Crime and Punishment (1866)
by Fyodor Dostoevsky

The year is 1866. Four years have gone by since the freeing of the serfs, and things are getting worse:

What is to be done?

  1. Does Russia need more freedom, more capitalism? If that happens, will Russia come apart at the seams and descend into civil war?
  2. OR does Russia need a revolution which sweeps away the regime, the aristocrats, the liberals-- the whole rotten mess, so that a new government can be created which will coerce social justice?


Again the hero of the novel is a radical, but even Bazarov might cringe at some of the ideas percolating in Raskolnikov’s brain…. This impoverished student has the same thirst for social justice but his patience has reached its breaking point. Something must be done, now. But he worries...does he have the stomach for it? Does he have the will? To do so, he must draw on his own darkest impulses and use them… in the cause of social justice! If he fails? Then he must admit to himself that he is a sheep, just another member of the herd of submissive slobs whose lives are lived for them, determined by social circumstances beyond their understanding or control, the eternal victims of history.


Our central character is named Rodion Romanovich Raskolnikov. He  is described as ‘exceptionally handsome, slim, well built, with beautiful dark eyes’ A-ha! He looks just like you, but the situation he is in, ah, so different.


Konstantin Mochulsky described Crime and Punishment as a tragedy in five acts with a prologue and an epilogue. Part One, the prologue, dramatizes Raskolnikov’s preparation for and perpetration of murder.


The word for “crime” in Russian is prestuplenie which evokes the image of stepping across a threshold. Here is Raskolnikov at the threshold of the old pawnbroker's apartment in chapter one:

he rang the bell of the old woman's flat. The bell gave a faint tinkle as though it were made of tin and not of copper. The little flats in such houses always have bells that ring like that. He had forgotten the note of that bell, and now its peculiar tinkle seemed to remind him of something and to bring it clearly before him.... (6)

Raskol in Russian means ‘schism’, which alludes to the mid-17th c. schism in the Russian Orthodox Church. In 1653 Patriarch Nikon, supported by the Romanov tsar Alexis, sought to reform the Orthodox Church by bringing its liturgy and rituals into alignment with Greek Orthodox practice (thus facilitating political union with the Ukraine). This reform involved seemingly insignificant changes in Church practice: spelling Jesus’ name differently, making the sign of the cross with two fingers instead of three, and changing the direction in which religious processions should proceed. But the peasants violently opposed any change in religious ritual. Led by the arch-priest Avrakum, a great schism took place in the church. The tsar supported reform and used the issue to assert the supremacy of the crown over the church. But from that time forward, Old Believers became a substantial minority in Russia and maintained their practices despite government repression, and the issue resurfaced repeatedly over the next centuries.


Part One (pp. 3-86)

Chapter One:                   The Threshold

Chapter Two:                   Marmeladov’s Aria

Chapter Three:                 Pulcheria’s Letter: Dounia, Svidrigaylov and Luzhin

Chapter Four:                  Raskolnikov Rejects Dounia’s Sacrifice

Chapter Five:                   Raskolnikov’s Terrible Dream

Chapter Six:                     The Idea of Murder

Chapter Seven:                Across the Threshold


 Chapter One:  ‘The Threshold’ (pp. 3-11)

The novel opens as Raskolnikov, ragged and feverish, wearing a ratty German top hat, performs a thought experiment as he walks the 730 steps from the front gate of his dilapidated rooming house to the front door of a local pawnbroker’s apartment, on the fifth floor of tenement in the Haymarket District of St. Petersburg.

  • What is he testing?
  • Why does he smile at his fear of running into his landlady? (4)
  • What ideas has he become fixated upon during the past six weeks? [‘that’]


"I want to attempt a thing like that and am frightened by these trifles," he thought, with an odd smile. "Hm... yes, all is in a man's hands and he lets it all slip from cowardice, that's an axiom. It would be interesting to know what it is men are most afraid of. Taking a new step, uttering a new word is what they fear most.... But I am talking too much. It's because I chatter that I do nothing. Or perhaps it is that I chatter because I do nothing. I've learned to chatter this last month, lying for days together in my den thinking... of Jack the Giant-killer. Why am I going there now? Am I capable of that? Is that serious? It is not serious at all. It's simply a fantasy to amuse myself; a plaything! Yes, maybe it is a plaything." (3-4)

(see Pevear/Volokhonsky : "such a thing" and "babble" vs."that" )

Raskolnikov has been rehearsing a crime in his mind: the murder of an old woman, a pawnbroker. He is observing his idea as it gestates from thought to potential action. (It’s like a bubble rising through oily water towards the surface.) He slips easily into a state of fascination: he wonders how much control he will be able to exercise at the key moment. Given the right time and place, will he or the idea leap into action? 

  • Why can’t he even name the deed as he rehearses the crime in his imagination?


Compare to Macbeth (Act 1): "Two truths are told ..."

  • How concerned is Raskolnikov with the practical details that must go into planning this crime?

In the midst of these dark reveries, reality suddenly intrudes on his thoughts (like that horse sticking its nose into Akaky’s face on the street). A drunk yells at Raskolnikov, “Hey, you, German hatter!” and Raskolnikov suddenly berates himself for overlooking details… like the ratty top hat he is wearing: easily recognizable to a passerby:

... a tall round hat from Zimmerman's, but completely worn out, rusty with age, all torn and bespattered, brimless and bent on one side in a most unseemly fashion...

Six months ago, Raskolnikov had written an essay about crime (71) that was published in a local newsletter. In it he argued that most criminals get caught because they are subject to ‘childish heedlessness’ at the moment the crime is committed, when concentration and control are most needed. That’s why they get caught.  Raskolnikov believes that he can use his superior intelligence to calm these irrational impulses because…  murdering the old woman is not really a crime!  He can easily justify it. The only question is whether he has the will to act decisively, to transgress the law, cross the threshold, and establish his own higher morality.

  • What has his situation in life been like since he dropped out of college three months before?

Increasingly Desperate Poverty: After a month of ‘concentrated anguish’, Raskolnikov is going to the old woman to pawn his last valuable, his father’s watch. He is being evicted from his room. He has not eaten in two days. He is broke. He is isolated. At times, he sounds like he has given up. He is ashamed of himself and possessed by self-loathing. He babbles to himself on the street.

How long has this been going on?




The first few moments of Crime and Punishment set the tone for this extraordinary murder mystery. It’s not a ‘whodunit’. It’s a ‘whydunnit’! Why does Raskolnikov murder the old woman?

Raskolnikov himself would have you believe, “Yes, I did it! I did it! And I did it for a good reason! In fact there is no crime!” But as we witness his stream of consciousness and observe his erratic behavior, we quickly begin to question just how much control he is exerting over his actions. The real action of Crime and Punishment follows Raskolnikov as he hunts his true motivation within the depths of his psyche-- that murky region from which moral action truly springs.


Note Dostoevsky’s unique manipulation of narrative point of view: Throughout the novel, Raskolnikov is on stage 90% of the time. Dostoevsky uses a 3rd person narrator, but he locates the reader's perspective deep within Raskolnikov’s consciousness. Only rarely will the narrative establish independence from the hero’s point of view.  You need to establish your own perspective so that you can judge Raskolnikov's behavior.


As you read, also keep in mind Aristotle’s famous criteria for determining the guilt or innocence of a person suspected of murder (from Nicomachean Ethics):

  1. Did the perpetrator intend to do murder? (intention)
  2. Did he understand what he was doing at the moment he committed the crime? (knowledge)
  3. Did he have any other option? (control)


To convict, you must get an answer of ‘Yes’ for each question.


How does the setting of the story play a role in the drama? Describe the Haymarket section of St. Petersburg. Smells? Sights and sounds? Rooms?

  • What is the ghetto environment like during the summer?  

The heat in the street was terrible: and the airlessness, the bustle and the plaster, scaffolding, bricks, and dust all about him, and that special Petersburg stench, so familiar to all who are unable to get out of town in summer-- all worked painfully upon the young man's already overwrought nerves. The insufferable stench from the pot-houses, which are particularly numerous in that part of the town, and the drunken men whom he met continually, although it was a working day, completed the revolting misery of the picture. (4) 

Airless, coffin-like rooms. The nauseating stench of boiled cabbage, rotting garbage, cheap vodka, urine, excrement… the sure presence of disease: cholera, hepatitis, typhus, tuberculosis, syphilis, gonorrhea, anemia, alcoholism….

  • What social types populate this teeming slum?


Workers down on their luck, drunks, addicts, prostitutes, police… and families with children like the Marmeladovs.  In the enormous boarding house where the pawnbroker lives, tailors, locksmiths, cooks, various Germans, girls living on their own, petty clerks are also packed together.

Owing to the proximity of the Hay Market, the number of establishments of bad character, the preponderance of the trading and working class population crowded in these streets and alleys in the heart of Petersburg, types so various were to be seen in the streets that no figure, however queer, would have caused surprise (4-5).... tailors, locksmiths, cooks, Germans of sorts, girls picking up a living as best they could, petty clerks, etc. (6)


Pay particular attention to the prominence of ‘yellow’ in Dostoevsky’s descriptions of the city. The whole novel seems to have been shot in black and white, but in places, a gross yellow predominates. It is the color of the spiritual epidemic rampant in St. Petersburg, and Raskolnikov has been infected. Dostoevsky links this yellow hue to a strain of rationalism that has infected the city with liberal economic theory, utilitarian reform, nihilism, rational egoism, the Superman…

  • Describe the old woman and her flat. (6-8)

The old woman stood facing him in silence and looking inquiringly at him. She was a diminutive, withered up old woman of sixty, with sharp malignant eyes and a sharp little nose. Her colourless, somewhat grizzled hair was thickly smeared with oil, and she wore no kerchief over it. Round her thin long neck, which looked like a hen's leg, was knotted some sort of flannel rag, and, in spite of the heat, there hung flapping on her shoulders, a mangy fur cape, yellow with age. The old woman coughed and groaned at every instant....

The little room into which the young man walked, with yellow paper on the walls, geraniums and muslin curtains in the windows, was brightly lighted up at that moment by the setting sun.... The furniture, all very old and of yellow wood, consisted of a sofa with a huge bent wooden back, an oval table in front of the sofa, a dressing-table with a looking-glass fixed on it between the windows, chairs along the walls and two or three half-penny prints in yellow frames, representing German damsels with birds in their hands— that was all. In the corner a light was burning before a small ikon. Everything was very clean; the floor and the furniture were brightly polished; everything shone.

Yellowed wallpaper, yellowed wood of old furniture; yellow frames; her fur-trimmed jacket, yellowed with age. Yet the apartment is very clean! (see 61) (That is Lizaveta’s work.)

  • How does this old money lender symbolize everything wrong with this city?
  • How does a pawnbroker make a living?
  • How can Raskolnikov justify murdering her?  What logic does he use? Convincing?
  • How does Raskolnikov behave after he leaves?

Raskolnikov went out in complete confusion. This confusion became more and more intense. As he went down the stairs, he even stopped short, two or three times, as though suddenly struck by some thought. When he was in the street he cried out, "Oh, God, how loathsome it all is! and can I, can I possibly.... No, it's nonsense, it's rubbish!" he added resolutely. "And how could such an atrocious thing come into my head? What filthy things my heart is capable of. Yes, filthy above all, disgusting, loathsome, loathsome!—and for a whole month I've been...." But no words, no exclamations, could express his agitation. The feeling of intense repulsion, which had begun to oppress and torture his heart while he was on his way to the old woman, had by now reached such a pitch and had taken such a definite form that he did not know what to do with himself to escape from his wretchedness. He walked along the pavement like a drunken man, regardless of the passers-by, and jostling against them, and only came to his senses when he was in the next street. (9-10)


After stumbling into a nearby tavern and guzzling a beer, Raskolnikov feels better and rejects his compulsion as ‘some physical disorder’.

"All that's nonsense," he said hopefully, "and there is nothing in it all to worry about! It's simply physical derangement. Just a glass of beer, a piece of dry bread—and in one moment the brain is stronger, the mind is clearer and the will is firm! Phew, how utterly petty it all is!" [10]

Chapter Two:  ‘Marmeladov’s Aria’ (pp. 11-27)


‘Marmeladov’s Aria’ or ‘The Psychology of Poverty’

  • How are the poor kept in their place?
  • What prevents the poor from uniting and doing something about their poverty?

