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FREE Barron's Booknotes-Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky-Free
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CHAPTER 7

The dreadful carriage accident and the man dying in the street recall two scenes: Raskolnikov nearly falling beneath the horses in Chapter 2 and the attempted suicide of Chapter 6. But this victim will not escape from death. The man lying broken in the street is no stranger, either: it is Marmeladov. Repeating over and over, "I'll pay, I'll pay," Raskolnikov arranges to have the injured man carried home.

The house of death is a pathetic place. The ragged children and the distraught mother seem even worse off than they did a few days before. Katerina Ivanovna is tough and doesn't faint. She is beyond pity for her husband. She offers no consolation to him, but instead speaks sharply. She doesn't want him to ask her forgiveness, and she offers none. Nor does she hesitate to tell the priest that she thinks what Marmeladov has done to all of them is a sin. She doesn't put much stock in God, either.

Katerina Ivanovna's attitude toward her husband is unwavering; even his death does not change it. He asked for what he got, she insists. What did he expect? Her overriding concern is, what will she do now? You wonder if she has any feelings at all beneath her tough exterior, but, still, it is hard not to sympathize with her. Clearly, she has had a dreadful life, and much of it was Marmeladov's fault.

Sonia, however, is forgiving, and Marmeladov dies in her arms. Hadn't he known all along that his daughter loved him? For the first time in the novel, faith is affirmed.


Raskolnikov, who has watched the scene silently, tried to console Katerina by recalling how much Marmeladov loved her. More important, he offers her money for the funeral: the roubles that remain from his mother's generosity. Promising to come again, he rushes from the room.

NOTE:

Can you figure out what prompts Raskolnikov's gift to the Marmeladovs? There has been evidence before that Raskolnikov is moved by suffering. But to give them nearly all the money he has seems astounding. Are we to admire him for his sacrifice? Or is it further evidence that he has lost the power to think reasonably? It's entirely likely that he himself couldn't explain what his reasons were.

As he leaves the Marmeladovs, Raskolnikov feels rejuvenated-like a man who had been condemned to death and then unexpectedly reprieved. (Remember that this image has special relevance for Dostoevsky. He knew what it was to be reprieved from death.) But before we discover the source of this miracle, Polenka, Sonia's ten-year-old step-sister, catches up with him, wanting to know his name and where he lives. To show her gratitude and her willingness to love him, she hugs him and gives him a childish kiss.

Watching Raskolnikov with her, you'll probably find it hard to remember that he is a killer, or even the rude, self-centered person who always wants to be alone. The happiness he feels as he looks at her is something he doesn't understand, but he is touched when she cries. Even more, he is willing to ask her to pray for him. Dostoevsky has added some more mystery to his character.

Returning to the bridge where earlier in the evening the woman had tried to commit suicide, Raskolnikov is sure that his life is still before him. His illness is gone, and he's ready to reassert his strength. He's not sure how this transformation has happened, but he knows it has. The narrator cautions that perhaps he has concluded too quickly that his life did not die with the old woman. That doesn't occur to the jubilant Raskolnikov.

He is so excited that he decides to go to Razumikhin's party, but he is too weak to go in and join the festivities. He talks to his friend on the stairs. A slightly drunk Razumikhin tries to explain what Zosimov, Zametov, and even Porfiry think of Raskolnikov, but it comes out so muddled that neither Raskolnikov nor the reader is sure what anyone thinks.

Raskolnikov confides in Razumikhin that he has given the Marmeladovs all his money, but his explanation of the evening is confused. There is a clue, though, to his changed attitude: "I have been kissed by a creature who, even if I had killed anybody, would still...." Even though he does not finish the explanation, it is clearly his sense of being loved that has made such an impact on him. You'll discover that loving and being loved are important to Raskolnikov and to Dostoevsky's ideas about salvation.

Dizziness sweeps over Raskolnikov, and Razumikhin helps him to his room. But panic returns. There's a light under the door. The murder isn't behind him after all. But it isn't the police who wait for him. His mother and his sister throw themselves on him in ecstasy. The sudden release of tension is too much for Raskolnikov. Once again he faints.

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