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The Brothers Karamazov

4. The Third Son, Alyosha
HE was only twenty, his brother Ivan was in his twenty-fourth year at the time,
while their elder brother Dmitri was twenty-seven. First of all, I must explain that
this young man, Alyosha, was not a fanatic, and, in my opinion at least, was not
even a mystic. I may as well give my full opinion from the beginning. He was
simply an early lover of humanity, and that he adopted the monastic life was
simply because at that time it struck him, so to say, as the ideal escape for his
soul struggling from the darkness of worldly wickedness to the light of love. And
the reason this life struck him in this way was that he found in it at that time, as
he thought an extraordinary being, our celebrated elder, Zossima, to whom he
became attached with all the warm first love of his ardent heart. But I do not
dispute that he was very strange even at that time, and had been so indeed from
his cradle. I have mentioned already, by the way, that though he lost his mother
in his fourth year he remembered her all his life her face, her caresses, "as
though she stood living before me." Such memories may persist, as everyone
knows, from an even earlier age, even from two years old, but scarcely standing
out through a whole lifetime like spots of light out of darkness, like a corner torn
out of a huge picture, which has all faded and disappeared except that fragment.
That is how it was with him. He remembered one still summer evening, an open
window, the slanting rays of the setting sun (that he recalled most vividly of all);
in a corner of the room the holy image, before it a lighted lamp, and on her knees
before the image his mother, sobbing hysterically with cries and moans,
snatching him up in both arms, squeezing him close till it hurt, and praying for
him to the Mother of God, holding him out in both arms to the image as though to
put him under the Mother's protection... and suddenly a nurse runs in and
snatches him from her in terror. That was the picture! And Alyosha remembered
his mother's face at that minute. He used to say that it was frenzied but beautiful
as he remembered. But he rarely cared to speak of this memory to anyone. In his
childhood and youth he was by no means expansive, and talked little indeed, but
not from shyness or a sullen unsociability; quite the contrary, from something
different, from a sort of inner preoccupation entirely personal and unconcerned
with other people, but so important to him that he seemed, as it were, to forget
others on account of it. But he was fond of people: he seemed throughout his life
to put implicit trust in people: yet no one ever looked on him as a simpleton or
naive person. There was something about him which made one feel at once (and
it was so all his life afterwards) that he did not care to be a judge of others that he
would never take it upon himself to criticise and would never condemn anyone
for anything. He seemed, indeed, to accept everything without the least
condemnation though often grieving bitterly: and this was so much so that no one
could surprise or frighten him even in his earliest youth. Coming at twenty to his
father's house, which was a very sink of filthy debauchery, he, chaste and pure
as he was, simply withdrew in silence when to look on was unbearable, but
without the slightest sign of contempt or condemnation. His father, who had once
 
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