory. It was in this cottage that they were found by that old crank, the general’s widow, their mother’s mistress and benefactress. She was still alive, and in all that time, for all those eight years, had not forgotten the injury done her. For all those eight years, she had been receiving underhandedly the most exact information about “her Sofia’s” life, and, hearing how ill she was and in what outrageous surroundings, she said aloud two or three times to her lady companions: “It serves her right. God has sent it to her for her ingratitude.”
Exactly three months after Sofia Ivanovna’s death, the general’s widow suddenly appeared in person in our town, right at Fyodor Pavlovich’s house. She spent only about half an hour in our little town, but she accomplished a great deal. It was evening. Fyodor Pavlovich, whom she had not seen for all those eight years, was tipsy when he came out to her. They say that the moment she saw him, without any explanations, she at once delivered him two good, resounding slaps and jerked him three times by his forelock; then, without adding a word, she made straight for the cottage and the two boys. Seeing at a glance that they were unwashed and in dirty shirts, she gave one more slap to Grigory himself and announced to him that she was taking both children home with her, then carried them outside just as they were, wrapped them in a plaid, put them in the carriage, and took them to her own town. Grigory bore his slap like a devoted slave, without a word of abuse, and while helping the old lady to her carriage, he bowed low and said imposingly that “God would reward her for the orphans.” “And you are a lout all the same! the general’s widow shouted as she drove away. Fyodor Pavlovich, thinking the whole thing over, found that it was a good thing, and in a formal agreement regarding his children’s education by the general’s widow did not afterwards object to any point. As for the slaps he had gotten, he drove all over town telling the story himself.
It so happened that the general’s widow, too, died soon after that. In her will, however, she set aside a thousand roubles for each of the little ones, “for their education, and so that the money will be spent only on them, but in a way that will make it last until their coming of age, for it is quite enough of a handout for such children, and if anyone else wants to, let him loosen his own purse-strings,” and so on and so forth. I did not read the will myself, but I’ve heard that there was indeed something strange of this sort in it, and rather peculiarly expressed. The old woman’s principal heir, however, turned out to be an honest man, the provincial marshal of nobility of that province,1 Yefim Petrovich Polenov. After an exchange of letters with Fyodor Pavlovich, he guessed at once that no one could drag any money out of him even for the education of his own children (though he never refused directly, but in such cases always simply delayed, sometimes even pouring out sentimentalities). He took a personal interest in the orphans, and came especially to love the younger one, Alexei, who for a long time even grew up in his family. I should like the reader to remember that from the very beginning. If there was anyone to whom the brothers were indebted for their upbringing and education for the rest of their lives, it was to this Yefim Petrovich, a most generous and humane man, of a kind rarely found. The thousands left to the little ones by the general’s widow he kept intact, so that by the time they came of age, each thousand with interest had grown to two thousand, and meanwhile he educated them at his own expense, certainly spending far more than a thousand on each boy. Again, for the time being, I will not go into a detailed account of their childhood and adolescence, but will note only the most important circumstances. However, of the elder, Ivan, I will only say that as he was growing up he was somehow gloomy and withdrawn, far from timid, but as if he had already perceived by the age of ten that they were indeed living in someone else’s family and on someone else’s charity, that their father was such that it was a shame to speak of him, and so on and so forth. The boy began very early, almost in infancy (so they say at least), to show some sort of unusual and brilliant aptitude for learning. I do not know exactly how, but it somehow happened that he parted from Yefim Petrovich’s family when he was barely thirteen, passing on to one of the Moscow secondary schools and boarding with a certain experienced and then-famous pedagogue, a childhood friend of Yefim Petrovich’s. Ivan himself used to say afterwards that it all happened, so to speak, because of the “ardor for good works” of Yefim Petrovich, who was carried away by the idea that a boy of genius must also be educated by an educator of genius. However, neither Yefim Petrovich nor the educator of genius was living when the young man, having finished school, entered university. Yefim Petrovich left his affairs in disarray, and owing to red tape and the various formalities quite unavoidable among us, there was a delay in obtaining the children’s own money, left to them by the cranky widow, which had grown from one thousand to two thousand with interest, so that for his first two years at the university the young man found himself in a pickle, since he was forced all the while both to feed and keep himself and to study at the same time. It must be noted that he did not even try at that time to communicate with his father—perhaps out of pride or contempt for him, perhaps because his cold common sense told him that he would not get even the smallest token of support from his papa. Be that as it may, the young man was not at all at a loss, and did succeed in finding work, at first giving lessons at twenty kopecks an hour, and then running around to newspaper publishers, plying them with ten-line articles on street incidents, signed “Eyewitness.” These little articles, they say, were always so curiously and quaintly written that they were soon in great demand; and even in this alone the young man demonstrated his practical and intellectual superiority over that eternally needy and miserable mass of our students of both sexes who, in our capitals, from morning till night, habitually haunt the doorways of various newspapers and magazines, unable to invent anything better than the eternal repetition of one and the same plea for copying work or translations from the French. Having made the acquaintance of the editors, Ivan Fyodorovich never broke his connection with them afterwards, and in his later years at the university began to publish rather talented reviews of books on various specific subjects, so that he even became known in some literary circles. However, it was only quite recently that he had succeeded by accident in suddenly attracting to himself the particular attention of a much wider circle of readers, so that a great many people at once noticed and remembered him. The incident was rather curious. Having already graduated from the university, and while preparing to go abroad on his two thousand roubles, Ivan Fyodorovich suddenly published in one of the big newspapers a strange article that attracted the attention even of non-experts, and above all on a subject apparently altogether foreign to him, since he had graduated in natural science. The article dealt with the issue of ecclesiastical courts, which was then being raised everywhere.2 While analyzing some already-existing opinions on the subject, he also expressed his own view. The main thing was the tone of the article and its remarkably unexpected conclusion. And yet many churchmen decidedly counted the author as one of their own. Suddenly, however, along with them, not only secularists but even atheists themselves began to applaud from their side. Finally some quick-witted people concluded that the whole article was just a brazen farce and mockery. I mention this incident particularly because the article in time also penetrated our famous neighboring monastery, where there was general interest in the newly emerged issue of ecclesiastical courts—penetrated and produced complete bewilderment. When they learned the author’s name, they became interested in the fact that he was a native of our town and a son of “that very same Fyodor Pavlovich.” And then suddenly, just at that time, the author himself appeared among us.
