The narrator tells the story of Fyodor Pavlovich Karamazov’s servant Grigory, who briefly cares for each of the three Karamazov brothers when they are young. Grigory’s wife gives birth to a child with six fingers. The child dies two weeks after it is born. The night Grigory buries it, his wife hears a baby crying in the distance. When Grigory goes to investigate, he discovers a newborn child lying next to a young girl, who has just given birth and is dying.
The girl whom Grigory sees giving birth is Lizaveta, often called “stinking Lizaveta.” Lizaveta is extremely slow-witted and cannot talk. The people of the town are appalled that someone has seduced this helpless young girl, and they agree that the only man vile enough to do so is Fyodor Pavlovich. Grigory and his wife adopt the baby, and Fyodor Pavlovich names him Smerdyakov.
Alyosha leaves the monastery, as he has been ordered to do by both Zosima and his father. A wealthy gentlewoman friend of the Karamazovs, Madame Khokhlakov, has given Alyosha a note from Katerina, Dmitri’s abandoned fiancée, asking him to visit her. Somewhat nervous about the prospect, Alyosha sets off for Katerina’s house before returning to his father’s. Alyosha assumes that he will not see Ivan or Dmitri at Katerina’s house, though he thinks he would like to talk to Dmitri before he sees Katerina. Taking a shortcut to Katerina’s house, he is surprised by Dmitri, who intercepts him on the path.
Dmitri relates his history with Katerina to Alyosha. Dmitri first met Katerina when she was the daughter of the commanding officer of a camp where Dmitri was stationed as a soldier. Katerina ignored Dmitri until he attempted to trick her into sleeping with him by offering 4,500 rubles to pay off an obligation of her father’s. As he began to put his plan into motion, he was suddenly overcome with self--disgust, and, looking at the beautiful, innocent Katerina, decided to give her the money without even trying to seduce her. When she inherited a large amount of money from a relative, she offered to marry Dmitri. But when they returned to Fyodor Pavlovich’s town, Dmitri fell swiftly for Grushenka. He even stole 3,000 rubles from Katerina in order to finance his debauchery with Grushenka.
Dmitri asks Alyosha to tell Katerina that the engagement is officially off. He also asks Alyosha to procure 3,000 rubles from their father so that he can pay Katerina back and ease his conscience. Dmitri knows that Fyodor Pavlovich has 3,000 rubles readily available because Fyodor Pavlovich has assembled that very sum of money in the hopes of buying Grushenka’s affections.
Alyosha goes to his father’s house, where he finds his father drinking. Ivan sits by Fyodor Pavlovich disapprovingly. Smerdyakov and Grigory are arguing, and Ivan and Fyodor Pavlovich are listening in on their argument. Smerdyakov is a sullen and gloomy young man who despises everyone in the house, including his adoptive parents. He works as a cook for Fyodor Pavlovich. Most of the household considers him a responsible person despite his churlish attitude, because once, when Fyodor Pavlovich lost 300 rubles in a drunken stupor, Smerdyakov found and returned the money to him.