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\Title[Chapter 4]{Chapter IV. The Third Son, Alyosha}

He was only twenty, his brother Ivan was in his twenty‐fourth year at the
time, while their elder brother Dmitri was twenty‐seven. First of all, I
must explain that this young man, Alyosha, was not a fanatic, and, in my
opinion at least, was not even a mystic. I may as well give my full
opinion from the beginning. He was simply an early lover of humanity, and
that he adopted the monastic life was simply because at that time it
struck him, so to say, as the ideal escape for his soul struggling from
the darkness of worldly wickedness to the light of love. And the reason
this life struck him in this way was that he found in it at that time, as
he thought, an extraordinary being, our celebrated elder, Zossima, to whom
he became attached with all the warm first love of his ardent heart. But I
do not dispute that he was very strange even at that time, and had been so
indeed from his cradle. I have mentioned already, by the way, that though
he lost his mother in his fourth year he remembered her all his life—her
face, her caresses, “as though she stood living before me.” Such memories
may persist, as every one knows, from an even earlier age, even from two
years old, but scarcely standing out through a whole lifetime like spots
of light out of darkness, like a corner torn out of a huge picture, which
has all faded and disappeared except that fragment. That is how it was
with him. He remembered one still summer evening, an open window, the
slanting rays of the setting sun (that he recalled most vividly of all);
in a corner of the room the holy image, before it a lighted lamp, and on
her knees before the image his mother, sobbing hysterically with cries and
moans, snatching him up in both arms, squeezing him close till it hurt,
and praying for him to the Mother of God, holding him out in both arms to
the image as though to put him under the Mother’s protection ... and
suddenly a nurse runs in and snatches him from her in terror. That was the
picture! And Alyosha remembered his mother’s face at that minute. He used
to say that it was frenzied but beautiful as he remembered. But he rarely
cared to speak of this memory to any one. In his childhood and youth he
was by no means expansive, and talked little indeed, but not from shyness
or a sullen unsociability; quite the contrary, from something different,
from a sort of inner preoccupation entirely personal and unconcerned with
other people, but so important to him that he seemed, as it were, to
forget others on account of it. But he was fond of people: he seemed
throughout his life to put implicit trust in people: yet no one ever
looked on him as a simpleton or naïve person. There was something about
him which made one feel at once (and it was so all his life afterwards)
that he did not care to be a judge of others—that he would never take it
upon himself to criticize and would never condemn any one for anything. He
seemed, indeed, to accept everything without the least condemnation though
often grieving bitterly: and this was so much so that no one could
surprise or frighten him even in his earliest youth. Coming at twenty to
his father’s house, which was a very sink of filthy debauchery, he, chaste
and pure as he was, simply withdrew in silence when to look on was
unbearable, but without the slightest sign of contempt or condemnation.
His father, who had once been in a dependent position, and so was
sensitive and ready to take offense, met him at first with distrust and
sullenness. “He does not say much,” he used to say, “and thinks the more.”
But soon, within a fortnight indeed, he took to embracing him and kissing
him terribly often, with drunken tears, with sottish sentimentality, yet
he evidently felt a real and deep affection for him, such as he had never
been capable of feeling for any one before.