Why Ivan Fyodorovich came to us then is a question I even recall asking myself at the time, almost with a certain uneasiness. This so-fateful arrival, which was the start of so many consequences, long afterwards remained almost always unclear to me. Generally considered, it was strange that so learned, so proud, and seemingly so prudent a young man should suddenly appear in such a scandalous house, before such a father, who had ignored him all his life, who did not know or remember him, and who, though if his son had asked, he would certainly not have given him any money for anything in the world or under any circumstances, nonetheless was afraid all his life that his sons Ivan and Alexei, too, would one day come and ask for money. And here the young man comes to live in the house of such a father, lives with him for one month, then for another, and they get along famously. This last fact especially astonished not only me but many others as well. Pyotr Alexandrovich Miusov, whom I have already mentioned, a distant relation of Fyodor Pavlovich’s through his first wife, happened to be in the neighborhood again at that time on his nearby estate, paying us a visit from Paris, where he had already settled permanently. I remember it was precisely he who marveled most of all when he got acquainted with the young man, who interested him greatly and with whom he used—not without inner pangs—to have occasional intellectual altercations. “He is proud,” he used to say to us about him, “he will always have something in his pocket, and even now he has enough money to go abroad—what does he want here? It’s clear to everyone that he did not come to his father for money, because in any case his father won’t give it to him. He doesn’t like drinking and debauchery, and yet the old man can’t do without him, they get along so well!” It was true: the young man even had a noticeable influence over the old man; the latter almost began to listen to him occasionally, though he was extremely and at times even spitefully willful; he even began sometimes to behave more decently.
Only later did we learn that Ivan Fyodorovich had come partly at the request and on the behalf of his elder brother, Dmitri Fyodorovich, whom he met and saw for the first time in his life on this visit, but with whom, however, he had entered into correspondence prior to his arrival from Moscow, on the occasion of a certain important matter of more concern to Dmitri Fyodorovich than to himself. What that matter was, the reader will learn fully and in detail in due time. Nevertheless, even when I already knew about this special circumstance, Ivan Fyodorovich still seemed to me a mysterious person, and his arrival among us still inexplicable.
I will add that Ivan Fyodorovich seemed at the time to be a mediator and conciliator between his father and his elder brother, Dmitri Fyodorovich, who had gotten into a great quarrel with his father and had even started formal proceedings against him.
This nice little family, I repeat, got together then for the first time and some of its members saw each other for the first time in their lives. Only the youngest brother, Alexei Fyodorovich, had been living in our parts already for about a year, and so had come to us before the rest of his brothers. It is about this very Alexei that it is most difficult for me to speak in my introductory story, before bringing him on stage in the novel. Still, I shall have to write an introduction for him as well, if only to give a preliminary explanation of one very strange point—namely, that I must present my future hero to the reader, from the first scene of his novel, dressed in the cassock of a novice. Yes, at that time he had been living for about a year in our monastery, and it seemed he was preparing to shut himself up in it for the rest of his life.
The Third Son, Alyosha
He was then only twenty years old (his brother Ivan was in his twenty-fourth year, and their elder brother, Dmitri, was going on twenty-eight). First of all I announce that this young man, Alyosha, was not at all a fanatic, and, in my view at least, even not at all a mystic. I will give my full opinion beforehand: he was simply an early lover of mankind,1 and if he threw himself into the monastery path, it was only because it alone struck him at the time and presented him, so to speak, with an ideal way out for his soul struggling from the darkness of worldly wickedness towards the light of love. And this path struck him only because on it at that time he met a remarkable being, in his opinion, our famous monastery elder Zosima, to whom he became attached with all the ardent first love of his unquenchable heart. However, I do not deny that he was, at that time, already very strange, having been so even from the cradle. Incidentally, I have already mentioned that although he lost his mother in his fourth year, he remembered her afterwards all his life, her face, her caresses, “as if she were standing alive before me.” Such memories can be remembered (everyone knows this) even from an earlier age, even from the age of two, but they only emerge throughout one’s life as specks of light, as it were, against the darkness, as a corner torn from a huge picture, which has all faded and disappeared except for that little corner. That is exactly how it was with him: he remembered a quiet summer evening, an open window, the slanting rays of the setting sun (these slanting rays he remembered most of all), an icon in the corner of the room, a lighted oil-lamp in front of it, and before the icon, on her knees, his mother, sobbing as if in hysterics, with shrieks and cries, seizing him in her arms, hugging him so tightly that it hurt, and pleading for him to the Mother of God, holding him out from her embrace with both arms towards the icon, as if under the protection of the Mother of God … and suddenly a nurse rushes in and snatches him from her in fear. What a picture! Alyosha remembered his mother’s face, too, at that moment: he used to say that it was frenzied, but beautiful, as far as he could remember. But he rarely cared to confide this memory to anyone. In his childhood and youth he was not very effusive, not even very talkative, not from mistrust, not from shyness or sullen unsociability, but even quite the contrary, from something different, from some inner preoccupation, as it were, strictly personal, of no concern to others, but so important for him that because of it he would, as it were, forget others. But he did love people; he lived all his life, it seemed, with complete faith in people, and yet no one ever considered him either naive or a simpleton. There was something in him that told one, that convinced one (and it was so all his life afterwards) that he did not want to be a judge of men, that he would not take judgment upon himself and would not condemn anyone for anything. It seemed, even, that he accepted everything without the least condemnation, though often with deep sadness. Moreover, in this sense he even went so far that no one could either surprise or frighten him, and this even in his very early youth. Coming to his father in his twentieth year, precisely into that den of dirty iniquity, he, chaste and pure, would simply retire quietly when it was unbearable to watch, yet without the least expression of contempt or condemnation of anyone at all. His father, a former sponger and therefore touchy and easily offended, and who met him at first with sullen suspicion (“He’s too quiet,” he said, “and he reasons in himself too much”), soon ended up, nonetheless, in no more than two weeks, by hugging and kissing him terribly often, with drunken tears and tipsy sentimentality, true, but apparently having come to love him sincerely and deeply, more than such a man had, of course, ever managed to love anyone else.
