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The Brothers Karamazov

by: Fyodor Dostoevsky

Alyosha

The narrator describes Alyosha as the “hero” of The Brothers Karamazov and claims that the book is Alyosha’s “biography.” A young, handsome man of about twenty, Alyosha is remarkable for his extraordinarily mature religious faith, his selflessness, and his innate love of humankind. Alyosha is naturally good: his love of his fellow human beings is simply a part of his personality, and he rarely has to struggle against temptation or doubt. He spends his energy doing good deeds for his fellow men and trying as honestly as he can to help them become happier and more fulfilled. Alyosha is not judgmental and has an uncanny ability to understand the psychology of others. Despite his infallible goodness and his natural advantages, Alyosha has a gentle, easygoing personality that causes almost everyone who knows him to love him.

At the same time, Alyosha is not naïve or innocent. He understands human evil and the burden of sin, but he practices universal forgiveness. Alyosha’s religious faith is the cornerstone of his character. His faith in a loving God, strengthened by his close relationship with the monastic elder Zosima, reinforces his love of mankind and his immense capability to do good. Even when Alyosha experiences doubt, his doubt is always resolved by his commitment to do good. At the end of the novel, Alyosha has become the mature embodiment of Zosima’s teachings, and he even helps to guarantee Zosima’s legacy by spreading his teachings among the young schoolboys of the town, who adore him.

Alyosha is an unusual main character because he does not initiate much of the main action of the novel. Instead, he tends to react calmly to whatever the other characters are driven by passion. But The Brothers Karamazov is a novel that analyzes various ways of life—the coarse sensualism of Fyodor Pavlovich and the cold skepticism of Ivan both come under scrutiny—and questions each of them sharply. Alyosha’s way of life seems superior to that of the other characters. He is the moral center of the novel because he represents the model of attitude and behavior that Dostoevsky considers the right one, the one most conducive to human happiness and peace instead of the trauma and conflict that afflict most of the novel’s other major characters.