Crime and Punishment Summary and Analysis
Part Six, Chapters 5-8
Svidrigailov is surprised that Raskolnikov is following him. They exchange some heated words and Svidrigailov threatens to call the police. When he sees that Raskolnikov is not scared off by this, he changes his tone and starts to talk about Rodya's own crime, eventually taunting him about the uselessness of his theories. They arrive at Kapernaumov's, inquire after Sonya, and find she is not there; Svidrigailov gets some money from his apartment and hails himself a carriage, offering Raskolnikov a ride. The latter, finally convinced that Svidrigailov is not about to do anything at the moment, leaves him.
Svidrigailov, however, drives only a short distance in the carriage, then pays, gets out and walks to the sidewalk. Raskolnikov continues on the bridge, and stops there to gaze blindly at the water.
Dunya is nearby, and is startled to see him out in the street. She hesitates, then notices Svidrigailov. He gestures to her not to address her brother but to go and speak with him. She goes to Svidrigailov.
Surprisingly, it becomes clear that they have arranged to meet to discuss the contents of the letter which he had sent her. Dunya insists that he tell her there, on the street, but he convinces her to go to his apartment with him (including among his reasons that she needs to hear Sonya's account).
They go to his apartment. Svidrigailov is in mounting excitement but Dunya does not notice. He inquires as to whether Sonya is at home, but she is apparently out. He shows Dunya into his rooms, and tells her about his eavesdropping. They return to his main apartment and for the first time Dunya is struck by how isolated his room is. There is a look in his eyes she does not like, but she does not wish to show her mistrust.
She takes out the letter and demands to know how Svidrigailov's accusation of her brother could possibly be true. In the letter he has claimed to have proof of its truth. He tells her exactly what he had heard while eavesdropping. She cannot believe that her brother would kill to steal. Svidrigailov tells her, quite intelligently, about Rodya's theory.
Dunya weakly demands to see Sonya. Svidrigailov tells her that Sonya will not be back before late, causing Dunya to faint. Svidrigailov revives her and offers to help rescue her brother. Dunya tries to leave, and finds the door locked. Svidrigailov convinces her to sit down, saying that her brother can still be saved. When she asks how, he gives in to his growing excitement, and tells her that Rodya's fate rests with her. Losing control, he declares his love for her, begging her to accept his love.
Terrified, Dunya rushes to the door, banging on it and shouting for someone to open it. Svidrigailov, suddenly mocking and dangerous, tells her that she is wasting her energy because the landlady is out. He pretends to have lost the key. Dunya exclaims, "Ah! So it's force!" and barricades herself in a corner behind a table. Svidrigailov mockingly argues that all the cards are against her, both in actuality and in appearance. He sits down to wait for her decision.
Suddenly, she whips out a revolver. Surprised, Svidrigailov jumps up and exclaims that the revolver is his. Dunya accuses him of having poisoned Marfa Petrovna. She orders him not to move; if he does, she will shoot.
He takes a step, and she shoots, grazing his scalp. Svidrigailov is still grinning, but grimly; Dunya seems not to grasp what is going on. He approaches slowly, taunting her; she pulls the trigger but the gun misfires. Svidrigailov stops, waiting for her to try again.
Suddenly she tosses the gun away. Svidrigailov is surprised, but also feels somehow relievednot of fear, but of something greater. He goes to her and puts his arm around her. She implores him to let her go, and her tone startles him. He ascertains that she does not love him and never can.
He looks at her, then suddenly leaves her and goes to the window. He hands her the key and orders her in a fearful tone to leave quickly. She does. After a while, Svidrigailov at last turns around, cleans up the blood on his head, puts the gun in his pocket, and goes out.
A remarkable detail of translation comes into play in this chapter. Russian possesses two forms of "you," the second person singular and the second person plural. Generally the plural form is used, as it is at the start of Dunya's conversation with Svidrigailov. However, at some point they revert to the second person singular, which, according to the translator's note, "Russians generally use only with family and intimate friends. The shift has a strong effect for the Russian reader, suggesting more to their relationship than has appeared so far."
Dunya's relationship with Svidrigailov clearly has been much closer than anyone in her family has realized. Not only do they address one another using the intimate familiar form, but the substance of their conversation also hints that they spent a lot of time together. For instance, Svidrigailov reminds her of the conversations they had "sitting by ourselves on the terrace, every evening after supper." When she pulls the gun on him, he exclaims, "So those shooting lessons I had the honor of giving you in the country weren't wasted after all." Dunya accuses him of murdering his wife, saying, "You hinted it to me yourself; you spoke to me about poison . . . I know you went to get it . . ." Finally, at the end, he approaches her familiarly enough to put his arm about her waist, and she does not fight him off, though she does implore him to let her go.
