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The Brothers Karamazov: Novel Summary: Epilogue (Chapters 1-3)

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Epilogue (Chapters 1-3)

Chapter 1: Plan to save Mitya
Katerina has the sick Ivan brought to stay at her house so that she can look after him. On the fifth day after the trial, Alyosha visits her. She tells him that a plan is in place to enable Dmitri to escape. She admits that it was she who tried to convince Ivan of Dmitri's guilt, not Ivan who tried to convince her, as she previously claimed. She feels ashamed at slandering Ivan in this way.
Alyosha senses that Katerina is also suffering over her betrayal of Dmitri in court, and that she inwardly wants to confess. He feels that her pride is about to shatter under the weight of grief.
Katerina asks Alyosha not to oppose Dmitri's escape on moral grounds. Alyosha agrees. She speaks of Dmitri with hatred and scorn, but Alyosha believes this is because she feels guilty about betraying him. Alyosha tells her that Dmitri is ill and desperately wants to see her. Dmitri feels that he has insulted her so badly that he cannot be forgiven. Katerina reluctantly agrees to visit Dmitri.
Chapter 2: For a moment the lie became truth
Two days after the court case, Dmitri was taken to a secure section of the hospital with a nervous fever. Alyosha visits him there. Alyosha tells Dmitri that Katerina will come, and also that she will take care of the escape plan if Ivan is too ill.
Dmitri is troubled by the thought that Grushenka will not be allowed to accompany him on his hard labor sentence. Without her support, he feels he is not strong enough to accept his punishment. Alyosha says that because Dmitri is innocent of the murder, such a cross is too much for him to bear. He says it is enough that after Dmitri escapes, he will remember the new man within himself that would regenerate through suffering; Dmitri does not have to endure that suffering. Through this remembrance, Dmitri will work harder at his redemption than if he had actually served his sentence. Dmitri says that he and Grushenka will flee to America, but that some day they will return to Russia. They will hide in some remote area and work the land.
Katerina arrives. She and Dmitri are reconciled. She says that though she loves Ivan, she will always love Dmitri, too, and he agrees that he will always love her. Katerina says she never believed that he was the murderer, but only persuaded herself of it while she was testifying, because in that moment, she hated him.
As Katerina leaves, Grushenka enters. Katerina asks Grushenka to forgive her, but Grushenka refuses, adding that if Katerina saves him, she will pray to her all her life. Katerina promises to do so. Dmitri rebukes Grushenka for not forgiving Katerina, but Alyosha tells Dmitri he has no right to criticize her.
Chapter 3: Ilyushechka's funeral. The speech at the stone
Two days after the trial, Ilyusha dies. Alyosha attends the funeral. He discusses Dmitri's trial with Kolya and the other boys. Kolya says he longs to sacrifice himself for truth, as Dmitri has done, but Alyosha cautions that the cause for which Dmitri has suffered is not worthy.
Alyosha gathers the boys together and makes a speech. He says that he may soon leave town for a long time. He asks them all to remember forever how they all came together to bury Ilyusha, the boy whom once they threw stones at, but whom they came to love. He asks them never to forget the feeling of love and kindness that unites them on this day. Such good memories of oneself as being good and kind, he says, are our salvation. The boys all promise to remember, and cheer Alyosha, crying that they love him.
Katerina's redemption continues in her taking care of the sick Ivan and reconciling with Dmitri. At last, she is able to accept the prospect of happiness for herself, rather than constantly choosing suffering in order to point out the guilt of her persecutor. The fact that Grushenka refuses to forgive Katerina shows that her redemption is not yet complete; her pride holds her back from love.
Dmitri draws back somewhat from his former determination to embrace his sentence. While he still accepts his redemption through suffering, he believes he is not strong enough to bear the burden of the hard labor sentence without the support of Grushenka, and would probably end up killing a guard if one humiliated him. Alyosha supports him, saying that because he is innocent of the murder, such a sentence would be too much to bear. He adds that it is enough for Dmitri to forever remember the new redeemed man that has emerged in his soul. Dmitri's new life, if he manages to escape to America, will not be totally unlike his hard labor sentence, in that it will involve working the soil in some remote area. The crucial difference is that in America, he will be a free man and will have the support of Grushenka.
Dmitri's decision does not come across as a moral weakening, but as a mature and realistic move. He recognizes that he will be stronger with the woman he loves, and Alyosha knows that the boon of freedom will inspire Dmitri to work harder at his redemption than he would if he were ground down under the unfair burden of hard labor. This is consistent with the view presented by Zosima that a merciful sentence will more reliably prompt genuine repentance than a harsh one, which is more likely to harden the criminal and alienate him from society. In choosing the less extreme sentence of exile with Grushenka, Dmitri is passing the more merciful sentence upon himself.
The reader is left to make his own assessment of whether Dmitri and Grushenka will succeed in their plan to go to America. However, there is no doubt about the novel's final message, which takes the form of Alyosha's teaching the schoolboys to love, support, and forgive others. Critics point to the boys' use of Alyosha's surname, Karamazov, when they cheer him - "Hurrah for Karamazov!" Throughout the novel, characters discuss the Karamazov influence and legacy in terms of degeneracy, violence and lust. Here, the boys - who represent the future - are celebrating the Karamazov influence. The suggestion is that the Karamazov family, once identified with the selfish and sensualist lifestyle of Fyodor Pavlovich, has been redeemed through Alyosha's loving influence.


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