Indeed, everyone loved this young man wherever he appeared, and it was so even in his earliest childhood. When he came to live in the house of his benefactor and guardian, Yefim Petrovich Polenov, he attached everyone in the family to himself so much that they decidedly considered him, as it were, their own child. Yet he entered the house at such an early age that one could hardly expect in a child any calculated cunning, or pushiness, or skill in ingratiating himself, or knowledge of how to please and how to make himself loved. Thus he possessed in himself, in his very nature, so to speak, artlessly and directly, the gift of awakening a special love for himself. It was the same with him at school, too, and yet it would seem that he was exactly the kind of child who awakens mistrust, sometimes mockery, and perhaps also hatred, in his schoolmates. He used, for instance, to lapse into revery and, as it were, set himself apart. Even as a child, he liked to go into a corner and read books, and yet his schoolmates, too, loved him so much that he could decidedly be called everyone’s favorite all the while he was at school. He was seldom playful, seldom even merry, but anyone could see at once, at a glance, that this was not from any kind of sullenness, that, on the contrary, he was serene and even-tempered. He never wanted to show off in front of his peers. Maybe for that very reason he was never afraid of anyone, and yet the boys realized at once that he was not at all proud of his fearlessness, but looked as if he did not realize that he was brave and fearless. He never remembered an offense. Sometimes an hour after the offense he would speak to the offender or answer some question with as trustful and serene an expression as though nothing had happened between them at all. And he did not look as if he had accidentally forgotten or intentionally forgiven the offense; he simply did not consider it an offense, and this decidedly captivated the boys and conquered them. There was only one trait in him that in all the grades of his school from the lowest even to the highest awakened in his schoolmates a constant desire to tease him, not out of malicious mockery but simply because they found it funny. This trait was a wild, frantic modesty and chastity. He could not bear to hear certain words and certain conversations about women. These “certain” words and conversations, unfortunately, are ineradicable in schools. Boys, while still almost children, pure in mind and heart, very often like to talk in classes among themselves and even aloud about such things, pictures and images, as even soldiers would not speak of; moreover, many things that soldiers themselves do not know or understand are already familiar to still quite young children of our educated and higher society. There is, perhaps, no moral depravity yet, and no cynicism either of a real, depraved, inner sort, but there is external cynicism, and this is not infrequently regarded among them as something refined, subtle, daring, and worthy of emulation. Seeing that “Alyoshka Karamazov” quickly put his fingers in his ears when they talked “about that,” they would sometimes purposely crowd around him, pull his hands away by force, and shout foul things into both his ears, while he struggled, slipped to the floor, lay down, covered his head, all without saying a word to them, without any abuse, silently enduring the offense. In the end, however, they left him alone and no longer teased him with being “a little girl”; moreover, they looked upon him, in this respect, with compassion. Incidentally, he was always among the best of his class in his studies, but was never the first.
After Yefim Petrovich died, Alyosha spent two more years at the local secondary school. Yefim Petrovich’s inconsolable spouse left almost immediately after his death for a long visit to Italy with her whole family, which consisted entirely of persons of the female sex, while Alyosha wound up in the house of two ladies he had never even seen before, some distant relations of Yefim Petrovich’s, but on what terms he himself did not know. It was characteristic, even highly characteristic of him, that he never worried about who was supporting him. In this he was the complete opposite of his older brother, Ivan Fyodorovich, who lived in poverty for his first two years at the university, supporting himself by his own labor, and who even as a child was bitterly aware that he was eating his benefactor’s bread. But it was not possible, it seems, to judge this strange trait in Alexei’s character very harshly, for anyone who got to know him a little would immediately be convinced, if the question arose, that Alexei must be one of those youths, like holy fools,2 as it were, who, if they were to chance upon even a large fortune, would have no trouble giving it away for a good deed to the first asker, or maybe even to some clever swindler who approached them. Generally speaking, he seemed not to know the value of money at all—not, of course, in the literal sense. When he was given pocket money, which he himself never asked for, he either did not know what to do with it for weeks on end, or was so terribly careless with it that it disappeared in a moment. Later, after getting used to Alyosha, Pyotr Alexandrovich Miusov, who was rather ticklish on the subjects of money and bourgeois honesty, once pronounced the following aphorism: “Here, perhaps, is the only man in the world who, were you to leave him alone and without money on the square of some unknown city with a population of a million, would not perish, would not die of cold and hunger, for he would immediately be fed and immediately be taken care of, and if no one else took care of him, he would immediately take care of himself, and it would cost him no effort, and no humiliation, and he would be no burden to those who took care of him, who perhaps, on the contrary, would consider it a pleasure.”
