Crime and Punishment

Crime and Punishment Summary and Analysis of Part Six, Chapters 1-4

Chapter 1:

Rodya plunges into a time of vagueness and uncertainty. Svidrigailov's words haunt him, yet he does not seem to be in any hurry to work out a deal with the man, despite the fact that he sees him and even talks with him several times after Katerina Ivanovna's death.

Memorial services are held twice a day on Svidrigailov's orders, and Rodya attends one. As he watches Sonya pray, he thinks that she hasn't paid him any attention recently; but after the service is over, he goes up to her and she surprises him by taking his hands and leaning her head on his shoulder without the slightest revulsion. He presses her hand and leaves.

He wanders aimlessly, as he has been lately. One night he wakes up in the bushes on Krestovsky Island, and gets up to go home, where he goes to bed with a fever. He wakes up late, no longer feverish, feeling calmer than he has in three days. He has missed Katerina Ivanovna's funeral, which was that day.

Razumikhin comes in and sits down, looking troubled. He asks if Rodya is mad, because of how badly he has treated his mother and sister. He tells Rodya that his mother has been sick since the previous day, and he has come three times looking for him. Pulcheria Alexandrovna thinks that Sonya is taking Rodya away, but Razumikhin visited Sonya and did not find Rodya there, so he has dismissed that idea. Razumikhin swears that Rodya is not mad, but that some secret is involved; furthermore, he says he is not interested in finding out what it is. He concludes by saying he has just come to swear at Rodya and vent his feelings, and gets up to go.

Rodya surprises him by guessing that he is going to go on a drinking binge. Razumikhin pauses, then suddenly says that Rodya has always been very reasonable and has never been mad. He is about to go again when Rodya tells him that he had talked to Dunya about him, and that she knows he loves her, and may love him in return. This stops Razumikhin, of course. Rodya once again entrusts Dunya and their mother to Razumikhin's care, and tells him not to try and find out his secret.

Razumikhin mentions that Dunya has received a letter. Rodya is surprised. Razumikhin tells him that the letter has troubled Dunya greatly; he is surprised that Rodya had not known about it. There is a silence, and then Razumikhin takes leave, promising he is not going to drink because "there's no need now."

He leaves, then pokes his head back through the door and tells Rodya that the murder case has been resolved, and one of the painters confessed the whole thing. He tells Rodya that Porfiry has told him all about it.

As he goes down the stairs, Razumikhin thinks that Rodya must be a political conspirator and that he has drawn Dunya into his activities. He reproaches himself for having "almost thought" that Rodya was the murderer. He still does not know where Dunya's letter has come from.

Rodya is a new man with the completely unexpected escape route that has presented itself to him. He does not think that Porfiry really believes in Mikolka's guilt, however, and wonders why Porfiry is trying to "hoodwink" Razumikhin with this story. He thinks of Svidrigailov, who seems to be waiting for Rodya to go to him, and decides that he must settle things with him.

He opens the door to go out‹and runs into Porfiry. He is startled, but not really surprised, and does not really feel afraid of him. He invites Porfiry in, and they sit down. Porfiry takes his time, and Rodya feels anxious for him to start talking.


Rodion spends hours wandering about in a mental fog. He seeks solitude, but no matter where he is, Rodya feels someone else's presence. "The more solitary the place was, the stronger was his awareness as of someone's near and disquieting presence, not frightening so much as somehow extremely vexing." We have already noted that he seems to possess two selves, and it is possible that this other presence is, in fact, that of his other self.

Razumikhin knows Rodion is not mad, and that there is something else. Again, we see that preternaturally clear vision which seems to characterize Razumikhin. However, as also seems characteristic, he comes to an incorrect conclusion, thinking that Rodya must be a political conspirator. His clarity, then, is obscured by his inability to think the worst of the people he loves; although he does start to hint that "there was a time when [he] thought" Rodya had done it, presumably because of the look they exchanged in the dark corridor in Bakaleev's rooming house.

