Summary—Chapter 1: The Odor of Corruption
Most people within the monastery share Alyosha’s feeling that a great miracle will follow Zosima’s death. After Zosima’s body is prepared for burial, a large crowd gathers around it in anticipation of witnessing this hoped-for divine display. But rather than dazzling onlookers with a miracle, Zosima’s corpse merely exudes a putrid stench as it quickly begins to decay. The monks are aghast, and many believe the stench to be an evil omen for the monastery.
Zosima’s enemies within the monastery rudely insist that this omen indicates that Zosima was morally flawed, not a saint but an evildoer in disguise. The people in the town who had breathlessly awaited a miracle are disgruntled and confused by this disparaging talk about the widely adored Zosima. Alyosha is frightened and disgusted, and he cannot understand why God would allow this humiliation to happen.
Zosima’s greatest enemy, the harsh and pious Ferapont, madly attempts to exorcise Zosima’s cell of demons. He is ordered to leave the monastery, but unease reigns among the monks. Alyosha leaves as well, hoping to think things through in a quieter place.
Summary—Chapter 2: An Opportune Moment
Alyosha thinks bitterly about the degradation suffered by his beloved teacher after death. He struggles not to doubt God, but his faith in God’s goodness is shaken. He simply cannot understand why a benevolent God would allow such a good man to come to such a vulgar end.
Alyosha’s snide friend, the seminary student Rakitin, sees Alyosha walking and teases him about his unhappiness. He offers Alyosha sausage and vodka, morsels that monks are forbidden to consume because it is Lent, and to his surprise, Alyosha accepts them. He then asks Alyosha if he would like to visit Grushenka, and Alyosha impulsively agrees.
Summary—Chapter 3: An Onion
The beginning of the chapter tells Grushenka’s history. Four years previously, when she is eighteen, Grushenka is brought to the town by a merchant named Samsonov and taken in by a widow. It is rumored at the time that she has been betrayed by a lover and has given her affections to Samsonov in order to win his protection. Scarcely looked after by the widow, she grows into a beautiful young woman, and, by shrewdly investing the small amount of money she has, amasses an impressive fortune in a short time. She is, and continues to be, pursued by many men in the town, but so far, none of them has succeeded in winning her.