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  • Writer's pictureSimon Vincent

The Brothers Karamazov Part 1/2: The Disposition of our souls

Updated: Aug 2, 2022

Aleksandr Kosnichyov - a monk

Fyodor Dostoevsky is considered one of the greatest novelists in history. Through engaging storytelling, he addresses the existential questions buried within us all: the meaning of life; joy and suffering; morality, and God. His profound meditations capture the admiration of atheists and theists, as he contemplates both the dread of nihilism and the summits of Christianity.

His book The Brothers Karamazov is commonly regarded as his finest work. Having read the book, this is my personal analysis of the literary masterpiece. Please note that this summary analysis does no justice to the depth and brilliance of the book itself. The following analysis highlights the moments and aspects that I, personally, found most interesting in capturing Dostoevsky's core message.

Part I: The Disposition of our souls

A Nice Little Family

We find ourselves in Russia in the mid-19th century. The story concerns the troubled Karamazov family. We have the father, Fyodor Karamazov, and his three sons, Dmitri, Ivan, and Alyosha, all born to three different mothers. The family name Karamazov has become a local pejorative slur.

Fyodor Karamazov is a boastful, hypocritical, hedonistic, mean, narcissistic, untrustworthy, and psychopathic man. In a way, he represents all that is nasty, dishonorable, and offensive about the human race. His first son, Dmitri, is an impulsive sensualist. Dmitri hates his father with all his heart - and with good reason. For once, Fyodor owes Dmitri a lot of money but refuses to pay it, though he is wealthy, and Dmitri is poor. Secondly, Dmitri is in love with Grushenka, a beautiful and playful seductress in town, but Fyodor is also having an affair with her and seeks to take her away from his son. Dmitri is quick to anger, but behind his wild nature, he has a tender heart and is conscious of his own evils. This consciousness, coupled with his hopeless inability to discipline himself, torments Dmitri.

The second son, Ivan, is a cold intellectual. He is a strong atheist and humanist. He is dispassionate towards his father and is sometimes amused by his father’s antics. But when seeing the evil around him, he struggles with the impossible task of making sense of human life. Why is there so much suffering in the world? Why do people believe in a good God when His creation is so evil? As his increasingly nihilistic rationalism meets the irrationalism of life, he is left with no good answers. A muted chaos brews within him, as he tries to leave the town altogether.

The third son, Alyosha, is a Christian monk. He is not as intellectually proficient as Ivan, but has a pure soul and a tender heart full of love. He engages with the evil environment with humility, bringing a graceful stillness to the chaos of the world. His pleasant aura, for some reason, stirs everyone’s conscience. They confess their sins to him, vent their frustrations, and so forth. All the while, Alyosha listens attentively. He never judges anyone, but rather listens with compassion. He is a student of Father Zosimas, an old Geronda (Elder) of the monastery who bears all the qualities of a true Christian saint. Elder Zosimas is a beacon of love, but also an anchor for truth.

Fyodor Karamazov actually has a fourth son, Smerdyakov. But since he conceived Smerdyakov with a handicapped woman, Fyodor treats this fourth son with contempt. He initially abandoned the child, who was then raised by his other servants. As the child grows up, Fyodor bullies him into becoming his own personal servant. Smerdyakov, a crushed soul, serves his ungrateful father but receives no love. As he suffers from epilepsy, he is ridiculed. No one seems to respect Smerdyakov, and treat him as a cowardly servant, not as a brother or human being.

Truth and Lies

The Nice Little Family decides to meet at the local monastery of Elder Zosimas and Alyosha. Everyone has arrived except Dmitri, who is running late because his father told him the wrong time. Fyodor disrupts the opening silence by indulging in a series of pseudo-religious shenanigans. He uses lofty words to ramble about his apparent respect for the Church and then dramatizes regret for his past sins as a show of piety. Alyosha is mortified in embarrassment, but Elder Zosimas observes in stillness. Then, Dmitri finally arrives. As he kisses the hands of the monks, Fyodor mocks him, triggering Dimitris's unconstrained fury.

