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FREE Barron's Booknotes-Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky-Free
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CHAPTER 6

Razumikhin and Raskolnikov discuss the meeting with Porfiry. Each is upset, but for different reasons. Razumikhin accepts the fact that Raskolnikov is a suspect; he admits the police have been suspicious, but he is furious about it. Raskolnikov, on the other hand, is cocky. They don't have any physical evidence, he's sure, so they can't pin anything on him.

When they get to the hotel where they are to meet the women, Raskolnikov can't bring himself to go in and face them. Nor can he tolerate his friend's companionship any longer. "Do you want to torture me as well?" he demands in despair.

NOTE:

Raskolnikov's ability to put up a good front, to pretend to be in control, breaks down in front of those people who know him best. That may show that he feels guilty for lying to them. Of course, another way to look at it is that he is afraid that, because they know him so well, they will be able to see right through him and discover that he is a murderer.

Raskolnikov rushes home. Panic has struck again. Suppose there is some shred of evidence after all that can link him to the crime! If there is, he's finished. But of course there isn't anything left behind the torn wallpaper. Relieved, he leaves his room, but what follows is so bizarre that he soon comes rushing back to the only place he feels secure, a room his mother has described earlier as a "coffin."


The strange experience is an encounter in the street with an unknown man. The man has been asking for him by name. When Raskolnikov demands what he wants, the man says "Murderer!" Raskolnikov, weak-kneed and chilled, asks who is a murderer. With a smile of "triumphant hatred" the man replies, "You are!" And then he simply disappears.

The man's identity is a mystery. Some readers have even wondered if he is real, or simply a figment of Raskolnikov's imagination. But his impact is very real, and you'll run into him again before too long.

Secure in his room, Raskolnikov again tries to sleep, his customary escape. Disconnected and incoherent images flash through his mind. Conscious of his physical weakness, he curses himself as a failure. He is no real ruler, to whom all things are permitted. Nothing proves that to him more than his disgusting, insignificant victim. How could he have thought she was worthy of killing?

His confusion is evident. On the one hand, he asserts that he was killing on principle, and that he was eager to "overstep all restrictions...." On the other, he says he acted because he didn't want his mother to go hungry. How can those very different motives be resolved?

One thing he tries is self-criticism. Maybe he's been pretending to act for good reasons; maybe only the selfish ones were important. He insists he tried for an appropriate victim, and that he meant to take only what he needed. He decides, though, that he's the biggest louse of all, bigger than his repulsive victim, because he knew beforehand he'd fail.

NOTE:

Raskolnikov's attack on himself raises an interesting idea: did he commit murder to prove to himself that he's worthless, as a form of self- destruction? That makes as much sense as anything else to some readers. They argue that everything he does is to punish himself for his failures.

But his greatest anger is reserved for the dead pawnbroker. Nothing will make him forgive the old witch for putting him through this anguish. He's blaming her for how he feels after murdering her!

Raskolnikov is so worked up that he becomes totally irrational. He turns against his family. How he hates them! He hates the old woman too. If he had a chance, he'd kill her again! But his raving stops when he thinks of Lizaveta, the one he didn't mean to kill, the one who reminds him of Sonia. He falls asleep with the meek and gentle Sonia on his mind.

Again he dreams, a horrible dream that reveals his extreme vulnerability. He follows the mysterious accuser to the pawnbroker's flat, where everything is as it was the night of the murder, except a fly-an ugly, seemingly insignificant pest-buzzes. He senses that the old woman, huddled under a clock, is afraid. He has come to kill.

When he hits her over the head, she laughs, and doesn't seem affected by the blow at all. Whispering and laughing come from the bedroom. He hits her madly over the head, but the more he hits, the more she laughs. He tries to run away, but the entrance is full of people watching him. Screaming, he wakes up. Just then an unknown man walks into the room. Is this a nightmare too?

Ten minutes pass. Finally, Raskolnikov can't stand it any more. "What do you want?" he demands.

"I am Arkady Ivanovich Svidrigailov," the man answers.

NOTE:

From here to the end of Part VI, the lives of Raskolnikov and Svidrigailov are intertwined in many ways. Dostoevsky makes the similarities between them very clear (something Svidrigailov loves to point out); but the differences are even more important. Watch the parallels and intersections of their lives closely.

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