This introduces quite a lot of complication to Dunya's character. If she had not felt something for Svidrigailov, how could she have listened to him saying such things? And how could she have consented to spend so much time with him, knowing his reputation? It is quite possible (in Rodya's language of double-endedness) that Dunya simply felt the heroic woman's attraction to a soul looking to be saved. Yet it is also very likely that such feelings could not long persist without some romantic attraction becoming involved.
This perhaps answers the questions: Why does she not shoot? Why does she toss away the gun? Perhaps Dunya feels unable to kill another human being, particularly one with whom she had shared such a time. Svidrigailov is touched, and feels something unnamed lifted from him. This feeling had been likely a sort of grim desperation born of the idea that Dunya in particular did not care about him in the least. When she tosses the gun aside, it opens up the possibility that she still, at least, views him as a human being, not for her to kill. Unlike her brother, Dunya is unable to kill, but somehow this proves her greatness.
Svidrigailov himself seems capable of some noble feelings, as we have noted before in his charity towards the Marmeladovs, despite his crude villainous side. In the end, it appears that he desires Dunya's love only.
Svidrigailov wanders about. It begins to rain around 10:00 pm. He hurries home, takes out all his money, tears up some papers, and without changing his drenched clothes, leaves. He goes to Sonya, and tells her that since he is going to America, he is giving her papers regarding the money he has bestowed on her half-siblings, as well as 3,000 roubles for herself. Brushing aside her protestations, he tells her that Rodya has two options, "a bullet in the head, or Siberia." To Sonya's fear, he responds that he will not tell anyone. He asks her not to tell anyone that she saw him, conveys a bow to Rodya, and tells her to keep the money with Razumikhin, to whom he also sends a bow. Then he leaves.
Later, he shows up at the place of his fiancée's parents, who suspect him of being drunk considering how late it is and how soaked he is. He demands to see his fiancée. When she comes in, he tells her that he has to leave Petersburg for a while, and gives her bank notes worth 15,000 roubles in silver. He kisses her affectionately twice, and leaves, regretting that the money will be locked up by the girl's mother.
He walks for a long time until he comes to a hotel far away from everything. He gets himself a room, orders veal and tea, and settles himself into his shabby surroundings. He is starting a fever. He has trouble falling asleep.
He dreams that a mouse runs over his leg, and awakens to a dark night with howling wind. Various images pass through his mind as he lies there not thinking; he seems to see the body of a young girl, a suicide by drowning, who had killed herself after having been (presumably) raped.
Svidrigailov gets up and opens his window. He hears the cannons fired from Petropavlovsky Fortress to indicate a flood warning. It is about 3 in the morning now. He closes the window, lights his candle, gets dressed and goes to search for someone in order to pay for his room.
In the corridor, he comes upon a five-year-old girl shivering and crying in a corner. When he asks her what is wrong, the girl replies that she had broken something of her mother's, and that she had run away in fear of a beating. Svidrigailov picks her up, takes her to his room and puts her to bed, wrapping her up. After a while, impatient, he wants to leave, and peeks under the blanket to see how the girl is doing. Her face is red so he thinks she must have a fever; but then, to his horror, she starts to look like a whore, winking at him while pretending to be asleep, then dissolving into coarse, insolent laughter. Svidrigailov, horrified, is about to strike her when he wakes up.
He realizes he has had nightmares all night long, and it is nearly 5:00. He puts his clothes on, writes a note in the front page of a notebook, and wanders out to the street. He walks toward the Little Neva. He comes upon a watchtower and decides that "here's the place."
He stands in front of the tower, watching the guard, who watches him back for a while until finally asking his business. Svidrigailov tells him he is off to America, then takes out his gun, tells the guard to "tell them he went to America" if anyone asks, and shoots himself in the head.
In this impressionistic chapter, we enter into Svidrigailov's consciousness in a way we have not entered that of any other character except Raskolnikov. The misery never once lets up. At the start, the emptiness and despair in the vauxhall mirrors Svidrigailov's. When he gets to his hotel room, he is feverish; like Rodya, his thoughts wander, he falls into dreams, and his dreams run into one another in such a way that neither Svidrigailov nor the reader can tell what is reality and what is just another dream.
The horrifying dream of the little girl is to Svidrigailov, perhaps, what the dream of the nag was to Raskolnikov. The girl looks at him, pretending to be asleep, similar to the way Rodya did when he first visited him; this indicates some unchildlike cunning on her part. She quickly degenerates from a symbol of innocent childhood to one of depravity: she looks like a whore. Svidrigailov does have a soft spot for children (discounting his attraction to young girls), so it is terrifying for him. The dream may represent that every innocent thing he has touched has become defiled.