Every one, indeed, loved this young man wherever he went, and it was so
from his earliest childhood. When he entered the household of his patron
and benefactor, Yefim Petrovitch Polenov, he gained the hearts of all the
family, so that they looked on him quite as their own child. Yet he
entered the house at such a tender age that he could not have acted from
design nor artfulness in winning affection. So that the gift of making
himself loved directly and unconsciously was inherent in him, in his very
nature, so to speak. It was the same at school, though he seemed to be
just one of those children who are distrusted, sometimes ridiculed, and
even disliked by their schoolfellows. He was dreamy, for instance, and
rather solitary. From his earliest childhood he was fond of creeping into
a corner to read, and yet he was a general favorite all the while he was
at school. He was rarely playful or merry, but any one could see at the
first glance that this was not from any sullenness. On the contrary he was
bright and good‐tempered. He never tried to show off among his
schoolfellows. Perhaps because of this, he was never afraid of any one,
yet the boys immediately understood that he was not proud of his
fearlessness and seemed to be unaware that he was bold and courageous. He
never resented an insult. It would happen that an hour after the offense
he would address the offender or answer some question with as trustful and
candid an expression as though nothing had happened between them. And it
was not that he seemed to have forgotten or intentionally forgiven the
affront, but simply that he did not regard it as an affront, and this
completely conquered and captivated the boys. He had one characteristic
which made all his schoolfellows from the bottom class to the top want to
mock at him, not from malice but because it amused them. This
characteristic was a wild fanatical modesty and chastity. He could not
bear to hear certain words and certain conversations about women. There
are “certain” words and conversations unhappily impossible to eradicate in
schools. Boys pure in mind and heart, almost children, are fond of talking
in school among themselves, and even aloud, of things, pictures, and
images of which even soldiers would sometimes hesitate to speak. More than
that, much that soldiers have no knowledge or conception of is familiar to
quite young children of our intellectual and higher classes. There is no
moral depravity, no real corrupt inner cynicism in it, but there is the
appearance of it, and it is often looked upon among them as something
refined, subtle, daring, and worthy of imitation. Seeing that Alyosha
Karamazov put his fingers in his ears when they talked of “that,” they
used sometimes to crowd round him, pull his hands away, and shout
nastiness into both ears, while he struggled, slipped to the floor, tried
to hide himself without uttering one word of abuse, enduring their insults
in silence. But at last they left him alone and gave up taunting him with
being a “regular girl,” and what’s more they looked upon it with
compassion as a weakness. He was always one of the best in the class but
was never first.

At the time of Yefim Petrovitch’s death Alyosha had two more years to
complete at the provincial gymnasium. The inconsolable widow went almost
immediately after his death for a long visit to Italy with her whole
family, which consisted only of women and girls. Alyosha went to live in
the house of two distant relations of Yefim Petrovitch, ladies whom he had
never seen before. On what terms he lived with them he did not know
himself. It was very characteristic of him, indeed, that he never cared at
whose expense he was living. In that respect he was a striking contrast to
his elder brother Ivan, who struggled with poverty for his first two years
in the university, maintained himself by his own efforts, and had from
childhood been bitterly conscious of living at the expense of his
benefactor. But this strange trait in Alyosha’s character must not, I
think, be criticized too severely, for at the slightest acquaintance with
him any one would have perceived that Alyosha was one of those youths,
almost of the type of religious enthusiast, who, if they were suddenly to
come into possession of a large fortune, would not hesitate to give it
away for the asking, either for good works or perhaps to a clever rogue.
In general he seemed scarcely to know the value of money, not, of course,
in a literal sense. When he was given pocket‐money, which he never asked
for, he was either terribly careless of it so that it was gone in a
moment, or he kept it for weeks together, not knowing what to do with it.

In later years Pyotr Alexandrovitch Miüsov, a man very sensitive on the
score of money and bourgeois honesty, pronounced the following judgment,
after getting to know Alyosha:

“Here is perhaps the one man in the world whom you might leave alone
without a penny, in the center of an unknown town of a million
inhabitants, and he would not come to harm, he would not die of cold and
hunger, for he would be fed and sheltered at once; and if he were not, he
would find a shelter for himself, and it would cost him no effort or
humiliation. And to shelter him would be no burden, but, on the contrary,
would probably be looked on as a pleasure.”

He did not finish his studies at the gymnasium. A year before the end of
the course he suddenly announced to the ladies that he was going to see
his father about a plan which had occurred to him. They were sorry and
unwilling to let him go. The journey was not an expensive one, and the
ladies would not let him pawn his watch, a parting present from his
benefactor’s family. They provided him liberally with money and even
fitted him out with new clothes and linen. But he returned half the money
they gave him, saying that he intended to go third class. On his arrival
in the town he made no answer to his father’s first inquiry why he had
come before completing his studies, and seemed, so they say, unusually
thoughtful. It soon became apparent that he was looking for his mother’s
tomb. He practically acknowledged at the time that that was the only
object of his visit. But it can hardly have been the whole reason of it.
It is more probable that he himself did not understand and could not
explain what had suddenly arisen in his soul, and drawn him irresistibly
into a new, unknown, but inevitable path. Fyodor Pavlovitch could not show
him where his second wife was buried, for he had never visited her grave
since he had thrown earth upon her coffin, and in the course of years had
entirely forgotten where she was buried.