In our judgment of Marmeladov, we find answers to these questions.


In the writing of Crime and Punishment, Dostoevsky folded his idea for an earlier novel called The Drunkards based on Marmeladov and his family into the design of his murder mystery.



Semyon Zaharovitch Marmeladov: (a titular councillor ala Gogol’s Akaky Akakievich)

Katerina Ivanovna: (Marmeladov’s wife; the widow of a cavalry officer, dying from tuberculosis like Dostoevsky’s first wife who died earlier in the year in which he wrote Crime and Punishment)

Sonia (Marmeladov’s eighteen year old daughter, from his first marriage)

Katerina Ivanovna’s three children: Polenka:  a daughter aged nine, a boy aged seven and another girl aged six.

The People of Kozol the cabinet maker’s rooming house:

Lebezyatnikov (16), a money lender with a scientific theory of political economy (tough love)

Amalia Ivanovna Lippervechsel (17), the landlady of the rooming house, German

Donya Frantsova (18-19), a friend of Amalia who will later get Sonia thrown out of the building

Ivan Ivanovich Klopstock, a man for whom Sonia made shirts but never got paid

  • How does Raskolnikov meet Marmeladov?
  • How is Marmeladov dressed? (Where has he spent the last five nights?)

In the basement tavern into which Raskolnikov stumbles after his encounter with the pawnbroker, he meets Marmeladov, a regular at this bar, who looks pretty bad because he is just coming off a five day bender. Even so, Marmeladov buttonholes Raskolnikov and launches into a grand speech. (Compare to Turgnev's strange doctor in "A Country Doctor". )

He was wearing an old and hopelessly ragged black dress coat, with all its buttons missing except one, and that one he had buttoned, evidently clinging to this last trace of respectability. A crumpled shirt front, covered with spots and stains, protruded from his canvas waistcoat. Like a clerk, he wore no beard, nor moustache, but had been so long unshaven that his chin looked like a stiff greyish brush. (12-13) ..... Bits of hay were in fact clinging to his clothes and sticking to his hair. It seemed quite probable that he had not undressed or washed for the last five days. His hands, particularly, were filthy. They were fat and red, with black nails. (14)

  • What is the theme of Marmeladov’s tirade?


“My dear sir, he began most solemnly, “poverty is no vice, that is the truth. I know that drunkenness is also no virtue, and that is even more so. But destitution, my dear sir, destitution is a vice, sir.” (13)

  • What set him off on his bender five days ago? What unforgivable transgression has he committed? Why did he do it? (14)
  1. He asked a neighbor in his rooming house, Mr. Lebziatnikov for a loan, knowing that he would be turned down, but he has nowhere else to turn. (14)

Mr. Lebeziatnikov who keeps up with modern ideas explained the other day that compassion is forbidden nowadays by science itself, and that that's what is done now in England, where there is political economy. (14)

  1. When that failed, Katerina Ivanovna implored Sonia to get a ‘yellow passport’ which would allow her to start selling her body on the street. When she crosses this threshold, Sonia is thrown out of the rooming house at the behest of Frantsova and Amalia Ivanovna. (14)  (Sonia now lives at the tailor Kapernaumov’s building.)
  2. Marmeladov had already drunk up all of his savings, so he pawned Katerina Ivanovna’s angora shawl for drink, and she has subsequently caught consumption. (15) (Katerina once danced the shawl dance for  the governor.)
  3. Sonia turns her first trick.

She said: 'Katerina Ivanovna, am I really to do a thing like that?' And Darya Frantsovna, a woman of evil character and very well known to the police, had two or three times tried to get at her through the landlady. 'And why not?' said Katerina Ivanovna with a jeer, 'you are something mighty precious to be so careful of!'....

At six o'clock I saw Sonia get up, put on her kerchief and her cape, and go out of the room and about nine o'clock she came back. She walked straight up to Katerina Ivanovna and she laid thirty roubles on the table before her in silence. She did not utter a word, she did not even look at her, she simply picked up our big green drap de dames shawl (we have a shawl, made of drap de dames), put it over her head and face and lay down on the bed with her face to the wall; only her little shoulders and her body kept shuddering.... And I went on lying there, just as before.... And then I saw, young man, I saw Katerina Ivanovna, in the same silence go up to Sonia's little bed; she was on her knees all the evening kissing Sonia's feet, and would not get up, and then they both fell asleep in each other's arms... together, together... yes... and I... lay drunk." (18)
  1. Lebeziatnikov insults Sonia and beats Katerina Ivanovna when she attacks him to defend Sonia while Marmeladov lies drunk on the couch.
  2. Hope is glimpsed (five weeks ago) when Marmeladov regains his job in a government office, and the family celebrates their new 'middle class' status once again. Katerina Ivanovna affectionately refers to Marmeladov as 'my poppet'; ‘my sweet little thing’. (22)

Six days ago when I brought her my first earnings in full—twenty-three roubles forty copecks altogether—she called me her poppet: 'poppet,' said she, 'my little poppet.' And when we were by ourselves, you understand? You would not think me a beauty, you would not think much of me as a husband, would you?... Well, she pinched my cheek, 'my little poppet,' said she."
  1. Five days ago, Marmeladov steals all the money from the apartment and goes on a bender on a hay barge, deliberately destroying everything the family has accomplished. (21)
  2. When he returns to the city, in rags having sold his uniform, he begs Sonia for money so that he can have ‘a hair of the dog’, and she gives him the money she uses to ‘maintain her special cleanliness’. (22) Sonia’s compassion enables him to continue his bender one last night.
  3. The Apotheosis of Self-Pity (23) 

And He will judge and will forgive all, the good and the evil, the wise and the meek.... And when He has done with all of them, then He will summon us. 'You too come forth,' He will say, 'Come forth ye drunkards, come forth, ye weak ones, come forth, ye children of shame!' And we shall all come forth, without shame and shall stand before him. And He will say unto us, 'Ye are swine, made in the Image of the Beast and with his mark; but come ye also!' And the wise ones and those of understanding will say, 'Oh Lord, why dost Thou receive these men?' And He will say, 'This is why I receive them, oh ye wise, this is why I receive them, oh ye of understanding, that not one of them believed himself to be worthy of this.'

“Wherefore I say unto thee, Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little.” (Luke 7:47) (23)

  1. Marmeladov returns home, aided by Raskolnikov, in joyous expectation of the beating he will receive at his wife's hands.
  2. Katerina Ivanovna indeed does beat him and pulls his beard as the other residents of the floor throw open the door and laugh. (25)
  3. Raskolnikov leaves money and regrets it. (27) His conclusion?

"What a stupid thing I've done," he thought to himself, "they have Sonia and I want it myself." But reflecting that it would be impossible to take it back now and that in any case he would not have taken it, he dismissed it with a wave of his hand and went back to his lodging. "Sonia wants pomatum too," he said as he walked along the street, and he laughed malignantly—"such smartness costs money.... Hm! And maybe Sonia herself will be bankrupt to-day, for there is always a risk, hunting big game... digging for gold... then they would all be without a crust to-morrow except for my money. Hurrah for Sonia! What a mine they've dug there! And they're making the most of it! Yes, they are making the most of it! They've wept over it and grown used to it. Man grows used to everything, the scoundrel!"

He sank into thought.

"And what if I am wrong," he cried suddenly after a moment's thought. "What if man is not really a scoundrel, man in general, I mean, the whole race of mankind—then all the rest is prejudice, simply artificial terrors and there are no barriers and it's all as it should be." (27)

in Pevear and Volokhonsky, "This cleanliness costs money." He says the same thing later referring to Dunya's proposed sacrifice

  • What is the greatest horror of beggary?


People born into poverty, or those who through bad luck or poor judgment descend into the slum, come to believe that they are beggars: creatures of utter dependence and therefore utter self-loathing. They ‘have nowhere else to turn’. They have no ‘honor’, no ‘nobility of soul’ which basically means that they have no economic self-sufficiency.

  • How do beggars behave?


The chief pastime of the tavern is ridicule of those whose will has finally collapsed into drug or alcohol dependency. Katerina Ivanovna will punish her children for crying when they are hungry (thus acknowledging their weakness and dependence.)


Why did Marmeladov choose this particular moment to give up? What is Dostoevsky’s judgment of him?

Is Marmeladov responsible for his act? Are the poor responsible for the dependence and destitution of their lives?  Dostoevsky’s art reveals both sides of the argument simultaneously.

  • Why did he do it?

Because it was the only FREE choice he had left. Otherwise, the best he can be is Katerina Ivanovna’s puppet. Marmeladov’s authenticity, his claim to existence as a free human being, is tied up with the perverse pleasure he derives from suffering, from his rebellion against the determinism of self-interest.


We admire him, in a way, for rejecting his role as Katerina Ivanovna’s ‘sweet little thing’.


Even so, we cannot forgive him, as Sonia does, because her forgiveness encourages him to drink even more.


Dostoevsky emphasizes the irreconcilable contradictions of human nature. Marmeladov is a man of intelligence and genuine sensibility who deliberately descends into masochism (that sweet marmalade) and drunken self-pity. He is the would-be honorable aristocrat on the skids, reveling in the sweetness of his humiliation. Note the artfulness of his betrayal of his family, the radiance of his face as he gleefully reaches the crescendo of his story. He has chosen oblivion over alienation, drug abuse over responsibility, self-respect, even his family’s very survival. Why? Freedom is the most advantageous advantage. (Free will must be considered an essential component of any plan that seeks to achieve social change.)

Furthermore, Marmeladov has committed an unforgivable crime, and he knows it; yet he still believes that Jesus will forgive even this unforgivable crime. Why? Because he believes in the miracle of God's mercy. So through suffering he has glimpsed the irrational, unconditional comprehensiveness of Christ’s capacity to forgive. God’s mercy is unconditional.


Chapters Three and Four:  ‘Pulcheria’s Letter’ (pp. 27-52)


Raskolnikov reacts with compassion for the Marmeladovs but then berates himself, laughing cynically, for allowing sentiment to cloud his reason. He is wondering whether humans can get used to anything when he is struck by an idea:

"What if man is not really a scoundrel, man in general, I mean, the whole race of mankind—then all the rest is prejudice, simply artificial terrors and there are no barriers and it's all as it should be." (27)


The next day when he wakes up in his little room 'with yellow dusty wallpaper,' and reads a letter he has just gotten from his mother.


What news does Raskolnikov learn from Pulcheria’s letter? Can you guess why Raskolnikov’s face is wet with tears but he is smiling spitefully when he finishes reading it?  (30-39)

  1. Pulcheria has known that Raskolnikov left the university and wishes she could have sent him more money so that he could continue his studies.
  2. Raskolnikov’s sister, Dounia has left her job as a governess after suffering through a scandal that threatened her reputation. She had taken the job at Marfa Petrovna’s estate for a hundred rouble advance, sixty of which she sent along to Raskolnikov.
  3. Marfa Petrovna’s new husband, Svidrigaylov, made an amorous pass at Dounia which she kept quiet, fearing scandal.
  4. Marfa Petrovna suspected an affair and threw Dounia out of the house, publicly humiliating her and ruining her reputation.
  5. Svidrigaylov himself produced a letter which exonerated Dounia, and Marfa Petrovna, going door to door, publicly restored Dounia’s honor among the townspeople. (34)
  6. Now, though, from Raskolnikov’s point of view, Dounia is making the same mistake all over again! She has betrothed herself to Luzhin, a wealthy businessman, who might become his benefactor: a possible source of funding for his continuing education at the university.
  7. Pulcheria admits that there is no love on either side in the match, but Luzhin is a solid and decent man, a bit conceited, but quite respectable. Raskolnikov quickly figures out what he is up to. He has deliberately chosen a dowry-less bride to ensure her dependence and thus free him from allowing any compromise in the relationship.

For instance, at his second visit, after he had received Dounia's consent, in the course of conversation, he declared that before making Dounia's acquaintance, he had made up his mind to marry a girl of good reputation, without dowry and, above all, one who had experienced poverty, because, as he explained, a man ought not to be indebted to his wife, but that it is better for a wife to look upon her husband as her benefactor. (QUOTE: 36)

  1. That night Dounia went sleepless, pacing and praying before the ikon in her mother’s bedroom before she made her decision to go ahead with the match.
  2. Finally, Raskolnikov learns that the wedding group is bound for St. Petersburg. Luzhin is on business, and the women are traveling by carriage and then third class carriage at their own expense.
  • How do Raskolnikov’s mother and sister torture him with their love? (pp. 40-52)


I don't want to be the least bit in anyone's way, and for my own sake, too, would rather be quite independent, so long as I have a crust of bread of my own, and such children as you and Dounia.....

