Chapter 4   -   Rebellion

    "I MUST make one confession" Ivan began. "I could never understand

how one can love one's neighbours. It's just one's neighbours, to my

mind, that one can't love, though one might love those at a

distance. I once read somewhere of John the Merciful, a saint, that

when a hungry, frozen beggar came to him, he took him into his bed,

held him in his arms, and began breathing into his mouth, which was

putrid and loathsome from some awful disease. I am convinced that he

did that from 'self-laceration,' from the self-laceration of

falsity, for the sake of the charity imposed by duty, as a penance

laid on him. For anyone to love a man, he must be hidden, for as

soon as he shows his face, love is gone."

    "Father Zossima has talked of that more than once," observed

Alyosha; "he, too, said that the face of a man often hinders many

people not practised in love, from loving him. But yet there's a great

deal of love in mankind, and almost Christ-like love. I know that

myself, Ivan."

    "Well, I know nothing of it so far, and can't understand it, and

the innumerable mass of mankind are with me there. The question is,

whether that's due to men's bad qualities or whether it's inherent

in their nature. To my thinking, Christ-like love for men is a miracle

impossible on earth. He was God. But we are not gods. Suppose I, for

instance, suffer intensely. Another can never know how much I

suffer, because he is another and not I. And what's more, a man is

rarely ready to admit another's suffering (as though it were a

distinction). Why won't he admit it, do you think? Because I smell

unpleasant, because I have a stupid face, because I once trod on his

foot. Besides, there is suffering and suffering; degrading,

humiliating suffering such as humbles me- hunger, for instance- my

benefactor will perhaps allow me; but when you come to higher

suffering- for an idea, for instance- he will very rarely admit

that, perhaps because my face strikes him as not at all what he

fancies a man should have who suffers for an idea. And so he

deprives me instantly of his favour, and not at all from badness of

heart. Beggars, especially genteel beggars, ought never to show

themselves, but to ask for charity through the newspapers. One can

love one's neighbours in the abstract, or even at a distance, but at

close quarters it's almost impossible. If it were as on the stage,

in the ballet, where if beggars come in, they wear silken rags and

tattered lace and beg for alms dancing gracefully, then one might like

looking at them. But even then we should not love them. But enough

of that. I simply wanted to show you my point of view. I meant to

speak of the suffering of mankind generally, but we had better confine

ourselves to the sufferings of the children. That reduces the scope of

my argument to a tenth of what it would be. Still we'd better keep

to the children, though it does weaken my case. But, in the first

place, children can be loved even at close quarters, even when they

are dirty, even when they are ugly (I fancy, though, children never

are ugly). The second reason why I won't speak of grown-up people is

that, besides being disgusting and unworthy of love, they have a

compensation- they've eaten the apple and know good and evil, and they

have become 'like gods.' They go on eating it still. But the

children haven't eaten anything, and are so far innocent. Are you fond

of children, Alyosha? I know you are, and you will understand why I

prefer to speak of them. If they, too, suffer horribly on earth,

they must suffer for their fathers' sins, they must be punished for

their fathers, who have eaten the apple; but that reasoning is of

the other world and is incomprehensible for the heart of man here on

earth. The innocent must not suffer for another's sins, and especially

such innocents! You may be surprised at me, Alyosha, but I am

awfully fond of children, too. And observe, cruel people, the violent,

the rapacious, the Karamazovs are sometimes very fond of children.

Children while they are quite little- up to seven, for instance- are

so remote from grown-up people they are different creatures, as it

were, of a different species. I knew a criminal in prison who had,

in the course of his career as a burglar, murdered whole families,

including several children. But when he was in prison, he had a

strange affection for them. He spent all his time at his window,

watching the children playing in the prison yard. He trained one

little boy to come up to his window and made great friends with

him.... You don't know why I am telling you all this, Alyosha? My head

aches and I am sad."

