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The Brothers Karamazov

5. A Laceration in the Drawing-Room
BUT in the drawing-room the conversation was already over. Katerina Ivanovna
was greatly excited, though she looked resolute. At the moment Alyosha and
Madame Hohlakov entered, Ivan Fyodorovitch stood up to take leave. His face
was rather pale, and Alyosha looked at him anxiously. For this moment was to
solve a doubt, a harassing enigma which had for some time haunted Alyosha.
During the preceding month it had been several times suggested to him that his
brother Ivan was in love with Katerina Ivanovna, and, what was more, that he
meant "to carry her off from Dmitri. Until quite lately the idea seemed to Alyosha
monstrous, though it worried him extremely. He loved both his brothers, and
dreaded such rivalry between them. Meantime, Dmitri had said outright on the
previous day that he was glad that Ivan was his rival, and that it was a great
assistance to him, Dmitri. In what way did it assist him? To marry Grushenka?
But that Alyosha considered the worst thing possible. Besides all this, Alyosha
had till the evening before implicitly believed that Katerina Ivanovna had a
steadfast and passionate love for Dmitri; but he had only believed it till the
evening before. He had fancied, too, that she was incapable of loving a man like
Ivan, and that she did love Dmitri, and loved him just as he was, in spite of all the
strangeness of such a passion.
But during yesterday's scene with Grushenka another idea had struck him. The
word "lacerating," which Madame Hohlakov had just uttered, almost made him
start, because half waking up towards daybreak that night he had cried out
"Laceration, laceration," probably applying it to his dream. He had been dreaming
all night of the previous day's scene at Katerina Ivanovna's. Now Alyosha was
impressed by Madame Hohlakov's blunt and persistent assertion that Katerina
Ivanovna was in love with Ivan, and only deceived herself through some sort of
pose, from "self-laceration," and tortured herself by her pretended love for Dmitri
from some fancied duty of gratitude. "Yes," he thought, "perhaps the whole truth
lies in those words." But in that case what was Ivan's position? Alyosha felt
instinctively that a character like Katerina Ivanovna's must dominate, and she
could only dominate someone like Dmitri, and never a man like Ivan. For Dmitri
might -- at last submit to her domination "to his own happiness" (which was what
Alyosha would have desired), but Ivan -- no, Ivan could not submit to her, and
such submission would not give him happiness. Alyosha could not help believing
that of Ivan. And now all these doubts and reflections flitted through his mind as
he entered the drawing-room. Another idea, too, forced itself upon him: "What if
she loved neither of them -- neither Ivan nor Dmitri?"
It must be noted that Alyosha felt as it were ashamed of his own thoughts and
blamed himself when they kept recurring to him during the last month. "What do I
know about love and women and how can I decide such questions?" he thought
reproachfully, after such doubts and surmises. And yet it was impossible not to