Now that everyone has heard that Dounia is to marry Pyotr Petrovitch, my credit has suddenly improved and I know that Afanasy Ivanovitch will trust me now even to seventy-five roubles on the security of my pension, so that perhaps I shall be able to send you twenty-five or even thirty roubles.

  • Why does Raskolnikov resolve that such a marriage will never take place?


He senses his mother’s secret bitterness at being forced to sacrifice a daughter for a son. Luzhin is a man of business and seems kind, but right now he is forcing his future bride and her mother to fend for themselves. His mother has had to borrow money from her pension in order to finance the trip to St. Petersbug. If this is his ‘kindness’, then what can they expect from Luzhin in the future?

  • Why is Dounia sacrificing herself? (42-44)


“I know you, Dunechka, my dear!” (43)

Why is she consenting then? What's the point of it? What's the answer? It's clear enough: for herself, for her comfort, to save her life she would not sell herself, but for someone else she is doing it! For one she loves, for one she adores, she will sell herself! That's what it all amounts to; for her brother, for her mother, she will sell herself! ....

when you have finished your studies and obtained a post...

  • How are Dounia and Sonya in the same situation? How do they respond differently? How is Raskolnikov in Marmeladov’s situation?


Why, for his sake we would not shrink even from Sonia's fate. Sonia, Sonia Marmeladov, the eternal victim so long as the world lasts. Have you taken the measure of your sacrifice, both of you? Is it right? Can you bear it? Is it any use? Is there sense in it? And let me tell you, Dounia, Sonia's life is no worse than life with Mr. Luzhin.

So you will have to 'keep up your appearance,' too. Is not that so? Do you understand what that smartness means? Do you understand that the Luzhin smartness is just the same thing as Sonia's and may be worse, viler, baser, because in your case, Dounia, it's a bargain for luxuries, after all, but with Sonia it's simply a question of starvation. It has to be paid for, it has to be paid for, Dounia, this smartness.

Once again it will be necessary 'to observe cleanliness'...It's true, isn't it? Do you understand, do you understand what this cleanliness means? Do you understand that Luzhinian cleanliness is just the same as Sonehka's cleanliness and maybe even worse, nastier, meaner, because in your case, Dunechka, this cleanliness is costly!' (44)

Dounia is revenging herself on her brother by sacrificing herself for his sake, overcoming her keen moral sense of the cheapness of her actions by arguing that somebody has to do something and now—and my brother is studying… (44) Raskolnikov recognizes that Dounia is, in essence, making the same choice as Sonia has made for the Marmeladovs, but Dounia’s life will be destroyed by it: self-hatred, recrimination, and pretense. “It’s costly, Dunechka, this cleanliness is costly!” (44)

So Raskolnikov refuses her sacrifice! The letter strikes him like a lightning bolt! This is the day when the thunderstorm long gathering in Raskolnikov’s life has broken. He must do something and now! “Or renounce life altogether!” (45)

"Do you understand, sir, do you understand what it means when you have absolutely nowhere to turn?" Marmeladov's question came suddenly into his mind, "for every man must have somewhere to turn...."

A certain thought, that certain thought now appears to him in new form: as a real actuality, and Raskolnikov nearly faints.

a month ago, yesterday even, the thought was a mere dream: but now... now it appeared not a dream at all, it had taken a new menacing and quite unfamiliar shape
  • What happens on the street when that thought enters Raskolnikov’s consciousness? (46)
  • What is the purpose of this coincidence? What is Dostoevsky the novelist up to?


A fifteen year old street walker wanders past, swinging her arms oddly, and Raskolnikov realizes that she is completely drunk. She is being followed about fifteen steps away by a ‘gentleman’. Raskolnikov intervenes to protect the girl, even calls a policeman over and explains to him what’s going on. Later he ridicules himself, again, for being so soft hearted. Realistically, his intervention will make no difference. Everywhere he looks in the Haymarket the same story is being acted out: Sonia’s story, Dounia’s story. As the utilitrian social scientists argue, a certain percentage of girls just have to go to the devil. “It freshens up the rest.” Raskolnikov is ridiculing the logic which suggests that since freedom is advantageous for the majority, than inevitable losers in society can justly be sacrificed.

  •  Why does Raskolnikov suddenly resolve to visit Razumikhin, a friend from school that he has not seen since he dropped out? (51-52)


What is Razumikhin like? We don't meet him yet, but Raskolnikov remembers his good humor, candor, good natured to a fault, intelligent, a passionate friend, tall and thin but exceptionally strong, an amazing drinker, a prankster: no misfortune can get the best of him. He is a survivor. And he had the courage to make friends with a poor, haughtily proud and unsociable man who looked down on his classmates as children: Raskolnikov himself..

Chapter 5 : Raskolnikov's Terrible Dream (52-62)


Where does Raskolnikov fall asleep?

What happens in his dream? What details are particularly affecting?

Unpack the dream’s meaning. How would you diagnose Raskolnikov’s mental state?

What connection does Raskolnikov instantly make when he awakens?

With whom does Raskolnikov have a chance encounter as he returns home?

Dostoevsky’s point?


Chapter Six: The Idea of Murder (62-74)


What coincidences have occurred during the last few weeks which, Raskolnikov believes, have shepherded forward the idea of murder?

How does Raskolnikov defend the idea of murder? What philosophical belief does he use to defend this action?

What does Raskolnikov spend most of the following day doing?

What is he thinking about as he walks toward the landlady’s apartment once again? How is his theory working out?

Part One: Chapter 7     Across the Threshold  (75-86)

Part Two (pp. 89-192)

    * Chapter 1: The Police Station

    * Chapter 2: Wandering to Razumikhin’s Apartment

    * Chapter 3: Fever Dreams

    * Chapter 4: Zosimov and Razumikhin Theorize About the Crime

    * Chapter 5: Luzhin, the Liberal Suitor

    * Chapter 6: Haymarket Nocturne

    * Chapter 7: Marmeladov’s Death and Raskolnikov’s Gift

Lesson Plan:

  • What crime has been committed? [A triple murder, for Lizaveta was pregnant.]
  • Can a case be made for Raskolnikov's defense?

[Remember Aristotle's ethical test of personal responsibility from from Nicomachean Ethics):
  • (intention) Did Raskolnikov intend to do murder? What was his goal?
  • (knowledge) Did he understand what he was doing at the moment he committed the crime? Was his action committed in ignorance of its consequences?
  • (control) Did he have any other option? Did Raskolnikov have control over his actions?

Of course, Raskolnikov would be insulted by this drift of discussion. Why?

He might defend the moral valididty of his actions using the the philosophical concept utility as the basis for his argument. (utility: any action is good if it works for the greater good of the greatest number of people.) Look at the conversation Raskolnikov recalls as he is wandering home after that terrible dream. He passes through the Haymarket and coincidentally Lizaveta is there, and he overhears her setting up a sale for the next night at 7:00 p.m. She will not be home on the night of the murder. The previous winter (63-65 Ivi), after he had been to visit the pawnbroker for the first  time to pawn the gold ring that Dunya had given him,  Raskolnikov had heard two students talking in a tavern about murdering the old woman.

"I could kill and rob that cursed old woman, and that I assure you without any remorse....What is the value of a stupid, meaningless, worthless, wicked , sick old crone, no good top anyone and, on the contrary, harmful to everyone, who doesn't know herself why she is alive, and will die on her own tomorrow?"

"Hundreds maybe thousands of lives may be put right: dozens of families saved from destitution, from decay, from ruin, from depravity, from the venereal hospitals-- all on her money. Kill her and take her money so that afterwards with its help you can devote yourself to the service of all mankind and the common cause: what do you think, wouldn't thousands of good deeds make up for one tiny little crime?... One death for hundreds of lives-- its simply arithmetic!" (65)

But even this line of reasoning might offend Raskolnikov, for his theory of crime suggests an even simpler logic for his justification of murder. Killing the old woman would prove a decisive assertion of his own personal freedom and thus his own higher morality. Justice, truth, even the nature of reality itself are defined by those people with the clarity of purpose, strength of will and iron nerve to prevail in the war of wills which constitutes society. Reality? It is composed of amorphous phenomena whose meaning is determined by the conscious manipulation of a few extraordinary individuals. These Supermen advance the process of history itself, and Raskolnikov wants to be one of them.

Consider the ambition of Raskolnikov'e aspirations! Or is it merely the depth of his conceit?

But to plumb the depths of  Raskolnikov's guilt or innocence, you have to form your own opinion. Lets observe how he truly behaves and think about what is really driving his behavior?

Look at what he actually does in Part Two. What stands out?
  • Do his actions have clearly defined goals?
  • Does he understand what he is doing? (Is he even able to distinguish between dream and reality?)
  • Does he exercise any control over his actions?
    • Or is he being driven by the 'yellow' forces outside of him?
    • Or, consider this, he may be driven by contending forces deep within his own psyche.

In all of Part Two, Raskolnikov is only conscious for what seems like ten hours of the whole week that passes after the night of the murder.

Reconstruct his movements from the time of the murder to the time of his late night reunion with his mother and sister who have just arrived from the provinces.

Part One Chapter 7     Across the Threshold  (75-86)


Contrast  Raskolnikov’s behavior just before and in the frenzied minutes after the murder.

What mistakes does he make?

How is the killing of Lizaveta different?

What happens at the threshold?

How does Raskolnikov escape?

Can Raskolnikov grasp what he has done? What inner force directs Raskolnikov’s steps? To what extent is he responsible for his actions?
  • The Murders and then the botched theft. The witnesses just beyond the threshold tinkling the tinny bell and leaving briefly enough for him to make his escape.
  • (84) Flight from the pawnbroker's apartment.
  • (86) After hiding the axe in the carpenter's shed, he collapses in his fifth floor room.

Chapter One: The Police Station (89-106)

  • (89) At around 2:00 a.m. he is awakened by the sound of desperate screaming out in the street (but that is normal in the haymarket district). He suddenly remembers everything and is seized by a terrible shivering. He leaps to his feet to check his clothes for signs of blood, stashes his loot in a hole in the wall behind his bed and collapses muttering, "God, what's wrong with me?"
  • (91-93 He is awakened the next day by a loud knocking at his door. Nastya, the servant, and the apartment caretaker are there. A police officer has issued a summons for his arrest, and Raskolnikov stands there dumbfounded, clutching the summons in one hand and his bloody sock in the other. When they leave, he puts the sock on and takes it off and then puts it on again and then bursts out laughing.
  • (94-95) Enroute to the police station on an unbearably hot day, Raskolnikov grows dizzy from the crowds and the stench and considers confessing to everything he has done as soon as he gets there.
  • The walls of the police station have just been coated with rancid paint and the place stinks.
  • At the station Raskolnikov listens to a fat German lady with a blotchy face explain how a customer at her brothel had gotten his coat torn in a squabble. He had been trying to play the piano with his foot and then had been squealing like a pig out the window before he was subdued. (99)
  • (98) After arguing with a bad tempered police officer, Raskolnikov discovers that he has been summoned to pay a debt of 115 roubles that he owes his landlady. (She has sold his IOU to a loanshark named Cheberov.) (Why is she angry?)  Raskolnikov starts telling everyone in the office his life story: how he had gotten engaged to his landlady's daughter (more out of pity than of love) and then the poor sickly girl had died of typhus. He vacillates between elated relief (when he realizes that they do not suspect him) and revulsion at himself, all in an instant. At one point he describes a new sensation of intense depression , one he has never experienced. (103-04) He considers confessing and then hears the inspectors discussing the pawnbroker's murder. Two suspects, the housepainters, have been apprehended. Raskolnikov promptly faints at the news, drawing the attention of all the cops in the room and implicating himself. (105)

  • Describe Raskolnikov's reaction when he is awakened (by screams) at 2:00 am and then suddenly remembers everything. Describe his psychological condition? How long has he been ill with fever? What does he fear? ["What can it be starting? Can the the reckoning come so soon?" (91)] What has he done with the loot? (89) What about his clothes?
  • What is he holding when the caretaker knocks at his door with the summons to the police station?    (91-92)
  • Describe the scene at the police station: (95-96)
  • Why has Raskolnikov been summoned?
  • Decribe Ilya Petrovich, the police chief's assistant. Why does he start screaming at Raskolnikov?  (97)
  • What is the complaint against Luise Ivanovna, the large German lady who reeks of perfume? (99)
  • Why does Raskolnikov tell the story of his engagement to the landlady's daughter?
  • But what happens to his mood moments later? (103) How does he describe the sensation? Note this moment carefully. What is happening to him? Raskolnikov even considers confessing to Nikodim Fomich when he hears what the detective is saying. How does Raskolnikov react? (105)

Chapter Two: Wandering to Razumikhin’s Apartment (107-117)
  • (106) When he comes to, looking at a glass of yellowish water, he excuses himself and hurries home convinced that a search of his apartment is imminent. He grabs the loot out frombehind the wallpaper and wanders the streets looking for a place to throw it all in the river. (Like the poor barber trying to get rid of Kovalyev's nose). Finally, he notices a broken down shed and hides everything under a stone in its back lot.
  • Raskolnikov then wanders, unconciously, to Razumikhin's building on Vasilieyevsky Island, and his friend welcomes Raskolnikov warmly, even offering him money for a translation job. Raskolnikov accepts the money then hands it back and walks away.
  • Enroute home he wanders into traffic on the Nikolaevsky Bridge and gets whipped by coachman. Raskolnikov stands at 'his spot' on the bridge and is handed a 20 kopeck piece by a passerby because he looks so pathetic. He flings the coin into the river, wanders the streets for another six hours, and then collapses.
  • He awakens some time that night convinced that the police lieutenant from that morning is beating his landlady on the stairs of his building. He is hallucinating. Nastasya tells him, " is the blood, the blood clamoring in you."