Razumikhin informs Rodion of his sudden way out. He is not at all troubled by the idea of someone else paying for his crimes‹because it means he got away with it. Yet is he truly free? Svidrigailov tells him, "What every man of us needs is air, air, air, sir." With the prospect of escape from suspicion and conviction, Rodion feels "of sound mind" for the first time in a very long time. Yet he still harbors the seeds of self-destruction within his arrogance. Perhaps now thinking of himself as great because he got away with the murders, his hatred of Porfiry and Svidrigailov makes him think he might kill one of them later. The thought is casual and treated casually in the narrative, indicating a dangerous arrogance in Rodya.

Chapter 2:

Porfiry expresses some regret at their previous meeting, and announces that he thinks it would be best to "proceed with frankness." He continues, having come to explain himself, admitting that he had suspected Rodya but lacked concrete physical evidence. He compliments Rodya on his magnanimity and tells him that he feels an attachment to him.

Rodya starts to feel uncomfortable and even frightened at the idea that Porfiry thinks him innocent. But he says nothing, and Porfiry continues. He describes briefly how circumstances led him to suspect Rodya. His avowed purpose in all these explanations is to convince Rodya that he has not been malicious. He tells him that he searched the apartment while Rodya was ill, but found nothing. He describes how he waited for Rodya to break psychologically, but needed some trace; and then Mikolka's sudden appearance, and his unbelievable testimony.

Here Rodya interrupts to say that Razumikhin had just told him how Porfiry was accusing Nikolai. Rodya is very excited, though Porfiry's words are still ambiguous.

Porfiry laughs about Razumikhin, then gives a psychological analysis of Nikolai, who is "susceptible" and imaginative, and was a religious dissident at one point. In prison, he returned to the Bible, and Porfiry says he must want to "embrace suffering"; but Porfiry is expecting Nikolai to break at any moment. "No, my good Rodion Romanych, there's no Mikolka here!" he exclaims.

Rodya, practically suffocating from fear and surprise, asks who killed the women. Porfiry, amazed at the question, replies, "But you did, Rodion Romanych!"

Noting Rodya's surprise, Porfiry says that he must have misunderstood him, that he truly came with the intention of being completely straightforward. Rodya tries to deny it, but Porfiry brushes this aside. After a moment, Rodya angrily accuses Porfiry of playing his "old tricks." Porfiry points out that he isn't doing this with witnesses and that he is convinced, whether or not Rodya confesses. Rodya asks him why he doesn't lock him up if he thinks him guilty. Porfiry replies that it would not be to his advantage to do so, as he still has no hard evidence and Rodya's imprisonment would be "a rest" for him, especially since he is "begging for it." He adds that he has come because he does not wish Rodya to think ill of him, and also to offer him the chance to go in and confess of his own accord.

Rodya demands to know why, assuming he were guilty, he should turn himself in, if it would be "a rest" for him. Porfiry rejoins that this terminology relates to his own theory, but adds that there would be material advantages in the form of a reduced sentence. He tells him he will even help to make it clear that the crime was a result of "a darkening," which he believes.

Rodion falls silent, then sadly says that he doesn't want the reduction. Porfiry exclaims that that was what he was afraid of, and tells him not to throw away his life. "How much have you lived so far?" he demands. He exhorts Rodya to find his faith, and then he will live. Suffering, he says, may not be such a bad thing. "All you need is air now‹air, air!"

This echo of Svidrigailov's words startles Rodya, who asks Porfiry what kind of prophet he is. Porfiry replies that he is simply "a finished man," and repeats that Rodya has his life before him.

Rodya asks when Porfiry plans to arrest him. Porfiry says within two days. Rodya asks what would happen if he ran away. Porfiry replies, with remarkable psychological wisdom and insight, that he won't because "it's impossible for you to do without us."

Rodya gets up and tells Porfiry not to think that he has in any way confessed. Porfiry understands; he asks Rodya, in case he decides to kill himself, to leave a little explanatory note so that the case can be cleared up. Then, wishing Rodya "kind thoughts and good undertakings," he leaves. Shortly afterwards, Rodya leaves as well.


Porfiry's appearance and tone in this chapter are rather surprising. Despite the fact that he has been called a liar throughout, he tells Rodya, "Above all I have no wish to deceive." He turns out to defy Rodya's expectations . . . and tells the truth. His ambiguous words (just like Rodya's own in previous situations) have led Rodya to expect that Porfiry would admit that his suspicions of him were wrong. To be suddenly faced with a firm accusation is startling, but it is the truth.