He did not complete his studies at school; he had one more year to go when he suddenly announced to his ladies that he had to see his father about a certain matter that had come into his head. They were sorry for him and did not want to let him go. The trip was very inexpensive, and the ladies would not allow him to pawn his watch—a gift from his benefactor’s family before they went abroad—but luxuriously provided him with means, and even with new clothes and linen. He, however, returned half the money, announcing that he definitely intended to travel third class. On his arrival in our town, he made no direct reply to the first question of his parent: “And precisely why this visit before you’ve finished your studies?” but he was, they say, more than usually thoughtful. It soon became clear that he was looking for his mother’s grave. He even as much as confessed himself, then, that that was the sole purpose of his coming. But this hardly exhausted the reasons for his visit. Most likely he himself did not know and would not at all have been able to explain what it was precisely that suddenly rose up in his soul and irresistibly drew him onto some sort of new, unknown, but already inevitable path. Fyodor Pavlovich could not show him where he had buried his second wife, because he had never visited her grave after her coffin was covered with earth, and it was all so long ago that he just could not recall where they had buried her …
By the way, about Fyodor Pavlovich. For a long time before then, he had not been living in our town. Three or four years after his second wife’s death, he set off for the south of Russia and finally wound up in Odessa, where he lived for several years in a row. First, he made the acquaintance, in his own words, of “a lot of Yids, big Yids, little Yids, baby Yids,” but he ended up later being received “not just by Yids but by Jews, too.” We may assume it was during this period of his life that he developed his special skill at knocking money together, and at knocking it out of other people. He came back to our town again, finally, only three years before Alyosha’s arrival. Former acquaintances found him terribly aged, though he was by no means such an old man. He behaved, shall we say, not with more dignity but somehow with more effrontery. There appeared in this old buffoon, for example, an insolent need to make others into buffoons. He now loved to be outrageous with the female sex, not simply as before, but even, somehow, in a more repulsive way. He soon became the founder of a number of new taverns throughout the district. It was apparent that he had maybe as much as a hundred thousand, or perhaps only a little less. Many inhabitants of our town and district immediately got into debt with him, naturally on the best securities. Lately he had somehow become bloated; he began somehow to be erratic, lost his self-control, and even fell into a sort of lightheadedness; he would start one thing and end up with another; he somehow became scattered; and he got drunk more and more often. If it hadn’t been for the very same servant Grigory, who by then had also aged considerably, and who looked after him sometimes almost like a tutor, Fyodor Pavlovich would not have gotten away without serious trouble. Alyosha’s arrival seemed to affect him even on the moral side, as if something woke up in this untimely old man, something that had long been stifled in his soul. “Do you know,” he now often said to Alyosha, studying him intently, “you resemble her, the ‘shrieker’?” That was how he referred to his dead wife, Alyosha’s mother. The “shrieker’s” grave was finally pointed out to Alyosha by the servant Grigory. He took him to our town cemetery, and there, in a remote corner, showed him a cast-iron marker, inexpensive but well tended, on which there was an inscription giving the name, social position, age, and date of death of the deceased woman, and below that even some sort of four-line verse chosen from the old cemetery lore commonly used on middle-class tombs. Surprisingly, this marker turned out to be Grigory’s doing. He himself had erected it over the grave of the poor “shrieker” at his own expense, after Fyodor Pavlovich, whom he had already pestered with numberless reminders about the grave, finally went off to Odessa, brushing aside not only graves but all his memories. Alyosha did not show any particular emotion at his mother’s grave; he simply listened to a solemn and sensible account of the construction of the marker, stood for a while looking downcast, and walked away without saying a word. After that, perhaps even for a whole year, he did not visit the cemetery. But this little episode also had an effect on Fyodor Pavlovich—and a very original one. He suddenly took a thousand roubles and brought them to our monastery to have memorial services said for the soul of his wife, but not of his second wife, Alyosha’s mother, the “shrieker,” but of the first, Adelaida Ivanovna, who used to thrash him. In the evening of that day, he got drunk and berated monks to Alyosha. He was far from religious; the man probably had never put a five-kopek candle in front of an icon. Strange fits of sudden feelings and sudden thoughts come over such individuals.
I have already mentioned that he had grown very bloated. His physiognomy by that time presented something that testified acutely to the characteristics and essence of his whole life. Besides the long, fleshy bags under his eternally insolent, suspicious, and leering little eyes, besides the multitude of deep wrinkles on his fat little face, a big Adam’s apple, fleshy and oblong like a purse, hung below his sharp chin, giving him a sort of repulsively sensual appearance. Add to that a long, carnivorous mouth with plump lips, behind which could be seen the little stumps of black, almost decayed teeth. He sprayed saliva whenever he spoke. However, he himself liked to make jokes about his own face, although he was apparently pleased with it. He pointed especially to his nose, which was not very big but was very thin and noticeably hooked. “A real Roman one,” he used to say. “Along with my Adam’s apple, it gives me the real physiognomy of an ancient Roman patrician of the decadent period.” He seemed to be proud of it.