  • After Raskolnikov stashes the loot, he wonders if he did the murder for any practical reason. What evidence is there that he had no practical reason, no matter what he tells himself?
  • How did he wind up on Razumikhin’s doorstep? (What part of his nature is directing his actions)
  • How does Razumikhin offer to help Raskolnikov? How does he respond?
  • Where does he wander off to next?
  • Look carefully at the moment when Raskolnikov is standing on the Nikolevsky Bridge looking at the Winter Palace and the Cathedral of St. Isaccs. This used to be his favorite spot in the city. How does he feel now?
  • When Raskolnikov gets home he faints into an uneasy slumber and believes he hears Lt. Gunpowder beating his landlady on the stairway…. but it is a dream.


Paragraph: What realm is Raskolnikov slipping into?

Chapter Three: Fever Dreams (117-131)

  • Fever descends and Raskolnikov spends the next four days raving and delerious, clutching his bloody sock. He vaguely remembers Nastasya and some else in the room....When he reaches consciousness, an absolute stranger is standing next to his 'sofa' who announces that he wants to give him 35 roubles. Raskolnikov cannot decide whether he is hallucinating again or not.
  • Razumikhin enters and sits next to him, feeding him, and explaining how half of St. Petersburg has been in his room while he raved about bulldogs and socks. Visitors even included the Police Chiev Zametov. Razumikhin tells him everything will be ok. He has already succeeded in charming  Pashenka the landlady and Nastasya the maid. He has found out that Pashenka only brought suit against him only because her feelings had been hurt. The note has been recovered from Cheberov.
  • When everyone finally leaves, Raskolnikov flings himself around the room looking for incriminating evidence, resolves to flee to America, guzzles a beer and passes out.
  • He awakens late that afternoon. Razumikhin is there Razumikhin with new clothes (a hat , breeches and a coat)  for his friend. Dr. Zossimov is there too. They chat about what everybody else in the district is on about: the pawnbroker and Lizaveta's murders.

  • For the next four days, can Raskolnikov distinguish between his dreams and reality? (Nearly every character in the novel comes to visit him while he is raving.)
  • When Raskolnikov regains full consciousness, who is standing before him in his room? 
  • What has Razumikhin been doing for Raskolnikov during his fever? Describe his character. How does Raskolnikov respond to Razumikhin's efforts?
  • When everone leaves, Raskolnikov gets up to flee to America, guzzles a beer and then passes out. When he awakens, Razumikhin is there with a fresh set of clothes.

 Chapter Four: Zosimov and Razumikhin Theorize About the Crime( 131-142)

  • The talk of the town is the double murder. Razumikhin does not believe that the housepainters are guilty. He despises the new 'psychological theories' of crime touted by the Police Inspector, one Porfiry Petrovich. What is the evidence implicating them? Stolen earrings (accidentally dropped by Raskolnikov when he hid briefly in the newly painted flat on the second floor) have been  traced to the pawnbroker's apartment from another shop, pawned by housepainter Nikolay, who has been on a bender and got so upset when he heard he was under suspicion for the murders thathe nearly hung himself.
  • Razumikhin dismisses Nikolay's guilt. How could he have been wrestling  and laughing with his co-worker moments after killing the old lady and Lizaveta?  The earings had to have been dropped there, Razumikhin theorizes, by the real killer!

  • Razumikhin has moved his residence to be closer to Raskolnikov's garrett and he is throwing himself  a house warming party that very night to which he has invited everyone. Dostoevsky's purpose in focusing on the gregarious, irrepressible Razumikhin at this moment in the novel's action?
  • The main topic of conversation at the party is sure to be the recent double murder.Who are the suspects that the police have in custody? What is the evidence that the police have against them?
  • What theory about the crime do Dr. Zossimov, Razumikhin and Nastasya discuss?  
  • Why does Razumikhin dismiss the evidence? (140) What new theory of the crime does he propose? 
  • How is Dostoevsky teaching us to 'read' Raskolnikov through Razumikhin's example?

 Chapter Five: Pyotr Petrovich Luzhin (142-154)

What impression does the arrival of Luzhin, Dunya's fiancee, make on the crowd gathered in Raskolnikov's garrett? (How many people are in there now?) How is Luzhin dressed?


What accomodations is Luzhin planning to room Dunya and Pulcheria when they arrive in town? Where is Luzhin staying?


Raskolnikov's guests launch into a philosophical debate about the value of the 'new ideas' that have been circulating through St. Petersburg during recent months. What is Luzhin's impression of these new ideas? (QUOTE 147; 148-49) What is Razumikhin's response? 


Dr. Zosimov brings the conversation back to the subject of the murders. Razumikhin discloses that his uncle, the detective Porfiry Petrovich, is interviewing all the clients of the old pawnbroker. 


Why does Razumikhin think that the killer must have been new to crime? 


What is Luzhin's theory behind the recent increase in violent crime? (151)


Raskolnikov breaks in and lambasts Luzhin, claiming that his theory leads directly to crime. Explain his reasoning. What exuse does Raskolnikov use for threatenng to throw Luzhin down the stairs.

 Chapter Six: Haymarket Nocturne  (154-74)


What is Raskolnikov planning to do when he gets up to go as soon as his guests have left?


What does he see in the Haymarket? (QUOTE 155)


Describe his encounter with the streetwalker Duklida. (157-58)


Raskolnikov concludes his wandering at a tavern named "The Crystal Palace". Describe the original Crystal Palace.  (backgrounds)


What does Raskolnikov read about in the newspapers at the bar?


What game does Raskolnikov play with the Police Clerk Zamyotov? (159-166) What is he trying to prove to himself? (He even confesses to Zamyotov! (165))


What is really driving Raskolnikov's behavior?

  1. "Yes I did it and I did so for very good reasons!"
  2. "Yes, I did it, but you can't prove it! I am the one who defines reality in this story!"
  3. "Bless me, Father, for I have sinned."
After leaving the 'Crystal Palace', Raskolnikov runs into Razumikhin. He tells his friend to bugger off. What is Razumikhin afraid that Raskolnikov might be on the verge of doing?

At the bridge, Raskolnikov is on the verge of jumping but what happens instead (which saves his life)? (168-69)

He resolves to confess, but what does he do instead?

What are the workmen about to do when their attention is distracted by a crowd at the end of the street? what has happened there?

Chapter Seven: Marmeladov's Death and Raskolnikov's Gift (175-193)

How does Raskolnikov intervene again to help this family?

How does the precense of the  Marmeladov children add to the horror of the scene? 

Describe how Dostoevsky welcomes Sonia on to the stage of the action of the novel.

Describe Raskolnikov's moment with Polenka outside the apartment building. (186-88)

How does Raskolnikov interpret what has happened within him?

What is the  topic of discussion at Razuimikhin's party?

Who does Raskolnikov believe is waiting for him when he sees the light in his garret apartment?


Part Three (197-278)

·  Chapter 1: Razumikhin in Love

·  Chapter 2: St. Petersburg Parlor Game: Does Crime Exist?

·  Chapter 3:  Raskolnikov on Dounia’s Planned Marriage

·  Chapter 4:  Sonia’s Entrance

·  Chapter 5:  Raskolnikov’s 1st Interview with Porfiry Petrovich

·  Chapter 6:  Raskolnikov on the Slippery Slope

Is Raskolnikov guilty or not guilty?

On your judgment of Raskolnikov's autonomy rests your own political stance. If he is guilty, you are siding with the soft-determinist position of liberals who hold all individuals responsible for their actions regardless of the conditions of their upbringing. If you believe Raskolnikov is not guilty, then you are a determinist and a socialist. His acts were induced by the impoverished conditions of his life since he dropped out of school six months before.

Dostoevsky may be asking us to consider a third position. How can both positions be right? Like Hamlet, Raskolnikov is and is not mad. Can he not be in rational control of his actions and still be guilty? In this model of human nature, moral choice does not take place on the rational level of consciousness. Raskolnikov may not have any way of grasping the conflict tearing him up, yet he still has free choice. We can see the goodness of his character expressed time and time again in impulsive acts of compassion. Evil, in Dostoevsky, possesses the same impulsive character. Reason is used to justify our choices whether cruel or kind. Reason merely offers the illusion of systematic choice, but we seize on logic most often to coerce others into agreeing with us. Ultimately, we make our choices either selflessly or selfishly, and that is where we are free according to Dostoevsky.

In Parts Three and Four of Crime and Punishment, Dostoevsky's dramatization of the ideological debate in Russia during the 1860's shifts into a new phase. He completely demolishes the use of utilitarian models of social justice, whether liberal or socialist. Luzhin will be banished from the action. Raskolnikov reveals him to be a mere sensualist posing as an Enlightened businessman, and Dunya recognizes the futility of playing his game. Raskolnikov, though, is also forced to question his own rational justifications for using violence to achieve the end of social justice. As he becomes more and more aware of his true motives, new characters play more important roles in the action:

  • Razumikhin and his "Russian reason": spontaneous compassion, love of political debate, friendship, women, food, honesty, pleasure and goodness.
  • Sonia and her faith in the miraculous power of love
  • Porfiry Petrovich, the hard determinist, with his proto-Marxist rubber ball, is the last Westernizer left on the playing field. Relying on  psychological analysis, he  believes that he can predict Raskolnikov's choices. He is another of the great 19th c. detectives with Poe's Dupin, Hugo's Javert, and ultimately Conan-Doyle's Sherlock Holmes. He redefines the environment of poverty to include, in addition to economic forces, the ideas generated from suffering. 

and a new character enters the action directly from Raskolnikov's nightmares:

  • Svidrigaylov, the proto-fascist: the autonomous man of action; he insists on absolute freedom and is an adventurer in the darkest realms of sensual gratification; in Dostoevsky's view, he is the most dangerous person in St. Petersburg...

Chapter 1: Razumikhin in Love  (197-209)
Chapter 2: St. Petersburg Parlor Game: Raskolnikov? (210-222)
Chapter 3:  On the Limits of Individual Autonomy (222-235)
Chapter 4:  Sonia’s Entrance (236-48)

Political Spectrum:

Place the following characters in their political slot:

Porfiry Petrovich
Sonia Marmeladov
Dunya Raskolnikov


Radical Westernizer Liberal Westernizer Fascist Westernizer Radical Slavophile Conservative Slavophile Old Believer Theocracy 

Razumikhin's Russian Reason:

Describe Razumikhin’s behavior from the moment that he meets Dunya and Pulcheria. (201 ff)

Why does Razumikhin love Dunya? (declaration 203) (narration 205) (flashing eyes 199)

What ideological point is Dostoevsky making about the champions of reason (both liberal and socialist) who insist upon the arithmetic of utility (computing ‘advantage’)? (QUOTE 202)

So, what, then, is “Russian reason”?  What, though,  is the big problem with Razumikhin's approach to people? (see 190; 245)

How is Raskolnikov like Razumikhin? (Why does Razumikhin like him so much?) (215-217) (224-25) (231) How is he different from Razumikhin? Why does he despise it when others help him? Why does he despise himself when he helps others? What, for Raskolnikov, is the only tolerable way to live?