Fyodor Pavlovitch, by the way, had for some time previously not been
living in our town. Three or four years after his wife’s death he had gone
to the south of Russia and finally turned up in Odessa, where he spent
several years. He made the acquaintance at first, in his own words, “of a
lot of low Jews, Jewesses, and Jewkins,” and ended by being received by
“Jews high and low alike.” It may be presumed that at this period he
developed a peculiar faculty for making and hoarding money. He finally
returned to our town only three years before Alyosha’s arrival. His former
acquaintances found him looking terribly aged, although he was by no means
an old man. He behaved not exactly with more dignity but with more
effrontery. The former buffoon showed an insolent propensity for making
buffoons of others. His depravity with women was not simply what it used
to be, but even more revolting. In a short time he opened a great number
of new taverns in the district. It was evident that he had perhaps a
hundred thousand roubles or not much less. Many of the inhabitants of the
town and district were soon in his debt, and, of course, had given good
security. Of late, too, he looked somehow bloated and seemed more
irresponsible, more uneven, had sunk into a sort of incoherence, used to
begin one thing and go on with another, as though he were letting himself
go altogether. He was more and more frequently drunk. And, if it had not
been for the same servant Grigory, who by that time had aged considerably
too, and used to look after him sometimes almost like a tutor, Fyodor
Pavlovitch might have got into terrible scrapes. Alyosha’s arrival seemed
to affect even his moral side, as though something had awakened in this
prematurely old man which had long been dead in his soul.

“Do you know,” he used often to say, looking at Alyosha, “that you are
like her, ‘the crazy woman’ ”—that was what he used to call his dead wife,
Alyosha’s mother. Grigory it was who pointed out the “crazy woman’s” grave
to Alyosha. He took him to our town cemetery and showed him in a remote
corner a cast‐iron tombstone, cheap but decently kept, on which were
inscribed the name and age of the deceased and the date of her death, and
below a four‐lined verse, such as are commonly used on old‐fashioned
middle‐class tombs. To Alyosha’s amazement this tomb turned out to be
Grigory’s doing. He had put it up on the poor “crazy woman’s” grave at his
own expense, after Fyodor Pavlovitch, whom he had often pestered about the
grave, had gone to Odessa, abandoning the grave and all his memories.
Alyosha showed no particular emotion at the sight of his mother’s grave.
He only listened to Grigory’s minute and solemn account of the erection of
the tomb; he stood with bowed head and walked away without uttering a
word. It was perhaps a year before he visited the cemetery again. But this
little episode was not without an influence upon Fyodor Pavlovitch—and a
very original one. He suddenly took a thousand roubles to our monastery to
pay for requiems for the soul of his wife; but not for the second,
Alyosha’s mother, the “crazy woman,” but for the first, Adelaïda Ivanovna,
who used to thrash him. In the evening of the same day he got drunk and
abused the monks to Alyosha. He himself was far from being religious; he
had probably never put a penny candle before the image of a saint. Strange
impulses of sudden feeling and sudden thought are common in such types.

I have mentioned already that he looked bloated. His countenance at this
time bore traces of something that testified unmistakably to the life he
had led. Besides the long fleshy bags under his little, always insolent,
suspicious, and ironical eyes; besides the multitude of deep wrinkles in
his little fat face, the Adam’s apple hung below his sharp chin like a
great, fleshy goiter, which gave him a peculiar, repulsive, sensual
appearance; add to that a long rapacious mouth with full lips, between
which could be seen little stumps of black decayed teeth. He slobbered
every time he began to speak. He was fond indeed of making fun of his own
face, though, I believe, he was well satisfied with it. He used
particularly to point to his nose, which was not very large, but very
delicate and conspicuously aquiline. “A regular Roman nose,” he used to
say, “with my goiter I’ve quite the countenance of an ancient Roman
patrician of the decadent period.” He seemed proud of it.

