The Brothers Karamazov

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Book Four: Ilyushka’s Window

Varvara Nikolaevna sits at the window of the broken-down cottage, her back to the room and all its squalor.  A line of laundry, dingy and ragged, stretches across the room behind her.  Dirty plates are stacked on the table.  A coal stove smokes stubbornly in the middle of the room.  In the midst of this domestic ruin is Varvara’s ruined family: her crazy mother, her hunchback sister, her enraged little brother, and, worst of all, her fallen father, a captain once, and now little more than a drunk.


Varvara sits at the window, paralyzed with rage.  From the window, she had seen everything: how that monk looked at them with pity – pity! – and then offered her father money – enough money, she could see, to change their lives forever. And then, just like that, in some strained show of honor, he crumpled the money, and their future with it, and dashed it to the ground.


“Buffoon,” she mutters, still glaring out the window.  “Fool.”  Her hunchback sister, Nina, overhears her and comes slowly, sadly to join her at the window.