How could such compassionate idealism be wrong (according to Raskolnikov)? (227) How does real change take place according to the liberal or the socialist?

A Mother's Intuition:

As the ladies ready themselves to go to Raskolnikov’s garret, Pulcheria suddenly remembers a dream she had the night before about Marfa Petrovna, the late wife of Svidrigaylov (221)… Later when Raskolnikov declares that Pulcheria should not be so sure of his goodness, she mentions Marfa Petrovna again and recounts the circumstances of her death. What is Dostoevsky up to? Look at what Raskolnikov is thinking at that moment (229). How do moments like these fit into Dostoevsky's conception of the way that the mind really works... Are these choices determined by environmental factors? Do we make our most  fundamental moral decisions by relying on reason or intuition?

What is the root cause of Raskolnikov's crime? What is Zossimov’s suggestion about how to cure Raskolnikov’s illness? (diagnosis of monomania 206) (root cause 223)

Luzhin's Proposal:

What does Raskolnikov tell Dunya about her marriage plans as soon as he has gathered his thoughts? (198-99) (232) 

The conversation then turns to Dunya’s planned marriage to Luzhin. How does Dunya defend her choice? (232-33)

Look at Raskolnikov’s analysis of Luzhin’s letter. (234-35) How does he criticize Luzhin’s whole mindset?

What is wrong with Dunya's motivations? She says that she is doing it in her self-interest, but what is her real intention?

How does Dostoevsky comment on this consideration of liberal ethics by having Sonia enter at this moment? (236)

Sonia's Entrance:

Why has Sonia come to Raskolnikov's flat?

Why is Sonia humiliated when Raskolnikov invites her to sit down? (how many people are in his room now?)

How has Sonia’s choice been any different from Dunya’s?

When Sonia leaves, she senses a whole new world opening for her. What has happened? Who follows her home? (243-45) What is Dostoevsky’s point?

Chapter 5:  Raskolnikov’s 1st Interview with Porfiry Petrovich (248-67)

At the end of Part Two chapter 4 (245-48), Razumikhin accompanies Raskolnikov to meet Porfiry Petrovich, the chief detective assigned to the double murder case. En route to Porfiry’s house, Raskolnikov comments to himself on his friend’s naiveté as the evidence mounts against him (he knew the pawnbroker; his name was on a card with his father’s watch).  Raskolnikov is excited, though, looking forward to the test of wills coming with this detective who already is suspicious of him.


From Raskolnikov's point of view, what are the stakes involved in his contest with Porfiry?

  • He is testing whether he can win in this contest of wills and prove to himself that he is a superman..
  • If not, he may just end it all by confessing or throwing himself into the river.


He says to himself, “I’ll have to sing Lazarus for him too… and sing it naturally….Is it good that I am going, or not good? A moth flying into the candle-flame. My heart is pounding—that’s not good!...”


How do Razumikhin and Raskolnikov enter the house? (248)


Who is there that Raskolnikov did not expect? (249)


Describe Porfiry Petrovich. What does he look like? (250)


How does he try to work on Raskolnikov’s nerves as the interview proceeds?

  • How does Porfiry let Raskolnikov know that ‘the game’s afoot’? (251)
  • “I’ve been sitting here a long time waiting for you.” (252)
  • “the ring and the watch, she had wrapped up in one piece of paper, with your name clearly written on it…” (252)
  • Sympathy for Raskolnikov’s ‘complete delirium’ (253)


Raskolnikov’s stream of consciousness. (QUOTE 254-55) Is he in rational control?


Porfiry moves the conversation to a discussion of psychology, and therefore politics. From which political perspective will Porfiry argue?

  • Socialist Founding Principle (the eternal question): “Is there such a thing as crime or not?” (255) How is this argument far more powerful than the argument for social justice according to utility?
  • As Razumikhin explains, “Crime is a protest against the abnormality of the social set up—that alone and nothing more, no other causes are admitted—but nothing!” (256)


Razumikhin speaks first. How does he seek to rebut the most basic premise of socialism? QUOTE (256-57) He finally offers the case of a forty year old man who molests a girl of ten and questions whether the argument can be made that “the environment made him to it.” (257)

How can Porfiry argue the opposite, even in the case of the forty year old child molester? (257)


Clearly, Porfiry agrees with this theory: “Environment means a great deal in crime; I can confirm that.” (257) And he will attempt to demonstrate the validity of the theory right then… with Raskolnikov. Why is Porfiry convinced that he can get Raskolnikov to confess? (How does it fit into his theory about crime?)  


As he proceeds with his attempt to draw out Raskolnikov’s conscience, Porfiry refers to the article on crime which Raskolnikov had written six months before.


How does Raskolnikov articulate his theory? (258-63)

  • How does he distinguish between the ordinary and the extraordinary criminal? (259)
  • How does history move forward according to this theory? (260)
  • What form of government, ultimately, is Raskolnikov justifying?
  • What is the burden of the elite? (264) (shedding blood in all conscience) (263)

What gives Porfiry the ability to read Raskolnikov’s mind?  After justifying transgression in the name of the New Jerusalem, Porfiry asks him whether he believes in God and the raising of Lazarus. (261) What has he figured out about Raskolnikov?

After harping on the word ‘conscience’ as Raskolnikov describes the psychological burden of the extraordinary man, Porfiry pops the big question: “…when you were writing the articlas you did not regard yourself—say, just the tiniest bit—as one of the extraordinary people?” (265)

Raskolnikov says, “It’s quite possible.” And Razumikhin stirs with the first inkling of his friend’s true nature.

Porfiry laughs, winks at him, and asks, hypothetically of course, if he was able to  ‘step over the obstacle…’? Zamyotov bluntly calls out, “Might it not have been some future Napoleon who bumped off our Alyona Ivanovna last week?

How does Porfiry, at the ned of the interview, nearly trick Raskolnikov into revealing his guilt? (266-67)

Chapter 6:  Raskolnikov on the Slippery Slope (267-78)

What does Porfiry do to rattle Raskolnikov when he gets home? (271)

What is Raskolnikov’s reaction to the accusation? (QUOTE 273) Observe his stream of consciousness as he wonders whether he is capable of freedom (274-75)

Describe the nightmare Raskolnikov has as he falls asleep. (277-78) Interpret its meaning.

When he awakens from the nightmare, who is standing in his room? (278) Has Raskolnikov summoned him from the depths of his psyche?

Dostoevsky’s point? What place does Dostoevsky take in the debate about free will and responsibility? What aspects of the mind function in us even in the most extreme conditions?  Even if Raskolnikov's reason has been befuddled, how can Dostoevsky hold him responsible for his actions? What are the terrible consequences that are unfolding within Raskolnikov as he pursues absolute freedom? 

Part Four (281-358)

In Part Four the rising action of the novel nears its climax:

What were Raskolnikov's original objectives? Has he come close to achieving them?

Raskolnikov sought to master his conscience and establish the autonomy of his rational will. His goal throughout has been to demonstrate to himself that he is capable of the moral will to use terror in the service of social justice. Just as urgently, he wants to prove to himself that he can assert his own perfect freedom and thus exercise the power to shape his own identity.

How does Raskolnikov's quest relate to the moral issues involved in devising a political structure for a country whose people have long been tyrannized by the ruling elite?

After the failures of liberalism throughout Europe, the political intelligentsia had begun to to consider more radical approaches to achieving social change. On the left, radical socialists regarded freedom as less important than equality, an equaliy that would be implemented violently and enforced by a ruling elite.  Raskolnikov goes beyond even Bazarov by not just contemplating but actually using violence as a tool of social engineering. He is not simply another tree in the forest. He is in control of his destiny. He is extraordinary and so grants himself the right to join the revolutionary elite, but to do the killing, his repulsion against violence has to be silenced. Raskolnikov has failed to achieve his objective.

To Porfiry Petrovich, how does this failure demonstrate that his hard determinist social theory is correct?

Porfiry does not believe that any human can assert perfect independence from the environment into which he or she is born. To a large degree, environment determines our destiny. free will is merely an illusion.

How do we apply the action of Crime and Punishment to our thinking about the central moral problem of modern society?

Radical Westernizer Liberal Westernizer Fascist Westernizer Radical Slavophile Conservative Slavophile Old Believer Theocracy 

What is to be done about the appalling poverty and suffering which exist in our cities?

Remember Dostoevsky's lifelong artistic obsession with the irreconcilable conflict between freedom and social justice. "Without freedom, a moral existence is impossible, yet freedom ensures inequality-- the abuse of the freedom of others." Classical Liberals insist that a free society gives everyone an equal chance at success. Radical Liberals, using utilitarian ethics, tolerate poverty as long as it only exists among a minority of the population. Both would agree that freedom is essential to generating the wealth necessary to create upward mobility.

The socialist refuses to accept poverty in any form and would sacrifice freedom in order to eliminate poverty completely. The socialist would accept the idea that the economy of this society would not generate enormous wealth. The socialist would accept infringements on individual liberty and even recognize the government's right to force dissenters to cooperate with the plan. The socialist would even recognize that social justice probably can never be attained through reform. Only revolution, with all of its violence, will succeed in eliminating the people who would oppose socialism. Only then would the government have the power to fix the environment and eliminate crime.

This may be Porfiry Petrovich's ultimate plan, but what of Dostoevsky?

What has Raskolnikov's failure to overmaster his conscience meant to him?

Raskolnikov has begun to understand the real reasons which provoked his plunge into violence. His bumbling  mistakes, driven by fever and rage, have so humiliated his ego that he can no longer explain his actions to himself as noble or just, and he cannot qualm the terrible psychic damage of his deed. To justify himself to himself, all he can claim now is that he did murder just to be free and to revel in his humiliation... just like poor Marmeladov's suicidal bender. Can he do evil just for the sake of being free, just for the sensual gratification inherent in dominating another's will completely? What perception of his crime is dawning in Raskolnikov's consciousness?

How has Raskolnikov's affect been changing as the action progresses?

It is at this stage of the action that Svidrigaylov materializes. Dostoevsky creates a mirror character to Raskolnikov who can demonstrate to him the ultimate consequences of supressing the conscience. He materializes in Raskolnikov's room because he has been summoned by Raskolnikov from somewhere deep inside his psyche: there, he knows that he is losing to Porfiry in the test of wills, and there he is also aware that he is falling in love with Sonia.

Chapter 1: Svridrigaylov's Gambit (281-294)

Arkady Ivanovich Svidrigaylov:
  • Which social class does he belong to? (Why has the peasant reform not affected him? (285))
  • What type of man is he?
  • What makes him Russian? ("Why not be a vulgar fellow for a while- the attire is so well suited to our climate, and ... especially if that is also one's natural inclination." (284))

How did he get involved with Marfa Petrovna? (285)

What crimes has he committed? What does he hint at? You have to piece it together with your own imagination.
  • Marfa Petrovna (282) Did he beat her? How did she die? (Women deny it but they enjoy being beaten. (283))
  • A deaf and dumb girl of fifteen living with Madame Resslich, according to rumor, was abused by him and later found hanging in the attic.(298-99)
  • The servant Filka who haunts him (288) died six years ago, still in the time of serfdom. . Fillipp was a sort of hypochondriac and a home made philosopher who hanged himself as a result ofhis mockery.
  • How has he spent his life? (293)
  • the girl in the water in the winter? (479)
  • Parasha, dark eyed Parasha (475)
  • thirteen year olds doing the cancan (481)
  • [Reference to the "Egyptian Nights scandal" (1861) (283) as Svidrigaylov discusses whether women deserve beating. During the spring of 1861, a scandal had erupted over a reading at a literary festival of Pushkin's short story "Egyptian Nights". In this story Cleopatra offers herself for a night of love to any man willing to sacrifice his life. A local woman, Mme. Tolmachev, had delivered the story at the festival in a provocative way and members of the intelligentsia were divided in their responses. Many condemned her for her licentiousness and called into  question whether emanciaption of women was a good idea. Dostoevsky argued in print for freedom of speech.]

