Crime and Punishment

Crime and Punishment Summary and Analysis of Part Seven, Chapters 1-2

Chapter 1:

Rodya has been in Siberia for nine months.

Following his confession, he had had a fairly smooth trial. He recounted what happened clearly and precisely, down to the last detail. Various people had attested to the likelihood of temporary insanity, which appeared borne out by the fact that the criminal had not even looked at what he had stolen. When questioned about his motives both for the crime and for his confession, he had answered somehow "crudely."

Due to circumstances, Rodion received a far lighter sentence than had been expected: eight years of hard labor.

Rodya's mother had fallen ill right after he had gone to see her before turning himself in. Dunya and Razumikhin schemed to keep the truth from her, but soon found that she had invented explanations for herself. But her silence on certain topics troubled Dunya and finally convinced her that her mother was no longer in her right mind. Rodya, in prison, had been very upset to hear about his mother's illness.

Two months after Rodya and Sonya had gone to Siberia, Dunya and Razumikhin were married. After the marriage, Pulcheria Alexandrovna seemed sadder, and after a gradual deterioration finally died.

Raskolnikov had only heard about it a while later. Sonya had arranged a correspondence, writing to the Razumikhins in Petersburg monthly, and receiving a reply monthly. She writes only the bare facts about Raskolnikov's life, but these in the end convey the clearest picture of what is going on there.

Clearly he is indifferent to his fate, and is just going through the motions of his sentence. He makes no attempt to interact with anyone, and was even gruff and rude to Sonya at the beginning of her visits, though eventually he grew used to them and even regretted when Sonya, ill, was unable to visit him. Sonya writes of herself that she has built a niche for herself with her sewing. She does not mention that through her influence Rodya has received special treatment from the authorities.

Finally, Sonya writes that Rodya has fallen quite ill and is in the hospital.


There is a great irony underlying the progress and outcome of Rodion's trial. His mental abilities during the crime are in question, and in the end his sentence is greatly reduced because of the general agreement that he must have been temporarily insane. This is heavily ironic because he had placed such emphasis on remaining in control of his will and reason, when he had been in the earlier and theoretical stages of the crime. Obviously he had not been able to maintain this control, and had eventually succumbed to the resulting pressures of fear and his own nature (just as Porfiry had predicted).

During the trial, Dostoevsky writes more than once, there is "something crude" about Rodion's testimony. This crudity lies directly in Raskolnikov's manner of confession. He is cold, and enumerates each detail with remarkable precision, not trying in any way to glorify his motives or actions, not even making any attempt to defend himself. At the heart of the matter, however, the crudeness of his testimony reveals that Raskolnikov is saying something he doesn't believe, just to get it all over with.

We can see this same lack of true repentance in the way Rodion lives his life in Siberia. Through Sonya's letters, the progression of Rodya's life there becomes clear. He has no hopes or expectations of his life there, does not seem surprised at anything, and applies himself moderately to his work, while shunning his fellow convicts. Clearly, again, he is just going through the motions of his hard labor to get it over with. He is not truly repentant‹his reasons for confessing, as reported to the court, are therefore belied.

A final note: during her illness and right before her death, Pulcheria Alexandrovna announces that Rodya, when he left her, had promised to come back in exactly "nine months." This time period could signify a "rebirth" for Rodya: after nine months he would be "born again" to his mother.

Chapter 2:

Though he had been ill for some time, Rodya has succumbed to "wounded pride." He is ashamed that he, out of all people, should have slipped up and now be wasting his life completely. He even wishes for repentance, as he still cannot see what was so wrong about what he had done. The only crime he recognizes is that he had not born the weight of his guilt Œsuccessfully,' and had gone and confessed.

He does not know why he should continue living, and wonders why he didn't kill himself when he had the chance. Looking at his fellow-prisoners, he sees in them a lust for life which amazes him.

He is hated by everyone, though he does not know why. Once they almost kill him for being "godless," though he had never spoken with them about his beliefs or unbeliefs. Yet they love Sonya, to a man. They call her "little mother," and entrust their correspondence with their families to her.

