The Brothers Karamazov

The Brothers Karamazov


Fyodor Dostoevsky

Teachers and parents! Struggling with distance learning? Our Teacher Edition on The Brothers Karamazov can help.

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

Alexei emerges and hurries up to Kolya. His face is joyful, making Kolya think, with pleasure, that Alexei is happy to see him. Alexei says that Ilyusha is in poor condition and “will certainly die.” Kolya decides to tell Alexei the story of how he befriended Ilyusha. He also talks about how Ilyusha befriended Smerdyakov, who taught Ilyusha the nasty trick of taking a soft piece of bread, sticking a pin in it, and feeding it to starving yard dogs. They did this one day with a dog named Zhuchka, a hungry yard dog. She ate the bread, then ran away, squealing. Ilyusha was ashamed of what he did. Kolya called him “a scoundrel,” and they stopped being friends. Shortly thereafter, Ilyusha stabbed him with the penknife.
Kolya is eager to befriend Alexei and to ensure that the former monk has a high opinion of him. Therefore, he starts to explain himself, which also explains why Ilyusha was cornered by the boys. Kolya sought to take Ilyusha under his wing, just as Kolya hopes that Alexei will provide him with guidance. However, Ilyusha was also under the poisonous influence of Smerdyakov, who taught him to perform an act that causes Ilyusha lingering regret. Once again, Smerdyakov’s acts of violence against animals suggest amorality or psychopathy.
Innocence and Guilt Theme Icon
Kolya says that he and Smurov have been trying to assure Ilyusha that Zhuchka is alive. Kolya then tells Alexei that the dog with him is his dog, Perezvon. Kolya decides that he likes Alexei, who, he thinks, is “to the highest degree on an equal footing with him.”
Alexei becomes something like an older fraternal figure, given the amity between him and Kolya, as well as a paternal figure who admonishes Kolya’s bad behavior.
Family Theme Icon