And Porfiry understands Rodya perhaps better than Rodya understands himself. He comprehends the depth to which psychological captivity runs. He knows that Rodya would never be able to run away, because he would be carrying his own prison with him, his own air.

This idea of "air" (and its counterpart in suffocation) comes up a good deal as a metaphor for the freedom vs. slavery theme. "All you need is air now‹air, air!" His words are an echo of Svidrigailov's. Startled, Raskolnikov asks Porfiry what kind of "prophet" he is. Though Rodya is likely trying to mock Porfiry through his fear, the question is not irrelevant. In a way, Porfiry is a prophet. Quite simply and directly he tells Raskolnikov: Go find faith and you'll live. Suffering may be good. Don't waste time reasoning! Prophets, of course, tried to prepare their hearers for salvation, and these three points are truly the way to Rodya's redemption.

Porfiry explains Mikolka's confession through the idea of people "embracing suffering." Suffering is a purifying agent, like fire: it must be gone through for the soul to be cleaned of impurities. Unbelieving and refusing to repent, Raskolnikov runs from suffering. Sonya, on the other hand, embraces it, quite literally even, when she embraces him (for he personifies suffering). She, too, understands the need to suffer for redemption. Like Sonya, Porfiry takes a compassionate approach with Rodya, almost like a father or an uncle, trying to encourage him to save his life by not dismissing it.

Chapter 3:

Rodya finds that he is going to Svidrigailov. He wonders if Svidrigailov had gone to Porfiry; he concludes that he could not have possibly, but then starts to wonder if he would go in the near future. He feels inexplicably that Svidrigailov would not.

He feels irritated by the entire business, and does not know why he is going. Perhaps, he thinks, he is going to Sonya; but she represents the resolve to go and confess. He wonders if Svidrigailov's knowledge of his secret and his former designs on Dunya might become linked now.

He stops and looks around; he finds himself in front of a tavern. Svidrigailov is sitting next to one of the windows. This gives Rodya a terrible shock. They pretend not to see one another for a little while, but finally Svidrigailov bursts into laughter and invites Rodya in.

Rodya goes in. He wonders aloud at how he happened upon that tavern. Svidrigailov tells him that he had given him directions to it twice. Rodya has apparently forgotten but the place had been inscribed in his memory.

After some tangential conversation, Rodya impatiently asks what Svidrigailov wants, warning him that he will kill him if he plans to blackmail Dunya with his knowledge of Rodya's secret. Svidrigailov tells him he hadn't really had a particular topic in mind, but that he just wanted to observe Raskolnikov.

Over the course of conversation they touch upon Svidrigailov's weakness for women, his "depravity," as Rodya calls it. Rodya is disgusted. It is not long before he gets up to go, but Svidrigailov begs him to stay, promising to tell him the story of how one woman‹Dunya‹set about "saving him."


Rodya notes that Svidrigailov's face seems to resemble a mask‹there is something wrong with it, something faintly spine-chilling. Svidrigailov's face is very handsome and youthful, but somehow frozen: "The eyes were somehow too blue, and their look was somehow too heavy and immobile." It is not uncommon in literature for the face of evil to be attractive yet somehow deadened; Wilde's Dorian Grey is the classic example. In Svidrigailov's case, everything seems to suggest that he has lived such a depraved life that he is jaded.

In fact, he tells Rodya that he wants to hear "something new," the same way Rodya had wanted great people to say a "new word." Rodya has also been bored and restless in some way, and has sought out Svidrigailov in search of "something new": "Could it be that he expected something new from him . . ?" Once again, these two men are bonded by the strange recurring phenomenon where Svidrigailov speaks Rodya's thoughts. Clearly, Svidrigailov understands Rodya far better than Rodya understands him. "You give yourself away too much, Rodion Romanych," he observes idly, explaining Rodya's own behavior to him.

