The Brothers Karamazov
Book Four, Chapters One and Two
by Dennis Abrams
“Father Ferapont” “Early in the morning, before dawn, Alyosha was awakened. The elder had gotten up, feeling quite weak, though he still wished to move from his bed to the armchair.” Zosima tells Alyosha he might not survive the day. His confession. Visitors. “He spoke of many things, he seemed to want to say everything, to speak one last time before the moment of death, to say all that had not been said in his life, and not only for the sake of instruction, but as if he wished to share his joy and ecstasy with all, to pour out his heart once more in this life…” “love one another…Love God’s people. For we are not holier than those in the world because we have come her and shut ourselves within these walls…For you must know, my dear ones, that each of us is undoubtedly guilty on behalf of all and for all on earth, not only because of the common guilt of the world, but personally, each one of us, for all people and for each person on this earth…And do not hate those who reject you, disgrace you, revile you, and slander you. Do not hate atheists, teachers of evil, materialist, not even those among them who or wicked, no those who are good, for many of them are good, especially in our time. Remember them thus in your prayers: save, Lord, those whom there is no one to pray for…” Alyosha’s notes on what Zosima said. Expectations of his death. Alyosha receives a note from Madame Khokhlakov, telling him of a Zosima-caused miracle: the woman who had attended his audience the previous day whose son was missing had received a letter from him that afternoon, telling her that he was returning home in about three weeks. Father Paissy’s response, “His eyes flashed, and a solemn and knowing smile suddenly came to his lips. ‘Shall we not behold greater things?’ he suddenly let fall.” The response of the little monk “from St. Sylvester’s.” The impression made on the monk by Zosima’s adversary, Father Ferapont, a ‘holy fool,” a great faster, and opponent of the system of ‘elders.’ The little monk’s audience with Father Ferapont, who, despite his great fast, and advance ages, “still looked to be a vigorous old man.” How is Lent kept at the little monk’s monastery? Father Ferapont sees devils. And Christ. The little monk’s heart is more inclined towards Father Ferapont than Zosima. Zosima encourages Alyosha to keep his word and see his family, promising him that “I will not die without saying my last word in your presence. I will say this word, to you, my son, to you I will bequeath it. To you, my dear son, because you love me…” Father Paissy warns Alyosha about the modern scientific world’s rejection of faith, “he had hastened to arm the young mind as quickly as possible for its struggle with temptations, to surround the young soul bequeathed to him with a wall stronger than any other he could imagine.” Had Zosima bequeathed Alyosha to Paissy? “At His Father’s” “Alyosha went first of all to his father’s.” “The old man was sitting alone at the table, in his slippers and an old coat, looking through some accounts for diversion, but without much interest.” Cold coffee and lenten fish soup. Why did Alyosha bother to come? Fyodor announces that he’s still a man, “but I want to occupy that position for ab out twenty hears longer; I’ll get old and disgusting and they won’t come to me then of their own free will, and that’s when I’ll need my dear money.” Fyodor rejects Alyosha’s paradise, “it’s even unfitting for a decent man to go to your paradise, if there really is such a place.” Fyodor calls Ivan a scoundrel, calls himself “an evil man, “You’re not an evil man you’re just twisted,” Alyosha smiled. Fyodor considers “breaking” Dmitri, was going to issue a criminal complaint, but Ivan talked him out of it. A glass of cognac. Fyodor refuses to acknowledge Ivan, “Where did he come from? He’s not our kind at all,” and attacks Dmitri, “And Mitka I’ll squash like a cockroach. I squash black cockroaches at night with my slipper: they make a little pop when you step on them. And your Mitka will make a little pop, too.” Fyodor makes Alyosha promise to visit again the next day.
1. I loved Father Ferapont’s description of the demons he’s seen:
“I was up at the Superior’s last year, at Pentecost…I saw one sitting on one monk’s chest, hiding under his cassock, with only his little horns sticking out; another monk had one peeking out of his pocket, looking shifty-eyes, because he was afraid of me…As I was leaving the Superior’s I looked — there was one hiding from me behind the door, a real beefy one, a yard and a half tall or more, with a thick tail, brown, long, and he happened to stick the tip of into the doorjamb, and me being no fool, I suddenly slammed the door shut and pinched his tail. He started squealing, struggling, and I crossed him to death with the sign of the Cross, the triple one. He dropped dead on the spot, like a squashed spider. He must be rotten and stinking in that corner now, and they don’t see, they don’t smell a thing.”
The demon as a squashed spider, Dmitri as a squashed cockroach.
I’m wondering though — how are we supposed to read this? What was Dostoevsky’s own feeling about this type of belief?
2. Fyodor: “The old man was sitting alone at the table, in his slippers and an old coat, looking through some accounts for diversion, but without much interest.” A near perfect picture.
3. I liked the fact that in one brief passage, Fyodor makes reference to “my dear money” and “my dear son, Alexei Fyodorovich.”
Book Four, Chapters Three and Four