Crime and Punishment
by Feodor Dostoevsky

Reading Notes--Adam Kissel

Using Norton Critical Edition, Coulson translation, ed. George Gibian

Back to Part One | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Epilogue

Part 4

       Svidrigaylov accounts for his crime (against Dunya, at least) as a result of nature: "I, too, am a man, et nihil humanum" (237) [editor's note: the whole is from Terence: "Homo sum, et nihil humanum a me alienum puto"]; therefore Svidrigaylov claims he should not be held guilty; he implies that his reason was just a slave to natural [i.e. exculpatory] passions (238).
       Raskolnikov counters that the culpability does not have to do with the source of the crime, but with its effect [at least in this context]
       Svidrigaylov rejoins that he feels a clear conscience about his wife's death, anyway; he is also willing to see environment as a source of bad actions. He only rarely beat her . . . He and Raskolnikov try to judge each other's character.
       More chatter; it comes up that salons are not Svidrigaylov's cup of tea.
       Svidrigaylov: "here [in Russia] at least one can blame somebody else for everything and find excuses for oneself" (241).
       More chatter; Svidrigaylov believes in ghosts; Marfa (his wife) and others have visited him (Raskolnikov here senses some overlap with his own dreams, but adamantly does not believe in ghosts). Svidrigaylov tries to show reasons why ghosts could exist and why only the sick can see them. Raskolnikov doesn't believe either in a life hereafter [cf. Porfiry's catechism of hi, though]. [Raskolnikov won't believe in eternity apparently because he doesn't want to fool himself in having desired and then imagined a just and comforting place; see 244-45]. Nevertheless the two can have some degree of conversation together about such things--this warms up Raskolnikov to talk with Svidrigaylov about Dunya. They agree that Luzhin is wrong for her, that Dunya is sacrificing herself. Svidrigaylov will offer her 10,000 rubles to break the engagement [because he's in love with her himself, we learn later].

Ch. 2: OUTSIDE. Svidrigaylov leaves as Razumikhin enters. They meet up with Luzhin, mother, Dunya for the 8:00 meeting.

Inside. Luzhin is upset that Raskolnikov and Razumikhin have shown up after all. Luzhin also has found out that Svidrigaylov is in town; he knows Svidrigaylov's history of having driven others to suicide. Raskolnikov tells the group that Svidrigaylov has been to see him--he does not talk about the offer to break the engagement since Luzhin is there. Dunya seeks a reconciliation between Luzhin and Raskolnikov/Razumikhin, but Luzhin says:
       "There is a point in everything beyond which it is dangerous to go, for if once you do so, there can be no turning back" (254) [cf. Raskolnikov's choices].
       They bring up the baggage from the letters, charging misrepresentation. Luzhin is snotty towards them all, seeming really trying to control them in their seeming dependence on him. Dunya chooses her family over Luzhin and bids him go. More verbal altercations put Luzhin in an even worse light; he removes.

Ch. 3: OUTSIDE. Luzhin described: haughty, ambitious, condescending.

Inside. They're relieved he's gone. Raskolnikov relates more details of his meeting with Svidrigaylov. Razumikhin is still demonstrably taken with Dunya. He wants to partner with the family in a publishing business. All are excited about that idea except Raskolnikov, who leaves. Razumikhin follows; it finally dawns on him (for the moment) that Raskolnikov is the murderer! Razumikhin takes the place of Raskolnikov in the family (266) [TRANSFER: RASKOLNIKOV-->RAZUMIKHIN]

Ch. 4: OUTSIDE. Raskolnikov goes to Sonya's place.

Inside. Her room is sparse and poor. She expresses "insatiable compassion" for Katerina Ivanovna (her stepmother, Marmeladov's wife, KI) (268). Raskolnikov reminds her that when KI soon dies of her consumptive illness, Sonya will have to take in the children. She offers no solution--maybe Raskolnikov will somehow help? surely God? Raskolnikov is unfeeling, even malicious about it.
       Then, he kisses her foot: she stands for "all human suffering" (272) [TRANSFER] [more on suffering at 272, 284, 401, 438, etc.] He thinks she'd be better off jumping off a bridge [TRANSFER]--if she doesn't, she'll either go mad or become unfeeling, steeled against all misery--he thinks she must already be going mad. Her strong but not strange faith seems to him like a "religious mania" (275).
       He finds her New Testament and seeks the story of Lazarus; makes her read it. This is her most personal, private self. Content of these verses: life, death, resurrection, and belief. She reads triumphantly.
       Raskolnikov discovers that Sonya was a friend of Lizaveta. He says that he and Sonya "are both alike accursed," because they each have "destroyed a life" (278). He's acting madly; alludes to the extraordinary-person ideas; tells her he might come tomorrow and admit to murdering Lizaveta.
       Svidrigaylov, meanwhile, has been listening in from the next room.

