So stuck between the putrification and mysticism of Book Seven we have an equally incredible scene. Ratikin–the squirrelly little seminarian–talks Aloysha into going over to visit Grushenka. From a plot standpoint, I think this is perfect because it puts some space between the scenes taking place next to the Starets body.
Even with that, we get a pretty show-stopping surprise when Grushenka sits on Alyosha’s lap. If there’s a scene you didn’t expect to see, this would be it. The irony of the scene is painfully obvious on a couple levels. First of all, the woman who has slept with both Alyosha’s Father and his brother and who is the object of a battle between them–one that has left her fearing that Dmitri is hiding in the bushes waiting for her.
Alyosha, meanwhile, is the only Karamazov who is a virgin or in any way virginal. Any way.
So, we can’t be surprised at Aloysha’s reaction to having Grushenka on his lap.
…the woman who was now sitting on his knees and was cuddling up to him evoked in him a completely different, unexpected, and peculiar sensation, a sensation of some huge, unprecedented, and open-hearted curiosity…
A sensation? Oh, indeed.
She even confesses that she had meant to seduce Aloysha (for a Karamazov Hat Trick) but has decided not to. (Trust me, he’s the winner in that arrangement).
Beyond broad humor and pure entertainment value, this scene does serve a purpose. Remember, the Starets told Aloysha to go out into the world. He did not want him retreating to the monastery. With Grushenka on his lap, Aloysha reports that the experience leaves him “without any of his former terror,” which I assume means he is ready to marry and join the real world for the first time.