Crime and Punishment | Study Guide

Fyodor Dostoevsky

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Crime and Punishment | Part 1, Chapters 3–4 | Summary

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Summary

Part 1, Chapter 3

The next day Raskolnikov wallows in his isolation. His landlady has stopped sending him food because he owes her money, but the maid, Nastasya, kindly brings him tea. She tells him the landlady is complaining to the police about the rent he owes. She wonders why Raskolnikov isn't working, and he responds that he is—he is thinking. He arrogantly declares that tutoring doesn't pay enough; he wants a fortune "all at once."

Raskolnikov receives a letter from his mother, Pulcheria, about his sister, Dounia. Dounia lost her position as a governess for a wealthy family because her employer, Svidrigaïlov, asked her to run away with him. Dounia refused, but his wife, Marfa Petrovna, assumed the situation was Dounia's fault, firing her and ruining her reputation. Eventually, a repentant Svidrigaïlov revealed the truth, and his wife restored Dounia's good name.

Later Dounia agrees to marry Luzhin, a rich, older lawyer, despite signs that he is stingy and controlling. She hopes marrying Luzhin will help her family: he says he might find Raskolnikov a job. Pulcheria and Dounia plan to arrive in Saint Petersburg shortly for the wedding. Pulcheria calls Raskolnikov "everything to us—our one hope, our one consolation." She is sending him another small amount of money that she and Dounia have scraped together. Raskolnikov, in turmoil, walks the streets talking to himself. Passersby mistakenly think he is drunk.

Part 1, Chapter 4

Raskolnikov angrily swears that his sister will not marry Luzhin for her family's sake: "If he had happened to meet Mr. Luzhin at the moment, he might have murdered him." He fears Dounia's marriage will be no more than legalized prostitution in order to support him and Pulcheria. He wonders what right he even has to forbid the marriage because he cannot support his mother or sister financially. He reconsiders committing the crime. Once a "dream," it now seems like reality.

Raskolnikov notices a girl walking ahead of him. No more than 16, she is drunk and her clothes are in disarray. A man, looking intrigued, follows her. Raskolnikov yells at him to get away, and they come to blows. When a policeman intercedes, Raskolnikov reports his suspicions: someone has gotten the girl drunk and raped her, and the man is trying to take advantage of the situation. He gives the policeman money to take the girl home, but she wanders off, with the other man still in pursuit. Raskolnikov changes his mind about the situation, telling the policeman to let the man and the girl go. But the policeman follows them, wondering if Raskolnikov is crazy. Raskolnikov questions whether it was worth it to get involved, believing the girl will inevitably fall into prostitution.

Raskolnikov pays a visit to Razumihin, a friend from the university. Like Raskolnikov he is poor and has had to drop out of school. Raskolnikov remains aloof, but Razumihin is friendly, cheerful, and optimistic.

Analysis

These chapters focus primarily on the suffering of women, who are often portrayed as self-sacrificing or manipulated by others.

Self-sacrificing women include Sonia, who becomes a prostitute for her family's sake, and Dounia, who faces the prospect of an unhappy marriage to help her family. Katerina Ivanovna's life has been sacrificed to her husband's alcoholism. Pulcheria and Dounia send Raskolnikov money they can barely spare.

Women's suffering is often linked to the men who take advantage of them. Pulcheria's letter describes Svidrigaïlov as a scoundrel. Raskolnikov sees him as such, equating him to the man trying to take advantage of the drunken girl. Luzhin wants a wife who is attractive and educated but poor, so she will worship him.

Even Raskolnikov, who objects to his sister's self-sacrifice and tries to protect a vulnerable girl, takes advantage of women in his own way. He tries to save the drunken girl from danger but almost sends her back to a terrible fate, all because he gets hung up about whether helping her is worth it or not. At least he can recognize her suffering to begin with and try to do something about it. The attempt to ease or prevent suffering is a theme Dostoevsky returns to repeatedly throughout Crime and Punishment.

Chapter 4 introduces Razumihin, Raskolnikov's foil: Dostoevsky highlights certain aspects of Raskolnikov's personality by contrasting him to Razumihin. His friendliness, optimism, and generosity counterbalance Raskolnikov's alienation, pessimism, and self-absorption.

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