Crime and Punishment | Study Guide

Fyodor Dostoevsky

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Crime and Punishment | Part 5, Chapter 5 | Summary

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Summary

Lebeziatnikov arrives at Sonia's room, reporting that Katerina Ivanovna has lost her mind and taken the children into the streets. Sonia rushes to find them. Raskolnikov returns to his room, regretting making Sonia's life harder. Maybe he should confess and go to prison alone. Dounia arrives. She knows that her brother is suspected of the murders but not that he is the killer. She says Razumihin has told her that her brother is being "persecuted" by the police. She holds no grudge against him for leaving her and his mother, and, if he needs her, her door is open. Raskolnikov praises Razumihin. He says goodbye, as if they are parting forever.

Raskolnikov wanders the streets, feeling he is already in prison. Lebeziatnikov finds him, and they go to Katerina Ivanovna, who is forcing her children to be street performers to earn money. A policeman tries to stop the performance. The children run off, pursued by their mother. She falls, due to her consumption, and is carried back to Sonia's room. She declines a priest and dies surrounded by her children and asking for Sonia.

Svidrigaïlov offers to pay for Katerina Ivanovna's funeral, get her children into a good orphanage, and provide money for their future. In addition, he wants to help Sonia escape her life as a prostitute. Raskolnikov questions his motives, but Svidrigaïlov claims he acts from simple human kindness.

Svidrigaïlov describes Katerina Ivanovna to Raskolnikov as being "a louse ... like some old pawnbroker woman." His choice of words reveals that he has overheard Raskolnikov's confession at Sonia's. He predicts that he and Raskolnikov will become friends after all.

Analysis

Raskolnikov continues to struggle between isolating himself and accepting compassion from others.

His fears about confessing have been realized—it has created more suffering, for him and for Sonia. He feels lonelier than ever, and he fears that his self-hatred will turn into hatred for her. He resolves to spare Sonia his suffering and go to prison in Siberia alone. Despite Dounia's loving attempt to reach out to him, he says good-bye to her as if they will never see each other again.

In his conversation with Raskolnikov, Lebeziatnikov once again illustrates the ridiculousness of some of the new morality: mental illness and emotions are errors of logic that can be fixed by reasoning: "If you convince a person logically that he has nothing to cry about, he'll stop crying." Significantly, Raskolnikov takes the side of emotion over reason this time, replying, "Life would be too easy if it were so." Lebeziatnikov's theory certainly does not apply to Katerina Ivanovna's situation, and it lacks empathy. Dostoevsky portrays her death as tragic and terrible.

Even when he does good, Svidrigaïlov's behavior continues to be disturbing. Like Katerina Ivanovna and Raskolnikov, he is a portrait in contradictions. Who is this man? One minute he is generous to Sonia and her half-siblings, the next he is menacing and manipulative with Raskolnikov. No matter what the situation, he winks and jokes. Sometimes this makes him amusing, but at other times he seems terrifying.

Katerina Ivanovna's suffering finally breaks her, but in death she hopes it will redeem her. She rejects the trappings of religion, declining a priest to hear her confession, but she believes that God knows her suffering and will forgive her sins. She adds, with typical pride, "And if He won't forgive me, I don't care!" Except for a few final details, Katerina Ivanovna's death concludes the Marmeladov subplot. Sonia's story is now solely a part of Raskolnikov's narrative.

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