Elder Zosimas sees right through the lies of Fyodor. He sees the inner person of everyone in the room, observing how they clothe their souls with vanity and distractions. In a conversation with Fyodor, he says:

“Above all, do not lie to yourself. A man who lies to himself and listens to his own lie comes to a point where he does not discern any truth either in himself or anywhere around him, and thus falls into disrespect towards himself and others. Not respecting anyone, he ceases to love, and having no love, he gives himself up to passions and coarse pleasures in order to occupy and amuse himself, and in his vices reaches complete bestiality, and it all comes from lying continually to others and himself.” [1]

The Elders' warning establishes a central theme in the book: the power of truth and the tragedy of lies. Elder Zosimas affirms that there exists such a thing as objective truth and that it is crucial for us to come to grips with that truth and not hide from it.

However, we humans wrap our hearts in lies in a vain attempt to hide from the terrifying truth of who we really are. But lying never leads to anywhere good. The truth, on the other hand, compels men to deal with their inner evils. Embrace the truth, and you will be transformed for the good.

But then - what is the truth? Finding the answer to this question is not easy. It requires faith. It is a long process of self-emptying that the Karamazov brothers are about to embark on.

Faith and Doubt

The first step is to acknowledge the existence of truth. Ivan Karamazov, for example, denies the existence of objective truth altogether. To him, “good” and “evil” are relative concepts. Mere social fabrications.

However, Ivan is honest enough to understand the mortal consequences of this moral relativism. He admits: “without God, everything is permitted.” The existence of God is necessary for the existence of objective morality, and objective truth [2]. Without God, society is at risk of moral anarchy. Ivan understands this, so he views religion as a necessary political instrument to keep social order.

Hence why, albeit an atheist, he argues in favor of ecclesiastical courts so that morality can be efficiently enforced in society. But Elder Zosimas is uninterested in this argument. He knows the real punisher of men: the moral conscience. The moral conscience is superior to civil courts, the Elder argues. An imprisoned man can be full of joy from a clean conscience, and a free man can be tormented to madness by a guilty conscience.

Ivan hears the Elder's warnings but does not believe them, as he rejects God altogether. He treats these existential questions at an academic distance, away from his heart. In his intellectual pride, he places the need for full rational comprehension as a condition for faith. This renders these questions to be impersonal and monstrously complex. Since he cannot comprehend God's existence, he concludes that the moral conscience is merely the product of a mental state and not proof of objective truth.

But Ivan’s thinking is flawed. Our limited minds cannot be a filter for truth. God is a transcendent reality that pre-exists humanity itself. Any attempt by humans to make God “fit” in our brains will lead to incomplete conclusions.

Moreover, the Elder warns that whether you believe that God exists or not, doesn’t really matter. God (as a concept of objective truth) exists either way. Theorizing moral relativism is a short-lived play to hide from the inevitable truth. Eventually, the truth will reveal itself with such a crushing impact that you might perish when you discover it.

Acknowledging that we will never cognitively be able to comprehend God, it is better to inquire what yields a better life: faith or faithlessness. Elder Zosimas and Alyosha choose to have faith. Instead of social theories, they have simple love for the people around them. Instead of empiricism, they use divine prayer to know God. Instead of focusing on becoming intelligent, they focus on becoming good. [3]

What we believe will guide how we live. Therefore, your inner beliefs matter. All humans believe in something. A human that does not believe in anything or anyone doesn’t exist. Even atheism is based on belief – belief in nothing, no anchor, no truth, no meaning. We all believe many things we can never verify.

Which faith is best, therefore, Ivan’s or Zosimas’? Well, it is faith that transforms our souls into holiness. That which makes us become truly good – not good based on social expectations, but good based on the Moral Law. Not good in a shallow sense, but good in an existential sense. Goodness is, after all, our ability to live according to objective reality. Thus, our ability to live honestly, with humility and love for our neighbors. The Brothers Karamazov is a slow, painful exploration of what is Goodness. [4]

Dmitri Karamazov has a wonderful reflection on this topic later in the book, after a discussion with a God-denying monk, Rakitin:

“It's God that's worrying me. That's the only thing that's worrying me. What if He doesn't exist? What if Rakitin's right -that it's an idea made up by men? Then, if He doesn't exist, man is the king of the earth, of the universe. Magnificent! Only how is he going to be good without God? That's the question. I always come back to that. Who is man going to love then? To whom will he be thankful? To whom will he sing the hymn? Rakitin laughs. Rakitin says that one can love humanity instead of God. Well, only an idiot can maintain that. I can't understand it. Life's easy for Rakitin. 'You'd better think about the extension of civic rights, or of keeping down the price of meat. You will show your love for humanity more simply and directly by that, than by philosophy.' I answered him: 'Well, but you, without a God, are more likely to raise the price of meat if it suits you, and make a rouble on every penny.' He lost his temper. But after all, what is goodness? Answer that, Alyosha. Goodness is one thing with me and another with a Chinaman, so it's relative. Or isn't it? Is it not relative? A treacherous question! You won't laugh if I tell you it's kept me awake for two nights. I only wonder now how people can live and think nothing about it. Vanity!”

