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Crime and Punishment | Study Guide

Fyodor Dostoevsky

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Part 1, Chapters 5–6

Course Hero Literature Instructor Russell Jaffe provides an in-depth summary and analysis of Part 1, Chapters 5–6 of Fyodor Dostoevsky's novel Crime and Punishment.

Crime and Punishment | Part 1, Chapters 5–6 | Summary



Part 1, Chapter 5

Raskolnikov despairs that Razumihin cannot really help him find work but decides he will visit him once he has committed his crime. Becoming feverish, he wanders the streets. He observes the residents of a wealthy neighborhood. At first he enjoys this but soon finds it painful. After drinking vodka he falls asleep in the bushes and has a terrible, vivid dream.

In his dream Raskolnikov is a boy of seven, walking with his father in their town. He fondly remembers the town church and its comforting rituals and recalls crossing himself before his little brother's grave. Later he and his father see an old, skinny mare harnessed to a huge cart. Her owner claims she can pull the cart and invites a large group to get in for a ride. Of course, the cart is too heavy for the mare to pull, but the owner becomes enraged. He beats her ferociously. Others join in as a crowd laughs. The boy runs to the horse, but his father says the beating is none of their business. The owner beats the mare to death with a crowbar, screaming that she is his property. Some in the crowd egg him on, but others object: "No mistake about it, you are not a Christian." The boy hugs and kisses the dead horse, then tries to attack the owner, but his father takes him away.

Raskolnikov reveals the crime he has been plotting: he is going to rob and murder Alyona, the old pawnbroker. But after his dream he decides he cannot bring himself to do it, and he feels relieved, praying and renouncing the idea. While out walking, however, he overhears that Alyona's half-sister, Lizaveta, will be away from their apartment at seven the next night, leaving Alyona alone. He returns home "like a man condemned to death. ... Everything was suddenly and irrevocably decided." He will commit the murder.

Part 1, Chapter 6

In a flashback the narrator relates how Raskolnikov came up with his plan. Six weeks earlier Raskolnikov went to Alyona to pawn a ring. He immediately loathes her. Stopping at a tavern on the way home to think, he overhears two men discussing Alyona and her half-sister, Lizaveta. They describe Alyona as greedy and cruel. She charges exorbitant interest, and she beats her half-sister, treating her like a slave. The student argues that killing Alyona and using her money to help others would benefit society. Raskolnikov is amazed because he had just been thinking the same thing. He feels that fate has led him to this moment.

The story returns to the present. Raskolnikov sleeps most of the next day, then rushes to commit the crime. He has planned some details but others are not in place. Nonetheless, he believes he will remain clear-headed as he carries out his plan.

In his room he sews a loop inside his overcoat to conceal the murder weapon, an axe. He creates a fake cigarette case to pawn. Realizing it is later than he thought, he rushes to the boardinghouse kitchen to steal the axe. Nastasya is there, almost derailing his plan, but he finds another axe in the porter's room. It is half past seven when he finally arrives at the pawnbroker's. He claims to feel unafraid but wonders if he should not turn back. He rings Alyona's doorbell. She is suspicious at first but finally opens the door to him.


Raskolnikov's dream is brought on by a fever that echoes, and is likely caused by, his mental state. The dream intertwines themes of suffering and morality by presenting three different responses to suffering. As a child in the dream, Raskolnikov fondly remembers the village church and its comforting rituals. They symbolize traditional morality based on Christianity, which favors compassion as the most moral response to suffering. In his dream Raskolnikov tries to prevent suffering, his father overlooks suffering, and the horse's owner adds to suffering.

After his dream Raskolnikov is torn. He prays to God and renounces his plan. But by the end of the chapter, he decides to carry it out, all because he happens to overhear that Alyona will be home alone. After deciding against it, he suddenly feels committing the crime is inevitable, as if he never had a choice in the matter. At this point Raskolnikov seems not only indecisive or conflicted but also mentally unstable.

Alyona presents Raskolnikov with a moral dilemma. Is someone who causes such suffering worthy of any compassion? Raskolnikov's indecision represents the struggle between old and new moralities: He plans a cold-blooded murder that he justifies as being for the greater good, a fashionable attitude adopted by intellectuals of the day. But after his dream he reconnects with traditional Christian morality, which condemns killing and advocates compassion.

Raskolnikov also theorizes about why criminals always give themselves away, using the metaphor of illness and disease. He believes a crime "infects" the criminal with a loss of reason and will. Raskolnikov thinks that minute planning of the crime's every detail can prevent this "disease." If he kills Alyona, it won't really affect him because it isn't really a crime. He is doing the world a favor.

Raskolnikov's views are an example of situational irony, in which his expectations about committing the crime and the reality of his situation of are actually at odds. Raskolnikov's has faith in his logic and reason, and he expects them to protect him from detection and guilt. However, his preparations for the crime are incomplete, and his wildly shifting mental state suggests that his reason is in fact shaky. In these ways the crime already affects him strongly before he even commits it.

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