Fyodor marries for a second time to Sofia Ivanovna. The marriage lasts for about eight years. Sofia is sixteen and from another province. She is an orphan, “the daughter of some obscure deacon,” and grew up in the home of General Vorokhov’s widow. Sofia is a meek, gentle girl who once tried to hang herself. Fyodor offers her his hand in marriage and, again, suggests elopement. Fyodor doesn’t get a dowry this time, but he is tempted “by the innocent girl’s remarkable beauty.” Still, he remains a philanderer and has orgies at the house, in front of his wife. Grigory, who hated his former mistress, Adelaida, takes Sofia’s side. On one occasion, he breaks up an orgy and drives the “loose women” away from the house.
Sofia is the antithesis of the formidable Adelaida. She suffered her whole life from being unloved, and her long-suffering image will later influence both of her sons in different ways. Alexei will regard it as a form of nobility, akin to Christ’s suffering, and this, coupled with her religious devotion, influences him to join the monastery. Ivan’s memories of his mother probably influence his ideas about the predominance of suffering on Earth, making God’s world an unacceptable place.
Sofia later comes down with a nervous disorder that causes her to have “terrible hysterical fits.” Nevertheless, she bears Ivan in the first year of her marriage to Fyodor, and Alexei three years later. Alexei is four when Sofia dies, but he remembers his mother throughout his life. After her death, Fyodor forgets about the boys and they, too, end up in Grigory’s cottage, just as their older brother had. One day General Vorokhov’s widow finds them in the cottage. When she sees Fyodor, who is tipsy, she slaps him and then goes for the boys, who are unwashed and wearing dirty shirts. For that, she slaps Grigory. She then carries the boys outside, wraps them in plaid, puts them in a carriage, and takes them to her town.
These days, we would probably say that Sofia suffered from a mental disorder, though her hysteria is later connected to her religious fervor. Fyodor repeats his earlier indifference to his children, proving that his neglect of Dmitri wasn’t personal—that is, borne neither out of resentment for his first-born nor his mother. The widow slaps both Fyodor and Grigory because she finds them guilty of neglecting innocent children, though Grigory has probably done his best to raise the boys with what little Fyodor provided.
General Vorokhov’s widow dies shortly after that. In her will, the widow sets aside a thousand roubles each for Ivan and Alexei. The money is to be for their education. The widow’s principal heir, Yefim Petrovich Polenov, takes an interest in the boys and particularly comes to love Alexei, who grows up in Polenov’s family for a while. Polenov educates the boys at his own expense and protects their inheritances so that they grow with interest.
It's never made clear why the widow made Sofia miserable while demonstrating care for the boys. The widow, like Polenov, became a surrogate parent to the boys, providing them with the guidance that Dmitri never received.
At an early age, Ivan shows an “unusual and brilliant aptitude for learning.” He leaves Yefim Petrovich’s family at thirteen and enters a Moscow secondary school. Yefim Petrovich, unfortunately, leaves his affairs in disarray upon his death, which results in Ivan and Alexei being unable to obtain their inheritances right away. To make up for this loss, Ivan finds work giving lessons and then writes small “Eyewitness” articles about street incidents for local newspapers. In his later years at university, he publishes “talented reviews of books” and becomes known in literary circles. One article deals with ecclesiastical courts, a subject that is being raised everywhere at the time. Ivan, surprisingly, sides with the “churchmen.”
Unlike Dmitri, Ivan demonstrated an intellectual talent, which didn’t make him dependent on inheritances to survive. He also developed a work ethic, which Dmitri never bothered to do. These facts of his life established within him a moral rectitude that couldn’t be learned at home. Ivan’s position on ecclesiastical courts comes from his belief that faith and obedience to the Orthodox Church are necessary to help maintain a strong social order, and have little to do with whether or not God actually exists.
One day, Ivan appeared at Fyodor’s house and lives with him for a couple of months. The pair “[get] along famously.” Ivan even has influence over Fyodor, who listens to him occasionally. Only later do we learn, the narrator says, that Ivan went to Fyodor partly at the request of Dmitri. He acted as “a mediator and conciliator” between his father and elder brother.
Fyodor likes Ivan because Fyodor likes to imagine himself as a learned man. Given that Ivan is his son, it strongly suggests that he could have bestowed him with his intellectual gifts. Ivan initially plays the mediating role that’s later taken up by Alexei.