And then, quite soon after finding his mother’s grave, Alyosha suddenly announced to him that he wanted to enter the monastery and that the monks were prepared to accept him as a novice. He explained further that this was his highest desire and that he was asking for his solemn consent as his father. The old man already knew that the elder Zosima, who was seeking salvation in the monastery hermitage, had made a particular impression on his “quiet boy.”
“That elder is, of course, the most honest man there,” he remarked, having listened to Alyosha silently and thoughtfully, almost, however, as if he were not at all surprised by his request. “H’m … so that’s where you want to go, my quiet boy!” He was half drunk, and suddenly smiled his long, half-drunken smile, which was not devoid of cunning and drunken slyness. “H’m … I even had a feeling you’d end up with something like that, can you imagine? That’s just where you were headed. Well, why not? After all, you do have your little two thousand—there’s a dowry for you!—and I, my angel, will never forget you, I’ll pay in for you now, too, whatever’s due, if they ask. And if they don’t ask, well, we can’t go pushing ourselves on them, can we? You spend money like a canary, anyway, two little grains a week … H’m. You know, there’s one monastery that has a little village nearby, and everybody around knows that only ‘monastery wives’ live there, that’s what they call them, about thirty little bits of wives, I’d say … I was there, and, you know, it’s interesting—in its own way, of course, for the sake of variety. The only trouble is this terrible Russianism, there are no French women at all, not so far, and there could be, the money’s there, plenty of it. Once the word gets around, they’ll come. Well, there’s nothing like that here, no monastery wives, and about two hundred monks. It’s honest. They fast. I admit it … H’m. So you want to go to the monks? You know, I’m sorry for you, Alyosha, truly, believe me, I’ve grown to love you … However, it’s a good opportunity: you can pray for us sinners, we’ve sat around sinning too much. I keep thinking all the time: who is ever going to pray for me? Is there anyone in the world? My dear boy, you know, I’m terribly stupid about these things, would you believe it? Terribly stupid. You see, stupid as I am, I still keep thinking about it, I keep thinking, every once in a while, of course, not all the time. Surely it’s impossible, I think, that the devils will forget to drag me down to their place with their hooks when I die. And then I think: hooks? Where do they get them? What are they made of? Iron? Where do they forge them? Have they got some kind of factory down there? You know, in the monastery the monks probably believe there’s a ceiling in hell, for instance. Now me, I’m ready to believe in hell, only there shouldn’t be any ceiling; that would be, as it were, more refined, more enlightened, more Lutheran, in other words. Does it really make any difference—with a ceiling or without a ceiling? But that’s what the damned question is all about! Because if there’s no ceiling, then there are no hooks. And if there are no hooks, the whole thing falls apart, which, again, is unlikely, because then who will drag me down with hooks, because if they don’t drag me down, what then, and where is there any justice in the world? Il faudrait les inventer,3 those hooks, just for me, for me alone, because you have no idea, Alyosha, what a stinker I am … !”
“No, there are no hooks there,” Alyosha said quietly and seriously, studying his father.
“Yes, yes. Only shadows of hooks. I know, I know. That’s how one Frenchman described hell: J’ai vu l’ombre d’un cocher, qui avec l’ombre d’une brosse frottait l’ombre d’une carrosse.4 How do you know, my dear, that there are no hooks? When you’ve been with the monks for a while, you’ll sing a different tune. But go, get to the truth there, and come back and tell me: anyway it will be easier to go to the other world knowing for certain what it’s like. And it will be more proper for you to live with the monks than with me, a little old drunk man with his young girls … though you’re like an angel, nothing touches you. Well, maybe nothing will touch you there either, that’s why I’m letting you do it, because I hope for that. The devil hasn’t made off with your wits. You’ll burn and burn out, you’ll get cured and come back. And I’ll be waiting for you: I really feel you’re the only one in the world who hasn’t condemned me, you are, my dear boy, I feel it, how can I not feel it … !”
He even began to snivel. He was sentimental. He was wicked and sentimental.
Perhaps some of my readers will think that my young man was a sickly, ecstatic, poorly developed person, a pale dreamer, a meager, emaciated little fellow. On the contrary, Alyosha was at that time a well-built, red-cheeked nineteen-year-old youth, clear-eyed and bursting with health. He was at that time even quite handsome, slender, of above-average height, with dark brown hair, a regular though slightly elongated face, and bright, deep gray, widely set eyes, rather thoughtful, and apparently rather serene. Some will say, perhaps, that red cheeks are quite compatible with both fanaticism and mysticism, but it seems to me that Alyosha was even more of a realist than the rest of us. Oh, of course, in the monastery he believed absolutely in miracles, but in my opinion miracles will never confound a realist. It is not miracles that bring a realist to faith. A true realist, if he is not a believer, will always find in himself the strength and ability not to believe in miracles as well, and if a miracle stands before him as an irrefutable fact, he will sooner doubt his own senses than admit the fact. And even if he does admit it, he will admit it as a fact of nature that was previously unknown to him. In the realist, faith is not born from miracles, but miracles from faith. Once the realist comes to believe, then, precisely because of his realism, he must also allow for miracles. The Apostle Thomas declared that he would not believe until he saw, and when he saw, he said: “My Lord and my God!”1 Was it the miracle that made him believe? Most likely not, but he believed first and foremost because he wished to believe, and maybe already fully believed in his secret heart even as he was saying: “I will not believe until I see.”
