Crime and Punishment | Study Guide

Fyodor Dostoevsky

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Crime and Punishment | Part 6, Chapter 8 | Summary

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Summary

Sonia is deeply relieved to find that Raskolnikov has not killed himself. Rambling and distracted, he asks for her little wooden cross. She gives him it to him, but Raskolnikov thinks bitterly it would be more appropriate if he wore Alyona's cross. He gets irritable, snapping at Sonia for crying. He prays and crosses himself at her request but feels numb. He yells at Sonia to let him go alone to the police, not even saying good-bye. Raskolnikov does not really want to go, but his feet keep moving. Why did he go to Sonia? He denies he loves her. He concludes he wanted to see her suffer.

In the Hay Market square, Raskolnikov wants to avoid other people, but he is drawn to the crowd. He is in a heightened state of awareness, noticing everything around him. Raskolnikov recalls Sonia's words, and, weeping, he bows down and "kisse[s] that filthy earth with bliss and rapture." He notices Sonia secretly following him and realizes that she will always stay with him.

Raskolnikov arrives at the same police station where he fainted. He has decided to confess, not to Porfiry but to Ilya Petrovitch, the police lieutenant who originally suspected him. The lieutenant talks nonstop, barely letting Raskolnikov speak. Strangely, he apologizes for suspecting Raskolnikov.

Raskolnikov is shocked to learn of Svidrigaïlov's suicide. Svidrigaïlov left a note saying only that he was in his right mind and that no one was to blame for his death. Relieved of Svidrigaïlov's threat but feeling suffocated, Raskolnikov leaves the police without confessing. However, he sees Sonia outside, who looks at him despairingly. He returns and finally speaks the words: "It was I [who] killed the old pawnbroker woman and her sister Lizaveta with an axe and robbed them."

Analysis

Raskolnikov's journey from Sonia's to the police station is a mini-tour of his madness. He revisits many of his disordered mental states from the last few weeks: irrational anger, contempt, forgetfulness, and agitation. He humors Sonia by praying, then still wonders if he can avoid confessing.

However, once he reaches the Hay Market, he escapes from these thoughts into a new state of mind for him. In a fit of religious ecstasy, he bows down to kiss the ground. He is now weeping with joy.

Raskolnikov's acceptance of Sonia's cross is highly symbolic, reminiscent of the moment when Christ takes up the cross to atone for humanity's sins. But instead of seeing it as an act of redemption, Raskolnikov views it only as one of suffering, so he laughs because he was already suffering. He may now be burdened with responsibility, but the possibility of redemption is still far from his mind.

Raskolnikov's confession is almost derailed by the news of Svidrigaïlov's suicide. Svidrigaïlov's knowledge of the crime has been hanging over Raskolnikov's head. When he learns that threat no longer exists, he changes his mind about confession. Seeing Sonia's fear for him sends him back to do it finally, but it is entirely possible Raskolnikov would have kept walking away, continuing his misery, if she were not there. Raskolnikov's confession is not a magical transformation. Dostoevsky sees human beings as imperfect and paradoxical and redemption as a tough road.

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