Not long after visiting his mother’s grave Alyosha suddenly announced that
he wanted to enter the monastery, and that the monks were willing to
receive him as a novice. He explained that this was his strong desire, and
that he was solemnly asking his consent as his father. The old man knew
that the elder Zossima, who was living in the monastery hermitage, had
made a special impression upon his “gentle boy.”

“That is the most honest monk among them, of course,” he observed, after
listening in thoughtful silence to Alyosha, and seeming scarcely surprised
at his request. “H’m!... So that’s where you want to be, my gentle boy?”

He was half drunk, and suddenly he grinned his slow half‐drunken grin,
which was not without a certain cunning and tipsy slyness. “H’m!... I had
a presentiment that you would end in something like this. Would you
believe it? You were making straight for it. Well, to be sure you have
your own two thousand. That’s a dowry for you. And I’ll never desert you,
my angel. And I’ll pay what’s wanted for you there, if they ask for it.
But, of course, if they don’t ask, why should we worry them? What do you
say? You know, you spend money like a canary, two grains a week. H’m!...
Do you know that near one monastery there’s a place outside the town where
every baby knows there are none but ‘the monks’ wives’ living, as they are
called. Thirty women, I believe. I have been there myself. You know, it’s
interesting in its own way, of course, as a variety. The worst of it is
it’s awfully Russian. There are no French women there. Of course they
could get them fast enough, they have plenty of money. If they get to hear
of it they’ll come along. Well, there’s nothing of that sort here, no
‘monks’ wives,’ and two hundred monks. They’re honest. They keep the
fasts. I admit it.... H’m.... So you want to be a monk? And do you know
I’m sorry to lose you, Alyosha; would you believe it, I’ve really grown
fond of you? Well, it’s a good opportunity. You’ll pray for us sinners; we
have sinned too much here. I’ve always been thinking who would pray for
me, and whether there’s any one in the world to do it. My dear boy, I’m
awfully stupid about that. You wouldn’t believe it. Awfully. You see,
however stupid I am about it, I keep thinking, I keep thinking—from time
to time, of course, not all the while. It’s impossible, I think, for the
devils to forget to drag me down to hell with their hooks when I die. Then
I wonder—hooks? Where would they get them? What of? Iron hooks? Where do
they forge them? Have they a foundry there of some sort? The monks in the
monastery probably believe that there’s a ceiling in hell, for instance.
Now I’m ready to believe in hell, but without a ceiling. It makes it more
refined, more enlightened, more Lutheran that is. And, after all, what
does it matter whether it has a ceiling or hasn’t? But, do you know,
there’s a damnable question involved in it? If there’s no ceiling there
can be no hooks, and if there are no hooks it all breaks down, which is
unlikely again, for then there would be none to drag me down to hell, and
if they don’t drag me down what justice is there in the world? _Il
faudrait les inventer_, those hooks, on purpose for me alone, for, if you
only knew, Alyosha, what a blackguard I am.”

“But there are no hooks there,” said Alyosha, looking gently and seriously
at his father.

“Yes, yes, only the shadows of hooks, I know, I know. That’s how a
Frenchman described hell: ‘_J’ai vu l’ombre d’un cocher qui avec l’ombre
d’une brosse frottait l’ombre d’une carrosse._’ How do you know there are
no hooks, darling? When you’ve lived with the monks you’ll sing a
different tune. But go and get at the truth there, and then come and tell
me. Anyway it’s easier going to the other world if one knows what there is
there. Besides, it will be more seemly for you with the monks than here
with me, with a drunken old man and young harlots ... though you’re like
an angel, nothing touches you. And I dare say nothing will touch you
there. That’s why I let you go, because I hope for that. You’ve got all
your wits about you. You will burn and you will burn out; you will be
healed and come back again. And I will wait for you. I feel that you’re
the only creature in the world who has not condemned me. My dear boy, I
feel it, you know. I can’t help feeling it.”

And he even began blubbering. He was sentimental. He was wicked and