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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
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.
Ace your assignments with our guide to The Brothers Karamazov!