The Brothers Karamazov

The Brothers Karamazov

by

Fyodor Dostoevsky

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The Brothers Karamazov: Part 2: Book 4, Chapter 6 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Dmitri lives on the way to Lake Street, so Alexei decides to go to him first. However, Dmitri’s not at home. Alexei leaves the house, which is owned by an old cabinetmaker, his son, and his wife, and goes to Mrs. Kalmykov’s house—“a decrepit, lopsided little house” with only three windows facing the street and a filthy courtyard. Captain Snegiryov lives in “a peasant cottage.” When Alexei knocks, someone shouts in a “forcedly angry voice.” Alexei opens the door and enters a spacious room, cluttered with people and junk.
The decrepit condition of the house reflects Captain Snegiryov himself—an old man who once enjoyed a noble reputation as a military officer but made a mistake, besmirching his honor. This caused his reputation and career to fall into disrepair and to become something of a relic. His anger is probably the result of feeling frustrated with his mistake and his inability to change things.
Themes
Suffering Theme Icon
Captain Snegiryov is about forty-five and “weakly built” with reddish hair and a thin red beard. This was the same man who shouted earlier, for there is no other man present. Alexei introduces himself and the captain does the same. Alexei says that he stopped by to have a word with the captain. The captain invites the monk to have a seat. Alexei starts to say that he’s come to address the matter regarding his brother, Dmitri. Suddenly, Alexei hears a boy’s voice from behind a curtain in the corner. When the curtain is pulled aside, Alexei sees the little boy who bit his finger. His name is Ilyusha. The boy confesses to the assault. Alexei confirms that the boy did it, and the captain threatens to whip the boy, but Alexei protests.
The thin red beard is the “whiskbroom” to which the boys were referring. The nickname is ironic because a whiskbroom is something that one would use to maintain a neat appearance, while the captain is often dirty and wears tattered clothing. So, the nickname insults both the thin beard—a sign of his reduced masculinity—and his general appearance. Ilyusha does the opposite of what most children would to avoid trouble. He immediately confesses to his crime, demonstrating his characteristic courage.
Themes
Innocence and Guilt Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
Captain Snegiryov mocks Alexei’s assumption that he’d whip his son in front of him and then offers, sarcastically, to chop off his four fingers, too. Alexei realizes that the little boy merely loves his father and attacked him because he is the brother of the captain’s offender. Alexei repents for Dmitri, but the captain is unconvinced. He introduces Alexei to his wife, Arina Petrovna, and declares that his family comes from “simple people.” Arina mistakenly calls Alexei “Mr. Chernomazov.” She then proceeds to give a rather mad monologue before bursting into tears. The captain then introduces Alexei to his daughters, Varvara and Nina, before leading him outside.
The captain mocks Alexei out of resentment for what he perceives as the Karamazovs’ entitlement. Alexei realizes that the attack has little to do with him personally and everything to do with Ilyusha’s willingness to stand up for his father—a man whom everyone laughs at. Arina is mentally ill, and Nina has a hunched back. The reader develops more sympathy for the captain due to his inability to provide help to his wife and daughter.
Themes
Innocence and Guilt Theme Icon
Suffering Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon