The room in which Captain Snegiryov’s family lives is crowded with visitors. Ilyusha even sees his former enemies in the room, but not Kolya, which saddens him. He regrets stabbing the boy who was his only friend and protector with a penknife. For two weeks, Ilyusha hasn’t left his bed “in the corner near the icons.” Captain Snegiryov has been in anguish over the boy’s impending death, but he makes an effort to amuse him with stories, jokes, and impressions of people. The captain eventually accepted the two hundred roubles from Katerina Ivanovna, as Alexei predicted. After learning about Ilyusha’s illness, Katerina visited the home and became acquainted with the whole family.
Ilyusha, knowing that death is near, seeks to make amends with Kolya. His family has placed him near the icons with the hope that some divine intervention could save his life. Captain Snegiryov is a good father, though he is economically incapable of taking care of any of his children. His pride at having formerly been an officer initially prevented him from taking the money from Katerina Ivanovna, but the impracticality of such a decision, given his family’s needs, leads him to change his mind.
Three days earlier, Ilyusha heard that he would be given a mastiff puppy, which now lies at his side. Though he likes the dog, he misses Zhuchka. Suddenly, one of the boys cries out that Kolya has arrived. Kolya goes to stand by Ilyusha’s bed. Ilyusha rises and looks at Kolya, whom he hasn’t seen in two months. When Kolya asks how he’s doing, Ilyusha feels that he’s going to cry. Kolya reaches out and strokes Ilyusha’s hair. He then remarks on the puppy. Kolya mentions that he has a dog named Perezvon. Ilyusha asks him about Zhuchka, and Kolya says that she “ran off somewhere and died.” Kolya orders Smurov to open the door and Perezvon rushes in.
Ilyusha loved Zhuchka, which makes it strange that he would perform an act that hurt the dog—he may have just been showing off or genuinely curious about Smerdyakov’s “experiment.” Ilyusha feels that he’s going to cry because he’s both happy to see Kolya and sad about how things occurred between them. Kolya is planning to make a grand gesture, so he initially acts callous in his description of what probably happened to Zhuchka.
Ilyusha takes one look at the dog and proclaims that it is Zhuchka. Kolya then exclaims “in a ringing, happy voice” that it is, indeed, Zhuchka. He points to the marks on the dog’s body, which Ilyusha previously described. Ilyusha goes pale and can’t speak. The boys cry out, “Bravo!” and applaud Kolya. Kolya explains how he worked to train the dog after finding it. He has it perform tricks for the crowd. He then summons Perezvon to jump up in bed with Ilyusha. Kolya sits back down on Ilyusha’s bed and shows him a little cannon that’s he’s brought. He holds it up and everyone looks upon it with delight.
Kolya has been planning this moment for a long time—both to bring joy to Ilyusha and to make everyone praise him for his cleverness and generosity. There is certainly a loving aspect to this gesture, but in his desire to create the greatest spectacle possible Kolya also seems to forget that Ilyusha is near death and could be seriously affected by such a shock.
Arina Petrovna, Ilyusha’s mother, reaches out for it. Captain Snegiryov assures her that Ilyusha will let her play with it, and that the cannon will belong to both of them. Arina insists that she wants it only to be hers. Ilyusha offers the cannon to his mother. Arina is ecstatic to be in possession of the toy. Kolya offers to bring gunpowder.
Arina’s mental illness causes her to seem developmentally stunted. She behaves like a child, which prevents her from being able to parent any of her children. Here, she is struggling with her son over a toy.
The group launches into stories about Kolya’s “desperado” exploits. He tells another story in which he tricked a fool into rolling the wheel of a cart over a goose’s neck. When the matter was taken to the justice of the peace, the fellow Kolya tricked cried and claimed that Kolya made him kill the goose, as an experiment. They then talk about how he “showed up” Dardanelov over the matter of who founded Troy. Kolya insists that he only knew the answer, while Dardanelov didn’t, because he is the only person to own a copy of Smaragdov’s history. Another boy notes that Kolya is first in Latin. Kolya shrugs this off, but he’s pleased by all the praise. At the same time, he worries what Alexei thinks of him.
Alexei will later comment on how important Kolya seems to think it is to impress others. Kolya wants very much to be liked, which is the reason for his superior attitude—he quietly thinks himself unworthy of attention or acclaim, and so must constantly be performing and one-upping himself to ear praise. Moreover, with the boys, he’s formed some version of the family that he never had. Ilyusha is like a younger brother to him, so it’s very important to Kolya to get the approval of the others.
Nina Nikolaevna announces the arrival of the doctor. Kolya calls Perezvon down from the bed but says that he’s not leaving. He’ll just wait in the entry way until the doctor leaves. The doctor enters as though he’s come to the wrong place. The crowd and the poverty of the room confuse him. He addresses Captain Snegiryov and confirms his identity. The doctor looks around “squeamishly” and takes off his fur coat. He then asks where the patient is.
Despite being someone whose job it is to care for others, the doctor appears to be a snob who regards the suffering of the family with disgust instead of sympathy for their poverty. This suggests Ivan’s view that people can only love each other in the abstract and not up-close.