Dmitri does not have the intellectual pretensions of Ivan and cannot understand his brother’s metaphysical concerns, nor is Dmitri as spiritual as his brother Alyosha, although he basically accepts God and immortality. He is, in fact, best represented as being caught midway between a sort of “Madonna-Sodom” opposition; he fluctuates between two poles of existence. Coursing through him are impulses for honor and nobility, side by side with impulses toward the low and the animal. This duality is partly explained by Dostoevsky’s belief that the typical Russian is able to love God even while he sins. Dmitri, for example, declares that he will love God forever, even if God sends him to hell.
A particularly crucial scene, and one that shows Dmitri’s contradictory personality, is his manipulation of events in order to force Katerina to come to his room so that he can seduce her. When she arrives, Dmitri cannot carry out his scheme. The better part of his nature has gained control of him.
Compounding Dmitri’s confusion is his realization of being raked by these polar extremes. He says at one point that “beauty is a terrible and awful thing,” meaning that a beautiful woman can arouse sensual desires, yet can also, at the same time, inspire noble and elevated thoughts. He is the victim of opposite extremes of passion yet cannot comprehend their origin, their dimensions, or their purpose.
When Dmitri is cornered with a serious accusation, of which he is innocent, he begins to face the consequences of all his past acts. Up to now he has lived with no regard for consequence. He has spent money without discretion and has bragged about his intention to rob his father; now his character is forced to change. And it is after his interrogation that he begins to emerge as a tragic figure. He realizes that his past life is not free of guilt and duplicity, and, although he is innocent of his father’s murder, he is willing to accept another’s punishment. This suffering will reform his life, and for the first time there exists genuine hope for his resurrection.