Character Analysis Alyosha


The youngest son of Fyodor Karamazov embodies most of the positive actions in the novel. From his early years onward, we learn that he is an easygoing youth whom everyone seems to love. Unlike his brother Ivan, he is unconcerned with accepting charity or gifts from others. Dostoevsky depicts him as the sort who would quickly give away any money that he might possess.

Alyosha is no stock Christ-figure, however; of all the so-called good characters in Dostoevsky's fiction, Alyosha seems to breathe the most life. This is partly due to the fact that he constantly moves among people and performs quiet acts of kindness and love, even though he is not always successful.

When we first meet Alyosha, he is a member of the monastery and a special disciple of the religious elder, Father Zossima. As the story progresses, he becomes the living embodiment of all of Zossima's teachings. His every action reflects the qualities that he learned from his elder. For example, he refuses to condemn, he has an unusual ability to love all, and he has great faith in the basic goodness of man.

Alyosha, however, did not come to this faith easily. His credibility as a character is equated with his struggles to keep from losing his belief in God's justice. Particularly after Zossima dies, he questions a God who would allow such a holy man as Zossima to be disgraced by a rotting corpse, putrid and repulsive to his mourners. He rejects a justice that dishonors a noble man for no logical reason. Then, after Alyosha begins his questionings, he is tempted away from his monastic vows by eating forbidden food, drinking vodka, and being induced to visit Grushenka, reputedly a sensuous, loose-moraled young woman. After the visit, however, Alyosha discovers the great power of all that Zossima has preached. He feels deep compassion for Grushenka, and because he refuses to condemn her, he restores her belief in herself and in others. And, more important, Alyosha rediscovers his own faith in all its encompassing magnitude.

Adding to Alyosha's credibility is his failure to convince adults of Zossima's message. His role is not that of a perfect, all-successful young missionary. He has his share of failures. His successes, though, are therefore all the more important. In particular, his dealings with young boys are remarkable. He treats them as equals and they respond as equals, and we are led to believe that Alyosha will preach and lecture and that Russia will learn from young Karamazov's wisdom. Thereupon, Dostoevsky seems to be saying, the destiny of the country will be the result of Alyosha's message of faith and love.