Some will say, perhaps, that Alyosha was slow, undeveloped, had not finished his studies, and so on. That he had not finished his studies is true, but to say that he was slow or stupid would be a great injustice. I will simply repeat what I have already said above: he set out upon this path only because at the time it alone struck him and presented him all at once with the whole ideal way out for his soul struggling from darkness to light. Add to this that he was partly a young man of our time—that is, honest by nature, demanding the truth, seeking it and believing in it, and in that belief demanding immediate participation in it with all the strength of his soul; demanding an immediate deed, with an unfailing desire to sacrifice everything for this deed, even life. Although, unfortunately, these young men do not understand that the sacrifice of life is, perhaps, the easiest of all sacrifices in many cases, while to sacrifice, for example, five or six years of their ebulliently youthful life to hard, difficult studies, to learning, in order to increase tenfold their strength to serve the very truth and the very deed that they loved and set out to accomplish—such sacrifice is quite often almost beyond the strength of many of them. Alyosha simply chose the opposite path from all others, but with the same thirst for an immediate deed. As soon as he reflected seriously and was struck by the conviction that immortality and God exist, he naturally said at once to himself: “I want to live for immortality, and I reject any halfway compromise.” In just the same way, if he had decided that immortality and God do not exist, he would immediately have joined the atheists and socialists (for socialism is not only the labor question or the question of the so-called fourth estate, but first of all the question of atheism, the question of the modern embodiment of atheism, the question of the Tower of Babel built precisely without God, not to go from earth to heaven but to bring heaven down to earth).2 To Alyosha it even seemed strange and impossible to go on living as before. It was said: “If thou wilt be perfect, give all that thou hast to the poor and come and follow me.”3 So Alyosha said to himself: “I cannot give two roubles instead of ‘all,’ and instead of ‘follow me’ just go to the Sunday liturgy.” Among his early childhood memories, something may have been preserved about our neighboring monastery, where his mother may have taken him to the Sunday liturgy. Perhaps he was also affected by the slanting rays of the setting sun before the icon to which his mother, the “shrieker,” held him out. Thoughtful, he came to us, then, maybe only to see if it was “all” here, or if here, too, there were only “two roubles”—and in the monastery he met this elder …
This elder was, as I have explained above, the elder Zosima; but I ought to say a few words first about what, generally, the “elders” in our monasteries are, and the pity is that I feel myself not very competent or steady on this path. I shall try, however, to give a superficial account in a few words. First of all, special and competent people maintain that elders and the institution of elders appeared in our country, in our Russian monasteries, only very recently, less than a hundred years ago, whereas in the whole Orthodox East, especially on Sinai and Athos,4 they have existed for well over a thousand years. Some maintain that the institution of elders also existed in Russia in ancient times, or must have existed, but that owing to national calamities—the Tartar yoke,5 disorders, the interruption of the former ties with the East after the fall of Constantinople6—the institution was forgotten and elders ceased. It was revived again in our country at the end of the last century by one of the great ascetics (as he is known), Paissy Velichkovsky,7 and his disciples, but even to this day, after almost a hundred years, it exists in rather few monasteries and has sometimes been subjected almost to persecution as an unheard-of innovation in Russia. The institution flourished especially in one celebrated hermitage, Kozelskaya-Optina.8 When and by whom it was planted in our neighboring monastery I cannot say, but they had already counted a succession of three elders, the latest being the elder Zosima. But he himself was now dying from weakness and disease, and they did not even know whom to replace him with. It was an important question for our monastery, which until then had not been famous for anything in particular: it had no relics of saints, no wonder-working icons, not even any glorious legends connected with its history, nor did it have to its credit any historical deeds or services to the fatherland. It flourished and became famous all over Russia precisely because of the elders, whom crowds of pilgrims from all over Russia, from thousands of miles, came flocking to us to see and hear. What, then, is an elder? An elder is one who takes your soul, your will into his soul and into his will. Having chosen an elder, you renounce your will and give it to him under total obedience and with total self-renunciation. A man who dooms himself to this trial, this terrible school of life, does so voluntarily, in the hope that after the long trial he will achieve self-conquest, self-mastery to such a degree that he will, finally, through a whole life’s obedience, attain to perfect freedom—that is, freedom from himself—and avoid the lot of those who live their whole lives without finding themselves in themselves. This invention—that is, the institution of elders—is not a theoretical one, but grew in the East out of a practice that in our time is already more than a thousand years old. The obligations due to an elder are not the same as the ordinary “obedience” that has always existed in our Russian monasteries as well. All disciples accept an eternal confession to the elder, and an indissoluble bond between the one who binds and the one who is bound. They say, for instance, that once in the early days of Christianity there was such a disciple who, having failed to fulfill a certain obedience imposed on him by his elder, left his monastery in Syria and went to another country, to Egypt. There, after a long life of great asceticism, it was finally granted him to suffer torture and die a martyr for the faith. When the Church, already venerating him as a saint, went to bury his body, suddenly, at the deacon’s exclamation: “All catechumens, depart,”9 the coffin containing the martyr’s body tore from its place and cast itself out of the church. This happened three times. In the end, it was discovered that this holy martyr had broken his obedience and left his elder, and therefore could not be forgiven without the elder’s absolution, even despite his great deeds. The elder was summoned and absolved him of his obedience, and only then could his burial take place. Of course, all that is only ancient legend, but here is a recent fact: one of our contemporary monks was seeking salvation on Mount Athos, and suddenly his elder ordered him to leave Athos, which he loved and adored with all his soul as a haven of peace, and go first to Jerusalem to venerate the holy places, and then back to Russia, to the north, to Siberia: “Your place is there, not here.” Stricken and overcome with grief, the monk went to Constantinople, to the Ecumenical Patriarch,10 and implored him to release him from his obedience, but the Ecumenical bishop replied that not only was he, the Ecumenical Patriarch, unable to release him but there neither was nor could be any power on earth that could release him from his obedience, once it had been imposed by the elder, except the power of the very elder who had imposed it. Thus elders are, in certain cases, granted a boundless and inconceivable power. That is why in many Russian monasteries the institution of elders was first met almost with persecution. Yet elders immediately found great respect among the people. For instance, common people as well as the highest nobility flocked to the elders of our monastery so that, prostrating before them, they could confess to them their doubts, their sins, their sufferings, and ask for advice and admonition. Seeing which, the opponents of the elders shouted, among other accusations, that here the sacrament of confession was being arbitrarily and frivolously degraded, although a disciple’s or layman’s ceaseless confession of his soul to the elder is not at all sacramental. In the end, however, the institution of elders held out and is being established little by little in Russian monasteries. It is also true, perhaps, that this tested and already thousand-year-old instrument for the moral regeneration of man from slavery to freedom and to moral perfection may turn into a double-edged weapon, which may lead a person not to humility and ultimate self-control but, on the contrary, to the most satanic pride—that is, to fetters and not to freedom.
