Ivan goes to his father’s house, feeling anguished. He wonders if he hates Fyodor. He then wonders if he’s bothered by his conversation with Alexei. Ivan reaches his father’s house “in a very bad and irritated state of mind.” Glancing at the gate from some distance away, he realizes what’s bothering him: Smerdyakov, who’s sitting on a bench by the gate. Ivan looks at him and feels that the lackey is “also sitting in his soul.”
Ivan is initially uncertain about his feelings. He comes to the conclusion that Smerdyakov is the problem because he is so accustomed to scapegoating the lackey. However, Ivan’s true problem is a feeling of guilt. Later, we’ll learn that he harbors a secret desire to be rid of his father, which fosters this guilt.
Ivan wants to curse Smerdyakov but, instead, asks him if Fyodor is “asleep or awake.” He’s asleep, Smerdyakov says. The lackey talks about how both Fyodor and Dmitri have gone crazy with their “childishness.” Smerdyakov says that Fyodor will soon get up and ask him, nearly every minute, if Grushenka has come.
Smerdyakov describes their jealous rivalry as “childishness” because it seems petty to him. Smerdyakov never expresses romantic passion during the novel, so he can’t understand why anyone would suffer for it.
Ivan assures Smerdyakov that Dmitri’s threats are “just passionate talk,” and that he won’t kill anyone. Smerdyakov fears that he’ll be regarded as an accomplice if Dmitri does something to Fyodor. He told Dmitri about the knocking signals that he and Fyodor created to inform the latter of when Grushenka arrives. If Dmitri turns up (Fyodor is afraid of him), Smerdyakov is to tell Fyodor.
Ivan underestimates his brother’s desire for Grushenka and his hatred and resentment of his father. His ignorance is probably partially due to his distance from family affairs. Smerdyakov reveals the ways in which Fyodor completely depends on him for his safety.
Smerdyakov says that he told Dmitri about the signals when he threatened to break Smerdyakov’s legs for deceiving him. Ivan says that if Smerdyakov thinks that Dmitri will try to use these signals to get in, he mustn’t be let in. Smerdyakov wonders how he could stop him if he happens “to be laid up with a fit.” In that case, Ivan says, he should warn Grigory, who will certainly not let Dmitri in. Smerdyakov says that he would never tell Grigory about the signals without Fyodor’s permission. Anyway, both Grigory and Marfa Ignatievna would probably be asleep anyway.
According to Dmitri, the deception would be in plotting with Fyodor to arrange for a secret visit from Grushenka. What is remarkable about Smerdyakov is that he reveals to Ivan his exact plan for how he will eventually kill Fyodor. He presents Ivan with the possibility of his having an epileptic fit, so Ivan lays the responsibility of looking after Fyodor with Grigory, despite the servant being elderly.
Ivan calls Smerdyakov’s speech “drivel” for how neatly he thinks everything will come together. Ivan then asks why Dmitri would show up if Grushenka doesn’t come. Smerdyakov thinks he’ll show. Also, Dmitri knows that Fyodor has “a big envelope prepared, and there are three thousand roubles sealed up in it, with three seals…tied round with a ribbon and addressed by his own hand” to Grushenka.
Ivan doesn’t realize it, but Smerdyakov is telling him how he will eventually commit the crime. This “drivel” is the truth of how Fyodor’s murder will take place.
Ivan says that Dmitri wouldn’t steal money. Smerdyakov reminds Ivan that Dmitri’s broke. Furthermore, he considers that three thousand roubles to be his own money. He says that it’s also possible that Grushenka will marry Fyodor, which will rob all three brothers of their inheritance of one hundred and twenty thousand roubles to be split between the three of them. Smerdyakov says that, if he were in Ivan’s place, he’d go to Chermashnya to be away from the whole business. After a bit of silence, Ivan calls Smerdyakov an “idiot” and “a terrible scoundrel” and walks away from him. Ivan feels rage but suppresses it and says that he’s leaving for Moscow the next morning. Smerdyakov says that he might get a telegram there. He could also be troubled in Chermashnya, but that town is much closer.
In Dmitri’s view, he wouldn’t be stealing the money—he would be taking what he thinks is owed to him. Smerdyakov goes on to manipulate Ivan into wishing for his father’s death to preserve his inheritance. Smerdyakov likely senses that Ivan will not want to go to Chermashnya. He will later use this against him to suggest that he wanted to be away from the Karamazov household during Fyodor’s murder. Ivan gets angry with Smerdyakov because he resents the implication that he’s so greedy to be concerned with the inheritance when there’s such enmity between his father and brother.