The Brothers Karamazov

The Brothers Karamazov

by

Fyodor Dostoevsky

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The Brothers Karamazov: Part 2: Book 5, Chapter 1 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Madame Khokhlakov is again the first to meet Alexei. She whispers at how Lise now regrets, “almost to the point of tears,” having laughed at Alexei. On the other hand, she’s never regretted laughing at her mother, but suddenly, everything has become serious. Madame Khokhlakov tells Alexei to go to Lise to cheer her up.
Lise regrets laughing at Alexei because she feels guilty for the possibility of making him think that she was mocking him. She respects Alexei greatly, probably more so than she does her mother.
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Alexei enters the room. Lise looks embarrassed and blushes. She asks about Alexei’s errand to give two hundred roubles to Captain Snegiryov. Alexei tells her the story, recreating “the scene of the wretched man trampling on the money.”
Lise is clearly self-consciousness around the young man she likes.
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Lise asks Alexei to go to the door to see if Madame Khokhlakov is eavesdropping. He tells Lise that no one is there. Lise then summons Alexei back to her, asks for his hand, and tells him that the letter she sent was no joke. She hides her eyes with her hand, ashamed to make this confession. She takes Alexei’s hand and kisses it three times. Alexei tells her that he was “completely sure” about her earnestness, which offends her. Alexei then kisses Lise on the lips, which embarrasses her again. Alexei says that he’ll be leaving the monastery in a few days to go out into the world. He knows that he ought to get married and decides that he should marry her.
This is a tender moment between Alexei and Lise, both of whom are learning about romantic love through each other. Lise hides her eyes out of modesty and embarrassment, due to the girl’s understandable unfamiliarity with intimacy. When Alexei kisses her on the lips, it’s a bold expression of his desire for her. Sexuality embarrasses her, just as it usually embarrasses Alexei.
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Lise again asks Alexei to see if her mother is eavesdropping and he asks her why she suspects Madame Khokhlakov of “such meanness.” Lise says that it isn’t meanness and that she, too, eavesdrops on her mother. Lise then says that she’ll also spy on Alexei after they’re married and will open his letters and read them. She asks if he’ll submit to her, and he says that he will; but, he’ll resist her on “important things” to do what’s best. Lise agrees that she’ll submit to him “in the most important things, but will also yield to [him] in everything.”
The Khokhlakovs seem to spy on each other simply because neither has anything else to do. Lise is confined to her wheelchair, which limits her engagement with others, and her mother is bored and overprotective. Lise doesn’t think that she’ll relinquish this habit and even thinks that it’s an expression of love. She learned this, it seems, from her mother, who also confuses obsessive behavior with love.
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Lise asks Alexei about his sadness. He admits that he’s sad, but he can’t quite explain why. She commiserates about his brothers and his father “tormenting” him and says that she doesn’t like Ivan. Alexei is surprised by her remark but doesn’t ask her more about it. Instead, he talks about how his brothers “are destroying themselves,” and that the Spirit of God may not be enough to stop it. Alexei wonders if he even believes in God. On top of all that, Zosima is dying. When he’s left all alone, he says, he’ll go to Lise. She kisses him, tells him to return to Zosima’s side, and makes the sign of the cross over him.
Lise blames Alexei’s unhappiness on the discord within his family. She’s partly right, and her initial mistrust of Ivan is also justified, given his wish to taint Alexei’s warmth and generosity of spirit toward others. Later, Lise will reverse this position by developing what seems to be an infatuation for Ivan, whose cynicism will appeal to her hardened spirit. For now, though, she remains devout and aligned with Alexei.
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Alexei tries to leave without seeing Madame Khokhlakov, but she appears to him anyway as soon as he goes down the stairs. She discourages Alexei from taking Lise’s affections seriously. Alexei changes the subject to Katerina Ivanovna’s health. Madame Khokhlakov says that she’s still delirious and that her aunts have arrived, but they do nothing but put on airs in front of Madame Khokhlakov. Herzenstube came but became so frightened and useless that Madame Khokhlakov thought to send for another doctor. She then demands to see the letter that Lise wrote, but Alexei refuses. He offers to return the next day, however.
Madame Khokhlakov wants to see the letter so that she can spy on her daughter. Her dismissal of her daughter’s feelings comes from a wish to maintain control over her. She doesn’t want Lise to grow up, get better, and fall in love because these events would lead to Madame Khokhlakov being left alone. Herzenstube’s shock at Katerina’s condition is rather comic, as is Madame Khokhlakov’s offer to get another doctor.
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