Book IV – Lacerations
Chapter 1 – Father Ferapont
• Zosima summons the monks of the monastery for one last speech before he dies. He exhorts them to practice active love, and tells them to refrain from judging because everyone shares in the guilt of every sin.
• Everyone in the monastery believes that a miracle will occur when Zosima dies, everyone except Father Ferapont. Ferapont is an ascetic monk who subsists on a couple pounds of bread a week. He rarely talks, but when he does, he speaks of his visions, and is generally disrespectful to everyone.
• Zosima once again exhorts Alyosha to take care of his familial obligations, and promises Alyosha that he will speak his last words on earth to him.
• Father Paissy, who will take over Zosima’s role as spiritual guide to Alyosha, tells Alyosha that science has not provided a higher “ideal of man and of virtue than the ideal given by Christ.”
Chapter 2 – At His Father’s
• Alyosha leaves the monastery, and arrives at Fyodor’s house. Fyodor tells Alyosha that he is hoarding money because he intends to live a debauched life until he dies. He states that everyone lives in sin; the difference between him and everyone else is that he lives openly in sin while everyone else tries to conceal their moral transgressions.
• He will not press charges against Dmitri for assaulting him because it will make Grushenka sympathetic towards Dmitri.
• He asks Alyosha if Dmitri would give up Grushenka for 2,000 Rubles, but then quickly withdraws the offer, stating that he will crush Dmitri like a beetle.
• Alyosha kisses his father, and turns to go. Fyodor asks what Alyosha meant by kissing him. He is clearly fearful that Alyosha is implying this will be the last time he will see him because Dmitri is coming to kill him soon, but Alyosha assures Fyodor that he meant nothing more than to say good bye.
“I mean to go on in my sins to the end, let me tell you. For sin is sweet; all abuse it, but all men live in it, only others do it on the sly, and I openly. And so all the other sinners fall upon me for being so simple. And your paradise, Alexey Fyodorovitch, is not to my taste, let me tell you that; and it’s not the proper place for a gentleman, your paradise, even if it exists. I believe that I fall asleep and don’t wake up again, and that’s all. You can pray for my soul if you like. And if you don’t want to, don’t, damn you! That’s my philosophy.”
“If you have money, Alexey Fyodorovitch, you have only to want a thing and you can have it.”
Chapter 3 – A Meeting with the Schoolboys
• While on his way to Madam Hohlakov’s, Alyosha sees a group of school boys. He notices that one boy is standing at some distance from the others. He goes to speak with them. The lone boy begins to throw rocks at the 6 other school boys and Alyosha is hit as well.
• Alyosha approaches the lone boy, and asks why he is throwing rocks. The boy tells him to leave him alone. Alyosha turns to walk away. The boy hurls a rock at Alyosha’s back, and then rushes forward and bites Alyosha’s finger.
• Alyosha wraps his hand in a handkerchief and asks the boy why he hurt him. The boy begins to cry, and runs away.
Chapter 4 – At the Hohlakov’s
• Alyosha arrives at the Hohlakov’s. He shows them his bitten finger, and Lise, in great distress, orders her mom to go find lotion and bandages. While they are alone, Lise tells Alyosha that she wants her letter back, and that it was all a joke. Alyosha replies that he does not have the letter, and besides he did not believe that it was a joke and plans on marrying her. Lise is thrilled.
• Madam Hohlakov returns with the lotion and bandages, and tells Alyosha that Katerina and Ivan are speaking with each other in the other room. She says that Katerina and Ivan are in love with one another, but Katerina is doing her best to convince herself that she is in love with Dmitri. She remarks that it is a tragic scene.
Chapter 5 – A Laceration in the Drawing-Room
• Alyosha enters the drawing-room, and finds Ivan and Katerina. Katerina tells everyone that she intends to remain loyal to Dmitri, even if he marries Grushenka.
• Ivan says that he approves of Katerina’s decision, and that he will return to Moscow. Katerina acts like she is happy that Ivan is going to Moscow because he can relate to her guardian the news about Katerina and Dmitri. Alyosha reproaches both of them for pretending that they do not love one another. This causes Katerina to become hysterical. Ivan acknowledges that he loves Katerina, but states that Katerina does not love him. She uses him to satisfy her craving for revenge upon Dmitri.