Love and Hate

As the meeting dissolves, the family returns to their daily lives. The key driver to the family drama is the passionate feud between Fyodor and his son Dmitri. Besides competing for Grushenka, there is money involved. Fyodor owes Dmitri his inheritance money, which Dmitri desperately needs to repay his debt to his former fiancée, Katerina Ivanova. Many years ago, Dmitri squandered 3,000 roubles that Katerina entrusted with him to give to a relative. Dmitri is deeply ashamed of his foolishness but, in his pride, refuses to ask forgiveness before he can repay her the 3,000 roubles. He admits he is a scoundrel for squandering the money, but insists he is no thief – for he will give her back the money eventually! Therefore, getting his inheritance money from Fyodor is a matter of personal honor and pride for Dmitri. He needs the money for his own personal redemption.

Fyodor’s behavior is tormenting him. He hates his father. Yet the resemblance between them is striking. Both Fyodor and Dmitri lust after Grushenka; both men have squandered money; both men are scoundrels. But there is a subtle difference: Dmitri is conscious of his wickedness. And he is tormented by his consciousness. He knows how far away he is from being Christlike. Fyodor, however, displays no sense of remorse. He is completely numb to his conscience. Therefore, Dmitri has hope precisely because he suffers for his wickedness. The suffering inclines him towards repentance.

This explains why Fyodor’s buffoonery is particularly grueling to Dmitri: he sees a reflection of himself in Fyodor. Thus, Dmitri externalizes his own remorse onto his father. Everything he despises about himself is embodied by Fyodor. This leads to violence. One day, he assaults his father and beats him severely, threatening to murder him, before storming off in fury and regret.

As the story progresses, we travel along with Dmitri as he pursues his passions (love for Grushenka, hate for Fyodor). Initially, Dmitri’s mind is simplistic, and his actions are impulsive. However, he gradually discovers how his selfish pursuits negatively impact those around him. His selfish desires are simply irreconcilable with the greater good of those around him. This is very stressful for him because he cares deeply about others, but he is also enslaved by his desires.

This is actually an identity crisis for Dmitri. We must remember that personhood is a relational concept. We are who we are only in relation to how others are [5]. Dmitri is a self-confessed scoundrel, but he also wishes to be Christlike. His problem is that he cannot choose both, no matter how much he tries to force it.

If he cannot choose both simultaneously, Dimitri's answer is to choose both consecutively. He will try to firstly satisfy his personal ambitions (get Grushenka and a load of money) and then do good to others (pay back Katerina and live Christlike). With this approach, he reveals his priorities. He attempts to postpone his sacrifice for the greater good. He tries to cheat God.

The Grand Inquisitor: Ivan's poem on suffering, God, and Free Will

“Nothing has ever been more insupportable for a man and a human society than freedom”

- The Grand Inquisitor

Meanwhile, Ivan is increasingly agitated by the “circus” in his family. He plans to leave for Moscow, but before he leaves, he sits down with Alyosha at a tavern. Ivan is confounded by Alyosha’s religious convictions. It seems that, deep down, Ivan wants to believe, but has strong philosophical objections to God. Ivan claims that, in a world where innocent children suffer, there simply cannot exist a loving God. If God exists, then he is a tormentor, Ivan affirms, who delights in seeing humanity’s cruelty plaid out. [6]

Perhaps he subconsciously hopes Alyosha will relieve him of these objections with a clear-cut, rational explanation. But Alyosha, who is no scholar, cannot answer them. Ivan is met by silence. He, therefore, proceeds by presenting a poem he has written on human suffering, God, and Free Will.

In the poem, Christ returns to Earth, in 16th century Spain. He works miracles and does all the same deeds he did in the Gospels. It stirs the crowds, and the Catholic Church throws him in jail. The Grand Inquisitor enters his cell and confronts him. The Inquisitor says that Christ is a troublemaker, for he granted mankind Free Will and then asked mankind to be Christlike – an unattainable standard of morality. The Church has since labored to ease this moral burden by using commerce, power, and sensationalism. The last thing the Church needs now is for Christ to return.