    "You speak with a strange air," observed Alyosha uneasily, "as

though you were not quite yourself."

    "By the way, a Bulgarian I met lately in Moscow," Ivan went on,

seeming not to hear his brother's words, "told me about the crimes

committed by Turks and Circassians in all parts of Bulgaria through

fear of a general rising of the Slavs. They burn villages, murder,

outrage women and children, they nail their prisoners by the ears to

the fences, leave them so till morning, and in the morning they hang

them- all sorts of things you can't imagine. People talk sometimes

of bestial cruelty, but that's a great injustice and insult to the

beasts; a beast can never be so cruel as a man, so artistically cruel.

The tiger only tears and gnaws, that's all he can do. He would never

think of nailing people by the ears, even if he were able to do it.

These Turks took a pleasure in torturing children, -too; cutting the

unborn child from the mothers womb, and tossing babies up in the air

and catching them on the points of their bayonets before their

mothers' eyes. Doing it before the mothers' eyes was what gave zest to

the amusement. Here is another scene that I thought very

interesting. Imagine a trembling mother with her baby in her arms, a

circle of invading Turks around her. They've planned a diversion: they

pet the baby, laugh to make it laugh. They succeed, the baby laughs.

At that moment a Turk points a pistol four inches from the baby's

face. The baby laughs with glee, holds out its little hands to the

pistol, and he pulls the trigger in the baby's face and blows out

its brains. Artistic, wasn't it? By the way, Turks are particularly

fond of sweet things, they say."

    "Brother, what are you driving at?" asked Alyosha.

    "I think if the devil doesn't exist, but man has created him, he

has created him in his own image and likeness."

    "Just as he did God, then?" observed Alyosha.

    "'It's wonderful how you can turn words,' as Polonius says in

Hamlet," laughed Ivan. "You turn my words against me. Well, I am glad.

Yours must be a fine God, if man created Him in his image and

likeness. You asked just now what I was driving at. You see, I am fond

of collecting certain facts, and, would you believe, I even copy

anecdotes of a certain sort from newspapers and books, and I've

already got a fine collection. The Turks, of course, have gone into

it, but they are foreigners. I have specimens from home that are

even better than the Turks. You know we prefer beating- rods and

scourges- that's our national institution. Nailing ears is unthinkable

for us, for we are, after all, Europeans. But the rod and the

scourge we have always with us and they cannot be taken from us.

