Crime and Punishment | Study Guide

Fyodor Dostoevsky

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Crime and Punishment | Part 6, Chapters 1–2 | Summary

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Summary

Part 6, Chapter 1

For several days Raskolnikov wanders the city in a mental fog, wondering what Svidrigaïlov will do. Seeing him at Sonia's boardinghouse, Svidrigaïlov suggests they talk soon, advising him that "what all men need is fresh air, fresh air ... more than anything!" Svidrigaïlov has succeeded in helping Katerina Ivanovna's children as he promised.

Raskolnikov fears Sonia has been repulsed by his confession, but he is startled at Katerina Ivanovna's memorial service when Sonia holds his hands and leans on his shoulder. He seeks solitude but feels as if he is never truly alone. Finally, he decides to confront either Porfiry or Svidrigaïlov. He sleeps off a fever, missing Katerina Ivanovna's funeral, but wakes up feeling better.

Razumihin arrives, angry at Raskolnikov. He thinks that only a "madman" would treat his family the way Raskolnikov has treated Dounia and Pulcheria. His mother is sick with grief. She thinks Raskolnikov has abandoned her for Sonia. After checking at Sonia's, Razumihin realizes this is not true. He tells Raskolnikov he knows he has some kind of secret, however, he doesn't want the details.

Raskolnikov tells Razumihin that Dounia knows he loves her and she likely loves Razumihin too. He mentions that Dounia received an upsetting letter. He also mentions that Porfiry has told him Nikolay confessed to the murders. Drunk on love, Razumihin leaves. Raskolnikov wonders what to do next. He is unconvinced that Porfiry believes Nikolay's confession and is afraid that Razumihin knows Raskolnikov has a secret. Svidrigaïlov and Porfiry still worry him, and he considers killing them both. Porfiry unexpectedly arrives.

Part 6, Chapter 2

Porfiry acts differently than he has in earlier meetings with Raskolnikov; he says he will speak sincerely this time, with no gimmicks. Porfiry says he suspected Raskolnikov in part because of his article: he detected Raskolnikov's pride in his own ideas and suspected he might act on them. He also saw through Raskolnikov's attempts to cover his guilt but lacked proof.

Porfiry admits to his many strategies to get Raskolnikov to confess: he searched Raskolnikov's garret, manipulated Razumihin into sharing information with Raskolnikov about the case, and planted the mysterious man who labeled him a murderer. He only has one small piece of hard evidence to suggest Raskolnikov's guilt: When Raskolnikov returned to the scene of the crime, he rang Alyona's doorbell repeatedly. The rest of Porfiry's case against Raskolnikov is based on psychological speculation alone.

Porfiry describes Nikolay: he is immature and easily influenced, a fervent member of a religious group that believes in embracing suffering. Porfiry expects Nikolay to change his mind and retract his confession at any moment. Porfiry states that Raskolnikov is the killer. Raskolnikov, shocked, denies it.

Porfiry cannot prove his conclusions. He admits that arresting Raskolnikov could make Porfiry look bad and will not encourage Raskolnikov to confess. Porfiry proposes that Raskolnikov confess of his own free will, which may lessen his sentence. When Raskolnikov suggests he does not want a shorter sentence, Porfiry encourages him not to waste the rest of his life and that God may have a plan for him. He knows Raskolnikov will not run. He says, "You have long needed a change of air," echoing Svidrigaïlov's earlier advice. Porfiry gives him two days to confess; then he will arrest him. If Raskolnikov decides to kill himself, Porfiry asks him to leave a note telling where he hid the stolen items.

Analysis

Raskolnikov is in a mental fog, and he swings between apathy and anxiety. Raskolnikov can't understand how Sonia can be kind to him at Katerina Ivanovna's memorial service considering she knows he is a murderer. Razumihin, on the other hand, has again rejected the idea of Raskolnikov being a murderer as impossible, even after his silent confession. As clear-sighted as he is, Raskolnikov has gone to a place Razumihin cannot understand, and Razumihin is not eager to uncover his friend's secret.

In Chapter 2 Porfiry, who uses psychology to catch criminals, has pieced together an accurate picture of Raskolnikov's personality and mindset. While Porfiry insists he has stopped playing mind games, he has a final move: being sincere. He pulls no punches in his analysis of the killer: "He is a murderer, but looks upon himself as an honest man, despises others, poses as injured innocence." He finally tells Raskolnikov to his face, "You are the murderer," but admits he lacks the evidence to prove it. Then Porfiry makes a confession of his own: he has been manipulating the action behind the scenes to make Raskolnikov confess.

In a startling turn of events, he also expresses compassion for Raskolnikov: "You ought to thank God, perhaps. How do you know? Perhaps God is saving you for something. But keep a good heart and have less fear!" He encourages him to pray, saying this "may be God's means for bringing you to Him." Raskolnikov accurately asks Porfiry if he is a prophet, alluding to people in the Bible who carried messages from God—Porfiry is predicting his future and preparing his way to confession.

In this novel compassion can come from some startling sources, suggesting that, rather than choosing a path of alienation, it is wise to keep one's heart and mind open. Porfiry, a police detective, suddenly bears a strong resemblance to, of all people, Sonia, a prostitute. What they share is their belief in God as salvation. In Dostoevsky's world contradictions may often signal conflict or chaos, but they can also reveal unexpected connections that bring people together and ease suffering.

In both chapters fresh air appears as a powerful symbol. Raskolnikov has been figuratively suffocating himself with tortured thoughts in his hot, cramped room, and the hot streets of Saint Petersburg in July bring no relief. It is not literal fresh air he needs. He needs the renewal, or fresh air, that confession and redemption will bring. Again, two opposing characters offer him the same advice: Svidrigaïlov and Porfiry, a likely criminal and a policeman.

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