Kolya asks Alexei what he thinks the doctor will say to Ilyusha. He then says that the doctor has “a disgusting mug” and talks about hating medicine. Alexei sadly replies that it seems certain that Ilyusha will die. Kolya goes on about how “medicine is a swindle,” but says that he’s glad to have met Alexei. He says that he heard that Alexei is a mystic, but that “the touch of reality” will cure him of that. Alexei is surprised by this talk and asks Kolya if he’s an atheist. Kolya says that “God is only a hypothesis.” He stops talking, assuming that Alexei believed that he was just showing off to prove how grown-up he is.
Kolya’s ideas about medicine are the result of a skepticism that likely originates in the era’s wariness toward science. As Russia transitions into modernity, it struggles to accept new ideas. Doctors also aren’t helped along much by the fact that they know so little about common conditions, such as epilepsy. Part of Kolya’s attraction to Alexei is his sincere religious faith, though he is reluctant to admit this.
Kolya claims that he’s a socialist. Alexei laughs, remarking that Kolya is just thirteen. Kolya corrects him: he’ll be fourteen in two weeks. He insists that his convictions are important, not his age. He says that he’s not against Christ, whom he thinks was very humane; but, if Christ were living in their time, he would join the revolutionaries. Alexei asks Kolya what “fool” he’s been talking to. Kolya says that he often talks to Rakitin, though they often disagree. Kolya then asks if Alexei despises him. Alexei is confused by the question and says that he’s merely sad that “a lovely nature” such as Kolya’s “should already be perverted by all this crude nonsense.”
Alexei thinks that Kolya is too young to have political ideas. This seems true, but one’s political ideas usually begin to develop in early adolescence, and Kolya is thirteen. Still, he doesn’t yet completely understand everything that he’s talking about. Many of his ideas are also derived from Rakitin, who is certainly not a trustworthy source. Alexei finds it nonsensical to include Christ within a political paradigm, believing that the Savior’s purpose was to rise above such earthly squabbles.
Kolya says that he’s “profoundly unhappy” and imagines that the whole world is laughing at him. Alexei says that it doesn’t matter if someone seems ridiculous because anyone is capable of that. Kolya feels comforted. He tells Alexei that he loves him. Just then, the doctor emerges and Kolya wonders what he’s going to say.
Kolya is a deeply insecure boy. Part of this is the pain of trying to learn who he is. However, another part of it is that he never knew his father and his mother has never given him enough space to develop independently from her interference. Like many people who see themselves as a corrupt or inferior (for example, Grushenka), Kolya is then drawn to Alexei and his kind and non-judgmental nature.