Abroad now they scarcely do any beating. Manners are more humane, or

laws have been passed, so that they don't dare to flog men now. But

they make up for it in another way just as national as ours. And so

national that it would be practically impossible among us, though I

believe we are being inoculated with it, since the religious

movement began in our aristocracy. I have a charming pamphlet,

translated from the French, describing how, quite recently, five years

ago, a murderer, Richard, was executed- a young man, I believe, of

three and twenty, who repented and was converted to the Christian

faith at the very scaffold. This Richard was an illegitimate child who

was given as a child of six by his parents to some shepherds on the

Swiss mountains. They brought him up to work for them. He grew up like

a little wild beast among them. The shepherds taught him nothing,

and scarcely fed or clothed him, but sent him out at seven to herd the

flock in cold and wet, and no one hesitated or scrupled to treat him

so. Quite the contrary, they thought they had every right, for Richard

had been given to them as a chattel, and they did not even see the

necessity of feeding him. Richard himself describes how in those

years, like the Prodigal Son in the Gospel, he longed to eat of the

mash given to the pigs, which were fattened for sale. But they

wouldn't even give that, and beat him when he stole from the pigs. And

that was how he spent all his childhood and his youth, till he grew up

and was strong enough to go away and be a thief. The savage began to

earn his living as a day labourer in Geneva. He drank what he

earned, he lived like a brute, and finished by killing and robbing

an old man. He was caught, tried, and condemned to death. They are not

sentimentalists there. And in prison he was immediately surrounded

by pastors, members of Christian brotherhoods, philanthropic ladies,

and the like. They taught him to read and write in prison, and

expounded the Gospel to him. They exhorted him, worked upon him,

drummed at him incessantly, till at last he solemnly confessed his

crime. He was converted. He wrote to the court himself that he was a

monster, but that in the end God had vouchsafed him light and shown

grace. All Geneva was in excitement about him- all philanthropic and

religious Geneva. All the aristocratic and well-bred society of the

town rushed to the prison, kissed Richard and embraced him; 'You are

our brother, you have found grace.' And Richard does nothing but

weep with emotion, 'Yes, I've found grace! All my youth and

childhood I was glad of pigs' food, but now even I have found grace. I

am dying in the Lord.' 'Yes, Richard, die in the Lord; you have shed

blood and must die. Though it's not your fault that you knew not the

Lord, when you coveted the pigs' food and were beaten for stealing

it (which was very wrong of you, for stealing is forbidden); but

you've shed blood and you must die.'And on the last day, Richard,

perfectly limp, did nothing but cry and repeat every minute: 'This

is my happiest day. I am going to the Lord.' 'Yes,' cry the pastors

and the judges and philanthropic ladies. 'This is the happiest day

of your life, for you are going to the Lord!' They all walk or drive

to the scaffold in procession behind the prison van. At the scaffold

they call to Richard: 'Die, brother, die in the Lord, for even thou

hast found grace!' And so, covered with his brothers' kisses,

Richard is dragged on to the scaffold, and led to the guillotine.

And they chopped off his head in brotherly fashion, because he had

found grace. Yes, that's characteristic. That pamphlet is translated

into Russian by some Russian philanthropists of aristocratic rank

and evangelical aspirations, and has been distributed gratis for the

enlightenment of the people. The case of Richard is interesting

because it's national. Though to us it's absurd to cut off a man's

head, because he has become our brother and has found grace, yet we

have our own speciality, which is all but worse. Our historical

pastime is the direct satisfaction of inflicting pain. There are lines

in Nekrassov describing how a peasant lashes a horse on the eyes,

'on its meek eyes,' everyone must have seen it. It's peculiarly

Russian. He describes how a feeble little nag has foundered under

too heavy a load and cannot move. The peasant beats it, beats it

savagely, beats it at last not knowing what he is doing in the

intoxication of cruelty, thrashes it mercilessly over and over

again. 'However weak you are, you must pull, if you die for it.' The

nag strains, and then he begins lashing the poor defenceless

creature on its weeping, on its 'meek eyes.' The frantic beast tugs

and draws the load, trembling all over, gasping for breath, moving

sideways, with a sort of unnatural spasmodic action- it's awful in

Nekrassov. But that only a horse, and God has horses to be beaten.

So the Tatars have taught us, and they left us the knout as a

remembrance of it. But men, too, can be beaten. A well-educated,

cultured gentleman and his wife beat their own child with a birch-rod,

a girl of seven. I have an exact account of it. The papa was glad that

the birch was covered with twigs. 'It stings more,' said he, and so be

began stinging his daughter. I know for a fact there are people who at

every blow are worked up to sensuality, to literal sensuality, which

increases progressively at every blow they inflict. They beat for a

minute, for five minutes, for ten minutes, more often and more

savagely. The child screams. At last the child cannot scream, it

gasps, 'Daddy daddy!' By some diabolical unseemly chance the case

was brought into court. A counsel is engaged. The Russian people

have long called a barrister 'a conscience for hire.' The counsel

protests in his client's defence. 'It's such a simple thing,' he says,

'an everyday domestic event. A father corrects his child. To our shame

be it said, it is brought into court.' The jury, convinced by him,

give a favourable verdict. The public roars with delight that the

torturer is acquitted. Ah, pity I wasn't there! I would have

proposed to raise a subscription in his honour! Charming pictures.