• Ivan leaves. Katerina tells Alyosha to give 200 rubles to a Russian captain who Dmitri assaulted. Dmitri assaulted this man in a market place in front of his own child. Alyosha immediately suspects that the child is the boy who bit his finger. Alyosha leaves to complete the errand.
Chapter 6 – A Laceration in the Cottage
• Alyosha arrives at the captain’s abode. It is a peasant’s cottage. The captain’s family – two daughters, one son, and a wife – are crammed into the small quarters. They are clearly impoverished. One daughter is a hunchback and cripple. The other daughter is intelligent, but proud. The wife is insane. The boy and the father are both proud.
• The captain discovers that his boy bit Alyosha, and offers to whip him. But just as soon as he makes the offer, he recants, and even yells angrily at Alyosha for believing that he would actually whip his son.
• Alyosha tells the captain that Dmitri wishes to apologize to him for assaulting him in public, in front of his son. The captain’s behavior embarrasses his family, so he tells Alyosha that they will discuss this matter further outside.
Chapter 7 – And In the Open Air
• The captain says that he used to be a kind of servant of Dmitri. However, he cheated him at the command of Grushenka and Fyodor. This is the reason Dmitri assaulted him.
• The captain’s boy is mocked by the children at the school because of what occurred. They call his father a coward, and the boy attempts to defend the family’s honor by physically assaulting the other boys. Earlier that day, during the rock throwing fight, his son, Illusha, suffered a severe blow in the chest.
• The captain says that he tells his son that they will move away to a nicer town. But the captain does not have the means to do so. Alyosha offers the 200 rubles that Katerina gave him to give to the captain to atone for Dmitri’s behavior. The captain first expresses joy at the thought of what he can do with the money – provide medicine and food for his family, pay off debts, move to another town. But he crumples the money, throws it to the ground, and stomps on it, saying that if he accepted money from Alyosha for the shame he received at the hands of Dmitri, then his son would never admire or respect him.
Book V – Pro and Contra
Chapter 1 – The Engagement
• Alyosha returns to the Holakov’s. Alyosha tells Lise about his meeting with the captain. Alyosha is glad that the captain refused the money today because it allowed the captain to prove that he was an honorable man. The captain will be more willing to take the money tomorrow because he has proven this. If he had taken the money, he would have been forced by his conscious to return it the following day.
• Lise admits that her letter to Alyosha was not a joke, and that she sincerely loves him. Alyosha tells her that he loves her, and that he lied to her about leaving the note in the monastery (he actually kept it in his pocket) because it was too precious to him to give up. They kiss on the lips, and plan to marry when Lise comes of age in a year.
• Alyosha leaves Lise’s room, and is met by Madam Holakov, who eavesdropped on their conversation. She is upset about the planned marriage because she will lose that last person in her life, Lise.
• Alyosha tries to reassure her, and then leaves the house.
Chapter 2 – Smerdyakov with a Guitar
• Alyosha searches for Dmitri. He goes to the place where he met Dmitri last, in the garden house near Fyodor’s house. While waiting there, Alyosha overhears Smerdyakov playing the guitar to the daughter of the housemaid. Alyosha asks Smerdyakov where Dmitri is. Smerdyakov replies that he is not Dmitri’s keeper, but that Ivan is supposed to have dinner with Dmitri at a local tavern. Alyosha sets off towards the tavern.
Chapter 3 – The Brothers Make Friends
• Alyosha finds Ivan in the tavern. Ivan invites Alyosha to sit down with him so that they can become better acquainted.
• Ivan tells Alyosha that he loves life, and that this love is characteristic of the Karamazovs. Alyosha says that Ivan’s love is a great thing, and thought humanity ought to love life more than the meaning of it.
• Alyosha asks Ivan what he believes will happen between Fyodor and Dmitri. Ivan responds that he is not Dmitri’s keeper.
