Father Zossima and His Visitors (The Brothers Karamazov Pt 2 Bk 4 Ch 1


Dostoevsky, Fyodor


Book Excerpt


This excerpt from Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov contains what might be Dostoevsky’s own response to the credo of his Grand Inquisitor. Here Dostoevsky’s character, Father Zossima, asserts that “everyone is responsible for all.” But how, as Zossima’s interlocutors mockingly ask, can this be so? How can I be responsible for you, let alone for all?

Full Text*

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The Brothers Karamazov, Fyodor Dostoevsky, trans. R. Pevear, L. Volokhonsky (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2002).




Giving and ReceivingIdentity and CommunityLeadership and ResponsibilityLove and Compassion

Big Questions

Who should we give to and why?How has my family or background shaped who I am?What makes a community strong? What makes it weak?What is my responsibility to the people I lead?How do we define love? How do we show love?How does a person learn compassion?

Sample Discussion Questions

  1. What do you make of the line, "everyone is responsible for all"?
  2. How did Father Zossima's brother influence him?
  3. What lessons do the priests learn from the Bible about love?
  4. Do you think Zossima prescribes a hopeful message?
  5. How is this message relevant in your own work?
  6. Who should we be responsible for, professionally and personally?
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