Father Zosima has died. And this part starts with the monks performing their rituals and such for the dead starets. And all of a sudden, the monks start to notice something. They side-eye each other, the nudge each other with their elbows trying to say…do you notice that too? Of course they do. Apparently the starets body starts to smell. No one knows what to do about this situation. I am not sure if Dostoyevsky meant it to be funny…but it kind of is. It is literally the last thing you would think that was going to happen. Murder – yes. Intrigue – yes. But a smelly starets – no.
The prevailing thought is that because he is such a high ranking monk, some miracle should have happened upon his death, and everyone is basically waiting for that to happen. But no….we get smelly cat.
Not surprisingly, Aloysha takes this whole situation badly. And who wouldn’t. The starets is basically someone Aloysha looked up to, was more or less a father figure to him. And Aloysha is pretty young, and he is in the company of monks. So he is expected to basically man up and go with it. He is fighting between these two situations: mourning the loss of a father and trying to respect the traditions of the monastery. I really felt for this poor guy. I don’t think that Dostevsky wants us to pity Aloysha. But he really does show his struggle with the death of the man who he loved and respected.
The other big thing that happens is that Aloysha goes with the scoundrel Ratikin to visit Grushenka. Up until now, we have seen Lady G, we have heard rumours about her – she is a bit of a loose canon, and may or may not be a prostitute. In this part we get to hear her side of the story. Here is the thing, and not surprisingly, we are wrong (ish). She is not a prostitute. She had a benefactor that took her in when she was young and homeless, and gave her some money. And good on her, she basically used that money to become a self made woman.
This got me thinking about the themes that seem to be surfacing in the novel – freedom and what that means and how do people deal with that. I think that Grushenka’s story is kind of illustrating both the Grand Inquisitor story and the Father Z story. The reason that she is struggling so much is that she is caught between these two things: having too much freedom and not having enough.
As an aside, the really irritating thing – and this was true in War and Peace too – that people are known by multiple names. It’s super confusing. Mitry and Dimitry is easy to figure out. But Grushenka and Agrafena Alexandrovna Svetlov – not similar.
Anyway….on we go to the next adventure.