Why is Alyosha considered the hero or protagonist of the novel?

Although the novel is narrated through the eyes of several characters, Alyosha’s journey is most often used as the lens through which Dostoevsky tells the story. This decision to position Alyosha as the novel’s hero, which Dostoevsky states is true in the novel’s introduction, likely stems from Alyosha’s moral character and success in overcoming his own trials. Throughout the novel, each of the three brothers face several trials in a somewhat biblical fashion. Ivan visits Smerdyakov three times, with each visit straining his conscience and beliefs more and more until he succumbs to madness. Dmitri’s financial and romantic trials lead to his poor behavior and eventual murder charge. Alyosha, on the other hand, faces the trials of Zosima’s death, Ilyusha’s death, and his family’s corruption, as well as the devious plot by Rakitin to corrupt his morals. At the end of his trials, however, Alyosha’s faith and morals are as strong as ever.

Why does Adelaida marry Fyodor?

It is explained in the novel that Adelaida Ivanovna, Fyodor’s first wife and the mother to Dmitri, is raised in a wealthy family with a strong reputation. Seeing as Adelaida is in no need of money and Fyodor is a detestable man, which Adelaida admits herself, the reader may question why she decides to marry Fyodor at all. Adelaida’s decision can largely be seen as an act of rebellious independence, a means of breaking away from the expectations of her own class. Adelaida is a strong-willed woman who rejects the conventions of her time. By choosing to marry Fyodor, she is asserting her independence. Adelaida would rather live a tumultuous life of her choosing than a comfortable one designed for her. 

Why does Zosima bow before Dmitri?

Dmitri is one of the novel’s more complicated characters, and Zosima, who has the instinctual gift of recognizing others’ truths, knows this. Dmitri, while being a brash and violent drunk, also has a good and honorable heart. And Zosima is able to recognize that this conflict in nature will lead to great trials and suffering for Dmitri. As Zosima sees much of his own older brother in Dmitri, he bows before Dmitri as a sign of respect and sympathy for the experiences that are to come. Zosima may also foresee a change of heart within Dmitri, as Dmitri pledges his life to God by the end of the novel. 

Why does Ivan become sick?

Ivan’s feverish and comatose condition at the end of the novel is not one born directly of physical illness, but rather a state of immense emotional and philosophical despair which leads him to physical collapse. Ivan has always been a man at war with his beliefs. Ivan’s extreme intelligence and curiosity coupled with his love for humanity have created within him a disdain of religion and God. Ivan believes strongly in the proper treatment of others and that it is an individual’s responsibility to protect their neighbors, not God’s. After his father’s murder, when Ivan pays several visits to Smerdyakov in the hospital, Ivan learns that not only did Smerdyakov murder his father, but that Ivan’s philosophy about life and others inspired Smerdyakov to do so. The weight of being partially responsible for the murder of another human sends Ivan into this mental collapse.

Why does Smerdyakov kill himself?

Smerdyakov’s decision to hang himself in the hospital, after a debilitating seizure and his confession to Ivan that he murdered Fyodor, is a decision born out of nihilistic despair. Smerdyakov reaches a point where he sees no positive reason to continue living. He committed murder and confessed to doing so, meaning a long prison sentence is likely. Furthermore, Smerdyakov believes himself to be the bastard son of Fyodor, the man he murdered, and he recognizes that he will receive no inheritance, unlike his brothers. Smerdyakov also sees his health to be a bleak and limiting factor, as his recent seizure likely caused permanent damage to his mobility. These factors weigh tremendously on Smerdyakov, leading to his eventual suicide.