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Katerina Ivanovna has gone completely crazy, Lebezyatnikov tells them. She has taken the children into the streets to dance and sing and beg money from passing strangers. Sonia rushes out, intent on helping her desperate family.
Raskolnikov returns to his own room, feeling dreadfully alone and yet full of pity for Sonia. He knows he's added to her sorrows, and he's disgusted with himself for having made her unhappy.
While he broods, his sister enters. She too loves him, Raskolnikov recognizes. She has come to say that she knows he is suspected, and that if there is anything she can do he need only ask for it. But his only response is to praise Razumikhin, and Dunya is suddenly very afraid.
Many readers feel that one of Raskolnikov's biggest errors is not putting more confidence in his sister and in her ability to understand and forgive. Perhaps he feels ashamed in front of her, as he doesn't with Sonia. Dunya, after all, is not guilty of anything, so Raskolnikov may believe that she can't understand and forgive guilt in others.
As Raskolnikov mulls over his plight, Lebezyatnikov rushes in. Again he is the messenger of doom. Sonia has been unable to get her dying stepmother off the street. The situation is desperate. Raskolnikov goes to help. The scene makes all that has gone before pale. A more pathetic destruction of human dignity is hard to imagine, as the dying mother and her starving children dance in the streets. Sonia can't make her stop, nor can Raskolnikov. Her insane fantasies run on, interspersed with the children's songs.
When a policeman tries to intervene, Katerina Ivanovna loses all control and falls, exhausted and dying, in the street. They carry her wasted body to Sonia's room; her delirium increases. But she rejects the idea of calling for a priest. She insists that she has no sins, and that God owes her something for all the suffering she has gone through. Many readers agree with her.
Her death leaves her orphaned children terrified, but Svidrigailov-who, we suddenly recall, lives in the room next to Sonia's-insists that he will make all the funeral arrangements. Even more, he will place the children in a good orphanage and leave an annuity for each of them so that Sonia will not have to worry about them. He makes a particular point to tell Raskolnikov that he is using the money he wished to give Dunya, but Raskolnikov is immediately distrustful.
And well he should be. For Svidrigailov makes clear that he has overheard Raskolnikov's confession, and that knowledge must be reckoned with.
Part V is in many ways the most depressing section of the novel, but Dostoevsky also uses it to hint at the story's hopeful resolution.