Saturday, December 29, 2012

Alyosha



It's back to Alyosha after two very compelling long chapters on Mitya, which formed the core of previous movies made of the novel.  Dostoevsky returns to the rock throwing incident which Alyosha interceded upon.  Little Ilyusha  is on his death bed.  His father had finally accepted the money Alyosha had given from Katarina to assuage the sense of guilt she felt for Mitya beating him in the streets, greatly embarrassing his son, who was never the same after that.  But, the focus of the chapter is more on a boy named Kolya, who had been a friend of Ilyusha.

We are introduced to Kolya tending to small charges as he anxiously awaits for their mother to return.  Kolya seems the responsible sort but also has a strong rebellious nature.  He's small for his age and is quite bitter about it, because he expects to be treated as an adult.  He has schooled himself on books left by his father and now considers himself a socialist and free thinker, with a strong dislike for doctors.  There is a small dog named Perezvon, a stray which he has made his own.

In pure Dostoevskian style, we learn of the causes for the rock throwing incident, which stem back to the relationship between Ilyusha and Kolya.  Ilyusha had long been the subject of taunts from his schoolmates because of his father's foolish nature.  Kolya was the only one to befriend him and protect him, until one day Ilyusha got it into his head to feed a dog a piece of bread with a needle in it.  This greatly upset Kolya, who renounced his friendship on the spot, and Ilyusha felt utterly alone in the world.

Kolya tells all this to Alyosha through a series of conversation that dominated this part of the book.  Alyosha likes Kolya very much as a result, but feels it is very important for him to make amends with Ilyusha, for he and the dog are all Ilyusha talks about in his feverish dreams.  Kolya acquiesces on his own terms.  For the first time, life seems to come from Ilyusha once again.

It is quite touching, but a bit forced, as Dostoevesky seems to be playing this scene largely for emotional effect.  The dreaded doctor breaks the spell by diagnosing that Ilyusha is too far gone for him to do any good and that his poor father should take him to some far away spa for treatment, which only adds to Kolya's disdain for doctors, mocking the haughty doctor as he leaves the trampled down apartment.

We don't get to know what Alyosha sees in Kolya, maybe a young Ivan, but Dostoevsky chooses to leave Chapter X there and reintroduce us to Ivan in the subsequent chapter, but first filling us on a few details since Mitya's wild flight to Mokroye.


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