The Brothers Karamazov

The Brothers Karamazov

by

Fyodor Dostoevsky

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The Brothers Karamazov: Part 4: Book 10, Chapter 1 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
The widow of the official Krasotkin, Anna Fyodorovna Krasotkin, lives in a small house close to Plotnikov’s shop. Her husband died almost fourteen years earlier. Mrs. Krasotkin was eighteen and had just borne a son. She has since devoted herself to the upbringing of her boy, Kolya. When the boy started school, his mother studied all of his subjects with him. She got acquainted with his teachers and their wives and even made a point of being sweet to his classmates so that they wouldn’t bully him.
At what seems to be a climactic peak in the narrative, Dostoevsky suddenly shifts focus and turns to a new set of characters—the children tangentially connected to Dmitri and Alexei. The widow devotes herself to Kolya and becomes fiercely protective of him because he is the only family that she has left. Her excessive attention may have contributed to his sense of being special, which he lords over those around him.
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Kolya Krasotkin looks down on everyone and accepts respect as his due, but he still behaves “in a comradely way.” With his mother, he behaves “despotically.” When this occurs, she cries hysterically and makes “heartfelt effusions.” The more she does this, however, the colder he becomes.
Kolya both craves his mother’s affection and resents her for it, as it seems to hinder his ability to assert his manhood. He takes a sadistic pleasure in causing his mother suffering.
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Kolya loves reading and playing pranks. One night, he offers to lie down on the rails when the eleven o’clock train comes. Kolya already knew that it was possible to stretch and flatten oneself out so that the train could pass over someone lying there. When he tells this to a group of fifteen-year-olds who regard him as a “boy,” much to Kolya’s offense, they laugh at him. That night, the boys gather to await the train, and Kolya lies down between the rails. After the train goes by, the boys rush to Kolya, who isn’t moving. He tells them that he pretended to be unconscious to frighten them, but he actually fainted. Still, his reputation as a “desperado” is firmly established.
Kolya is both an intelligent boy and a physically daring one. His stunts are attempts to assert his manhood and to release himself from his mother’s overly protective grasp. To prove himself to the older boys, he makes a risky bet, and it pays off.
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After the railway incident, Kolya’s relationship with his mother changes. When Anna Fyodorovna heard about her son’s deed, she nearly lost her mind from terror. She had hysterical fits for days, causing Kolya to give her his word that he’d never play such a prank again. He burst into tears but, the next morning, he “woke up as unfeeling as ever.” As the woman’s anxiety increases, the romantic hopes of Dardanelov, Kolya’s world history teacher, also increase. He has developed romantic interest in Anna Fyodorovna. While Kolya previously despised Dardanelov for his “feelings,” Kolya decides to speak more kindly of him around his mother, which Anna Fyodorovna gratefully takes for her son’s approval. When Dardanelov comes around, however, Kolya distracts himself with his dog, Perezvon. Kolya is the boy whom Ilyusha stabbed in the thigh with a penknife.
Kolya wavers between love for his mother and resentment of her, as he senses that she’s impeding his growth into manhood. Really, Kolya longs for connection with older male figures, someone who can serve either as a surrogate brother or father figure. Alexei will later fulfill both of these roles. Kolya associates sensitivity with weakness, which explains his suddenly cold behavior the next morning. Dardanelov’s romantic feelings for Anna Fyodorovna fall into this category of supposedly contemptible expression. Kolya doesn’t yet understand love and has learned from his culture to have contempt for women.
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