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FREE Barron's Booknotes-Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky-Free
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CHAPTER 5

We begin to understand Raskolnikov's curious comment-to both Razumikhin and Sonia-that he will return if he can, when we discover that the first thing he does the next morning is visit Porfiry Petrovich. As he waits for the interview, he thinks he's going to be arrested. But as the minutes go by, he convinces himself that the accusing stranger must not have reported him to the police.

His frustration and anger grow. He dreads another encounter with Porfiry. He fears that he will betray himself. Just then Porfiry sends for him. The investigator has won the first round in the war of nerves. But he, too, is nervous and ill at ease. -

NOTE:

Most of this chapter is dialogue-the narrator doesn't tell you much. So you've got to pay attention to the tone of the conversation as well as the words and make your own interpretations.

Raskolnikov can't resist the urge to bait and taunt his adversary. Porfiry in turn torments him. And while Porfiry keeps the upper hand, Raskolnikov's sense that something strange is going on persists. You can feel it too. Look at all Porfiry's remarks. He didn't behave this way before.

One of Porfiry's methods is flattery, complimenting Raskolnikov on the brilliance of ideas he hasn't expressed, and deferring to his knowledge of law. And he shares his own philosophy of catching criminals with his visitor. Some criminals, he says, should not be arrested right away, or they won't incriminate themselves. The psychological value of keeping the criminal on edge helps the investigator enormously, Porfiry laughs as if he were sharing some enormous joke with Raskolnikov.


In a war of nerves, the criminal will always lose, always betray himself, Porfiry claims, because he is psychologically unable to resist in incriminating himself. But Raskolnikov is neither fooled nor defeated. He resolves to resist, to beat Porfiry at his own game. By keeping silent, holding his anger inside, he seems to encourage Porfiry's chatter. But the chatter isn't pointless; nearly every comment is a barb.

At last Raskolnikov can stand it no longer. He tells Porfiry he knows he is suspected, and insists that if there is any evidence he be arrested immediately. He refuses to be tormented. He hardly seems to realize that he has no choice in the matter. He is appalled, too, that the investigator seems to know everything he's done, including the return visit to the old lady's house. Porfiry says that if Raskolnikov doesn't calm down, he will go genuinely crazy. But he lays yet another trap, by telling a story of a man who imagines himself guilty when he is not.

The tricky questions continue, and Raskolnikov, beside himself, confronts the investigator: either Porfiry is lying, or he is making fun, Raskolnikov says. Porfiry insists that he's telling the truth, and that his chief source is Raskolnikov himself. But Raskolnikov is not appeased. He demands to know if he is suspected of the murder. When no answer is given, he is beside himself with rage, pounding the table with his fist. "Don't play with me! Do not dare...," he rages.

But Porfiry is only amused, and says that he has a little surprise in store, if Raskolnikov would like to unlock the door. Furious again, Raskolnikov demands that Porfiry reveal his information. But the real surprise astounds them both.

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