Zosima’s enigmatic action when he kneels before Dmitri is open to a variety of interpretations. Zosima is able to understand other people’s minds because his faith is logical and clearheaded. His kneeling before Dmitri indicates his understanding of something that no other character can see yet: that Dmitri, deep down, is a good man who will be forced to suffer before he can be redeemed. The narrative suggests that Zosima’s insight is vastly superior to the sly theorizing of Rakitin in Chapter 7—Zosima is able to predict Dmitri’s real future, whereas the rational Rakitin predicts that Dmitri will come to a violent end. In this way, Zosima’s bow fore-shadows Dmitri’s eventual fate. It also foreshadows a number of similarly enigmatic gestures made throughout the novel in moments of moral conflict, including Christ kissing the Grand Inquisitor and Alyosha kissing Ivan in Book V.
Ivan’s argument that the entire notion of morality is dependent on the idea that the soul is immortal has a direct bearing on Fyodor Pavlovich’s character. If, as Ivan proposes, the idea of good and evil is dependent upon the existence of God, then Fyodor Pavlovich’s gross sensuality is a perfectly logical way for him to behave, as he does not believe in God. All of Fyodor Pavlovich’s morally questionable actions are irrelevant if morality is only a tool for securing a comfortable afterlife. Ivan himself seems to understand that Fyodor Pavlovich lives the logical extension of Ivan’s own beliefs. This relationship between the two characters explains the simultaneous love and hatred Ivan feels toward his father. Ivan hates Fyodor Pavlovich because Ivan dislikes the idea that his argument about morality could justify such an abhorrent figure as Fyodor. But Ivan must tolerate Fyodor Pavlovich, because criticizing him would undermine his argument.