• Ivan is in an ecstatic mood because he finally feels free from the torture of his love for Katerina. By acknowledging his love for Katerina, he was able to rid himself of the constraining desire. [This feeling supports Nietzsche’s claim that the utterance of a feeling effectively kills the feeling within us. “That for which we find words is something already dead in our hearts. There is always a kind of contempt in the act of speaking.”]
• Ivan says that he believes in God, but that he doesn’t accept Him because of the suffering of innocents.
“if I didn’t believe in life, if I lost faith in the woman I love, lost faith in the order of things, were convinced in fact that everything is a disorderly, damnable, and perhaps devil-ridden chaos, if I were struck by every horror of man’s disillusionment—still I should want to live and, having once tasted of the cup, I would not turn away from it till I had drained it! At thirty, though, I shall be sure to leave the cup, even if I’ve not emptied it, and turn away—where I don’t know. But till I am thirty, I know that my youth will triumph over everything—every disillusionment, every disgust with life. I’ve asked myself many times whether there is in the world any despair that would overcome this frantic and perhaps unseemly thirst for life in me, and I’ve come to the conclusion that there isn’t, that is till I am thirty, and then I shall lose it of myself, I fancy. Some driveling consumptive moralists—and poets especially—often call that thirst for life base. It’s a feature of the Karamazovs, it’s true, that thirst for life regardless of everything; you have it no doubt too, but why is it base? The centripetal force on our planet is still fearfully strong, Alyosha. I have a longing for life, and I go on living in spite of logic. Though I may not believe in the order of the universe, yet I love the sticky little leaves as they open in spring. I love the blue sky, I love some people, whom one loves sometimes without knowing why. I love some great deeds done by men, though I’ve long ceased perhaps to have faith in them, yet from old habit one’s heart prizes them. I love the sticky leaves in spring, the blue sky—that’s all it is. It’s not a matter of intellect or logic, it’s loving with one’s inside, with one’s stomach.”
“There was an old sinner in the eighteenth century who declared that, if there were no God, he would have to be invented. S’il n’existait pas Dieu, il faudrait l’inventer. And man has actually invented God. And what’s strange, what would be marvelous, is not that God should really exist; the marvel is that such an idea, the idea of the necessity of God, could enter the head of such a savage, vicious beast as man. So holy it is, so touching, so wise and so great a credit it does to man. As for me, I’ve long resolved not to think whether man created God or God man.”
“If God exists and if He really did create the world, then, as we all know, He created it according to the geometry of Euclid and the human mind with the conception of only three dimensions in space. Yet there have been and still are geometricians and philosophers, and even some of the most distinguished, who doubt whether the whole universe, or to speak more widely the whole of being, was only created in Euclid’s geometry; they even dare to dream that two parallel lines, which according to Euclid can never meet on earth, may meet somewhere in infinity. I have come to the conclusion that, since I can’t understand even that, I can’t expect to understand about God. I acknowledge humbly that I have no faculty for settling such questions, I have a Euclidian earthly mind, and how could I solve problems that are not of this world? And I advise you never to think about it either, my dear Alyosha, especially about God, whether He exists or not. All such questions are utterly inappropriate for a mind created with an idea of only three dimensions. And so I accept God and am glad to, and what’s more, I accept His wisdom, His purpose—which are utterly beyond our ken; I believe in the underlying order and the meaning of life; I believe in the eternal harmony in which they say we shall one day be blended. I believe in the Word to Which the universe is striving, and Which Itself was ‘with God,’ and Which Itself is God and so on, and so on, to infinity. There are all sorts of phrases for it. I seem to be on the right path, don’t I? Yet would you believe it, in the final result I don’t accept this world of God’s, and, although I know it exists, I don’t accept it at all. It’s not that I don’t accept God, you must understand, it’s the world created by Him I don’t and cannot accept. Let me make it plain. I believe like a child that suffering will be healed and made up for, that all the humiliating absurdity of human contradictions will vanish like a pitiful mirage, like the despicable fabrication of the impotent and infinitely small Euclidian mind of man, that in the world’s finale, at the moment of eternal harmony, something so precious will come to pass that it will suffice for all hearts, for the comforting of all resentments, for the atonement of all the crimes of humanity, of all the blood they’ve shed; that it will make it not only possible to forgive but to justify all that has happened with men—but though all that may come to pass, I don’t accept it. I won’t accept it. Even if parallel lines do meet and I see it myself, I shall see it and say that they’ve met, but still I won’t accept it.”