According to Svidrigailov, "disease" is another way of saying anything "that goes beyond measure," i.e. extremes. Though we know Rodya is ill physically and mentally, this definition gives a further aspect to his disease. His split self, representing two extremes of warmhearted magnanimity and cold, unfeeling rationalism, is almost set up to create a disease of inner warfare.

Strangely, Svidrigailov is a self-proclaimed mystic, afraid of ghosts, superstitious. Perhaps this is a result of a life of crime and evildoing. Much earlier in the book, we had learned of a growing superstition on Rodya's part as he felt himself drawn into his crime; again, this similarity between the two men suggests that Svidrigailov could represent a future Raskolnikov, if he continued down a path of crime.

Chapter 4:

Svidrigailov, rather drunk, starts his story with the tale of an agreement he had come to with Marfa Petrovna on their marriage. He had announced that he could not be completely faithful to her, and they had agreed that this would be overlooked so long as Svidrigailov fulfilled a certain set of conditions‹including that he should never fall in love with another woman. However, says he, Marfa Petrovna brought it on herself by bringing Dunya into the house, praising her to him, and telling Dunya all about Svidrigailov. This, he said, prompted a great pity in Dunya, and she set out to "save him." To this Svidrigailov admits he played the part of the wayward sinner who wishes to repent. He details his attempted seduction of Dunya, and her unusual rejection of his flattery and the frightening look in his eyes. They parted, he says, and he fell into a frenzied debauchery; and losing all control, he had begged her to elope with him, offering her all his money if she would. Here, of course, Marfa Petrovna burst onto the scene and the rest was history.

Rodya tries to take advantage of Svidrigailov's drunkenness to worm information out of him, but Svidrigailov still has some control over his words. He hints that his relationship with Dunya had "a little corner" that no one, not even Rodya, could know about. Rodya observes that Svidrigailov apparently has designs on Dunya even now. Svidrigailov tells him he is mistaken, because he is about to get married to a 16-year-old girl, the daughter of a retired official. He has been bestowing expensive gifts on the family. At one point, he recounts, the girl threw her arms around his neck and vowed to sacrifice herself completely, asking "only his respect" in return.

Rodya is appalled at the man's apparently pedophilic tendencies. He mentions Katerina Ivanovna's children and how Svidrigailov had provided for them. Svidrigailov responds that he likes children, and proceeds to tell an anecdote which yet degenerates into a hint of evil intentions. Rodya, disgusted, stops him. They both leave, Svidrigailov saying obliquely, "You won't get away from me . . . Just wait." As they walk out, Raskolnikov observes that Svidrigailov appears preoccupied; this and his sudden rudeness to Rodya make the latter suspicious, and he decides to follow him.


Svidrigailov, whom we have already observed to be a remarkably intelligent man, provides some insight on Dunya's character via her desire to save someone. He tells Rodion that Dunya "demands to endure some torment for someone without delay, and if she doesn't get this torment, she may perhaps jump out the window." Dunya had certainly been on the point of trying to "save" her brother, at least financially, through her ill-fated engagement to Luzhin. According to Svidrigailov, this desire to save had caused Dunya to "take the first step," and had maintained the interaction and increased its intimacy little by little, though her astonishing chastity prevented it from going the way his other intrigues usually did.

Svidrigailov seems strangely, perhaps unhealthily, attracted to youth and innocence. Despite his fifty years, he has engaged himself a fiancée of sixteen. This girl, somehow attached to him, has declared herself ready to sacrifice all for his respect. Still innocent, but engaged to such a man, this 16-year-old could either present a contrast or parallel to the ravaged 16-year-old in Part One.

There is a flash of cutting social commentary via Svidrigailov. "The people are drinking, the educated youth are burning themselves up in idleness, in unrealizable dreams and fancies, crippling themselves with theories . . ." His comments, which seem to describe Marmeladov and Rodya himself with particular precision, seem oddly critical given his loose nature. But perhaps Dostoevsky thought that such social criticism would be more powerful coming from a vile man. In addition, it serves to further the strange complexity of Svidrigailov's character, at once hideously evil and yet somehow containing wellsprings of compassion. It would appear that Svidrigailov knows the difference between good and evil, as it were, but has deliberately chosen evil, and therefore has truly sinned.