In the drawing room, Ivan announces that he must go to Moscow and that Katerina Ivanovna won’t see him for a long time. Katerina says she is glad, which surprises Alexei. Alexei suggests that maybe Katerina never loved Dmitri at all, and that Dmitri doesn’t love her either but honors her. Alexei says that no one in the room wishes to speak the truth: Katerina is tormenting Ivan because she loves him. She only loves Dmitri from “strain,” “not in truth.” She’s convinced herself that she loves Dmitri. Katerina gets angry and calls Alexei “a little holy fool.”
Katerina pretends to be happy that Ivan is leaving so that he won’t be aware of her affection for him. Alexei is more than likely right in his assessment of the relationship between Katerina and Dmitri. They hardly took the time to know each other before getting engaged, and seemed to be invested in each other for the sole reason that each feels obligated to the other.
Katerina Ivanovna’s anger makes Ivan laugh. He tells Alexei that he doesn’t think that Katerina ever loved him, though she’s always been aware of his love for her. They’ve never been friends, and she only kept him close for “constant revenge.” Ivan listened to Katerina’s expressions of love for Dmitri, but if Dmitri reformed, Ivan says, she’d drop him. She needs “to continually contemplate [her] high deed of faithfulness, and to reproach him for his unfaithfulness.”
The “constant revenge” Ivan refers to is Katerina’s attempt to make Dmitri feel jealous about her supposed involvement with his brother. Ivan thinks that Katerina is really more interested in seeing herself as a martyr than in being truly happy.
As Ivan leaves, Alexei calls after him. He blames himself for Ivan’s spiteful words, though Madame Khokhlakov compares him to “an angel” and assures him that he did nothing wrong. Katerina Ivanovna approaches Alexei with two hundred roubles and asks him to go to a captain named Snegiryov, who Dmitri beat up outside of a tavern, and give him the money. She says that he needs the financial help because he did something wrong during his time in the army and got expelled. However, he has “a wretched family of sick children and a wife” who may be insane. She tells Alexei that the captain lives on Lake Street in the house of a woman named Kalmykov.
Madame Khokhlakov, due to her religious zealotry, idolizes Alexei. However, there is also something pure about his honesty, which seeks the truth even when it’s socially unacceptable. Katerina’s wish to help the captain is an expression of empathy that may not be unrelated to her father’s dishonorable behavior in the military. It’s never made clear what Captain Snegiryov did to cause his ejection from the military, but his action led to his financial ruin.