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FREE Barron's Booknotes-Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky-Free
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CHAPTER 3

In Katerina Ivanovna's usual style, she totally misjudges the situation. Calling to Luzhin for protection, she is rudely rebuffed. He has come, he says, to talk to Sonia.

Deliberately he addresses the girl by the wrong patronymic, either to show his disdain or to rattle her; worse, he accuses her of having stolen a hundred-rouble note. If she confesses immediately, he promises not to carry the matter further.

Everyone is dumbfounded. Sonia, stunned, whispers that she doesn't know what he is talking about. Given the opening he needs, Luzhin launches into a tirade of slander and accusation. Stricken, the terrified Sonia tries to return the ten roubles he had given her. But the mocking looks on the neighbors' faces show that the others believe him. Luzhin threatens to call the police.

Katerina Ivanovna, out of control, shrieks at him and at the landlady who has joined the accusation. "I am not meek!" she screams at them. It is a deliberate repetition of the word Dostoevsky has used to describe Sonia and Lizaveta, the saintly sufferers. Luzhin brushes her aside, ready to search the girl, but Katerina Ivanovna herself empties Sonia's pockets. The hundred- rouble note, folded small, falls at her accuser's feet.

Frenzy follows. The landlady howls; Sonia sobs her innocence; and Katerina Ivanovna has her finest hour, for she praises her step-daughter's honesty and self-sacrifice. She begs the crowd-particularly Raskolnikov who has stood silently by-to defend Sonia.

Even Luzhin is moved to pity by her pathetic agony, and offers to let the matter rest. After all, the poor destitute girl had a good motive in her theft, he says.

"What a foul trick!" "How despicable!" Lebezyatnikov speaks from the doorway, staring at Luzhin, barely able to control his fury. The startled Luzhin tries to defuse the situation by questioning Lebezyatnikov's sanity. But the accuser is totally sane and completely in control. He has watched the entire scene from the doorway, dumbfounded. He can't figure out what Luzhin is trying to do, for he had seen Luzhin himself secretly slip the folded note into Sonia's pocket.


Once more the room explodes in frenzy. Luzhin tries desperately to salvage his control, but Lebezyatnikov won't back off. His labored eloquence persuades his listeners that he is telling the truth, and Luzhin's efforts are wasted. Once more he tries slander to carry the crowd with him.

At last Raskolnikov steps forward. He is calm and self-assured-a very different person from his usual self. He will explain it all. He recounts, in explicit detail, the story of the broken engagement and Luzhin's innuendoes about Sonia's character. He charges that this attempt to discredit Sonia is in reality meant to destroy Raskolnikov's credibility with his mother and sister. Lebezyatnikov confirms this interpretation by remembering that before Luzhin asked to see Sonia, he had wanted to know if Raskolnikov were among the guests.

Down but not out, Luzhin pushes off the menacing crowd, sticking to his story that he has been robbed and maligned; within half an hour he has left the building. And he's left the story. We never hear any more about him.

Sonia's vindication can't ease her agony. She is too aware how vulnerable she is, how close to disaster she has come. Barely in control of herself, she flees.

And the landlady, outraged by her own "suffering," insists that the exhausted Katerina Ivanovna move out at once. Out of control, the miserable widow rushes away, looking for the "justice and truth" she desperately believes she will find. The room becomes bedlam.

Raskolnikov sets off after Sonia. Surely she can no longer believe that God is protecting them all! he thinks.

NOTE:

Luzhin's accusation is one of the most dramatic confrontations in the novel. But Dostoevsky gives us more than excitement. Think about what Luzhin has done-or tried to do. For his own selfish (and offensive) ends-to get Dunya to marry him-he has planted evidence and maligned an innocent person. Yet he feels no remorse. He has no conscience. His only concern is for himself.

Compare him to Raskolnikov. Which man is more of a criminal? Of course, Luzhin hasn't murdered anyone. But he has tried to destroy an innocent person.

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