Alexei is late for the funeral. Ilyusha died two days after Dmitri was sentenced. The pallbearers carry the coffin to the church without Alexei. When he arrives, Kolya Krasotkin greets him with a handshake. He then asks Alexei if Dmitri is innocent or guilty. Alexei insists that Smerdyakov killed his father. Smurov is there, too, and says he agrees. Kolya says that he envies how Dmitri has become a sacrifice for truth.
Dmitri is a sacrifice for the truth, while Ilyusha is a sacrifice for innocence. Seeing Dmitri falsely imprisoned helps others to realize the importance of seeking the truth, while Ilyusha’s death, and his courage in the face of it, indicates that the value of truth and honor must be instilled when people are young.
Alexei goes into the room with the blue coffin. He looks at Ilyusha’s face, which is emaciated and serious. Nina Nikolaevna has been picked up in her chair and placed close to the coffin, against which she leans her head, as though she’s weeping. Captain Snegiryov looks “animated” and “bewildered.” He says that he doesn’t want his son buried in the churchyard, but rather by the family stone. He’s been saying this for days but got overruled, particularly by his landlady, who didn’t want Ilyusha to be buried like a hanged man. The captain agrees for his son to go wherever they want to take him.
The description makes Ilyusha sound like a wizened old man. The illness, as well as his life-long poverty and his father’s shame, all forced him into a maturity that he wouldn’t have otherwise had. It’s unclear why the captain is initially averse to church burial. He may prefer the family stone so that he can be buried in proximity to his son. He may also be angry with the Church.
It’s only three hundred steps to the church. The day is clear and a bit frosty. Captain Snegiryov worries that he forgot the crust of bread for the funeral, but the boys remind him that it’s in his pocket. The captain tells Alexei that Ilyusha wanted him to crumble bread on his coffin for the birds to eat. Alexei praises the idea, and the captain says that he’ll do it every day.
Bread is reminiscent of the body of Christ, which is eaten during the Eucharist, or a celebration commemorating the Last Supper. Ilyusha, like Christ, requested that his loved ones use bread to remember him after his death. The parallel with the funeral allows a gathering between Alexei, Kolya, and the other boys who rely on Alexei’s guidance.
The party arrives at the church and sets the coffin down. During the liturgy, Captain Snegiryov seems calmer. When the funeral service begins, though, he sobs, and when it’s time to cover the coffin, he throws his arms around it. Soon thereafter, the gravediggers lower the coffin. The captain leans so far into the grave, with flowers in his hand, that the boys have to pull him back. Then, he remembers to crumble the crust of bread. All of the boys are crying. The captain goes home to Arina Petrovna and tells her that Ilyusha has sent her flowers. The mad woman demands to know where the captain took Ilyusha, which prompts Nina Nikolaevna to sob. Kolya runs from the room. Alexei goes out after him.
The liturgy may have been calming to the captain because it is a communal practice in which worshipers praise God and offer repentance. These activities may have taken his mind off of his son’s suffering and death. However, it also could have caused him to reflect on his actions, which contributed to Ilyusha’s contraction of consumption. This may be the reason why he behaves as though he wants to be buried, too. Kolya runs because the family’s misery is too great to bear, and he can’t stand to lose control of his emotions in front of others.
Kolya admits that he’s very sad and would give anything to resurrect Ilyusha. They and the other boys walk along the path and run into the stone his father wanted to bury him under. Alexei decides to have a word with the boys at this spot. He says that they should never forget Ilyusha, especially his honesty and bravery. The boys may one day be involved in important things, but they should never forget how good they once felt here, united. He says that there’s nothing better or stronger than a good memory from childhood. He compliments Ilyusha’s gifts, as well as Kolya’s, but says that all of the boys are dear. Alexei wishes for Ilyusha’s memory to be eternal. The boys tell Alexei that they love him. They all then go to the memorial dinner. Kolya cries out, “Hurrah for Karamazov!” and the other boys join in.
The boys form their own family around Alexei, who serves as their elder brother and guide. In his speech, Alexei strongly resembles his former elder, Zosima. Like the departed monk, Alexei expresses an appreciation for the natural goodness of humanity and for brotherhood. Alexei transgresses a bit here from Zosima, however, who only believed that true brotherhood could exist in the monastery. Alexei encourages the boys to remember what was great about Ilyusha and to connect it to what is great about themselves. “Memory eternal” is also a chant in the Russian Orthodox Church to praise the departed. The book then ends on this ambivalent note, with Dmitri’s escape plan only beginning, Ivan’s health in limbo, and Alexei in a seemingly transitional state in his life. Dostoevsky intended to write a sequel, but died soon after finishing The Brothers Karamazov.