Grushenka's Onion During her conversation with Alyosha, Grushenka tells a fable about a woman and an onion. A evil woman died and was thrown into the lake of fire. In an attempt to save the woman her guardian angel told God how she once gave a beggar an onion. God instructed the angel to present the woman with an onion and let her try to pull herself out of the lake of fire. She was almost out of the lake when the other sinners began grabbing her, trying to pull themselves out. She kicked them off and the onion broke, condemning her to the lake of fire for eternity (352). Grushenka tells Alyosha and Rakitin that she, too, has only given one onion in her whole life. Her onion is forgiveness for the officer. She fell in love with this officer but, five years ago, he left her and married someone else.
Since then she has been tormented by the thought of him and his wife laughing at her. Losing the love of the officer has obviously caused Grushenka great pain. The officer's wife died and he contacted Grushenka, telling her that he was returning to her town. She immediately forgave him all the suffering he caused and eagerly awaits his return.
Later in the conversation between Grushenka and Alyosha she asks him why he loves her and has forgiven her. Alyosha replies, "I just gave you an onion, one little onion"ÃÂ¦" (357). In loving her regardless of her wicked ways he has forgiven her. Now Grushenka is faced with pulling herself up by that one onion. She can take his love and use it to make herself a better person or disregard it and continue to lead an evil life. It is unclear what path she will choose. Grushenka is profoundly touched by Alyosha's unexpected forgiveness. However, when she receives the message from her officer she runs out on Alyosha and Rakitin. She asks Alyosha to bow to Dmitri and tell him that she has fallen to a scoundrel but loved him, a noble man, for an hour. Her intentions regarding this request are unclear. Is she apologizing to Dmitri or trying to hurt him one last time? Hopefully, as the novel progresses the fate of Grushenka's onion will be discovered.