The Brothers Karamazov
by Fyodor Dostoevsky
Symbolism, Imagery, Allegory
The novel constantly refers to the earth as a source of life. The epigraph prepares us for the earth as a metaphor for spiritual renewal (see "What's Up with the Epigraph?" for more). Zosima himself encourages everyone to kiss the ground while they pray. This gesture is not only one of humble obedience toward God, but a way to connect to the Russian soil, the land that provides a living for a largely rural Russia. Moments of revelation often occur when the characters experience natural beauty, as when Alyosha steps outside in the "Cana of Galilee" chapter:
The silence of the earth seemed to merge with the silence of the heavens," we are told, "the mystery of the earth touched the mystery of the stars.
These recurring references to the earth prepare us for the "earthy force" of the Karamazovs, who become a symbol for the Russian people as a whole.