Now, though, he has become very bored. He is only interested in 'physical anatomy'.

What consequences is he suffering from his crimes?
  • Marfa Petrovna's ghost (286):  Did you wind the clocks? Shall I tell your fortune? What do you think of my new dress?
  • "Filka, my pipe!"
  • His theory of the afterlife: why do ghosts only appear to sick people? 
  • Eternity: a village bath house covered with soot and with spiders int he corner (289)
  • What has he resolved to do in the next few days?

What does he want from Raskolnikov? What is Svidrigayov's gambit?
  • They are apples from the same tree (290)..  kindred spirits (287)
  • He wants access to Dunia:  He offers her 10,000 roubles and informs her that she was left 3000 in Marfa Petrovna's will. What does he hope for in return? How is he trying to seduce her?
  • I do not take the privilege of doing only evil... (Is he merely mimicing Raskolnikov's impulsive goodness?)

Doestoevsky's inspiration for his depiction of Svidrigaylov: 
  • Svidrigaylov exemplifies Dostoevsky's psychology of decadence. For Dostoevsky, the depiction of Cleopatra in Pushkin's "Egyptian Nights" described the moral-psychic disorder induced by complete satisfaction and satiation. Cleopatra's world is one in which all faith has been lost, and since the future offers nothing, everything must come from the present: a world shorn of whatever splendors of the imaginary or the transcendant it may once have contained. (the radical socialist's mechanical 'paradise') Cleopatra is the representative of this type of society, She has exhausted all the byways of eroticism, so something extra now is needed. She mingles sensuality with the cruelty of an executioner. She is the female spider who devours the male at the instant of sexual union.  During the 1850's Herzen had compared the state of Western Europe after 1848 with that of Rome in its decline, and he spoke of Russia's impending social revolution as parallel to the moral rejuvenation provided for the ancient world by the arrival of Christianity. Chenyshevsky had responded to Herzen in his article "On the Reasons for the Fall of Rome" (1861). He argued that Rome had been brought to its knees by attacks of the barbarians rather than through internal decay. (Frank, Dostoevsky: The Stir of Liberation (86-88) 

Chapter 2: The Show Down with Luzhin (295-306)  

  • How does Luzhin justify to himself his choice of an impoverished noble woman to be his wife? (302)

"marriage to a poor girl who has already experienced life's grief is, in my view, more profitable with regard to matrimony than one who has known prosperity, for it is better for morality..."
  • How does Marfa Petrovna's legacy to Dunia mess up his plans? (304)
  • How does he finally blow it with Dunia? (304)

First, he slips and admits that he knew of Marfa Petrovna's bequest to Dunya but did not tell her about it. (300) Then, he suggests that Svidrigailov now has an advantage over him in regards to Dunya's hand because he can offer her more money than he can. (304)
  • What is the real truth about Luzhin's intentions? (307-08)

a secret and cherished though of his: "... he entertained rapturous thoughts of a well-behaved and poor girl (she must be poor), very young, very pretty, well born and educated, very intimidated, who had experienced a great many misfortunes and was utterly cowed before him, a girl who would all her life regard him as her salvation, stand in awe of him, obey him, wonder at him and at him alone. How many scenes, how many delectable episodes he had created in imagination on this playful and seductive theme..." (307)
  • Articulate Dostoevsky's analysis of the reform minded liberal's objectives when he seeks to aid the destitute and the defenseless.
  • What of Luzhin's moral judgement of poor people like Sonia? (303) Should she have found another job? Should she have abandoned her family instead of going down to the corner?
  • Compare Luzhin's proposal with Svidrigaylov's. How are they different? (philanthropy vs. caritas)

Chapter 3: Razumikhin's Happy Ending..... dashed! (306-314)
  • What is Razumikhin's plan? Where will he find the capital to set up the business? (310-11)

First, he has an uncle with capital of a thousand roubles. combine that with the money that Marfa Petrovna has left Dunya, and we will be able to start a publishing business. "We'll translate, and publish, and study, all at the same time." (311)
  • What is Raskolnikov's response? (313)
  • When does Razumikhin realize the truth about Raskolnikov? (314)

What is Dostoevsky's implied ideological point about Razumikhin's dream?

Chapter 4: Sonia's Room: The Raising of Lazarus (314-331)

It is now 10:00 pm, and Raskolnikov has left his family and gone to Sonia's room in Kapernaumov the tailor's house.
  • Remember who her next door neighbor is? (Unpack Dostoevsky's point.) (315)
  • Earlier in the novel Raskolnikov described Sonia as one of the suffering poor who have existed from the beginning of time.  He says she possesses 'insatiable compassion' (318).
  • How does Sonia judge herself? Is she a woman of loose morality who prostitutes herself to satisfy decadent appetite? (319)

No, she instead judges herself for failing to respond to Katerina Ivanovna's wish for a cheap cuff that she thought was pretty. "It wasn't because of the collars [that she was upset] but because I refused." (319)
  • What is certain to happen to Katerina Ivanovna? (320) What will happen then to her children? Polenka? (321) When Raskolnikov says that the children will wind up in the street, how does Sonia respond?

"Oh, no! God won't let it happen!" (320)
  • How does  Raskolnikov judge her? Why does Raskolnikov consider her immoral? What does he think of her comapssion and self sacrifice? (322-23) The three choices?

" are a sinner becaue you deestroyed yourself and betrayed yourself in vain. Isn't that a horror!.... you're not helping anyone by it, and not saving anyone from anything!" (322)

"Three ways are open to her: to throw herself into the canal, to go to the madhouse, or... or, finally, to throw herself into a depravity that stupefies reason and petrifies the heart." (323)

What is Dostoevsky's ideological point?
  • Raskolnikov bows and kisses Sonia's feet. (321) It is for her that he believes he committed his crime, but is that really true....Why does he ask her to read the story of the Raising of Lazarus? (John 11:19-32)

  • Central Image of the Novel: the murderer and the prostitute at prayer (328)

"The candle-end had long been burning out in the bent candlestick, casting a dim light in this destitute room upon the murderer and the harlot strangely come together over the reading of the eternal book."  (328)
  • What would Raskolnikov do instead? What is to be done? (329-30)

"What can be done? Smash what needs to be smashed, once and for all, and that's it-- and take the suffering upon ourselves! What? You don't understand? You'll understand later... Freedom and power, but above all, power! Over all trembling creatures, over the whole antheap!" (329-30)
  • Who is discovered to have been listening to this remarkable love scene with great pleasure? (330)

Dostoevsky's Point?

Chapter 5: The Final Test: Raskolnikov's Second Meeting With Porfiry Petrovich (331-350)
Chapter 6: Nikolay the House Painter (350-58)

  • Why does Raskolnikov go to Porfiry Petrovich's office? (333)

He wants to deliver the formal paper on which he has listed his request for his goods to be returned which had previously pawned with the old woman. But he also wants to confront Porfiry and find out what he knows.
  • How does Porfiry receive him? (What is his plan?) (Who is waiting behind the door?)

Note that Raskolnikov already knows what is coming and says as much. (334)
  • Porfiry's plump figure is described as being "like a ball rolling in different directions and bouncing off the walls and corners". Why is a rubber ball the perfect metaphor for a determinist criminologist?
  • Why does Porfiry believe that Raskolnikov will ultimately incriminate himself? (340-42)

"No, he won't run away from me, not just because he has nowhere to run to : psychologically, he won't run away on me, heh! heh! He won't run away on me by a law of nature, even if he has omsewhere to run to. Have you ever seen a moth by a candle?.... He'll fly right into my mouth and I'll swallow him, sir..." (340)

"It's human nature that helps the poor investigator out, that's the trouble!.... Human nature is a mirror, sir, the clearest mirror." (342)
  • Does Porfiry beleive that Raskolnikov is guilty? Is this criminal responsible for his actions? (345-48)

"An illness, Rodion Romanovich, an illness! You've been neglecting your illness to much, sir.... You're delerious! You're doing all this simply and solely in delerium!"(346)

"... you've got some monomania sitting in you." (346)
  • How does Raskolnikov zing Porfiry after Nikolay the house painter rushes in to confess to the murders? Porfiry's reponse?

What is Dostoevsky's purpose in having Nikolay the house painter interrupt the scene? (351-52) What is he saying about Porfiry's political philosophy?

Part Five (359-436)

Dostoevsky concluded the interrogation scene between Porfiry and Raskolnikov with the criminal on the verge of confession. The scene seemed designed to corroborate Porfiry's hard determinist theories about human nature and crime-- but Nikolay the house painter burst into the scene and, out of the blue, confessed to the crime.

How does this strange turn of events fit into the continuing ideological debate about what is to be done?

Summarize the plot of Part Five.

  • Chapter 1: Lebeziatnikov's Commune (261-378)
  • Chapter 2: Katerina Ivanovna's Funeral Party (378-391)
  • Chapter 3: Luzhin's Accusation (391-405)
  • Chapter 4: Raskolnikov's Confession to Sonia (405-422)
  • Chapter 5: Katerina Ivanovna's Hemmorhage (422-436)

Chapter 1: Lebeziatnikov's Commune (261-378)


Radical Westernizer

Liberal Westernizer

Western Proto-Fascist

Radical Slavophile

Conservative Slavophile

Old Believer Theocracy 










Enlightenment “Tabula Rasa”

Depth Psychology

Hard Determinism: Environment + Bleak Human Nature

Soft Determinist: Shaping Character via Reason

Will to Power

Freedom; Intuition; Spontaneity

Orthodox Church: Original Sin:

Miracle of Repentance; conversion experience


Alter Environment: “Cut Down the Sick Trees”

Philanthropy + Mentoring to ‘level playing field’ 

“Smash what needs to be smashed.”

Voluntary, communal self-help

Rigid Class System; autocracy; decadence

Russian Great Awakening

Part Five begins with the entrance of a new character on to the foreground of the action: Lebziatnikov.

What does he look like?

"This Andrei Semyonich was a thin-blooded and scrofulous little man, small of stature, who worked as an official somewhere, was strangely tow-headed and had side whiskers shaped like mutton chops which were his great pride....He subscribed himself to progress and 'our young generations' out of passion. He was one of that numerous and and diverse legion of vulgarians, feeble miscreates, half-taught petty tyrants who make a point of leeching on to the most fashionable current ideas, only to vulgarize it at once... "(365)

Which ideological camp does he come from?

Fourier... Darwin... communes.... free love.... Yes, he has latched onto some of Bazarov's ideas, but what is he in it for? (Remember Sitnikov in Fathers and Sons?)

Yet, with whom is he rooming?

Luzhin, who laughs at all of his ideas, insinuates that Lebeziatinikov is just an ugly slob who has embraced socialism as the best method he can think to get laid.

What do we know of him from his earlier interaction with Marmeladov and his family? (367)

He was the neighbor to whom Marmeladov went for his loan, knowing it would be refused. Lebeziatnitkov hit on Sonia, but then, when rejected by her, demanded that she be tossed from the building. When Katerina Ivanovna attacked him, he slapped her around... and then tried to justify it to himself by arguing that 'woman is the equal of man in everything; therefore...' before giving up his argument.

What kind of liberated social practices would take place in Lebeziatnikov's commune? (368-371)

Children not christened... new wives allowed to take lovers...'free marriage'... mothers walking out on children... There will be no prostitution because... women will give out sex freely! Female honor will be redefined as.... the right for women to sleep with whomever they like!  

He wants Sonia to join his commune too, and he has spent some time 'developing her'... (377)

Dostoevsky's point?

He is lampooning Chernyshevsky's Crystal Palace, the utopian socialist vision of Russia's future as it is expressed in What is to be Done?, the novel Chernyshevsky wrote while in prison in 1863. What would be the male reaction to the assertion of feminist principles, according to Dostoevsky? Yay! Free Sex!
Dostoevsky made the same basic critique of liberal philanthropy by suggesting that the motives behind philanthropy really are all about extorting favors from the poor who are so grateful that a rich and succesful man has deigned to reach out a helping hand.

Why juxtapose this scene with the one in which Porfiry has been surprised?

Even though Lebeziatnikov is probably the most unattractive character in the novel (personally), he is also the guy who summons the courage to step up and save Sonia from Luzhin's plot. What are people capable of doing that come as a shocking surprise? Not only acts of terrible evil, but also acts of extraordinary goodness.

