Dmitri recounts his “wild life” to Alexei, particularly his sexual promiscuity. He was “a lieutenant in a line battalion,” and he lived in a little town that received him well. While there, Dmitri threw money around like a rich man. His colonel was a twice-widowed old man who disliked him. The colonel’s first wife left him a daughter, and he lived with her and his sister-in-law. The colonel’s daughter is named Agafya Ivanovna. Dmitri became close to her, “quite sinlessly, as a friend.”
Dmitri, like his father, is quite open about his self-indulgent behavior. Also like Fyodor, he has a “wild” reputation but often finds himself popular and well-received in others’ homes. This suggests that, while people will condemn those whom they perceive as immoral, they may find amusement in their lifestyle.
The talk all over town was that the colonel had a second daughter, too, who was coming to visit from the capital. She was “a beauty of beauties” who “had just finished one of the institutes for well-born young ladies.” Her name was Katerina Ivanovna. She was the daughter of the colonel’s second wife, who was long dead and born into “the great, noble family of some general.” The town livened up around Katerina, inviting her to balls and picnics. Dmitri went up to her once at a party, but she barely looked at him. He vowed to get revenge on her for this. Though he admits that he was a “terrible boor then,” he regarded himself as “a fine fellow” and resented that she couldn’t see it.
Dmitri couldn’t stand a woman thinking herself too good for him or simply even not being interested. Katerina’s pride is a point of offense for all of the Karamazov brothers—even Ivan, who loves her but cannot bring himself to admit it, due to her power to make him feel relatively helpless. Dmitri’s interest in Katerina seems to have less to do with an attraction to her than in proving to himself that he can conquer and humble her.
Dmitri then got word that the colonel had stolen forty-five hundred roubles of government money. He confronted Agafya Ivanovna about it, but promised that he wouldn’t say anything if she would “secretly send” Dmitri her “institute girl” (Katerina). Agafya was outraged by the suggestion and called Dmitri a “scoundrel.” Agafya later told Katerina about Dmitri’s suggestion.
The colonel’s theft provides Dmitri with an opportunity to place Katerina in a position of needing him. Dmitri uses the colonel’s hypocrisy to take Katerina down a notch—that is, if her father is a thief, then this gives her less right, in his view, to seem so haughty. He uses her suffering to his advantage.
While Dmitri was preparing to go out, Katerina Ivanovna appeared at his door. She told him how Agafya Ivanovna told her that he’d give her forty-five hundred roubles if she offered herself to him. Dmitri thought about how much he desired her but that, the next day, he would offer to marry her in exchange for her sexual favor. Then, he remembered how Katerina would ignore him if he appeared at her house. He got angry thinking about how he would be rejected, so he played a “mean, piggish, merchant’s trick” and told her that four thousand is “too much money” to spend “on such trifles.”
Dmitri decides that he will marry Katerina if she goes to bed with him because he knows the importance of reputation for a woman of her station. However, it still doesn’t seem as though Dmitri loves Katerina as much as he loves an idea about who she is. His fears about being rejected by her also diminish his ability to be empathetic. He refers to her offer of sex (really, her virginity) as a “trifle” to humiliate and diminish her.
Dmitri turned away from Katerina Ivanovna, leaned his forehead on the frozen glass pane of his window, and opened his drawer. He took out “a five percent bank note for five thousand roubles, with no name filled in.” He folded it and handed it to her. He then stepped back and bowed deeply to her. She was startled but returned the bow, “with her forehead to the ground, not like an institute girl but like a Russian woman!” She then jumped up and ran away. Dmitri finishes the story. He says that Ivan already knows it and, now, Alexei does, too.
Dmitri turns away from Katerina, as though he feels shame for the way in which he has spoken to her. His bow is less of an acknowledgment of her high social station than it is a gesture of sympathy for her suffering. However, Katerina surprises him by returning the gesture. When Dmitri says that she doesn’t bow “like an institute girl,” he means that she demonstrates true humility and lack of pretension.