Crime and Punishment | Study Guide

Fyodor Dostoevsky

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Crime and Punishment | Part 2, Chapters 3–5 | Summary

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Summary

Part 2, Chapter 3

For several days Raskolnikov is so ill he becomes delirious, even forgetting his crime. He returns to his senses to find Razumihin has located him and charmed the landlady into letting Raskolnikov keep his room and receive meals again. His mother has also sent him money. At first he refuses to take it, but he changes his mind. His mental torment and confusion seem worse than ever.

Raskolnikov is disturbed to learn that Zametov, the police head clerk, visited him during his illness. Zametov heard Raskolnikov raving about wanting his sock. Zametov searched the room and found it, but it was so dirty he could not see the blood on it. The sock remains in Raskolnikov's room under some clothes.

Raskolnikov wants to run away and is increasingly confused about what to do. Instead, he falls asleep again until Razumihin arrives with fresh clothes.

Part 2, Chapter 4

Zossimov, a university friend and doctor, stops by to check on Raskolnikov. Razumihin invites him and Raskolnikov to his housewarming that night. Zossimov mentions Nikolay, a house painter, who has been accused of the murders because he pawned some earrings directly after the crime.

Nikolay claims he found them on the street. But then he tries to hang himself, appearing guilty of the crime. Finally he admits he found the earrings in the apartment he was painting. Raskolnikov realizes he dropped them there as he hid behind the door after the murders. He exclaims in terror, "Behind the door? Lying behind the door?" No one catches the significance of what Raskolnikov has said.

Nikolay and another painter ran into the street, fighting and laughing "like children" moments before the bodies were discovered. According to Razumihin, this is not how a killer would behave, so Nikolay cannot be guilty of the crime. Raskolnikov says nothing as Razumihin accurately describes how the murderer must have escaped without being caught.

Part 2, Chapter 5

Luzhin, Dounia's fiancé, visits Raskolnikov, who does not immediately recognize him. Luzhin acts contemptuous of Raskolnikov's shabby room and clothing. When Raskolnikov realizes who Luzhin is, he treats him rudely. Razumihin criticizes the apartment Luzhin rented for Dounia and Pulcheria as a "disgusting place" in a dodgy neighborhood, which he recognizes because he had once visited someone in the same building.

Luzhin's pompous attitude and superficial comments annoy Raskolnikov and Razumihin. He speaks in platitudes, arguing for practicality as a moral code. He believes that it is best to act on your own behalf by "lov[ing] yourself before all men, for everything in the world rests on self-interest," and that "in acquiring wealth solely and exclusively for myself, I am acquiring, so to speak, for all." Razumihin argues that Luzhin's emphasis on self-interest will actually make things worse for everyone.

Zossimov is also present, and the men discuss the murder of Alyona and Lizaveta. Razumihin speculates (correctly) that it was the murderer's first crime. Raskolnikov tells Luzhin that if one follows his theory of self-interested practicality to its logical conclusion, "it follows that people may be killed." Luzhin's views cause Raskolnikov to accuse him of wanting to control Dounia, and when Luzhin blames Pulcheria for misrepresenting him, Raskolnikov threatens to throw him down the stairs. Badly offended, Luzhin leaves. Raskolnikov demands that Razumihin and Zossimov leave as well. As they exit they talk privately about Raskolnikov's lack of interest in anything—except the murders.

Analysis

In Chapter 3, despite Razumihin's caring gestures, Raskolnikov continues to alienate himself, interested only in Luzhin's intentions toward Dounia and conversation about the murders.

Raskolnikov's dream about his landlady was so powerful he didn't realize it wasn't real until Nastasya told him. Now he is struggling to distinguish reality from fantasy every day: "He made up his mind to keep quiet and see what would happen. 'I believe I am not wandering. I believe it's reality,' he thought." A combination of fear, guilt, poverty, and illness is unhinging him, but he refuses to tell anyone. He is more alone and in more pain than ever.

In Chapter 4 Nikolay's reaction to guilt is the opposite of Raskolnikov's. Whereas Raskolnikov denies and represses his guilt, Nikolay feels so guilty for his actions he tries to kill himself. He trades his cross for a drink before he does so, symbolizing that he has betrayed his faith. Nikolay is also the first of a number of characters who try to escape suffering and guilt through suicide.

In Chapter 5 Luzhin finally appears, revealing himself to be a vain, shallow man. His debate with Razumihin and Raskolnikov exemplifies the conflict between traditional and contemporary morality. Luzhin glorifies utilitarianism's emphasis on practicality at the expense of empathy. He favors acting in self-interest "for the common good" in opposition to Christ's commandment to love your neighbor as yourself. He dismisses traditional ideals, even positive ones such as honor, as "prejudices." Razumihin and Raskolnikov accuse him of showing off for the sake of being trendy.

Raskolnikov despises Luzhin, and he argues that Luzhin's defense of acting in self-interest for the common good leads logically to murder. However, Raskolnikov might as well be describing his own rationale for killing the pawnbroker. This adds a new twist to the novel: even characters who are at odds may mirror each other in unexpected ways, often exposing unpleasant truths.

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