Chapter 4 – Rebellion
• “Ivan continues to explain his refusal to accept the world that God created by citing the suffering of the most innocent of human beings: small children. He lists for Alyosha examples of horrendous child abuse: a Turk killing a Bulgarian child before its mother; a Swiss named Richard who had a miserable childhood and grew up to kill a man, but eagerly awaited his hanging because he’d meet God, or so he’s told; parents who flog their daughter mercilessly, and the public outcry that the parents were even brought before a court; parents who made their daughter sleep in an outhouse all night; and a general who, furious that a kid hurt his dog, ordered his hounds to hunt the kid down and tear him apart.”
• Ivan says that he cannot accept the world, or the future world of eternal harmony if it established on the suffering of even one innocent child. Alyosha says that the eternal harmony is established upon the suffering of Jesus Christ, who does have the power to forgive every sin.
• Ivan does not accept Alyosha’s reply, and tells him that he wants to share a story he wrote about Jesus.
“They burn villages, murder, outrage women and children, they nail their prisoners by the ears to the fences, leave them so till morning, and in the morning they hang them—all sorts of things you can’t imagine. People talk sometimes of bestial cruelty, but that’s a great injustice and insult to the beasts; a beast can never be so cruel as a man, so artistically cruel. The tiger only tears and gnaws, that’s all he can do. He would never think of nailing people by the ears, even if he were able to do it. These Turks took a pleasure in torturing children, too; cutting the unborn child from the mother’s womb, and tossing babies up in the air and catching them on the points of their bayonets before their mothers’ eyes. Doing it before the mothers’ eyes was what gave zest to the amusement. Here is another scene that I thought very interesting. Imagine a trembling mother with her baby in her arms, a circle of invading Turks around her. They’ve planned a diversion: they pet the baby, laugh to make it laugh. They succeed, the baby laughs. At that moment a Turk points a pistol four inches from the baby’s face. The baby laughs with glee, holds out its little hands to the pistol, and he pulls the trigger in the baby’s face and blows out its brains. Artistic, wasn’t it? By the way, Turks are particularly fond of sweet things, they say. I think if the devil doesn’t exist, but man has created him, he has created him in his own image and likeness.”
[This entire chapter deserves to be quoted. Read it!]
Chapter 5 – The Grand Inquisitor
• Ivan’s poem is set in the 16th century during the Spanish Inquisition in Seville, Spain.
• A day after one hundred heretics were burned, Christ appears in the town and begins to perform miracles; he even raises a young girl from the dead. The grand Inquisitor sees all of Jesus’s miracles, and orders the guards to arrest him. The people who are following Jesus are so afraid of the Grand Inquisitor that they comply with his orders.
• That night, the Grand Inquisitor visits Jesus in a prison cell. The Grand Inquisitor tells Jesus that he was wrong to reject the three temptations of Satan; for nothing is so “insupportable for man than freedom.”
• Christ desired that mankind would follow him of their own free will; thus, he rejected Satan’s temptations to turn stones into bread, leap from a cliff and be saved by angels, and become the earthly ruler of all the kingdoms of the earth. The majority of mankind is not strong enough to bear the burden of free will, and incessantly search for someone or something to worship. Men desire security, not freedom. Christ could have given them that security by giving them bread, mystery, and authority.
• The Grand Inquisitor says that the Church is correcting Jesus’s work. The Church is taking away mankind’s freedom and giving them security.
• At the end of the poem, Jesus silently kisses the Grand Inquisitor. The Grand Inquisitor lets Jesus out of the prison, and tells him never to return to earth.
• Alyosha silently kisses Ivan. Ivan is delighted at the gesture, and says good bye to Alyosha.
• Alyosha returns to the monastery.
