The Brothers Karamazov

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Book Seven: Grusha’s House

Like everyone else in town, you’ve been waiting for the miracle.  Everyone’s eyes have been turned towards the monastery, anxious to witness the miracle that will accompany the death of the Elder Zosima.  But then the rumors began:  Zosima’s body has the odor of corruption.  Not just a faint odor, but a full-bodied, terrible odor.  What could such an odor signify?   Could it be that God is signifying his disapproval of Zosima and his teachings?

 

You are troubled about this turn of events, and so you decide to seek out Alyosha.  You want to ask him what this odor of corruption might mean.  On the way to the monastery you run into a friend who tells you that he saw Alyosha going into Grushenka’s house.  Grushenka!  Why would he be at Grushenka’s?  Is everything rotting now that the elder has died?  You decide to go to Grusha’s to get some answers.

 

Grusha’s  house is darkly quiet.  But someone has left the door ajar, and you enter anyway.  You call out, softly, but no one replies.  A strange feeling crawls over your skin.  You are ready to leave when you hear a murmur of voices in the parlor.  You creep towards the sound of the voices, but the when you enter the parlor you find that the room is empty.  You’re ready to leave again, but something seems to pull at your shirtsleeve.  You turn and study the room more closely.  Though it’s empty, it’s also full of a strange glow, as if the moon has filled up everything – including a half-full bottle of champagne and three glasses sitting on the parlor table:  two empty, one full.

 

You look around. No one is watching.  You hate to waste good champagne.  You sit down and drink.  First the full glass.  Then the rest of the bottle.  Pretty soon you feel like you, too, have swallowed the moon.

 

Suddenly, you hear the voices again.  You turn, ready to apologize to the lady of the house, but again no one is there.  You stop, mid-turn, and listen again.  You distinctly hear voices.  But from where?

 

You look up and see the most wondrous site:  two women sit suspended in mid-air.  They are deep in conversation.  One woman is old, with the haggard, greedy look of the wicked.  The other is blindingly beautiful, with a face that radiates kindness and love.  In fact, the strange glow that you had attributed to the moon is really emanating from her.  As you stare at her you feel that you recognize her face, that you have in fact known her all your life.  Could it be that she is… really … the Virgin Mary herself?

 

You listen carefully, but the talk is incomprehensible to you.  The haggard woman keeps repeating, “An onion!  I gave an onion!”  And the virgin replies, “Yes, and then you took it back again.”    The haggard woman makes a face as if she’s just swallowed something sour.  “These ones you love so much – that young monk and his stinking elder, and even this slut whom you defend.  Why do you bless them and leave me to my torment?  I want justice!  I want you to judge them as God has judged me!”

 

 

The virgin sighs.  “You want to judge them?  All right, then, let’s judge them.  Present your case against them, and I’ll present mine.”  Then she turns her loving eyes at you and says, “Will you hear the case and be kind enough to judge?”

 

What luck!  The town has had its attention turned to the monastery, waiting for the miracle there.  But what if this is the miracle that they are waiting for?  And you are the only one who might witness it?