It’s already late by the time Alexei gets to the prison gate and rings the bell, but he knows he’ll be allowed to see Dmitri. Just as he enters, he sees Rakitin with Dmitri. Lately, Rakitin doesn’t like seeing Alexei and even greets him with difficulty. Seeing Alexei come in, Rakitin frowns “more than usual” and looks away. As Rakitin is leaving, Alexei asks Dmitri why Rakitin comes so often now. Are they friends? Dmitri says that they aren’t, but he’s an intelligent man.
Rakitin continues to resent Alexei for not being at all upset over his taking a bribe from Grushenka in her attempt to seduce Alexei. Alexei’s indifference to the slight makes Rakitin feel like Alexei doesn’t even think about him. Though he dislikes Alexei, he at least wants to be significant to him in some way (even a negative one).
Dmitri sits on a bench, and Alexei sits beside him. Dmitri says that Rakitin wants to write an article about him. The article is going to say that it was impossible for Dmitri not to kill, as he is a product of his environment. Alexei mentions the vindictive article that Rakitin has already written about Madame Khokhlakov.
Rakitin, who will later give a monologue at Dmitri’s trial about depravity in Russian society, seems to be trying to use Dmitri to legitimize his own ideas. However, Rakitin also uses his writing to take revenge on those who’ve hurt or wronged him.
Alexei announces that he can’t stay long. Dmitri kisses him and says that he’s wanted to see Alexei for some time. He tells his younger brother that he doesn’t fear his fate. He wants to live, even if he’s “locked up in a tower.” However, he’s tormented by God and wonders if Rakitin is right—what if God is “an artificial idea of mankind?” Rakitin says that it’s possible to love mankind without God. Life seems simple for Rakitin, but Dmitri wonders what would stop people from cheating each other without God? Also, he wonders, what is virtue? Is it relative?
Dmitri seems to enjoy talking to Alexei and finds comfort in his presence. Alexei can also help him answer some of the questions with which Dmitri is struggling. Dmitri seems ambivalent about God. He isn’t agnostic—he wants to believe, but he’s uncertain if what he’s believing in is real. As many of the characters do, he also has trouble imagining any standard of morality that isn’t backed up by religion.
Dmitri says that Ivan doesn’t have God. Alexei asks if Dmitri has talked with his lawyer. Dmitri curses the man and calls him “a smooth Petersburg swindler” who doesn’t believe a word he says. Grigory, of course, stands by his testimony. He’s honest, Dmitri says, but a fool.
Dmitri has little hope in his case because he thinks that Fetyukovich is only interested in money and fame anyway, and the stubborn Grigory refuses to reconsider his testimony.
Dmitri asks Alexei to go to Katerina Ivanovna so that she won’t testify about how Dmitri once lent her forty-five hundred roubles. It'll make him look even more shameful when everyone hears about how she bowed. He talks, too, about how thoughts of Grushenka are “killing [him].” Alexei mentions that Grushenka was rather upset over Dmitri today. Dmitri acknowledges that he got jealous and then didn’t ask for her forgiveness. Alexei asks why. Dmitri laughs at him and says that women never forgive directly, but will use a man’s mistake against him.
Dmitri doesn’t want anyone to know that Katerina bowed to him. It will make the court more sympathetic to her than to him when they think of how a woman of high birth humbled herself in a moment of distress. Dmitri loves Grushenka, but he has no respect for her sex. On some level, he believes that all women, including Grushenka, are conniving and exist only to amplify men’s suffering.
Alexei then repeats everything that Grushenka told him earlier. Dmitri is surprised to learn that she’s not angry with him. He decides that he’ll love Grushenka “infinitely” and wonders if he’ll be allowed to marry her. Dmitri walks around the room, and then decides to reveal the “secret” that Grushenka suspects exists between him, Ivan, and Katerina Ivanovna: Ivan has suggested that Dmitri escape if he’s sent to prison. Alexei asks if Dmitri has any hope for acquittal. Dmitri shrugs and shakes his head. He then says that it’s time for Alexei to go. They embrace and kiss each other. Dmitri grabs Alexei’s shoulders and asks if he believes that he killed their father. Alexei says he never believed it. Dmitri thanks him, and Alexei leaves in tears. He goes to see Ivan.
Dmitri realizes that his feelings of jealousy were baseless. Knowing this, he believes that he can trust Grushenka enough to marry her. However, with the prospect of his imprisonment, this may become impossible. Dmitri is a man who seems ready to submit to his fate, realizing that he has little control over it at this point. He asks Alexei what he believes, because Alexei’s opinion of him is important. It saddens Alexei to see Dmitri suffer over a crime that Alexei thinks it’s unlikely his older brother committed.