The elder Zosima was about sixty-five years old, came from a landowning family, had been in the army back in his very early youth, and served in the Caucasus as a commissioned officer. No doubt he struck Alyosha by some special quality of his soul. Alyosha lived in the cell of the elder, who loved him very much and allowed him to stay by him. It should be noted that Alyosha, while living in the monastery at that time, was not yet bound by anything, could go wherever he pleased even for whole days, and if he wore a cassock, it was voluntarily, so as not to be different from anyone else in the monastery. But of course he also liked it. It may be that Alyosha’s youthful imagination was deeply affected by the power and fame that constantly surrounded his elder. Many said of the elder Zosima that, having for so many years received all those who came to him to open their hearts, thirsting for advice and for a healing word, having taken into his soul so many confessions, sorrows, confidences, he acquired in the end such fine discernment that he could tell, from the first glance at a visiting stranger’s face, what was in his mind, what he needed, and even what kind of suffering tormented his conscience; and he sometimes astonished, perplexed, and almost frightened the visitor by this knowledge of his secret even before he had spoken a word. But at the same time, Alyosha almost always noticed that many people, nearly everyone, who came to the elder for the first time for a private talk, would enter in fear and anxiety and almost always come out bright and joyful, and that the gloomiest face would be transformed into a happy one. Alyosha was remarkably struck by the fact that the elder was not at all stern; that, on the contrary, he was almost always cheerful in manner. The monks used to say of him that he was attached in his soul precisely to those who were the more sinful, and that he who was most sinful the elder loved most of all. There were some among the monks, even towards the very end of the elder’s life, who hated and envied him, but they were becoming fewer, and they were silent, although they numbered among themselves several renowned and important persons in the monastery—for instance, one of the most aged monks, famous for his great silence and remarkable fasting. However, the vast majority were already undoubtedly on the elder Zosima’s side, and many among them loved him with all their hearts, ardently and sincerely; some were almost fanatically attached to him. These said outright, if not quite aloud, that he was a saint, that there was already no doubt of it, and, foreseeing his near end, even expected immediate miracles from the deceased and, in the nearest future, great glory for the monastery. Alyosha, too, had unquestioning faith in the miraculous power of the elder, just as he had unquestioning faith in the story of the coffin that kept flying out of the church. Many of those who came with sick children or adult relatives and implored the elder to lay his hands on them and say a prayer over them, he saw return soon, some even the next day, and, falling in tears before the elder, thank him for healing their sick. Whether it was a real healing or simply a natural improvement in the course of the disease was a question that did not exist for Alyosha, for he already fully believed in the spiritual power of his teacher, and his glory was, as it were, Alyosha’s own triumph. His heart especially throbbed and he became radiant when the elder came out to the crowd of simple pilgrims waiting for him at the gates of the hermitage, who flocked from all over Russia purposely to see the elder and receive his blessing. They prostrated before him, wept, kissed his feet, kissed the ground he stood on, and cried out; women held their children up to him, they brought him the sick “shriekers.” The elder spoke to them, read a brief prayer over them, blessed and dismissed them. Recently he sometimes became so weak from the attacks of his illness that he was scarcely able to leave his cell, and the pilgrims sometimes waited in the monastery several days for him to come out. For Alyosha there was no question of why they loved him so much, why they prostrated before him and wept so tenderly just at the sight of his face. Oh, how well he understood that for the humble soul of the simple Russian, worn out by toil and grief, and, above all, by everlasting injustice and everlasting sin, his own and the world’s, there is no stronger need and consolation than to find some holy thing or person, to fall down before him and venerate him: “Though with us there is sin, unrighteousness, and temptation, still, all the same, there is on earth, in such and such a place, somewhere, someone holy and exalted; he has the truth; he knows the truth; so the truth does not die on earth, and therefore someday it will come to us and will reign over all the earth, as has been promised.” Alyosha knew that this was precisely how the people felt and even reasoned; he understood it; and that the elder Zosima was precisely that very saint, that keeper of God’s truth in the eyes of the people—this he himself did not doubt at all, any more than did those weeping peasants and their sick women who held out their children to the elder. The conviction that the elder, after death, would bring remarkable glory to the monastery, reigned in Alyosha’s soul perhaps even more strongly than in anyone else’s in the monastery. And generally of late a certain deep, flaming inner rapture burned more and more strongly in his heart. He was not at all troubled that the elder, after all, stood solitary before him: “No matter, he is holy, in his heart there is the secret of renewal for all, the power that will finally establish the truth on earth, and all will be holy and will love one another, and there will be neither rich nor poor, neither exalted nor humiliated, but all will be like the children of God, and the true kingdom of Christ will come.” That was the dream in Alyosha’s heart.
