The chapter "At Tikhon's" is difficult to place in the novel. The chapter was originally to follow chapter eight in part two. However, the material in the chapter was considered too obscene to publish by Dostoevsky's editor. Dostoevsky attempted to alter it slightly in order to make it more suitable for the public, but his altered version was not satisfactory either. The omitted chapter altered the direction of his novel significantly. Originally Stavrogin was to be the hero of the novel, but Dostoevsky was unable to create a chapter that was suitable for print and would vividly explain the convictions that Stavrogin held. Therefore, Dostoevsky changed the entire plot of the novel in order to create a new hero.
Despite its lack of a proper place in The Devils, the chapter is still a brilliant piece of literature to read by itself. The chapter is one of Dostoevsky's greatest masterpieces as a philosopher. Stavrogin believes that he is beyond the reach of God. He feels no sense of remorse for any of his past actions and continues to treat women as his possessions. Stavrogin says: "I don't know and don't feel evil and good, and not only have I lost the sensation, but I know that there is no evil or good..." He acts according to his selfish desire and feels no obligation to any set of moral codes. Therefore, when Stavrogin confronts Tikhon, it is a meeting between polar opposites: disbelief of God and a great faith in God. Tikhon represents a great deal that is good in life while Stavrogin portrays himself as the most evil man that he can depict.
The chapter's ending is representative of Dostoevsky's strong Christian beliefs. Tikhon listens to Stavrogin's confession and hears the horror of his story. Tikhon understands that Stavrogin only wants to publicize his sins in order to suffer humility, which for Stavrogin is his greatest pride. Stavrogin desperately wants Tikhon's forgiveness, but when he receives it and the assurance that Christ will forgive him as well, he is overwhelmed. He catches himself beginning to have a faith in God that he cannot accept because he is unable to forgive himself.
This chapter addresses an issue that Dostoevsky continues to struggle with in The Brothers Karamazov when Ivan struggles with the same disbelief that plagues Stavrogin. It is worth noting that both cases result in ultimate despair and the loss of a life. "At Tikhon's" is a powerful piece and a good example of why Dostoevsky earned the reputation as a great philosopher.
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