Perhaps this very anti-Midas-touch is what motivates Svidrigailov to go about disposing of his property to his fiancée and to Sonya. It appears that these visits are his last tributes to innocence. He is trying to do something good, truly, as he had mentioned to Rodya during their first meeting when he had offered Dunya 10,000 roubles. At the time Rodya did not believe him; but from what we know of Svidrigailov's bifurcated character, it appears that he may indeed have had good intentions.
Yet, as seen with the dream of the little girl, his sins rise up to reproach him. Floating amidst half-dreams, he envisions a young teenaged girl who has committed suicide by drowning herself. "Svidrigailov knew the girl," and knew that she had killed herself after being taken advantage of sexually. It appears that she is the niece of Gertrude Karlovna Resslich. However, according to report, that girl hanged herself. As Svidrigailov is surrounded by the water, he seems to be mixing up the circumstances of her death with what will be the circumstances of his. There is great irony here because she is innocent and he is depraved.
Water, the purifying element, has been seen before as a theme in Rodya's search for redemption. Svidrigailov, appropriately, has a fear of water. (He is surrounded by it everywhere, however: it is raining in the evening and the cannons sound a flood warning.) This fear is symbolic of his inability to seek salvation. Svidrigailov has already given up on himself, and knows that the only thing for him to do is end his life. He has long past the point where, he has told Sonya, Rodya is: "a bullet in the head, or Siberia." Svidrigailov cannot hope to wash his sins clean in Siberia; jaded, he puts a bullet through his head instead.
Later that day, in the evening, Raskolnikov, who has spent the whole night out in the rain, making up his mind, goes to his mother. She is alone there, and joyful to see him. She seems almost afraid to let him speak, and tells him about how she has been reading his article. He asks to see it and she shows it to him. He is proud to see his name in print, but quickly disgusted at the memories of suffering the article evokes.
The mother rattles on about how talented and intelligent he is, how everyone was wrong to think him mad, though even Dunya had begun to think so. He asks about his sister. His mother tells him that Dunya often leaves her, though Razumikhin comes to sit with her. Poor Pulcheria Alexandrovna begs him to stop by only when he can, and she will be patient in the meantime, and starts to cry.
Rodya stops her from getting coffee and asks her whether she will love him always as much as she does now, no matter what happens? She is afraid, but he tells her he has come to tell her that he has always loved her. Embracing him, his poor mother says that though she does not know what is going on with him, she knows that something agonizing lies before him. He tells her he is going away. She wishes to go with him, but he gets up to leave, and asks her to pray for him. Suddenly he falls at her feet, kisses them, and weeps with her, as they hold one another.
She cannot let him go, but he manages to get away after promising that he will come again.
Wanting to be done with everything before sunset, Rodion hurries to his apartment, where he finds Dunya waiting for him. Immediately, from her look, he knows that she knows everything. She tells him that she and Sonya have been sitting together all day, waiting for him. She asks him where he has been all night. He tells her he does not remember, though he had considered throwing himself into the Neva, but couldn't make up his mind. She is profoundly relieved.
Rodya tells her bitterly that he doesn't really believe in life or God, and mentions that he had seen their mother. He assures Dunya that he didn't tell their mother, and calls himself "vile." She asks him whether he is going to turn himself in; he replies that he is, and realizes that he still has some pride left in him.
After a silence, he gets up to go, though, as he tells her, he doesn't know why. She embraces him, weeping. Suddenly, reacting to her words, he bursts out that he does not see his act as a crime at all, especially since leaders who shed massive quantities of blood are honored later as great men. Even though he has failed, he refuses to see his act as a crime, exclaiming, "If I'd succeeded, I'd have been crowned, but now I'm walking into the trap!"
Dunya is suitably horrified at these words. Amidst Rodya's torrential arguments, he suddenly catches her eye and reads a look of agony in them. Suddenly he feels that he has caused his mother and sister great sorrow. He asks her to forgive him (if he is guilty), commends their mother to her care, and takes his leave of her. Before going, he takes out a portrait of his former fiancée, the landlady's daughter, and gives it to her. Still, before they leave, he once again exclaims at the futility of his going into hard labor.
They leave. Tormented, he wonders how he will finally "humble himself before them all without reasoning, humble humself from conviction." Despite asking himself over and over why he should go, he is resolved and on his way.