[Like chapter 4, this entire chapter deserves quotations]
Chapter 6 – For a while a very Obscure One
• Ivan returns to his father’s house. In the garden he sees Smerdyakov. Ivan is filled with an intense loathing for the “creature”, and intends to walk past him, but instead sits next to him on the bench and asks about Fyodor.
• Smerdyakov tells Ivan that he is very worried about Fyodor and Dmitri because he told Dmitri about the secret signals arranged between him and Fyodor that would indicate the arrival of Grushenka. Dmitri could use those signal to gain access to Fyodor at night. Furthermore, Smerdyakov implies that he will have a seizure tomorrow, which will incapacitate him, and render him unavailable to protect Fyodor. Similarly, Grigory, who is experiencing chronic back pain, has drunk some tonic – so has his wife Marfa. Smerdyakov implies that Fyodor will be undefended from attack during the next few days.
• It is difficult to determine whether Smerdyakov is suggesting that Ivan ought to murder Fyodor within the next few days, or whether he is trying to create an alibi for himself should he be the one who performs the murder. Either way, he is manufacturing a very compelling case against Dmitri, should Fyodor be murdered by someone.
Chapter 7 – It’s Always Worth While Speaking to a Clever Man
• Ivan goes to his room without speaking to his father. He lays awake at night, and even checks on his father, but he doesn’t know why.
• The next morning he packs his luggage and leaves the house. He says good bye to everyone. Fyodor asks Ivan to go to Tchermashnya to do some business for him. Ivan says that he will consider it.
• Ivan tells Smerdyakov that he is going to Tchermashnya, and Smerdyakov responds that “it’s always worth while speaking to a clever man.”
• Ivan decides to go straight to Moscow.
• Later that day, Smerdyakov is discovered to have fallen down the cellar stairs and had an epileptic seizure. Fyodor is very concerned for the boy because he was his lookout for both Grushenka and Dmitri, but he is excited and anxious for night to come because Smerdyakov assured him before his epileptic fit that Grushenka was sure to come that very night.
Book V is the most interesting and exciting section of the novel. Dostoyevsky presents the two opposing philosophical arguments of faith and doubt in a very compelling manner. Ivan, who represents the skeptic, argues that the existence of God is irrelevant. He rejects the world because of the suffering of innocent children. He argues that the pain of one child does not justify the eternal harmony promised by the Christian religion. As a counterpoint, Alyosha, who represents the man of faith, does not respond with logical arguments to Ivan’s assertions, but rather performs a profound act of love – kissing Ivan on the lips, as Jesus does to the Grand Inquisitor in Ivan’s poem.
Dostoyevsky increases the excitement and anticipation related to the outcome of Dmitri and Fyodor’s conflict. Though I know that Smerdyakov murders Fyodor, it is still difficult to determine whether Smerdyakov was creating an alibi for himself while conversing with Ivn in the garden, or whether he was suggesting a time when Ivan could commit the murder with impunity. Smerdyakov perceives that Ivan dislikes Fyodor. Furthermore, Ivan has a motive to frame Dmitri for the murder – i.e. in order to marry Katerina.
Book VI – The Russian Monk
Chapter 1 – Father Zossima and His Visitors
• Alyosha enters Zossima’s cell. There are four other monks an one novice gathered there. Zossima appears well.
• Zossima explains to Alyosha that he bowed to Dmitri because he foresaw the great suffering that Dmitri had planned for himself. He commands Alyosha to find Dmitri and to save him.
• Zossima tells Alyosha that he is particularly fond of Alyosha because he reminds him of his older brother who died in his late teens.
“One day is enough for a man to know all happiness.”
Chapter 2 – The Duel
• Zossima’s younger brother died of consumption when he was 17 years old. His brother rejected faith throughout his entire life until he became sick. His brother had a moment of enlightenment, in which he saw the beauty of the world. He exhorted everyone to love everything, and advised them that everyone was responsible for every sin, including those of others.
• Zossima extols the virtues of the Holy Scripture. He particularly likes the story of Job.
• Zossima was an officer in the military during his youth. When he discovered that the woman he loved married another man, he challenged the man to a duel. The night before the duel, Zossima beat his servant. When Zossima awoke in the morning and looked out his window, he was struck by the beauty of the world, and felt profound remorse for beating his servant. He apologized to his servant and went to the duel. At the duel, he allows the man to shoot at him, but then throws his weapon into the woods and begs the man’s forgiveness. He intends to become a monk.