Chapter 2: Katerina Ivanovna's Funeral Party (378-391)
Chapter 3: Luzhin's Accusation (391-405)

The action shifts to Katerina Ivanovna's funeral party.This scene ranks up there as one of the funniest and most horrifying ever imagined. Dostoevsky, influenced by writers like Poe and Baudelaire, invented the vogue for the 'grotesque' which would dominate much early 20th c. literature and theatre. Turgenev, though, liked to refer to Dostoevsky as "Russia's own Marquis de Sade". Scenes like this one make Turgenev's assessment credible because it teeters on the edge of the merely sensational.

The action of the Katerina's party gradually pushes her slowly but inexorably to the edge of her sanity... and then she tumbles over. Dostoevsky's intends not merely  a hysterically funny, then terribly disturbing scene. He is analyzing a central problem of poverty.

Can the poor change themselves?

How would thinkers from the various ideologies answer this question?


Radical Westernizer

Liberal Westernizer

Western Proto-Fascist

Radical Slavophile

Conservative Slavophile

Old Believer Theocracy 


Alter Environment: “Cut Down the Sick Trees”

Philanthropy + Mentoring to ‘level playing field’ 

“Smash what needs to be smashed.”

Voluntary, communal self-help

Rigid Class System; autocracy

Russian Great Awakening

Remember what Dostoevsky's point was in his depiction of Marmeladov?

How did his self-destructive descent into addiction represent his final 'free act'? How might the drug addiction and violence of the ghetto be simlarly motivated?

Why has 
Katerina Ivanovna gone to such trouble and expense to give this party? (378)

In his characterizaton of Katerina Ivanovna, Dostoevsky depicts what he considers the central psychological hurdle that the poor must overcome in order to take collective action. What blinds the poor to the reality of their situation?

Katerina Ivanovna's monologue (383-391)

Describe how her snobbery manifests itself?

By putting down others who are basically at the same economic level as she is, Katerina insists that she is NOT poor! No, she is a lady of genteel sensitivities. She once danced the shawl dance for the governor of the province. She is not a lower class slob like the others at her table, particularly Amalia Ivanovna. No, she is  just down on her luck. Otherwise, her poverty would reflect poorly on her character!

What is Katerina's dream? (391-92)

Establishing a boarding school for girls in the country. Is this an insane idea? (Where will she find the capital?)

Who has shown up for her party? (380-82)

Not Luzhin, not Lebeziatnikov, not the little old lady upstairs, not even the fat colonel-major. Why would they not be caught dead at such a gathering? Instead, her guests include a deaf and nearly blind old man, a drunken clerk who shows up without his pants on, a Pole who smells abominably, two other Poles whom no one has ever seen before.... and Raskolnikov....

What do the guests do when Katerina starts putting on airs?

They get plastered and make fun of her and Sonia. The scene is hysterically funny, but it becomes horrible as Katerina's coughing worsens and the stain of blood in her handkerchief grows larger and larger.

What pushes Katerina across the line? (391-92) [Her madness: (395; 405)]

Luzhin's accusation of Sonia...  Fortunately, Lebeziatnikov steps up to the rescue, and even this collection of degenerates are enraged by Luzhin's attempt to incriminate Sonia.

Chapter 4: Raskolnikov's Confession to Sonia (405-422)

Why does Dostoevsky juxtapose this scene with the breakdown of Katerina Ivanovna?
  • Why does Raskolnikov confess to Sonia? (406)
  • What is Sonia's reaction? (411-12)
  • Is he able to explain why he did it to Sonia? (415-420)
  • What does Sonia tell him he must do? (420)

Dostoevsky's point?
  • What delusion blinded Raskolnikov to the reality of his own situation?
  • How does he come to grips with the reality of what he has done?
  • What force, according to Dostoevsky, must the individual (and society) submit to in order to avoid social chaos?

Chapter 5: Katerina Ivanovna's Hemmorhage (422-436)

Katerina Ivanovna has gone mad. Abandoned, she has gone into the streets with her children, beating a frying pan and forcing them to dance on the canal bridge.
  • What is madness?
  • How does her madness compare with Raskolnikov's madness? (Compare to Hamlet vs. Ophelia)
  • Who does Katerina Ivanovna beleive will come to her rescue?
  • Who does step forward to protect the family? His motive?

Ideological Point?

Part Six (439-531)


Radical Westernizer

Liberal Westernizer

Western Proto-Fascist

Radical Slavophile

Conservative Slavophile

Old Believer Theocracy 










Enlightenment “Tabula Rasa”

Depth Psychology

Hard Determinism: Environment + Bleak Human Nature

Soft Determinist: Shaping Character via Reason

Will to Power

Freedom; Intuition; Spontaneity

Orthodox Church: Original Sin:

Miracle of Repentance; conversion experience


Alter Environment: “Cut Down the Sick Trees”

Philanthropy + Mentoring to ‘level playing field’ 

“Smash what needs to be smashed.”

Voluntary, communal self-help

Rigid Class System; autocracy; decadence

Russian Great Awakening

The novel ends as it began-- with Raskolnikov taking a long walk up to a threshold, wrangling and debating his choice with himself the whole way. There is no decisiveness to the conclusion of his story. His personality seems to take on the shape of whoever happens to be talking to him at the time.

At the outset of the novel's final movement, despite his confession to Sonia, Raskolnikov is drifting again, choking in the claustraphobia of his own mind. He needs, "Air, Air, Air, sir...." (440) He needs a new philosophy of living. Which direction will he turn? Whose will determines the final reality of Crime and Punishment?

  • Raskolnikov: Overcome conscience as well as conditioning to achieve the freedom to "smash what needs to be smashed, once and for all." (329)
  • Porfiry: Submit to reason and accept the fact that who we are is determined, not by our will, but by the conditions of the environment. For Porfiry, the most pernicious influences in the environment, beyond the disease, stench, filth, hunger and despair of poverty are the radical ideas floating in the St. Petersburg smog, the youthful 'enthusiasms' and 'bookish dreams' which inspired Raskolnikov to kill.
  • Sonia: Submit to faith and acknowledge that God alone, or the Devil, enables action.
  • Svidrigaylov: Achieve absolute freedom where no rules apply.

  • Chapter 1: Air, Air, Air, sir... (439-448)
  • Chapter 2: Porfiry's Plea Bargain (448-462)
  • Chapter 3: Svidrigaylov's Option (462-472)
  • Chapter 4: Svidrigaylov's Confession (472-483)
  • Chapter 5: Svidrigaylov's Play for Dunia's Love (483-497)
  • Chapter 6: The Neva Rising (498-511)
  • Chapter 7: Raskolnikov's Farewells (511-520)
  • Chapter 8: Raskolnikov Kneels in the Haymarket (521-31)

Chapter 1: Air, Air, Air, sir... (439-448)

While wandering in a fog during the days after Katerina Ivanovna's memorial service, the last time he had seen Sonia, Raskolnikov declares to himself. "No, better some kind of fight! Better Profiry again.... or Svidrigaylov, the sooner to meet someone's challenge, someone's attack... Yes! Yes!" (442)

Razumikhin, at this point, still refuses to accept the truth and is trying to convince himself that Raskolnikov must be "a political conspirator, for sure!" (446) Yes, that's it! And he has drawn Dunia into his circle as well! Any expanation is better that the alternative: the suspicion that his friend might be a murderer. He tells Raskolnikov more details about Nikolay's confession-- and Raskolnikov is relieved.  He resolves to face down Svidrigaylov at that moment, and then test himself with Porfiry once again, to prove to himself once and for all that he has the nerve and the intelligence to act. "Again the  fight... a way out had been found!" (446)

But Porfiry has come to see him this time!

Chapter 2: Porfiry's Plea Bargain (448-462)

What is Porfiry's final ploy (in this strange case now grown cold)?

He's got nothing on Raskolnikov. Not only has Nikolay confessed to the crime, but there is also tangible physical evidence linking him to the crime. (What is it?) Porfiry's only chance at catching Raskolnikov depends on getting him to confess.

How does he go about wheedling a confession from him? (451ff)

He plays good cop. He lets Raskolnikov know that he has suspected his guilt from the outset of his investigation. He confesses that he has been manipulating him all along: the scene in the office, the article in the journal, the room searches. Porfiry himself was watching Raskolnikov during his delerium in the days just after the murder. He was the one who sent Razumikhin to Raskolnikov's sick room to get his reaction to the murders. He knows about the restaurant encounter with Zamyetov. He's been told about the bell ringing incident at the scene of the crime. He sent the trades man to accuse him of murder on the street. He even had this same man in his closet, ready to spring out during thier last encounter.

How does Porfiry explain Nikolay's confession? (454-55)

Porfiry gently explains why he cannot accept Nikolay's confession as truth. Even so, he understands and even admires Nikolay's motives for confessing. Nikolai is an Old Beleiver, not a raskolniki. He willingly takes on the guilt of the world; he embraces suffering even when it is undeserved in any logical sense: like Christ.  "Do you know Rodion Romanych, what suffering means for some of them? Not for the sake of someone, but simply 'the need for suffering'; to embrace suffering, that is.... won't you allow that such a nation as ours produces fantastic people?" (455)

What is his conclusion about this case?

"Here we have a fantastic, gloomy case, a modern case, a situation of our times, when the human heart is clouded, when one hears cited the phrase that blood 'refreshes', when people preach a whole life of comfort. There are bookish dreams here, sir, there is a heart chafed by theories; we see here a resolve to take the first step, but a resolve of a certain kind-- he resolved on it but as if he were falling off a mountain or plunging from a bell tower, and then arrived at the crime as if he weren't using his own legs. He forgot to lock the door behind him, but killed, killed two people according to a theory...." (456)

"What? Who killed them?... But you did, Rodion Romanych! You killed them, sir..." (456)

Porfiry urges Raskolnokov to confess. He will urge mercy to the court and work to get his sentence reduced: "Your crime will appear as some sort of darkening-- because in all consceince it was a darkening..." (459)

Porfiry urges Raskolnikov to take upon himself the suffering of punishment. Otherwise, he will not survive. Porfiry even pledges to help Raskolnikov in his trial because he truly believes that there are mitigating circumstances. The murder was done in a state of delerium brought on by the terrible circumstances of his life: his poverty, his illness, his deperation, but most of all his infatuation with the contagious radical ideas floating in the St. Petersburg air. No, Raskolnikov is no criminal. Otherwise, he would not need..... to CONFESS!

What is the value of suffering according to Porfiry? (460)

"Maybe its just here that God has been waiting for you....I regard you as one of those men who could have their guts cut out, and would stand and look at his torturers with a smile- provided he's found faith, or God. Well, go and find it, and you will live. First of all, you've needed a change of air for a long time. And suffering is a good thing after all. Suffer, then.... All you need is air now, air" (460)

The value of suffering? We learn that we cannot live alone.

What is Porfiry's parting shot when Raskolnikov declines his invitation?

If you opt out of the party, please leave a note telling us where you left the pawnbroker's goods. (462)

Raskolnikov does not succomb to Porfiry's final ploy, but he may also realize that he is not even in the same league with him intellectually. Yet he will not submit!

What options remain for him now?

Chapter 3: Svidrigaylov's Option (462-472)

9:30 pm

Raskolnikov goes hunting for Svidrigaylov; only he realizes suddenly that he is the one being hunted. (464) Svidrigaylov is watching him. He is close to us all. He is simply a way of seeing the world: "I alone matter. The only good is my personal self-interest, my pleasure."  The novel's final action is dominated by Svidrigaylov, just as its opening scenes featured Marmeladov. We get our closest view yet of this 'worn out profligate'. What has his life come to?  He barely eats or drinks anything. He wiles his time away hiring street performers to entertain him. At times, he soaks a towel and puts it on his head to calm the tumult of his imagination. Everything about him shimmers as if he might suddenly phase out of synch with reality and fully enter the absurd realm he has constructed for himself, a universe in which he is utterly alone.

He is St. Petersburg personified (467)

"This is a city of half-crazy people. If we had any science, then physicians, lawyers, and philosphers could do the most valuable research on Petersburg, each in his own field. One seldom finds a place whaere there are so many gloomy, sharp, and strange influences on the soul of man as in Petersburg. the climactic influences alone are already worth something! And at the same time this is the administrative center of the whole of Russia, and its character must be reflected in everything."

