Alyosha Karamazov (Russian: Алёша Карамазов) is the protagonist in The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky. His full name is given as Alexei Fyodorovich Karamazov and he is also referred to as Alyosha, Alyoshka, Alyoshenka, Alyoshechka, Alexeichik, Lyosha, and Lyoshenka. He is the youngest of the Karamazov brothers, being twenty years old at the start of the novel. The preface and the opening chapter proclaim him as the hero. Dostoyevsky intended to write a sequel, which would detail the rest of Alyosha's life, but died shortly after the publication of The Brothers Karamazov.
At the outset of the story Alyosha is a novice in the local monastery. In this way Alyosha's beliefs act as a counterbalance to his brother Ivan's atheism. He is sent out into the world by his Elder and subsequently becomes embroiled in the sordid details of his family's life. He also becomes involved with, and later engaged to, a young girl named Lise Khokhlakov, daughter to a confidante of Katerina Ivanovna's. Later on in the novel, she sinks into depression and self-hatred, spurning her lover and crushing her finger in a door. Alyosha is also involved in a side story in which he befriends a group of school boys whose fate adds a hopeful message to the conclusion of an otherwise tragic novel. Alyosha's place in the novel is usually that of a messenger or witness to the actions of his brothers and others. He is very close to Dmitri.
Alyosha is depicted as a positive character, kind, loving and sensitive. Anna-Teresa Tymieniecka states that Alyosha, like Prince Myshkin, the protagonist in another Dostoyevsky novel, The Idiot, are almost Jesus-like characters, who are nevertheless unable to prevent the suffering of those around them. She suggests that as a witness or messenger, Alyosha is not a true moral agent, playing a passive role in the events of the novel.
Rufus W. Mathewson states that Alyosha Karamazov is a more robust positive hero than Prince Myshkin. He argues that Alyosha is closer than Myshkin to being an active spokesman for conservatism, citing Alyosha's most impressive success as helping Dmitri. He describes Alyosha as relying on forgiveness, kindness and natural justice, rather than attempting to change the social order.
Dostoyevsky is believed to have based the character of Alyosha on his friend, Vladimir Solovyov, a Russian philosopher and poet who led a generous life, to the point of giving away his clothes to people in the street.
- p373, Anna-Theresa Tymienieck, The Origins of Life, Springer, 2000
- p19-20, Rufus W. Mathewson, The Positive Hero in Russian Literature, Northwestern University Press, 2000
- p295, Hans Urs von Balthasar et al., The Glory of the Lord: A Theological Aesthetics, Ignatius Press, 1991
- Zouboff, Peter, Solovyov on Godmanhood: Solovyov’s Lectures on Godmanhood, Harmon Printing House, Poughkeepsie, New York, 1944; see Czeslaw Milosz’s introduction to Solovyov’s War, Progress and the End of History, Lindisfarne Press, Hudson, New York 1990