• An elderly philanthropist begins to visit Zossima. The man is very curious about the emotions of Zossima during the moment he decided to become a monk. The old man believes that paradise on earth is attainable. Mankind need only practice active love. The old man finally confesses to Zossima that he killed a woman he loved 14 years ago because she intended to marry someone else. One of her servants was blamed for the murder, he fell ill before the trial and died, leaving the old man free from blame and suspicion. Guilt tormented the old man ever since the murder. He cannot even embrace his children and wife because he feels that he is not worthy of their love. Zossima advises the old man to confess. The old man promises to do so, but hesitates for several weeks. One night, the old man visits Zossima and tells him to remember that night. The very next day, the old man confesses to everyone at his birthday party. No one believes him. They think that he has become insane. The old man soon falls ill. Zossima visits the old man on his death bed. The old man says that he finally feels at peace, and is happy in the anticipation of ascending to heaven. He also reveals to Zossima that he intended to kill him when he visited him the night before his birthday, but that God destroyed the devil within him.
“Look around you at the gifts of God, the clear sky, the pure air, the tender grass, the birds; nature is beautiful and sinless, and we, only we, are sinful and foolish, and we don’t understand that life is heaven, for we have only to understand that and it will at once be fulfilled in all its beauty, we shall embrace each other and weep.”
“Every one strives to keep his individuality as apart as possible, wishes to secure the greatest possible fullness of life for himself; but meantime all his efforts result not in attaining fullness of life but self-destruction, for instead of self-realization he ends by arriving at complete solitude. All mankind in our age have split up into units, they all keep apart, each in his own groove; each one holds aloof, hides himself and hides what he has, from the rest, and he ends by being repelled by others and repelling them. He heaps up riches by himself and thinks, ‘How strong I am now and how secure,’ and in his madness he does not understand that the more he heaps up, the more he sinks into self-destructive impotence. For he is accustomed to rely upon himself alone and to cut himself off from the whole; he has trained himself not to believe in the help of others, in men and in humanity, and only trembles for fear he should lose his money and the privileges that he has won for himself. Everywhere in these days men have, in their mockery, ceased to understand that the true security is to be found in social solidarity rather than in isolated individual effort. But this terrible individualism must inevitably have an end, and all will suddenly understand how unnaturally they are separated from one another. It will be the spirit of the time, and people will marvel that they have sat so long in darkness without seeing the light. And then the sign of the Son of Man will be seen in the heavens…. But, until then, we must keep the banner flying. Sometimes even if he has to do it alone, and his conduct seems to be crazy, a man must set an example, and so draw men’s souls out of their solitude, and spur them to some act of brotherly love, that the great idea may not die.”
“A crime committed with extraordinary audacity is more successful than others.”
Chapter 3 – Conversations and Exhortations of Father Zossima
• Though monks live in isolation, it is really the rest of the world that lives in isolation from one another because they focus solely on material possessions rather than on making connections with other people. The Russian monk will be the source of salvation for the Russian people by providing the people a model by which to live their life.
• Masters ought to strive to serve their servants. All ought to serve one another. all ought to be brothers.
• We ought to pray for everyone; for imagine how consoling it is to a recently departed soul, who might have been isolated in life, to feel the love from your prayer in the other world. Furthermore, by praying for everyone, one develops a sense of connection to all, and thus a sense of peace and happiness at the contemplation of the unity of all.
• No man can judge or be judged by another man. All are guilty. When one realizes this, one attains universal love.
• Hell is the inability to love. The physical torments of hell are the greatest joys of hell because they distract one from the spiritual torment of being unable to love.
• Zossima feels an intense pain in his chest. He falls to the floor, embraces the earth, kisses it, and dies.
