Symbolism, Imagery, Allegory
The passages devoted to the circle of schoolboys around Kolya and Ilyusha are only loosely connected to the main plot but carry a heavy allegorical significance. In the novel, the suffering of children is invoked by Ivan as a reason to reject God: he finds it inexcusable that God could allow the suffering of innocents. The irony, of course, is that Ivan doesn't really seem to care about the suffering of children. The circle of schoolchildren that surrounds Kolya and Ilyusha experience in miniature, as it were, the larger tragedy developing around the Karamazov brothers. They experience a moment of communion and reconciliation at Ilyusha's grave that the adults – with the exception of Alyosha – never achieve, which perhaps suggests that we are all born with a goodness with which we lose touch as we grow older and more focused on worldly concerns.