The Brothers Karamazov

The Brothers Karamazov


Fyodor Dostoevsky

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The Brothers Karamazov: Part 4: Book 10, Chapter 3 Summary & Analysis

Kolya walks out of the gate and heads down the street. He pulls out a whistle and whistles “with all his might.” A minute later, Smurov emerges. He tells Kolya that he’s been waiting for him for an hour. Smurov sees that Kolya has brought Perezvon. He suggests that they lie and tell Ilyusha that it’s Zhuchka—Ilyusha’s dog that ran away, but Kolya says he won’t. Kolya asks how Ilyusha is doing. Smurov reports that he probably has consumption. He says that Dr. Herzenstube keeps going to the house. Kolya curses all doctors as “medical scum.” He says that he rejects medicine, though he plans to go into it.
Kolya’s authority with the younger boys is made clear here. Smurov is extremely dedicated to Kolya to the point of obsequiousness, which is why he spends an hour waiting for him outside. He probably remains dedicated to Kolya because of the latter’s reputation as a “desperado” and also because Smurov’s father disapproves of Kolya. The friendship is Smurov’s form of rebellion.
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Smurov says that ten boys from the class go to visit Ilyusha every day. He thinks Ilyusha will be glad to see Kolya. The boys started going to the captain’s house, first with Alexei Karamazov. Kolya says that Alexei is “a riddle” to him. He’s formed an opinion about him, but he isn’t sure if it’s valid. Kolya then points to a peasant whose “long, light brown beard” contains frost. Kolya cries out that the peasant has a frozen beard. The peasant calmly utters that “many have got their beards frozen.” Smurov tells Kolya not to pick on him. Kolya has a brief exchange with the man, who calls himself Matvey. Kolya is proud of himself for “talking with the people.”
Many of the same boys who go to visit Ilyusha were in the crowd that earlier gathered to corner and stone the small, weak boy. Their ability to rally around him now, despite their past differences, reveals the wonderful ability that children often have to quarrel and then forget. Alexei has the same ability, which is both why he never holds on to an offense and why children gravitate toward him. The boys form a second family around Ilyusha.
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The boys then walk through the market. Kolya greets a woman whom he calls by the wrong name. He’s then approached by a young man who irritably claims to know him. Kolya makes a fool of the man in front of the market women, prompting them all to laughter. Kolya tells Smurov that he likes “stirring up fools in all strata of society.” He then encounters a burly peasant, whom he decides to taunt. However, this one turns out to be intelligent. When the boys get close to Captain Snegiryov’s house, Kolya stops and asks Smurov to have Alexei Karamazov meet him outside. Smurov questions him, prompting Kolya to snap at him. Smurov then runs to carry out the order.
Kolya’s devilish nature is expressed when he pokes fun at people in town. He uses people’s own foolishness against them, though he often comes off as cruel or pretentious in doing so. His comment about poking fun at everyone, regardless of class, reveals the influence of Rakitin’s socialist writings on his attitude and thinking. Despite this tendency, Kolya is drawn to Alexei, whose generous nature contrasts with Kolya’s cynicism. This strongly suggests that Kolya wishes to be different but worries that, if he is, he won’t be accepted.
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