Welcome back to the 10th week of this Brothers Karamazov summer readalong. This week’s section Book 10: Boys was short but introduced a seemingly important new character, 14-year-old Kolya Krasotkin. I’ll try to keep this week’s summary short, too.
Ch 1: Kolya is 14, his father died, he’s indulged by his mother but admired by boys for pranks such as lying down under a passing train, has a trained dog named Perezvon, and, in one of the author’s frequent Oh-By-The-Way comments, we learn Kolya was the one stabbed by the sick boy Ilyusha (son of “whisk broom”) whom we met way back in Book IV.
Ch 2: Kids: Kolya likes little children and often looks after the children of his mom’s friend, neighbor and single mother, the doctor’s wife. But this night, he’s trying to get out of the house, has to wait for the servant Agafya to return to watch the kids, and is snippy with her when she does finally get back.
Ch 3: A Schoolboy. Kolya meets up with another boy, Smurov. Ilyusha has fallen ill since the rock throwing incident, and has cried out for a dog named Zhuchka and a visit from Kolya. On the way, Kolya attempts to interact with the peasants in the market to show his open-mindedness, but they see him for the ignorant child he is. At Ilyusha’s, he sends Smurov in to fetch Alexei out to him.
Ch 4: Zhuchka. The dog Ilyusha longs for is one he injured in a prank that Smerdyakov showed him. Ilyusha felt guilty, Kolya cruelly broke ties with him, but this made Ilyusha a target of bullies (Kolya had previously protected him) leading to the stabbing, rock throwing and present illness. Kolya is eager for Alexei’s approval.
Ch 5: At Ilyusha’s Bedside. Kolya goes in, sees all the other schoolkids, is welcomed but alarmed at how sick Ilyusha is, then is strangely cruel to Ilyusha, and calls in Perezvon to do showy tricks; he claims its the missing Zhuchka.
Ch 6: Precocity. Kolya attempts to impress Alexei with his worldliness. Like the marketers, Alexei recognizes a young, ignorant, awkward boy and is kind. Kolya is reassured by this.
Ch 7: Ilyusha. The doctor, sent and paid for by Mrs. Khokhlakov, is disdainful of the poor house and family. He recommends expensive and difficult traveling cures, then dismissively announces that Ilyusha will die soon. Kolya feels terrible (rightly, IMO) about not having visited little Ilyusha. This chapter is extremely sad–there was a lot of dust in the room that got in my eyes when I was reading this, as Alan Sepinwall sometimes says.
So, we get Kolya, who may appear again, and obviously has some redemption he’s looking for. Ilyusha probably won’t recover. (In this, he reminds me of poor Little Jo in Dickens’ Bleak House). It’s an intriguing short diversion from the main murder/Dmitri plot to which we’ll return in next week’s longer section.
Only 3 sections to go!
What did everyone else think?