The Inquisitor explains how Christ should have accepted the devil's three temptations. In the Gospels, when Christ fasted in the desert for 40 days, the devil tries to tempt him by asking him to (1) turn stones into bread to feed himself, (2) to rule over all the earthly kingdoms, and (3) to throw himself off the Temple Mount and be miraculously saved by Angels. Instead of rebuking the devil, Christ should have accepted them all, because:

  1. Comfort: Men need bread to be good. They do evil when they are hungry and desperate. Thus, turning stones into bread would relieve them of this inevitability. Remove scarcity, and men would always be comfortable and have no need to deceive, steal, or murder [7].

  2. Security: Men admire earthly Kings clothed in expensive fabrics and shiny ornaments; they also respect political power. If Christ was an earthly King, he could command obedience with both sword and charisma.

  3. Excitement: Men need to witness miracles to believe. To ask a man to “believe without seeing” is cruel, according to the Inquisitor. Instead, do perform miracles so it is easy for men to believe.

In essence, Christ should never have given mankind Free Will, for we are unable to use it correctly. He should have wielded the arms of the World, not the arms of Heaven. He should have commanded us to believe in him. Yes, we would lose our Free Will, but we would be guaranteed paradise.

Instead, most of mankind is doomed to hell. Like Dmitri Karamazov, they suffer tremendously over their failure to be Christlike. And this is Christ's fault. Sure, there are some of us, like Alyosha, who become Saints. But they are simply predestined to be Saints. Most of us, however, are wholly incapable and thus doomed.

These are the grounds for Ivan to decide to reject Christ and embrace the Grand Inquisitors of the world. The Grand inquisitor is a character Ivan invents to explain the existence of religion. Assuming that God doesn’t exist, and everything is permitted, the world needs Grand Inquisitors to save us from anarchy. The idea of God has failed, Ivan essentially argues, so we have created religion to correct its failure.

But on what grounds has the idea of God failed? Perhaps it is simply Ivan’s idea of God that has failed? The poem implies that the idea of God is for human comfort (food), security (political power), and excitement (miracles). Thus, this is a God who orbits mankind; a God who must satisfy human expectations of good, to be good. In other words, humans set the standard for God's existence. And this standard is transactional and legalistic, bound by worldly priorities. It is devoid of personal freedom – and thus, of personhood.

The Grand Inquisitor (thus Ivan) doesn’t mind abandoning personhood. He simply does not want to go through a life of trials and tribulations. Since he must, he will do it with bitterness towards God, for God failed to live up to his expectations. [8]

Interestingly, this is a very delicate inverse of Christianity. It is, in fact, an antichrist. A “Christendom” without Christ. An erasure of human free will, and therefore destruction of what it truly means to be human. An anti-creation. The Grand Inquisitor shamelessly admits that he is secretly serving the devil: for the devil gives men what they desire: food, security, and excitement/sensationalism.

When the Grand Inquisitor finished his rant, Christ is silent. He then approaches the Inquisitor and kisses him, beaming eternal Love for him. The Inquisitor is completely dumbfounded by this. He is at a loss for words. He exits Christ's cell but leaves the door slightly open. So ends the poem.

Ivan has finished his poem and awaits Alyosha’s reaction. Alyosha has no more words for his brother. Instead, he stands up, kisses his brother dearly, and leaves the tavern. Ivan is left dumbstruck.

Theosis, one onion at a time

One day, Elder Zosimas passes away. Everyone in the village is confident that Elder Zosimas is a saint and are expecting his body to remain incorruptible – undeniable proof of Sainthood. But during the funeral service, an odor of corruption rises from the coffin, much to the detriment of the townsfolk, who become hysterical with cries of sadness over the idea that Elder Zosimas was not a Saint.

Alyosha is deeply agitated and confused. He leaves the monastery but is chased up by Rakitin, a prideful monk who wants to leave the monastery. Rakitin invites Alyosha to visit Grushenka and have a party – indulge in wine, meat, and who knows what else! This is a fasting season, but Alyosha, feeling hopeless after the funeral scene, agrees to go.

