Crime and Punishment | Study Guide

Fyodor Dostoevsky

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Crime and Punishment | Part 2, Chapters 6–7 | Summary

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Summary

Part 2, Chapter 6

Raskolnikov decides to confess: "This must be ended to-day, once for all, immediately; he would not go on living like that." He wanders to the Hay Market and has a sudden urge to interact with people. He strikes up a conversation with a passerby and later with a prostitute. He even asks the whereabouts of the tradesman and his wife with whom Lizaveta had scheduled the meeting that helped him determine when to kill Alyona.

Then he sees a prostitute covered with bruises. She triggers a memory of a story he read about a condemned man who would rather spend the rest of his life balanced on a narrow ledge than die. Raskolnikov insists it is better to choose life, even if the circumstances are painful.

Finally, he enters a restaurant where he runs into Zametov, the police clerk. Raskolnikov won't confess directly, but he drops several hints, daring Zametov to guess that he is the murderer. Ironically, Raskolnikov acts so strangely that Zametov decides he is too unstable to have committed the crime. On his way out, Raskolnikov runs into Razumihin, who is concerned for his friend's health. Raskolnikov rejects him. "How, how can I persuade you not to persecute me with your kindness?" Razumihin angrily calls Raskolnikov a fool but still encourages him to come to his housewarming.

As Raskolnikov stands on a bridge, a woman near him throws herself into the canal. She is rescued before she drowns. Raskolnikov's thoughts make it clear he has also considered suicide and may still be doing so. He decides to go to the police to confess but goes to Alyona's building instead. Raskolnikov rings her doorbell repeatedly as if to reenact his crime. Workmen are preparing her apartment for a new tenant. He describes the blood from the murders to them, challenging them to take him to the police. They dismiss Raskolnikov as a drunken pest, and the building's caretaker throws him out.

Part 2, Chapter 7

On the way to the police, Raskolnikov arrives at the scene of an accident. Marmeladov has been run over by a carriage. The driver believes he threw himself under the horses intentionally. Raskolnikov is upset and offers to pay for a doctor. Marmeladov is brought home, and Sonia and a priest are sent for.

Raskolnikov comforts Katerina Ivanovna. The doctor says Marmeladov cannot be saved, but Raskolnikov insists he treat him anyway. The priest takes Marmeladov's confession. Sonia arrives, dressed for work as a prostitute. Seeing her, Marmeladov begs her for forgiveness and dies in her arms.

Katerina Ivanovna asks the priest what to do about her starving children. When he tells her God is merciful, she declares, "God is merciful, but not to us." Raskolnikov gives her the remainder of the money from his mother to pay for the funeral. As he leaves he sees Nikodim Fomich, the police commissioner, and asks him to be kind to Katerina Ivanovna. The police commissioner notices that Raskolnikov is covered with blood—it is Marmeladov's.

As he departs Raskolnikov feels full of new life. Katerina Ivanovna's daughter Polenka kisses him, and Raskolnikov asks her to pray for him. He decides to go to Razumihin's housewarming, but Zossimov sends him home to rest. Razumihin walks with him. He tells him Zametov told him he suspects Raskolnikov of the murders and that Zossimov thinks he is mentally ill. Arriving at Raskolnikov's room, they find his mother and sister, who are terribly worried that something bad has happened to him. They try to embrace him, but Raskolnikov feels "a sudden intolerable sensation" and faints.

Analysis

In Chapter 6 Raskolnikov's conscience and ego are at war. He wants to confess, or so it seems. Instead of confessing outright, however, Raskolnikov tries to get people to guess what he has done by dropping clever hints, as if he can't bring himself to say the words. Yet he is offended when Zametov says criminals involuntarily give themselves away. Raskolnikov still believes he is too smart to get caught, and he is proud of it.

Both chapters tackle the ongoing question of how to deal with suffering. When Raskolnikov remembers the story of the man on the ledge, he, too, wants to cling ferociously to life. But when he witnesses a woman's suicide attempt at the bridge, readers realize he has thought about ending his life. What should anyone do when life becomes so painful?

Marmeladov's suicide and its aftermath bring out Raskolnikov's compassionate side. Although he has met Marmeladov only once, Raskolnikov feels close to him, calling for a doctor and wiping the blood from his face. He demonstrates a strong capacity for escaping his self-absorption and caring for others. But when Razumihin expresses concern for him, Raskolnikov pushes his friend away. Raskolnikov can offer compassion, but he can't receive it.

Compassion in others is equally complicated. Some people cannot express compassion properly. For example, when the priest offers empty consolation to Marmeladov's wife and children, Katerina Ivanovna rightly objects, "That's words and only words!"

Some can only express compassion partially or imperfectly. Even as her husband is dying, Katerina Ivanovna bitterly complains about him ("He brought us in nothing but misery."). Nevertheless, she cares for him, "giving him water, wiping the blood and sweat from his head, [and] setting his pillow straight."

Raskolnikov is the soul of compassion in this scene, but given his moodiness that certainly won't last. And there is still the problem of the brutal crime he is concealing. Only Sonia seems uncompromisingly compassionate. Her father was responsible for her suffering, but she never blames him. Instead, she embraces him as he dies.

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