“Interpreting freedom as the multiplication and rapid satisfaction of desires, men distort their own nature, for many senseless and foolish desires and habits and ridiculous fancies are fostered in them. They live only for mutual envy, for luxury and ostentation. To have dinners, visits, carriages, rank and slaves to wait on one is looked upon as a necessity, for which life, honor and human feeling are sacrificed, and men even commit suicide if they are unable to satisfy it. We see the same thing among those who are not rich, while the poor drown their unsatisfied need and their envy in drunkenness. But soon they will drink blood instead of wine, they are being led on to it. I ask you is such a man free? I knew one “champion of freedom” who told me himself that, when he was deprived of tobacco in prison, he was so wretched at the privation that he almost went and betrayed his cause for the sake of getting tobacco again! And such a man says, ‘I am fighting for the cause of humanity.’
How can such a one fight? what is he fit for? He is capable perhaps of some action quickly over, but he cannot hold out long. And it’s no wonder that instead of gaining freedom they have sunk into slavery, and instead of serving the cause of brotherly love and the union of humanity have fallen, on the contrary, into dissension and isolation, as my mysterious visitor and teacher said to me in my youth. And therefore the idea of the service of humanity, of brotherly love and the solidarity of mankind, is more and more dying out in the world, and indeed this idea is sometimes treated with derision. For how can a man shake off his habits? What can become of him if he is in such bondage to the habit of satisfying the innumerable desires he has created for himself? He is isolated, and what concern has he with the rest of humanity? They have succeeded in accumulating a greater mass of objects, but the joy in the world has grown less.
The monastic way is very different. Obedience, fasting and prayer are laughed at, yet only through them lies the way to real, true freedom. I cut off my superfluous and unnecessary desires, I subdue my proud and wanton will and chastise it with obedience, and with God’s help I attain freedom of spirit and with it spiritual joy. Which is most capable of conceiving a great idea and serving it—the rich man in his isolation or the man who has freed himself from the tyranny of material things and habits? The monk is reproached for his solitude, ‘You have secluded yourself within the walls of the monastery for your own salvation, and have forgotten the brotherly service of humanity!’ But we shall see which will be most zealous in the cause of brotherly love. For it is not we, but they, who are in isolation, though they don’t see that. Of old, leaders of the people came from among us, and why should they not again? The same meek and humble ascetics will rise up and go out to work for the great cause. The salvation of Russia comes from the people. And the Russian monk has always been on the side of the people. We are isolated only if the people are isolated. The people believe as we do, and an unbelieving reformer will never do anything in Russia, even if he is sincere in heart and a genius. Remember that! The people will meet the atheist and overcome him, and Russia will be one and orthodox. Take care of the peasant and guard his heart. Go on educating him quietly. That’s your duty as monks, for the peasant has God in his heart.”
“Hell is the suffering of being unable to love.”
In this section of the novel, Dostoyevsky argues that paradise is attainable on earth. Mankind can establish this state of earthly brotherhood and harmony by practicing active love for everyone, regardless of their sins and evil dispositions. He believes that men’s evil nature can be eliminated by the manifestations of absolute and universal love. For example, Zossima’s malignant spirit is subdued after reflecting upon his ill-treatment of his humble and loving servant. Zossima’s subsequent love and kindness persuade the old philanthropist to repent. One scene in particular demonstrates this argument very well – i.e. when the old philanthropist visits Zossima on the night before his birthday, he intended to kill Zossima. But after looking at Zossima, and considering the love and goodness of Zossima, he states that the evil within him is eradicated.
Zossima’s belief that love will conquer over evil is similar to Jesus’ exhortation to turn the other cheek. Though one cannot but think that this is an ideal unattainable in the world. Some men are naturally evil. Dostoyevsky argues that men are the only creatures of life that commit sin. Ivan, in an earlier section of the novel, states that tigers only claw and eat their victims. Tigers do not have the capacity to be as cruel as man, and nail a person to a fence by their ear. However, one might argue that some men are naturally evil. Nailing a person to a fence by their ear is just as natural to some men as mauling and eating an animal in the forest is to a tiger. Dostoyevsky would likely argue something similar to Kant’s categorical imperative – i.e. that all men are imbued with Reason, or Divine Love in Dostoyevsky’s case, which directs them toward benevolent actions towards others. Those who commit heinous deeds are acting contrary to their natures.