Rodya is in the hospital through the end of Lent and Holy Week. He recalls a dream from his delirium, in which a dreadful plague spreads from Asia to Europe. This plague consisted of sentient microscopic organisms which would infect a man, causing him to go mad while yet thinking himself the most intelligent. As the plague spread, people turned on one another, everyone feeling anxious, and no one knowing the difference between right and wrong. Only a chosen few could be saved, could repopulate and regenerate the world, but no one knows where these people are.

While he has been in the hospital, Sonya has only been able to visit him twice. But one evening, Raskolnikov goes to the window and sees her standing as though she is waiting for something. He feels something "pierce his heart." Over the next couple of days, she does not show up, and he finds himself waiting for her anxiously. When he is discharged and returns to the prison, he learns that she has been ill.

He is very worried and inquires after her. On hearing this, Sonya sends him a note that she is not very ill, will be well soon and will go to him as soon as she can.

One morning, Raskolnikov is working by the river, and sits down to look at it, lost in thought. Almost out of nowhere, Sonya appears, and gives him her hand timidly (he has always taken it with loathing or irritation). This time, however, he does not let go, but looks at her quickly, looks down, then suddenly throws himself at her feet. Weeping, he embraces her knees. She jumps up, terrified, but understands instantaneously that he has at last repented and can love her boundlessly. Both feel resurrected by love.

That evening, Rodya lies in bed thinking about her. He marvels at how he even seems to get along with his fellow convicts better. Looking back on his crime and exile, he feels that these are distant and somehow did not happen to him.

He reaches under his pillow to take out a book. It is Sonya's Bible, for which he had asked her shortly before he fell ill. He does not open it, but thinks that perhaps he can believe what she believes.

Both of them are elated, ready to take on the suffering and the joy in creating a new life.


Rodya's dream of the pestilence is a thinly-veiled commentary on hyperrationalism. The microorganisms of which he dreams are "endowed with reason and will," and make their hosts think of themselves as superlatively intelligent although they have in fact gone mad. This, of course, is exactly what has happened to Rodya himself through the course of the book: possessed by an idea, he has lost all sense of absolute morality, and in effect has gone mad. Dostoevsky's vision is a dire warning: this pestilence, which spreads to Europe from Asia, interestingly, will wipe out humanity. The direction of the plague suggests that the Western or Western-influenced ideas that have seized Russian minds become dangerously corrupted when implanted in the Russian environment and its unique characteristics. Such ideas would then, in their new form, spread chaos and destruction in Europe itself.

Significantly, Rodya's illness of "wounded pride" stems from his being ashamed‹not of his crime, for which he still feels no guilt, but because he feels he has fallen so stupidly and unnecessarily. However, it is a good sign that he wishes for repentance‹"Oh, he would have been glad of it!" This signifies that he at least recognizes that he must repent before he can get past his indifference to life. He had desired to live enough not to commit suicide but instead confess; now he is in despair because he doesn't feel that desire for life because life seems purposeless to him now.

The mistrust that has seemed to haunt Raskolnikov all throughout the novel follows him into prison as well. The prisoners hate him for being "godless." He does not understand this because he has never spoken about God, but they sense through his behavior and coldness that he lacks faith. For it is his lack of faith that causes him to treat his sentence with indifference and feel that his life is futile. This stands in stark contrast to the convicts' universal adoration of Sonya, the embodiment of faith, whom they all trust and practically worship. "Little mother," they call her, testifying to her boundless ability to care for others.

The theme of resurrection is suggested by all the surrounding circumstances. First of all, it is the right time of year: Rodya is sick during end of Lent and Holy Week, though his personal resurrection does not occur at exactly the same time as Easter. It is spring, and early in the morning‹both times traditionally associated with renewal and rebirth. Although it is not altogether clear, it could be that Sonya disappears for three days due to illness‹just as Christ died on the cross, descended into Hades, and fought the devil to conquer death, rising again on the third day. On the third day (if it is indeed three days) Sonya, too, comes back. In the meantime, something has begun to change inside Raskolnikov while she has been gone. When they meet again, he is at last freed‹both are resurrected, she from her illness and he from his living death.

At the very end, Dostoevsky makes one more plea for emotionalism in the hyperrationalist world. After Rodya's revelation, he lies in bed only able to feel, not think. "Instead of dialectics, there was life, and something completely different had to work itself out in his consciousness." In other words, he at last understands the utter futility of the excessive reasoning which led him there in the first place.