When Svidrigaylov looks at Raskolnikov, what does he see?

Why, you are just like me! You have not achieved my advanced state, but you are getting there! All you need to do is discard the little ploys you use to justify the pursuit of pleasure and be honest with yourself. You did not kill the old lady to promote social welfare or even to advance your family's prospects. You did it because it felt good! You did it for the kick of transgression.

What are the final consequences of Svidrigaylov's bid to free himself from any moral boundary?

He is disintegrating. When Raskolnikov finds him in the bar off the Haymarket, Svidrigaylov is just sitting there smiling. 

Look at the terrifying description of his face. (468)

"It was somehow a strange face, more like a mask: white, ruddy, with ruddy scarlet lips, a light blond beard, and still quite thick blond hair. The eyes were somehow too blue, and their look was somehow too heavy and immobile. There was something terribly unpleasant in this handsome and, considering the man's age, extremely youthful face." (468)

How does he tempt Raskolnikov?

Something new? (469)  

"Let's say, for example, that you've come to me now not just on business, but for a little something new- right? Am I right?" (469)

"In this depravity there's at least something permanent, even based on nature, and not subject to fantasy, something that abides in the blood like a perpetually burning coal, eternally inflaming, which for a long time, even with age, one may not be able to extinguish so easily... it's a disease, like everything that goes beyond measure." (470)

"Russians are generally broad people, broad as their land and greatly inclined to the fantastic, the disorderly; but its disastrous to be broad without special genius..." (491)

Why must Raskolnikov accept punishment, responsibility for a crime over which he had little control?

Raskolnikov may have possessed limited control, but he must accept moral responsibility; otherwise he forges a new behavioral pattern over which he will exercise limited autonomous control. Otherwise, his ego will disintegrate. His behavior will leave him behind all together. For Svidrigaylov, the hypnotic fascination of sex and violence has overwhelmed any rational control. Violence satisfies instincts which destroy what is human in our nature, our capacity for civility.

What is the political implication of Dostoevsky's insight?

Wholeness of character can only be achieved through submission of the ego: the painful, difficult compromises made with others. Moral and political integrity can only be achieved through submission of the self, not to others, but with others. What's the difference?

Chapter 4: Svidrigaylov's Confession (472-483)

Why has his adventure in amorality foundered? 

"I really am a gloomy, boring man. You think I'm cheerful? No. I'm gloomy. I don't do any harm. I just sit in the corner. Sometimes no one can get a word out of me for three days." (479)

Boredom. Nothing satisfies any longer.

What is for Svidrigaylov the ultimate criminal pleasure?

Deflowering innocence.

Who is his partner in depravity, his procurer? (479)

His friend, Madame Resselich, helps him dream up new debauches. She has identified a new potential quarry to feed to his warped desire: a schoolgirl, just about to turn sixteen, from a family eager to unload her. (479)

"Once in a while, she gives me a glance on the sly-- it burns right through.... once, she suddenly threw herself on my neck (the first time on her own), embraced me with her little arms, kissed me, and vowed that she would be an obedient, faithful and good wife to me, that she would make me happy,,,, all she wanted was my respect!... You must agree that to hear such a confession in private from such a dear sixteen year old angel in lace dress, with fluffed up little curls, with a blush of maidenly modesty and tears of enthusiasm in her eyes, you must agree its rather tempting." (480)

How does he plan to seduce Dunia? (474-75)

 "With all the loathing Avdotya Romanovna felt for me, and in spite of my gloomy and repellant look-- in the end she felt pity for me, pity for the lost man. And when a girl's heart is moved to pity-- that is, of course, most dangerous for her. She's sure to want to save him then, to bring him to reason, to resurrect him..." (474)

"the greatest and surest means of conquering a woman's heart, a means which has never yet failed anyone, which works decidedly on one and all. without exception-- the well-known means of flattery" (476)

He wants her to believe that she can save him. And if she can save a monster like him? Then she is truly remarkable.

What must Svidrigaylov do to try to convince Dunia that she can rescue him?

An act of charity, offered without any expectation of reward.

What is the problem with Svidrigaylov's plan?

He has already thought it through completely, so his charity cannot be freely given.

Chapter 5: Svidrigaylov's Play for Dunia's Love (483-497)

How will he convince her that he is a new man?
  • Svidrigaylov has offered Dunia ten thousand roubles, the money Razumikhin will need to begin his publishing business and which will enable Raskolnikov to return to school.
  • He has told her of Marfa Petrovna's will and the three thousand roubles she left Dunia.
  • Svidrigaylov has also rescued the children of Katerina Ivanovna. (484)
  • Finally, he lures her into his room, far out of earshot, by telling her that he knows Raskolniokov's secret.

How does he describe Raskolnikov's crime? (489-91) Is he accurate?

"What we have here is-- how shall I express it to you-- a theory of sorts; it's the same as if I should find, for example, that an isolated evildoing is permissible if the main purpose is good. A single evil and a hundred good deeds! Of course it's also offensive for a young man of merit and measureless vanity to know that if he had, for example, a mere three thousand or so, his whole career, the whole future in terms of his life's purpose would shape itself differently-- and yet the three thousand are not there. Add to that the vexations of hunger, cramped quarters, rags, and a lively sense of the beauty of his social position, as well as that of his sister and mother. But above all vanity, pride and vanity...." (490-91)

"Russians are generally broad people, broad as their land and greatly inclined to the fantastic, the disorderly; but its disastrous to be broad without special genius..." (491)

How does he make his final bid for her love? (493)

Note that she shifts to the familiar second person singular on "Ah, so you're lying! I see... you've been lying.... it was all a lie!" which indicates personal intimacy. So, Svidrigaylov comes close to seducuing her....
  • "How can you save him? Can he be saved?" ....
    "It all depends on you! On you. On you alone..." (493)

When she refuses? (493-44)
  • Plan B: he will use force.  "Svidrigailov's apartment was somehow placed between two almost uninhabited apartments. His entrance was not direct from the corridor, but through the landlady's two rooms, which were nearly empty." (488) The landlady is not home. If Dunya screams, no one will hear her.

When the gun misfires?
  • "So, you don't love me? And... you can't...ever? (497)

Chapter 6: The Neva Rising (498-511)

What does Svidrigaylov do in the final hours of his life? (508-09)

Dostoevsky surrounds Svidrigaylov's final hours with apocalyptic imagery: a thunderstorm has broken out, the Neva is rising and a flood is coming that will cleanse the filth from St. Petersburg's nooks and crannies. (See Pushkin's "The Bronxe Horseman") (507-08)

10:00 p.m. He buys drinks for Katya and two wretched scriveners (Jews) who have stolen a spoon from a Vauxhall bar. Svidrigailov pays the management for the stolen spoon.

10:30 He goes to Sonya's room and tells her that he is leaving for America. He gives her the receipts for the funds he has laid aside for the children and then gives her notes worth 3000 roubles for herself. She refuses him, but he tells her that she will need it because "There are two ways open for Rodion Romanych: a bullet or Siberia."

11:00 He goes to the apartment of his finacee's parents and demands to see the fifteen year old girl. He gives her notes worth 15,000 roubles.

Describe his final dreams. (511)

12:00 midnight: He walks to The Adrianople Hotel on the island where near where Raskolnikov had dreamed his terrible dream. He  gets a shabby room where the walls are so thin that he can hear a pair of beggars whispering insults at each other. He drinks some tea and hears a mouse scratching in the corner and gradually drifts into semi-consciousness. He dreams of a dead girl-- a suicide by drowning-- lying in a coffin in a sumptuous luxury cottage.

3:00 am He seems to awaken to the sound of the cannons on the Neva firing warning shots about the rising waters. He hears a crying five year old girl hiding in a corner of the hotel corridor. She is soaking wet and fearful of being beaten by her mother. He takes her to his room and puts her to bed, but she suddenly leers at him inviting him to bed...

6:00 am He awakens from this nightmare and takes to the street, wandering to the Haymarket where he blows his brains out in front of a Jewish panhandler.

Chapter 7: Raskolnikov's Farewells (511-520)
Chapter 8: Raskolnikov Kneels in the Haymarket (521-31)

How does Raskolnikov avoid Svidrigaylov's fate?

What happens to him when he says good-bye to his mother?

At the end, Raskolnikov still has not resolved the terrible conflicts within his split psyche.

Does his confession to Dunya indicate remorse for his crime? (518)
  • "Crime? what crime?" he suddenly cried out in unexpected rage. "I killed a vile, pernicious louse, a little old money-lending crone who was of no use to anyone, to kill whom is worth forty sins forgiven, who sucked up the life sap from the poor-- is that a crime? I'm not thinking of it, nor am I thinking of washing it away. And why is everyone jabbing at me from all sides: 'Crime! Crime!' Only now do I see clearly all the absurdity of my faintheartedness, now I've already decided to go to this needless shame! I decided on it simply from my own vileness and giftlessness, and perhaps also for my advantage, as was suggested by this... Porfiry!"
  • "...[E]veryone sheds [blood] which is and always will be shed in torrents in this world, which men spill like champagne, and for which they are crowned on the Capitoline and afterwards called benefactors of mankind. But just look closer and try to see! I wished people well and would have done hundreds, thousands of good deeds, instead of this one stupidity-- or not even stupidity, but simple clumsiness, because the whole idea was by no means as stupid as it seems now that it failed (everything that fails seems stupid!).... Well, I decidedly do not understand why  hurling bombs at people, according to all the rules of siege warfare, is a more respectable form.... Never, never have I been stronger or more certain than now!"

What then is the difference between Raskolnikov and Svidrigaylov?
  • "If only I were alone.." (520)   "But why do they love me so, when I am unworthy of it. Oh, if only I were alone and no one loved me, and I myself had never loved anyone! None of this would be!  Curious, is it possible that in these next fifteen or twenty years my soul will become so humbled that I'll reverently snivel in front of the people, calling myself a robber with every word? Yes, precisely, precisely! That's why they are going to exile  me now, that's what they want... Look at them scuttling up and down the street, and each one of them is a scoundrel and a robber by his very nature; worse than that, an idiot! But let exile pass me by, and they'll all go wild with noble indignation! Oh, how I hate them all!" (520)                              

Try as he might, he is still connnected with others, surrounded by others who love him even if he no longer believes in himself or compassion or his political mission: Dunia, Razumikhin, Pulcheria, Sonia, Polenka, even Porfiry. They all love him. Why?

What is Raskolnikov's attitude as he makes the final walk?  (524-31)

Self-mockery, bitter humor, cynicism as he performs the religious gestures Sonia has demanded of him. He nearly walks out of the police station without confessing, and only after seeing Sonya across the square does he finally confess: "It was I who killed the official's old widow and her sister Lizaveta with an axe and robbed them."

Epilogue: Lazarus Raised (535-551)

Part One
  • Court Proceedings: the mathematical, material evidence (535)
  • Raskolnikov's embarassment about the purse which the judges read as evidence of temporary insanity (536)
  • Raskolnikov lies on the stand about his real motives. He mentions only the material causes of the crime. (536)
  • Razumikhin and the landlady Zamitsyn testify to his good deeds which even the reader has not known of until this moment. (537)
  • Pulcheria Alexandrovna goes around the bend. (538)
  • Razumikhin and Dunia marry. Pulcheria dies. (540-41)
  • Raskolnikov closes himself off from everyone. (541-42)
  • Raskolnikov's illness (542-43)

Part Two
  • Raskolnikov is ashamed of his crime's stupidity, not its consequences. (543)
  • He continues to recite his 'dark catechism'. He wonders why he has not killed himself. (544)
  • He begins to sense the lie that he is living. (545)
  • He notes his fellow prisoners' love of life... their utter sepearation from the nobility... their love for Sonia.... (545)
  • The final dream: the rational, wilful pestilence infects the world (547)
  • Resurrection (548-49)

Leftist critics dismiss the final action of the novel. Raskolnikov, after stewing for two years in prison, finally embraces Sonia and begins his new life. He reads the story of Lazarus again and connects. The leftists argue that the epilogue with its pat moral contradicts the whole method of the novel and its vision of the ambiguity of truth. This ending with its clear trumpet sounding of a monological truth is, for the leftist critic, evidence that Dostoevsky lost his nerve.

Do you agree?

Has not the whole action of the novel led to this final moment? By embracing Sonia, Raskolnikov is embracing life. To live one must achieve connection with another.