    "But I've still better things about children. I've collected a

great, great deal about Russian children, Alyosha. There was a

little girl of five who was hated by her father and mother, 'most

worthy and respectable people, of good education and breeding.' You

see, I must repeat again, it is a peculiar characteristic of many

people, this love of torturing children, and children only. To all

other types of humanity these torturers behave mildly and

benevolently, like cultivated and humane Europeans; but they are

very fond of tormenting children, even fond of children themselves

in that sense. it's just their defencelessness that tempts the

tormentor, just the angelic confidence of the child who has no

refuge and no appeal, that sets his vile blood on fire. In every

man, of course, a demon lies hidden- the demon of rage, the demon of

lustful heat at the screams of the tortured victim, the demon of

lawlessness let off the chain, the demon of diseases that follow on

vice, gout, kidney disease, and so on.

    "This poor child of five was subjected to every possible torture

by those cultivated parents. They beat her, thrashed her, kicked her

for no reason till her body was one bruise. Then, they went to greater

refinements of cruelty- shut her up all night in the cold and frost in

a privy, and because she didn't ask to be taken up at night (as though

a child of five sleeping its angelic, sound sleep could be trained

to wake and ask), they smeared her face and filled her mouth with

excrement, and it was her mother, her mother did this. And that mother

could sleep, hearing the poor child's groans! Can you understand why a

little creature, who can't even understand what's done to her,

should beat her little aching heart with her tiny fist in the dark and

the cold, and weep her meek unresentful tears to dear, kind God to

protect her? Do you understand that, friend and brother, you pious and

humble novice? Do you understand why this infamy must be and is

permitted? Without it, I am told, man could not have existed on earth,

for he could not have known good and evil. Why should he know that

diabolical good and evil when it costs so much? Why, the whole world

of knowledge is not worth that child's prayer to dear, kind God'! I

say nothing of the sufferings of grown-up people, they have eaten

the apple, damn them, and the devil take them all! But these little

ones! I am making you suffer, Alyosha, you are not yourself. I'll

leave off if you like."

    "Nevermind. I want to suffer too," muttered Alyosha.

    "One picture, only one more, because it's so curious, so

characteristic, and I have only just read it in some collection of

Russian antiquities. I've forgotten the name. I must look it up. It

was in the darkest days of serfdom at the beginning of the century,

and long live the Liberator of the People! There was in those days a

general of aristocratic connections, the owner of great estates, one

of those men- somewhat exceptional, I believe, even then- who,

retiring from the service into a life of leisure, are convinced that

they've earned absolute power over the lives of their subjects.

There were such men then. So our general, settled on his property of

two thousand souls, lives in pomp, and domineers over his poor

neighbours as though they were dependents and buffoons. He has kennels

of hundreds of hounds and nearly a hundred dog-boys- all mounted,

and in uniform. One day a serf-boy, a little child of eight, threw a

stone in play and hurt the paw of the general's favourite hound.

'Why is my favourite dog lame?' He is told that the boy threw a

stone that hurt the dog's paw. 'So you did it.' The general looked the

child up and down. 'Take him.' He was taken- taken from his mother and

kept shut up all night. Early that morning the general comes out on

horseback, with the hounds, his dependents, dog-boys, and huntsmen,

all mounted around him in full hunting parade. The servants are

summoned for their edification, and in front of them all stands the

mother of the child. The child is brought from the lock-up. It's a

gloomy, cold, foggy, autumn day, a capital day for hunting. The

general orders the child to be undressed; the child is stripped naked.

He shivers, numb with terror, not daring to cry.... 'Make him run,'

commands the general. 'Run! run!' shout the dog-boys. The boy runs....

'At him!' yells the general, and he sets the whole pack of hounds on

the child. The hounds catch him, and tear him to pieces before his

mother's eyes!... I believe the general was afterwards declared

incapable of administering his estates. Well- what did he deserve?

To be shot? To be shot for the satisfaction of our moral feelings?

