Summary—Chapter 1: Father Ferapont
Zosima, realizing that he will soon die, summons a group of students and friends to his side to have one last conversation about faith, love, and goodness. As he speaks, he emphasizes the importance of actively loving mankind, and of carrying universal love into all dealings with other people. He also discourages his listeners from being judgmental, saying that every person on Earth shares the blame for the sins of every other person.
As Alyosha leaves Zosima’s bedside, he reflects on his elder’s impending death, and thinks that surely God would not let such a wise man die without marking his death with a spectacular miracle of some sort. Alyosha is certain that everyone in the monastery feels the same way, with the possible exception of the dour Father Ferapont, Zosima’s enemy and an advocate of a harsh and ascetic form of piety that bears little resemblance to Zosima’s warmhearted doctrine of love and forgiveness.
Zosima calls Alyosha back to his cell. He asks him again to leave the monastery in order to help his family and to do good in the town. This time, Alyosha agrees to do so.
Summary—Chapter 2: At His Father’s
Alyosha returns home, where he encounters Fyodor Pavlovich scheming about the future. Fyodor Pavlovich tells Alyosha that he plans to live for many years and intends to remain a sensualist until he dies, when his only lover will be death. He says that he will eventually be too old to attract young women, however, and so he will need a great deal of money to lure them into his bed. He also insinuates that Ivan is trying to seduce Katerina in order to make Dmitri marry Grushenka. Should Ivan be successful, Fyodor Pavlovich says, Fyodor Pavlovich himself would be unable to marry Grushenka, and Ivan would ensure that his part of the Karamazov fortune would not be left to Fyodor Pavlovich’s new wife. Fyodor Pavlovich recognizes his own wickedness, and Alyosha replies that he is not evil; he is just twisted.
Summary—Chapter 3: He Gets Involved with Schoolboys
Alyosha sets off for Madame Khokhlakov’s house. On the way, he sees a group of young bullies throwing rocks at a frail boy, who, despite his disadvantages, ferociously hurls rocks back. When the boy runs away, Alyosha runs after him, hoping to talk with him, but when Alyosha catches him, the boy hits him with a rock and bites his finger. The boy runs away again, leaving Alyosha confused and troubled, wondering what could cause such savage behavior in such a young boy.
Summary—Chapter 4: At the Khokhlakovs’
At Madame Khokhlakov’s, Alyosha is surprised to learn that Ivan is already there, visiting Katerina. The two are upstairs, and before Alyosha joins them, he asks Madame Khokhlakov for a bandage for his hand. When she goes in search of supplies with which to tend his wound, Alyosha is accosted by Lise, who insists that he give her back the love letter she wrote him. She says that it was merely a joke. Alyosha refuses to give the letter back, saying that he fell for the joke and that he did not bring the letter with him.