It appears that Alyosha was strongly impressed by the arrival of his two brothers, whom until then he had not known at all. He became friends more quickly and intimately with his half-brother, Dmitri Fyodorovich—though he arrived later—than with his other brother, Ivan Fyodorovich. He was terribly interested in getting to know his brother Ivan, but though the latter had already spent two months in our town, and they met fairly often, they still somehow were not close: Alyosha was reticent himself, and seemed as if he were waiting for something, as if he were ashamed of something; and his brother Ivan, though Alyosha noticed how he looked long and curiously at him at first, soon seemed even to have stopped thinking about him. Alyosha noticed this with some puzzlement. He attributed his brother’s indifference to the disparity in their ages and especially in their education. But he also thought that, perhaps, such scant curiosity and interest in him on Ivan’s part might be caused by something completely unknown to him. For some reason he kept thinking that Ivan was preoccupied with something, something inward and important, that he was striving towards some goal, possibly a very difficult one, so that he simply could not be bothered with him, and that that was the only reason why he looked at Alyosha so absently. Alyosha also kept wondering whether the learned atheist did not feel some sort of contempt for him, the silly little novice. He knew perfectly well that his brother was an atheist. This contempt, if there were any, could not offend him, but still he was waiting with some sort of anxious puzzlement, which he himself did not understand, waiting for his brother to move closer to him. His brother Dmitri Fyodorovich spoke of their brother Ivan with the deepest respect; he talked about him with a special sort of feeling. It was from him that Alyosha learned all the details of the important affair that had recently joined the two older brothers with such a wonderful and close bond. Dmitri’s rapturous words about his brother Ivan were all the more significant in Alyosha’s eyes since, compared with Ivan, Dmitri was an almost entirely uneducated man, and the two placed side by side would seem to present so striking a contrast, in personality as well as in character, that it would perhaps be impossible to imagine two men more unlike each other.
It was at that time that the meeting, or one might better say the family gathering, of all the members of this discordant family, which had such an extraordinary influence on Alyosha, took place in the elder’s cell. The pretext for the gathering, in reality, was false. Precisely at that time, the disagreements between Dmitri Fyodorovich and his father, Fyodor Pavlovich, over the inheritance and the property accounts had, it seemed, reached an impossible point. Their relations sharpened and became unbearable. Fyodor Pavlovich was apparently the first to suggest, apparently as a joke, that they all get together in the elder Zosima’s cell, and, without resorting to his direct mediation, still come to some decent agreement, since the dignity and personality of the elder might be somehow influential and conciliatory. Dmitri Fyodorovich, who had never been at the elder’s and had never even seen him, thought, of course, that they wanted to frighten him with the elder, as it were, but since he secretly reproached himself for a number of especially harsh outbursts recently in his arguments with his father, he decided to accept the challenge. Incidentally, he did not live in his father’s house, like Ivan Fyodorovich, but by himself at the other end of town. It happened that Pyotr Alexandrovich Miusov, who was living among us at the time, especially seized upon this idea of Fyodor Pavlovich’s. A liberal of the forties and fifties, a freethinker and an atheist, Miusov, perhaps out of boredom, or perhaps for some lighthearted sport, enthusiastically took part in the affair. He suddenly wanted to have a look at the monastery and the “saint.” Since his old feud with the monastery was still going on, and the lawsuit over the boundaries of their land and some rights for cutting wood in the forest and fishing in the river and so on was still being dragged out, he hastened to take advantage of this meeting under the pretext of an intention to settle everything with the Father Superior and end all their controversies amicably. A visitor with such good intentions would, of course, be received in the monastery more attentively and deferentially than one who was merely curious. All these considerations could result in establishing in the monastery a certain inside influence over the ailing elder, who lately almost never left his cell and refused, because of his illness, to receive even ordinary visitors. In the end, the elder agreed to see them, and the day was fixed. “Who made me a divider over them?”11 he merely remarked to Alyosha with a smile.
When he heard about this meeting, Alyosha was very disturbed. If any of these quarrelers and litigants could take such a council seriously, it was undoubtedly only his brother Dmitri. The rest would come with frivolous purposes, perhaps offensive to the elder—this Alyosha knew. His brother Ivan and Miusov would come out of curiosity, perhaps of the crudest sort, and his father, perhaps, for some buffoonery or theatrics. Oh, although Alyosha said nothing, he already knew his father through and through. I repeat, this boy was not at all as naive as everyone thought he was. He waited for the appointed day with a heavy heart. No doubt he was concerned within himself, in his heart, that somehow all these family disagreements should end. Nevertheless, his greatest concern was for the elder: he trembled for him, for his glory; he feared any insult to him, especially Miusov’s refined, polite jibes and the haughty innuendos of the learned Ivan, as he pictured it all to himself. He even wanted to risk warning the elder, to tell him something about these persons who were soon to arrive, but he thought better of it and kept silent. He only sent word to his brother Dmitri, through an acquaintance, on the eve of the appointed day, that he loved him and expected him to keep his promise. Dmitri thought for a moment, because he could not recall what he had promised, and replied in a letter that he would do his best to restrain himself “in the face of vileness,” and that although he deeply respected the elder and their brother Ivan, he was convinced that the whole thing was either some sort of trap, or an unworthy farce. “Nevertheless, I would sooner bite off my own tongue than fail to show respect for the saintly man you esteem so highly,” Dmitri concluded his note. Alyosha was not greatly encouraged by it.