Crime and Punishment | Study Guide

Fyodor Dostoevsky

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Crime and Punishment | Epilogue, Parts 1–2 | Summary

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Summary

Epilogue, Part 1

Nine months later Raskolnikov is in a Siberian prison. At his trial he told what he did in detail and did not attempt to excuse his actions. Evidence emerged that Raskolnikov is capable of good: Razumihin discovered that he had a habit of giving money he couldn't afford to strangers. His landlady testified that he once rescued children from a burning building. His final sentence is lenient, only eight years.

Pulcheria suffers from fever and delirium. She lives in a world of her own, insisting that her son will visit her soon and has a brilliant future. Just before she dies, her words suggest she knows the truth about him. Dounia and Razumihin marry and plan to relocate to Siberia in a few years. Sonia has followed Raskolnikov there and works as a seamstress. She visits him frequently.

In prison Raskolnikov is depressed and "shuts himself off from everyone." He asks himself what he has to live for when he gets out, and he barely reacts to his mother's death. At first he is angry at Sonia for her daily visits, but he eventually comes to depend on them. The other prisoners dislike Raskolnikov. He becomes seriously ill.

Epilogue, Part 2

Before his illness Raskolnikov still hangs onto his idea that the murders were not really a crime; he just was not enough of an "exceptional man": "His pride had been stung to the quick. It was wounded pride that made him ill." He still cannot truly repent, and he thinks his real crime was deciding to confess. But the narrator reveals that Raskolnikov rejected suicide because a part of him could see the possibility of redemption and new life. The other prisoners continue to loathe him: "You don't believe in God," they shouted. "You ought to be killed." They adore Sonia, however.

While he is ill, he dreams the world is infected with a disease that makes people believe their ideas are infallible. Fighting each other, they cause a global war and the complete breakdown of society. He becomes upset when Sonia does not visit for a few days. When he recovers, he finds out she has been ill, too, although not seriously.

A few days later Raskolnikov is working outside. Sonia arrives. He takes her hand gladly, not reluctantly as usual. Suddenly all of his love pours out, and he throws himself at Sonia's feet. Later he wonders if he can believe in religion as she does. The narrator tells us Raskolnikov's suffering is not over, but he is beginning a new "story of the gradual renewal of a man, the story of his gradual regeneration, of his passing from one world into another, of his initiation into a new unknown life."

Analysis

In the account of Raskolnikov's trial in Part 1 of the Epilogue, we learn important new information. For Dostoevsky human nature is full of surprises. Raskolnikov has a much longer history of impulsive generosity to those in need than anyone realized. As if that weren't enough, he rescued two children from a burning building. He never bragged about his good deeds to anyone, and Dostoevsky did not reveal them to the reader in mitigation of his crime.

Illness is a form of physical suffering that appears throughout the novel, and it is particularly symbolic in the Epilogue. Often the troubled mind attacks the body. Pulcheria suffers from a conflict between her fantasy of her son as a genius who can do no wrong and the reality of his crimes. Unable to admit the truth about him, she resorts to fantasies, not unlike her son's delusions about his crime.

Raskolnikov's resistance to his crime and its punishment rises in his mind like a toxin, making him physically ill. During his illness he dreams of an imaginary disease, a plague that overtakes the world, infecting its victims with the illusion that their beliefs and opinions are absolute. Dostoevsky, as always, delivers some of the most devastating analysis of his characters' states of mind through their dreams. The disease he describes is one that Raskolnikov suffers from himself.

Raskolnikov's final fever dream also paints a frightening vision of the consequences of the new radical ideas—they will tear the world apart. For Dostoevsky this imaginary worldwide plague is an allegory for the spread of dangerous ideas he witnessed actually taking place in Russian culture.

A number of details also symbolically reference new life: Raskolnikov's illness occurs around Easter, when the resurrection of Christ is celebrated. The roughly nine months between his confession and transformation call to mind the length of a pregnancy. He comes back to life after a long illness. In addition, Raskolnikov's return to his faith is suggested when he picks up Sonia's New Testament.

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