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Crime and Punishment | Study Guide

Fyodor Dostoevsky

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Part 5, Chapter 4

Course Hero Literature Instructor Russell Jaffe provides an in-depth summary and analysis of Part 5, Chapter 4 of Fyodor Dostoevsky's novel Crime and Punishment.

Crime and Punishment | Part 5, Chapter 4 | Summary



On the way to Sonia's, Raskolnikov still debates confessing to her, but he knows he must. He asks her if she would choose a bad man like Luzhin to die if it would save her family. Sonia says it is an impossible question, and she doesn't know God's plan for Luzhin. She asks, "Who has made me a judge to decide who is to live and who is not to live?" Raskolnikov admits the question is really about himself. He is looking for forgiveness. He feels a flash of hate for her, but, when he sees the love in her eyes, he realizes he is confusing the two feelings.

Raskolnikov reveals details only he could know about his crime, coaxing Sonia to guess he is a murderer. As she realizes the truth, he sees Lizaveta's and Sonia's faces transposed. Sonia cries out, "There is no one—no one in the whole world now so unhappy as you!" She embraces him and asks him what he has done to himself. He softens, asking her not to leave him. Sonia vows to follow Raskolnikov to Siberia, presuming he will confess. He implies that he is not sure he will. Sonia finally sees the murderer in Raskolnikov. She asks why he did it.

At first Raskolnikov says he did it for the money. Then he changes course and says he could have supported himself but refused, out of spite. He explains his exceptional man theory, admitting that he killed "for himself alone" rather than for his family or the greater good of society. Instead, he wanted to feel powerful and unique: "I wanted to find out then and quickly whether I was a louse like everybody else or a man. Whether I can step over barriers or not." His failure shames him. Yet again, Raskolnikov stops short of admitting full responsibility: "I murdered myself, not her! ... But it was the devil that killed that old woman, not I."

Sonia urges Raskolnikov to bow down and kiss the ground to show remorse, then confess his crime to the police. She alludes to the story of Lazarus: if Raskolnikov confesses, "God will send you life again." Raskolnikov thinks he can live with his crime, but Sonia knows it will overwhelm him. He reverts to wanting to hide his crime, arguing that the police lack the evidence to catch him. He is unnerved by the intensity of Sonia's love and thinks he actually feels worse. Sonia offers him her cross to wear, but he says he will take it later—as Sonia says, when he goes "to meet his suffering."


This chapter is the book's climax. Sonia's faith and compassion allow Raskolnikov to stop alienating himself from others. In this chapter he is more honest about his actions and their motivations than ever before. Still he never confesses, instead forcing her to guess that he is a thief and a murderer.

In Sonia's presence Raskolnikov is forced to face his true motivations for the crime. He did it neither due to his poverty nor for the greater good but because he wanted to feel unique and powerful, like Napoleon and the other extraordinary men he wrote about. He knows he has failed, creating unnecessary suffering for others instead. Raskolnikov is suddenly in the same league as Luzhin and Svidrigaïlov, two men who have committed terrible crimes that have caused great suffering to others for no other reason than that they can.

After he confesses, Sonia is horrified but shows him compassion. Raskolnikov realizes that he "killed" himself when he committed the murders: his tortured conscience has alienated him from his family and friends—indeed, from his old life. In the pure morality that Raskolnikov has sought but has not been able to obtain, Sonia recognizes that, behind the suffering he causes others, Raskolnikov himself is the one who suffers the most and is the one to be pitied the most.

Sonia's faith offers Raskolnikov an alternative moral code: traditional religious morality. There are frequent references to the cross throughout the chapter and to the story of Lazarus, a man who returns from the dead. Sonia's suggestion that Raskolnikov express remorse and confess is a classic Christian response. Suffering is transformed through admitting one's "crime" (or sin) and facing one's punishment.

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