Speak, Alyosha!

    "To be shot," murmured Alyosha, lifting his eyes to Ivan with a

pale, twisted smile.

    "Bravo!" cried Ivan delighted. "If even you say so... You're a

pretty monk! So there is a little devil sitting in your heart, Alyosha


    "What I said was absurd, but-"

    "That's just the point, that 'but'!" cried Ivan. "Let me tell you,

novice, that the absurd is only too necessary on earth. The world

stands on absurdities, and perhaps nothing would have come to pass

in it without them. We know what we know!"

    "What do you know?"

    "I understand nothing," Ivan went on, as though in delirium. "I

don't want to understand anything now. I want to stick to the fact.

I made up my mind long ago not to understand. If I try to understand

anything, I shall be false to the fact, and I have determined to stick

to the fact."

    "Why are you trying me?" Alyosha cried, with sudden distress.

"Will you say what you mean at last?"

    "Of course, I will; that's what I've been leading up to. You are

dear to me, I don't want to let you go, and I won't give you up to

your Zossima."

    Ivan for a minute was silent, his face became all at once very


    "Listen! I took the case of children only to make my case clearer.

Of the other tears of humanity with which the earth is soaked from its

crust to its centre, I will say nothing. I have narrowed my subject on

purpose. I am a bug, and I recognise in all humility that I cannot

understand why the world is arranged as it is. Men are themselves to

blame, I suppose; they were given paradise, they wanted freedom, and

stole fire from heaven, though they knew they would become unhappy, so

there is no need to pity them. With my pitiful, earthly, Euclidian

understanding, all I know is that there is suffering and that there

are none guilty; that cause follows effect, simply and directly;

that everything flows and finds its level- but that's only Euclidian

nonsense, I know that, and I can't consent to live by it! What comfort

is it to me that there are none guilty and that cause follows effect

simply and directly, and that I know it?- I must have justice, or I

will destroy myself. And not justice in some remote infinite time

and space, but here on earth, and that I could see myself. I have

believed in it. I want to see it, and if I am dead by then, let me

rise again, for if it all happens without me, it will be too unfair.

Surely I haven't suffered simply that I, my crimes and my

sufferings, may manure the soil of the future harmony for somebody

else. I want to see with my own eyes the hind lie down with the lion

and the victim rise up and embrace his murderer. I want to be there

when everyone suddenly understands what it has all been for. All the

religions of the world are built on this longing, and I am a believer.

But then there are the children, and what am I to do about them?