The fact that Rodion visits his mother at all indicates that he is taking his final resolute steps toward his fate. But there are other small signs as well. He slips into his emotional self when he asks her impulsively whether she will always love him as much as she does now. He even asks her to pray for him; and he himself kneels before her, and finally weeps.
However, when Dunya thanks God that he has not killed himself but "still [believes] in life," his old self returns. He reveals that he is going to turn himself in but he still doesn't believe his act was a crime! He persists in thinking that "if [he'd] succeeded, [he'd] have been crowned"; the failure was that he couldn't step over it lightly.
Dunya is horrified at his attitude, but he once again presents a scathing social commentary on war and the leaders of nations. These people, he points out yet again, shed the blood of thousands and are "afterwards called benefactors of mankind." His act, he argues, would have given him the means to benefit others. Yet in his full confession to Sonya, we know that this was not, in actuality, something that he considered; it only lay in his theoretical justification for the crime, not in the repercussions of the act itself. Such discussion shows that Rodya has somehow returned to his pre-crime state, once again believing in his own theory and arguments, even though they got him nowhere.
Despite all this, Rodya senses that he ought to believe he is wrong in order to truly be saved . . . and wonders how.
Raskolnikov arrives at Sonya's, where she had been waiting with Dunya all day. Sonya is overjoyed that he has not killed himself. He speaks quickly and carelessly, and asks for her cross. Sonya crosses both of them, then hangs the cypress cross around his neck.
Her weeping both wrings him and vexes him. She asks him to pray, and he does. She puts on her shawl, but, starting to feel alarmed, tells her not to follow him, and leaves her standing there in her apartment without saying goodbye.
He walks out, then recalls the image of her, and realizes that he had gone to her because he had wanted to see her suffering for his suffering. He reproaches himself, and walks to the Haymarket, where he tries to impress every detail upon his memory.
Suddenly he comes to the crossroads, and remembering Sonya's words, kneels, kisses the ground, and bows again. People think he is drunk, and their commentary prevents him from completing his confession and saying aloud that he had killed. At his second bow, he had glimpsed Sonya nearby, meaning that she had followed him anyway. He understands now that she will be with him always.
He arrives at the station, having a moment of doubt on the stairs, but forcing himself to go on. Neither Nikodim Fomich nor Zamyotov appear to be there, but Ilya Petrovich walks in and greets him amiably. Ilya Petrovich seems anxious to heap honor and praise upon Rodya, who, startled and nervous, asks for Zamyotov. It appears that Zamyotov, however, has been dismissed.
Over the course of Ilya Petrovich's prattling, Rodya hears that Svidrigailov has shot himself. Completely startled, Rodya leaves the station. Downstairs, Sonya is waiting for him, pale and trembling. He stops, stands for a while, then goes back upstairs.
Ilya Petrovich is unpleasantly surprised to see Rodya again, but quickly sees that Rodya is unwell and seats him.
At last Rodya says, "It was I who killed the official's old widow and her sister Lizaveta with an axe and robbed them."
On his way up, Rodya straightens himself up because he wants to enter the police station "like a human being." Though he is surprised at this thought, and as per his usual pattern immediately questions himself, it does resonate with the discussion he had with Dunya in the previous chapter, where he discovered that he still possessed pride. Ilya Petrovich speaks to this sensation when he discourses on having the "feeling of a citizen and a human being." (In typical Dostoevskian fashion, this exact phrase had been used earlier by Svidrigailov (Part 6, Chapter 5).) Ilya Petrovich describes such feelings as "the feeling of humaneness and love for the Almighty." Raskolnikov has been lacking such feelings for a long time, having become accustomed to considering himself a "louse," but it seems clear that he wishes to feel "a citizen and a human being" once again. His confession, it can be inferred, is the means to restore him to this.
Ilya Petrovich cuts a comic figure in his second appearance in the novel. He falls all over himself to heap praise and respect upon Rodya, now that he knows he is a "writer and a scholar." It becomes clear that Zamyotov lost his job because he somehow insulted Ilya Petrovich. "As he was moving on he quarreled with everybody . . . even quite discourteously," Ilya Petrovich says. His flood of frivolous patter contrasts deeply with Rodya's nervous, tight-lipped responses and his state of mind.
Without Sonya, it is by no means certain that Raskolnikov would have gone through with his confession. First, he goes to the crossroads as Sonya told him to (almost like he went to the tavern as Svidrigailov had told him to), and kisses the earth and bows. Though he does not announce his crime to the world, he has taken the first step to his salvation. Symbolically, he has "accepted suffering" as she had told him to earlier. Despite his rude and abrupt departure from her apartment, Sonya has followed him through the streets. Ultimately, her presence motivates him to follow through with his confession.
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