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FREE Barron's Booknotes-Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky-Free
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CHAPTER 2

The visit begins in an unusual way, considering that a police investigator is talking to a man he knows is a killer. Porfiry begins by saying he owes Raskolnikov an apology for trying to trick him. He hopes they can be honest with each other. He claims that he admires Raskolnikov enormously and that he thinks they're very much alike. He feels sorry for Raskolnikov, he insists, and then he explains how he became suspicious of him. But Porfiry's a crafty fellow, and he doesn't tell any more than he absolutely intends to. He does say, though, that Raskolnikov's article was particularly important in directing his suspicions at its author. He also makes a point of telling Raskolnikov that his room was searched, that his conversation with Zametov in the tavern was incriminating, and that his laughter on the first visit to the police station provoked suspicion. Porfiry hasn't missed a thing. If this were a detective novel, he would be the hero.

He's also got an explanation for the painter's confession; the young man is a religious fanatic, and his sense of being a sinner is so profound that he feels he should suffer. But there were too many errors in the man's confession, Porfiry tells Raskolnikov, and it's perfectly clear that the painter isn't guilty at all.


What really rattles Raskolnikov is that Porfiry seems to know exactly what happened, and doesn't hesitate to say that Raskolnikov is the killer. And even when Raskolnikov denies it, Porfiry insists he's guilty.

But Porfiry also admits he has absolutely no evidence. If Raskolnikov doesn't confess, there isn't a case. So before any evidence is found, before he is forced to arrest him, Porfiry wants Raskolnikov to admit the crime. It will be easier on them both, he claims. As you might expect, Raskolnikov is scornful of that idea. But Porfiry is determined. He offers a deal-plea- bargaining we'd call it today. If Raskolnikov confesses, Porfiry promises the sentence will be reduced. When justice is served, Porfiry maintains, Raskolnikov will be able to regain his self-esteem-and find God's forgiveness too.

NOTE:

Despite his scornful refusal to confess, Raskolnikov is very upset. The more Porfiry explains Raskolnikov's own behavior to him, the more depressed Raskolnikov gets. At last someone does really understand the complex ideas in his mind! And what good does it do?

But we can see a crack in Porfiry's pose of absolute assurance that Raskolnikov will confess. He can't resist-although he does it very awkwardly-asking him, if he does decide to commit suicide, to please leave a note saying where the loot is.

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