Crime and Punishment | Study Guide

Fyodor Dostoevsky

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Crime and Punishment | Part 4, Chapters 5–6 | Summary

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Summary

Part 4, Chapter 5

Raskolnikov goes to see Porfiry the next morning. He hates Porfiry but resolves to hide it. Porfiry explains how he likes to leave a suspect in suspense hoping he will incriminate himself. Raskolnikov says nothing.

Porfiry hints at the things that made the police suspicious of Raskolnikov. He feels Porfiry is manipulating him and loses control. He demands that Porfiry stop "torturing" him, then laughs hysterically and shouts that Porfiry should arrest him if he has proof. Porfiry reveals that he knows about Raskolnikov returning to Alyona's apartment. Instead of attacking him with this information, he expresses concern about Raskolnikov's state of mind. Raskolnikov protests that he was not delirious. Porfiry pretends not to suspect Raskolnikov, but Raskolnikov knows he is playing with him. When Porfiry goes to a locked door, saying he has a surprise for him, Raskolnikov dares him to produce a witness from behind the door.

Part 4, Chapter 6

Before anyone can appear from behind Porfiry's door, Nikolay the painter intrudes on the interview with Raskolnikov. He confesses to killing Alyona and Lizaveta. Porfiry is surprised and does not believe him. He asks him specific information about the crime. Raskolnikov jokes that Porfiry must have used mind games to force Nikolay to confess, implying that Porfiry is also using mind games to make Raskolnikov confess.

At home Raskolnikov realizes that Porfiry knows him well and that Raskolnikov came dangerously close to giving himself away. What was behind Porfiry's door? Like Porfiry he feels Nikolay's confession will inevitably be disproven, but it buys him some time. He decides to go to Marmeladov's funeral dinner and hopes to see Sonia. He thinks he may be about to confess.

Before he can leave, the strange man who called him a murderer visits him to ask his forgiveness. He saw Raskolnikov return to Alyona's apartment, jumped to conclusions, and told Porfiry about Raskolnikov's guilty reaction to his accusation. He was the person behind the locked door in Porfiry's office. Raskolnikov realizes Porfiry has no hard evidence against him and scolds himself for being afraid.

Analysis

Porfiry goes where no one, not even Sonia, has been able to go before: inside Raskolnikov's mind and, therefore, inside his crime. Reason and emotion are always in conflict for Raskolnikov, but Porfiry's psychological approach combines them so he can burrow into Raskolnikov's brain.

Porfiry jumps from one strategy to the next as if he is trying to imitate, or even provoke, Raskolnikov's mental instability. He chatters on, first belittling himself ("I'm a bachelor, a man of no consequence and not used to society ... a weak man, I confess it"), then flattering Raskolnikov's intellect ("You are quick-witted. You notice everything!"). Raskolnikov suspects he is being played, but Porfiry is smart and in control. He never lets Raskolnikov relax, admitting some of the strategies he is using to his face, then teasing him with a surprise witness.

The strategy is partially effective, but, although he is rattled, Raskolnikov remains stubborn and arrogant and says nothing when an innocent man confesses to the murders. Perhaps the scene is not really convincing enough to fool Raskolnikov, or perhaps he is ruthless about protecting himself. Porfiry sounds as if he may have stage managed the scene in some way, and he admits that he doesn't think the man's confession will hold up.

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