As they arrive, they are welcomed by an excited Grushenka, who pours alcohol into their glasses and amuses Rakitin with clever witticisms. She then jumps on Alyosha’s lap and flirts with him. When she asks why he is so awkward, Rakitin says Alyosha is just sad because Zosimas is dead. As soon as she hears this, she jumps off his lap, crosses herself, and begs forgiveness for behaving so foolishly.

This sudden, and unexpected, display of reverence moves Alyosha. He came to her house to sin against God, out of frustration, confusion, and a sense of hopelessness over his Elder's passing. He says with quivering lips: “ I felt drawn to evil because I was base and evil myself, and I’ve found a true sister [Grushenka]; I have found a treasure – a loving heart. She had pity on me just now…Grushenka, I am speaking of you. You’ve raised my soul from the depths.”

Hearing this, Grushenka breaks down in tears. Alyosha – the pious one - chose to refer to her – the harlot - as his “true sister”. [9] She sobs in tears and confesses her deepest sins to him, admitting that she is wicked, and far from good. She says she tried to seduce him to “destroy” his piety. “You see what a spiteful cur I am - and you called me your sister!” she cries. ”Do you see now, Alyosha, what a violent, vindictive creature I am? I have shown you the whole truth!”

This is the beginning of Grushenka’s journey to salvation. As Alyosha related himself to her, she suddenly saw her true self in Christ and was so ashamed that she confessed all her evils. She hoped that she had now, at least, "given an onion"– a term for doing one, tiny, good deed, whether intentional or not, in a lifetime of wickedness [10]. Throughout the rest of the book, Grushenka, though still prone to her old habits, is on a path of salvation.

Alyosha is filled with inner peace. To him, Grushenka saved him from destroying himself. With tears of joy, he returns to the monastery where a monk reads the Gospel story of the Wedding at Cana beside Elder Zosimas's coffin. Alyosha enters a deep prayerful state that escalates into an intense spiritual transformation. His soul is lifted to the Wedding ceremony, experiencing the presence of Christ, the Virgin Mary – and to his surprise, Elder Zosimas.

With gleaming eyes, Elder Zosimas says: “We are rejoicing…We are drinking the new wine, the wine of new, great gladness; do you see how many guests? … Why do you wonder at me? I gave an onion to a beggar, so I, too, am here. And many here have given only an onion each – only one little onion….What are all our deeds? And you, my gentle one, you, my kind boy, you too have known how to give a famished woman an onion to-day. Begin your work, dear one, begin it, gentle one! Do you see our Sun, do you see Him?”

“I am afraid . . . I dare not look,” whispered Alyosha.

“Do not fear Him. He is terrible in His greatness, awful in His sublimity, but infinitely merciful. He has made Himself like unto us from love and rejoices with us. He is changing the water into wine that the gladness of the guests may not be cut short. He is expecting new guests, He is calling new ones unceasingly for ever and ever…”

Alyosha goes on to experience Theosis – an Orthodox Christian term for sanctification:

“…his soul, overflowing with rapture, yearned for freedom, space, openness. The vault of heaven, full of soft, shining stars, stretched vast and fathomless above him [] The silence of earth seemed to melt into the silence of the heavens. The mystery of earth was one with the mystery of the stars…Alyosha stood, gazed, and suddenly threw himself down on the earth. He did not know why he embraced it. He could not have told why he longed so irresistibly to kiss it, to kiss it all. But he kissed it weeping, sobbing, and watering it with his tears, and vowed passionately to love it, to love it for ever and ever. “Water the earth with the tears of your joy and love those tears,” echoed in his soul. What was he weeping over? […] He longed to forgive everyone and for everything, and to beg forgiveness. Oh, not for himself, but for all men, for all and for everything. “And others are praying for me too,” echoed again in his soul. But with every instant he felt clearly and, as it were, tangibly, that something firm and unshakable as that vault of heaven had entered into his soul. It was as though some idea had seized the sovereignty of his mind – and it was for all his life and for ever and ever. He had fallen on the earth a weak boy, but he rose up a resolute champion, and he knew and felt it suddenly at the very moment of his ecstasy. And never, never, his life long, could Alyosha forget that minute.”

Alyosha arrives at the intended destination for all human beings. This is the place that is waiting for Grushenka, Dmitri, Ivan, and the rest of mankind, as long as they have the courage to go through life with hope in their hearts.