That's a question I can't answer. For the hundredth time I repeat,

there are numbers of questions, but I've only taken the children,

because in their case what I mean is so unanswerably clear. Listen! If

all must suffer to pay for the eternal harmony, what have children

to do with it, tell me, please? It's beyond all comprehension why they

should suffer, and why they should pay for the harmony. Why should

they, too, furnish material to enrich the soil for the harmony of

the future? I understand solidarity in sin among men. I understand

solidarity in retribution, too; but there can be no such solidarity

with children. And if it is really true that they must share

responsibility for all their fathers' crimes, such a truth is not of

this world and is beyond my comprehension. Some jester will say,

perhaps, that the child would have grown up and have sinned, but you

see he didn't grow up, he was torn to pieces by the dogs, at eight

years old. Oh, Alyosha, I am not blaspheming! I understand, of course,

what an upheaval of the universe it will be when everything in

heaven and earth blends in one hymn of praise and everything that

lives and has lived cries aloud: 'Thou art just, O Lord, for Thy

ways are revealed.' When the mother embraces the fiend who threw her

child to the dogs, and all three cry aloud with tears, 'Thou art just,

O Lord!' then, of course, the crown of knowledge will be reached and

all will be made clear. But what pulls me up here is that I can't

accept that harmony. And while I am on earth, I make haste to take

my own measures. You see, Alyosha, perhaps it really may happen that

if I live to that moment, or rise again to see it, I, too, perhaps,

may cry aloud with the rest, looking at the mother embracing the

child's torturer, 'Thou art just, O Lord!' but I don't want to cry

aloud then. While there is still time, I hasten to protect myself, and

so I renounce the higher harmony altogether. It's not worth the

tears of that one tortured child who beat itself on the breast with

its little fist and prayed in its stinking outhouse, with its

unexpiated tears to 'dear, kind God'! It's not worth it, because those

tears are unatoned for. They must be atoned for, or there can be no

harmony. But how? How are you going to atone for them? Is it possible?

By their being avenged? But what do I care for avenging them? What

do I care for a hell for oppressors? What good can hell do, since

those children have already been tortured? And what becomes of

harmony, if there is hell? I want to forgive. I want to embrace. I

don't want more suffering. And if the sufferings of children go to

swell the sum of sufferings which was necessary to pay for truth, then

I protest that the truth is not worth such a price. I don't want the

mother to embrace the oppressor who threw her son to the dogs! She

dare not forgive him! Let her forgive him for herself, if she will,

let her forgive the torturer for the immeasurable suffering of her

mother's heart. But the sufferings of her tortured child she has no

right to forgive; she dare not forgive the torturer, even if the child

were to forgive him! And if that is so, if they dare not forgive, what

becomes of harmony? Is there in the whole world a being who would have

the right to forgive and could forgive? I don't want harmony. From

love for humanity I don't want it. I would rather be left with the

unavenged suffering. I would rather remain with my unavenged suffering

and unsatisfied indignation, even if I were wrong. Besides, too high a

price is asked for harmony; it's beyond our means to pay so much to

enter on it. And so I hasten to give back my entrance ticket, and if I

am an honest man I am bound to give it back as soon as possible. And

that I am doing. It's not God that I don't accept, Alyosha, only I

most respectfully return him the ticket."

    "That's rebellion," murmered Alyosha, looking down.

    "Rebellion? I am sorry you call it that," said Ivan earnestly.

"One can hardly live in rebellion, and I want to live. Tell me

yourself, I challenge your answer. Imagine that you are creating a

fabric of human destiny with the object of making men happy in the

end, giving them peace and rest at last, but that it was essential and

inevitable to torture to death only one tiny creature- that baby

beating its breast with its fist, for instance- and to found that

edifice on its unavenged tears, would you consent to be the

architect on those conditions? Tell me, and tell the truth."

    "No, I wouldn't consent," said Alyosha softly.

    "And can you admit the idea that men for whom you are building

it would agree to accept their happiness on the foundation of the

unexpiated blood of a little victim? And accepting it would remain

happy for ever?"

    "No, I can't admit it. Brother," said Alyosha suddenly, with

flashing eyes, "you said just now, is there a being in the whole world

who would have the right to forgive and could forgive? But there is

a Being and He can forgive everything, all and for all, because He

gave His innocent blood for all and everything. You have forgotten

Him, and on Him is built the edifice, and it is to Him they cry aloud,

'Thou art just, O Lord, for Thy ways are revealed!'

    "Ah! the One without sin and His blood! No, I have not forgotten

Him; on the contrary I've been wondering all the time how it was you

did not bring Him in before, for usually all arguments on your side

put Him in the foreground. Do you know, Alyosha- don't laugh I made

a poem about a year ago. If you can waste another ten minutes on me,

I'll tell it to you."

    "You wrote a poem?"

    "Oh, no, I didn't write it," laughed Ivan, and I've never

written two lines of poetry in my life. But I made up this poem in

prose and I remembered it. I was carried away when I made it up. You

will be my first reader- that is listener. Why should an author forego

even one listener?" smiled Ivan. "Shall I tell it to you?"

    "I am all attention." said Alyosha.

    "My poem is called The Grand Inquisitor; it's a ridiculous

thing, but I want to tell it to you.