       Raskolnikov brings in his statement about having pawned his watch; he is willing to be questioned appropriately with regard to the old woman. Porfiry is apparently surprised and a bit flustered that Raskolnikov has come in. Raskolnikov challenges: won't you interrogate me like you did before? To try and trip me up?
       Porfiry winks.
       Raskolnikov gets agitated, incautious, demanding to be interrogated, and interrogated correctly!
       Porfiry's remarks: first, about how intelligent people ought to converse, and why they don't converse as they should: (1) they have "no interest in public affairs"; (2) they tend to be "very honest and don't want to deceive one another" (284). Then: the questioner can be sidetracked as well as the one questioned; friendly talk can be of "more use" (285) than formal interrogation. Doesn't everybody know the tricks about tripping up the suspect? The real examiner's business, however, is an art. (All the while, Porfiry is gesticulating and pacing.) An art like this would be restricted by formalities. A rule of interrogation: do not summon the suspect until "the proper time" (286) [compare Raskolnikov's ability to properly prepare and then to act at the right time]. Evidence can be recast as exculpatory (cf. 228, 293); it "cuts both ways for the most part" (286). Porfiry wants infallible evidence before he'll publicly accuse Raskolnikov. Every case is extraordinary in its details. Porfiry tells Raskolnikov exactly what his strategy is, in cases like the present one involving people like Raskolnikov--he is using it implicitly, nearly explicitly, while he speaks! (esp. 287 f.).
       Raskolnikov is nevertheless playing dumb, still not quite sure that he'll finally be caught.
       Porfiry says that young intellectuals prize too highly such things as intellect, wit, abstract reasoning [Porfiry here evidently gives the emotions their due; cf. earlier discussion on the sources of crime--this is how Porfiry catches his culprits]. Porfiry comes off as a great strategist; he reads war histories. He realizes that calculations fall short of reality and nature. The criminal's nature eventually gives him away--just as it promises to do in this special case. Porfiry describes Raskolnikov's case in even more detail, as though Raskolnikov is already caught, and he shows his superior skill in reading through the ploys of criminals.
       Raskolnikov calls Porfiry on his all-but-allegation, gets agitated, nearly faints.
       Porfiry gives him an out: Raskolnikov could claim insanity and that his suspicious behavior (e.g. returning to the scene of the crime) had merely been a mad imagination that he was indeed the murderer.

Question: 292: should the suspect, to avoid further suspicion, insist that he's serious or that he's delirious? [He should do whatever a murderer would not do, or be expected not to do--BUT, knowing that this plan is exactly what a good investigator will be looking for, the suspect should to the opposite of that--BUT, ad infinitum. So there is no way the content of the insistence will tip off the investigator; what tips him off is the fact that the suspect is taking pains to be insistent in the first place. So the accused should act naturally and freely admit all the facts against him in the most unaffected manner, not even straining to seem like he's doing so. (This is what Raskolnikov had been trying to do at first.)]

       Raskolnikov has no good reply to Porfiry's offer--he merely accuses Porfiry of lying. So, Raskolnikov wants to know, is he definitely free of suspicion, or not? Porfiry won't give a straight answer. Raskolnikov feels that "all mystery and ambiguity" are, therefore, lifted (295).
       Porfiry notes that he now has a surprise waiting behind the door . . .

Ch. 6: THE SAME. What's behind the door surprises Porfiry, too: Nikolay, an ordinary laborer, has arrived too soon, and he admits to the murder! Protecting Mitka seems to be his motive for confessing--but this makes the investigation of Raskolnikov all the more complex. Raskolnikov is excused; he and Porfiry will meet later for formal questions; they agree that through conversation they will get to know each other [Raskolnikov still showing glimmers of interest in human contact].

Home. Raskolnikov reviews his conversation with Porfiry: all of it was merely Porfiry's inferences; he still has no hard evidence or facts. Raskolnikov is about to leave for Marmeladov's funeral dinner when the stranger reappears.
       The stranger says that the stranger is himself guilty--guilty "of evil thoughts" (301). He is a furrier who was with the porters when Raskolnikov made the comment about going to the police and then asked about the blood. The stranger has come to apologize; he now thinks that Raskolnikov is innocent.
       Raskolnikov thinks: if this is the surprise witness, then Porfiry really has nothing definite to go on; perhaps Raskolnikov can still beat the rap. Raskolnikov is glad that he has succeeded in being sufficiently ambiguous to pass muster!