The dispositions of the characters are revealed. Their hearts are exposed. Now, we will see the fruits of their hearts. The second part of the story begins with a Great Tragedy that disrupts their lives and forces them to face the truth of who they really are. This begins a transformative process that teaches us many existential lessons about life, morality, suffering, and salvation.

Part 2 will be published next week.


Ultimately, we are who we are in relation to who Christ is.

[1] Continued* “A man who lies to himself is often the first to take offense. it sometimes feels very good to take offense, doesn't it? And surely he knows that no one has offended him, and that he himself has invented the offense and told lies just for the beauty of it, that he has exaggerated for the sake of effect, that he has picked up on a word and made a mountain out of a pea--he knows all of that, and still he is the first to take offense, he likes feeling offended, it gives him great pleasure, and thus he reaches the point of real hostility.” [2] In order to have goodness, you must have objective truth. Because only if something is objectively Good, is it worthwhile to pursue. If it is only relatively Good, it is meaningless. Why? Because in relativism, it is us humans who assign value, but we humans are incapable of assigning moral value. Our perception is flawed by biases and a constrained mind.

In other words, in relativism, "Adam" is the God, because it is Adam who assigns moral value.

We therefore see how truth, faith, and God are all a trinity of the same concept. And their opposing forces are relativism, doubt, and the devil/evil. TRUTH vs Relativism FAITH vs Doubt GOD vs devil

[3] The more stupid one is, the closer one is to reality. The more stupid one is, the clearer one is. Stupidity is brief and artless, while intelligence squirms and hides itself. Intelligence is unprincipled, but stupidity is honest and straightforward.” – Ivan Karamazov.

[4] It is worthwhile to add that knowledge does not, by itself, bring salvation. One can have perfect theoretical knowledge of God, yet still live a life of evil. Only by cultivating holiness in our souls through the Holy Spirit, can we become pure. This is amatter of how we live, not how well we understand abstract ideas and theories.

[5] Ultimately, we are who we are in relation to who Christ is.

[6] Why is it necessary to have so much suffering in order to get salvation, and if you fail, to suffer eternally?

Good questions, but they come from a perspective of humans being innocent victims entering a cynical game arranged by God.

What Ivan fails to consider is: what if we are the ones creating the suffering?

But even if we are, Ivan would say; why did God create us with the capacity to create so much suffering?

Within this question lies a nihilistic, suicidal self-destruction. You would rather forgoe life than to live it with the potential of bliss.

Alyosha gives the answer: he loves his brother in humility and love. But why is this the answer? Because even if you undergo the worst hell on earth, you can still be in total bliss if your conscience is clean and your soul is saved. Thats the point.

[7] Why can't I just lay on my couch and holiness will descend on me? Well, deconstruct that question. Your priority here is your own comfort, not holiness. That is why you insist on it coming to you easily. Why do you call obtaining holiness "difficult"? Because you must sacrifice more of yourself. Ok, so at heart, you have egoism. Then you can ask, why are we designed to have egoism and then need to sacrifice it to follow God? Because we have free will, and love needs to be free and weighed in sacrifice. Well, why? Moreover, we were and are created to not have selfishness, but it is the Adam and Eve event that led us to have egoism. But why did God let that happen, Ivan may ask. [8] Ivan demands that faith in God corresponds to his conceptions of true faith. [9] What sparked this salvific moment – this “onion”? Grushenka always believed Alyosha hated her, for he was pious while she was sinful. But when Alyosha – the saintly - related himself to her and praised her, the harlot, her soul was lifted, and she saw her own sins. It prompted her to confess it all, to unload the burden. [10] Grushenka cried that she has now given away an onion – one good deed that may save her. The term came from a story of an old woman who had been evil all her life. When she died, she went to hell, and she screamed out to God for mercy. Her guardian angel went to God to plead her case. God asked if she had done any good deeds, and the angel said that she once gave an onion to a starving beggar. With God's approval, the angel took that very onion and went to hell to save her. She had to grasp the onion, and the angel would pull her up from the hellfire. But as she departed, other souls clung to her to come with her. The wicked woman kicked them away, shouting: “this is my onion, not yours!” At that moment, the onion broke, and she fell to hell for eternity. Grushenka likens herself to this woman, as she confesses: “I’ve done nothing but give away one onion all my life, that’s the only good deed I’ve done.’ Don’t praise me, Alyosha, don’t think me good, I am bad, I am a wicked woman and you make me ashamed if you praise me. Eh, I must confess everything!”

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