Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Symbolism is pervasive in the story, including many religious allusions. References to Shrovetide and Lent put Alyosha’s death at Easter time, and Alyosha’s death on the third day after his fall (as well as his final request for something to drink) also suggests an analogue to the gospel story of Christ. Ironically, while Jesus arose to life, the downtrodden Alyosha falls and dies; yet if a cruel material world has been persecuting Alyosha in life, death promises escape and possibly reward, which parallels Jesus’s life and message. Even a mark of Alyosha’s homeliness, his large or lop ears, which evoke the ridicule of the other village children, by implication of the simile “stuck out like wings” may ironically suggest not only the manner of his death but also his angelic qualities and future.

The most far-reaching symbolism in the story is that embodied in Alyosha’s nickname, “the Pot.” The pot corresponds to many of Alyosha’s physical features: the prominence of his nose and ears, giving his head a pot or pitcherlike appearance; a certain clumsiness, resulting in the dropped milk pot at the beginning of the story and Alyosha’s own fall and breakage at the end; and a poignant reference to his physical slightness, contrasting with the fullness or heaviness of a filled pot. Furthermore, the pot symbol conveys many attributes of Alyosha’s personality or spirituality. It intimates his capacity to bear, both in physical labor...

(The entire section is 562 words.)