Crime and Punishment | Study Guide

Fyodor Dostoevsky

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Crime and Punishment | Part 6, Chapter 7 | Summary

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Summary

Raskolnikov claims to have finally made up his mind. He visits his mother, who weeps with relief. Ironically, she has read Raskolnikov's article, published in Periodical Discourse, about his "great man" theory and thinks he is a genius. He asks if she will always love him, no matter what she hears, and he assures her he loves her. Raskolnikov says he has to leave that day and go very far away. Pulcheria knows he is suffering. She prays with him, making the sign of the cross. He falls down to kiss her feet, and they cry together. He promises to come back the next day.

Raskolnikov goes home and finds Dounia waiting. He realizes she knows everything, and she tells him she has just visited Sonia. Raskolnikov calls himself a "vile man" and admits he considered committing suicide by jumping in the river but decided against it. Now he will confess. But then he changes gears, objecting to Dounia's description of the murders as a crime, then rationalizing them: "I killed a vile noxious insect, an old pawnbroker woman, of use to no one!"

Seeing he has made his sister and mother suffer, he feels guilty and promises to try to live a good life even if he is a murderer. He asks her to take care of their mother. He notices a portrait of his former fiancée, his landlady's daughter who died of typhus, and kisses it, remembering her fondly. He declares that if he had never loved or been loved, none of this would have happened to him, and he insists that he loathes all humankind.

Analysis

Raskolnikov's moods in this chapter are especially erratic, as his struggle with his own conscience reaches a fever pitch. Even after deciding to confess, he continues to wrestle with his emotions.

He is more candid with his family in Chapter 7 than at any previous point in the novel: he expresses love for his mother and weeps with her. When he reconnects with his emotions, he also reconnects with his faith and asks his mother to pray for him. He opens up to Dounia more than he has with anyone other than Sonia, admitting to suicidal thoughts.

But the familiar tension returns between old and new moralities, between faith and rationalizations. With Dounia, he falls back on stale excuses, claiming Alyona was worth killing. He questions whether it is worth suffering through imprisonment for his crime, and his opinion of other people is lower than ever: "Every one of them a scoundrel and a criminal at heart and, worse still, an idiot."

If all his motivations for the crime seemed accounted for, readers are in for a surprise when Raskolnikov adds one more: "Oh, if only I were alone and no one loved me and I too had never loved anyone! Nothing of all this would have happened." He fondly recalls the former fiancée who suffered from fever, as he did, but who died of it. It is another sign of Raskolnikov's twisted morality that he portrays alienation as a social good.

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