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Free Study Guide-Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky-Free Booknotes
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On a hot summer evening, Raskolnikov leaves his rented room in St. Petersburg and walks hesitantly towards a bridge. Worn down by poverty, he appears tense and agitated. He is quite good- looking, with dark eyes and brown hair. He mutters to himself as he walks and seems to be carefully planning some future course of action.

Raskolnikov reaches an immense building near the Canal. Here, he climbs up to the third-floor apartment of Alena Ivanovna, a pawn broker. He rings the doorbell and Alena, a sixty year-old woman, answers. Raskolnikov tells her that he is a student and has been here to see her before; his previous visit was a month ago. He then produces a silver pocket watch that he wishes to pawn. Alena Ivanovna reminds him that he has not yet redeemed his previous pledge. She offers him a ruble and a half for the watch. Ultimately, she gives him only a ruble and 15 kopecks, and keeps 35 kopecks as interest on his previous debt. Raskolnikov is not happy with the sum, but he merely replies that he will return in a couple of days to pawn a silver cigarette case.

As he leaves the flat, Raskolnikov admonishes himself for thinking "filthy, foul and loathsome" thoughts. He enters a tavern in which a drunk is singing a song. Another man, who resembles a retired government clerk, is drinking vodka and appears unhappy. He is Marmeladov.


The novel begins with events already in progress or being planned: the protagonist, Rodion Romanovitch Raskolnikov is planning to carry out the brutal murder that he ultimately commits in Chapter 7 of Part I. Both murderer and victim are presented in the opening chapter. Although the reader does not know for sure what Raskolnikov is planning to do, it is evident from Raskolnikov's agitated condition that he is on the verge of doing something terrible.

Raskolnikov is an impoverished law student who lives alone in tiny apartment that he detests. His visit to Alena Ivanovna is supposed to be a trial visit, and he intends to commit the murder the next time he goes to her apartment. He does not appear to be an experienced criminal, although he tries to make a note of every precaution he will take before the next visit. He counts the number of steps from the gateway to his house and is frozen with fear when a drunk makes fun of his conspicuous hat. He listens carefully as Alena Ivanovna unlocks the chest-of-drawers in the inner room. Yet he himself finds the idea of what he is about to do repulsive and loathsome. He is as yet undecided whether to go through with it or not.

The character of the old woman is painted with swift, masterly strokes. Her piercing "malicious little eyes" and "sharp nose" are in keeping with her miserliness and distrust of visitors. She cheats her clientele by giving them too little for their precious goods.

After his meeting with Alena Ivanovna, Raskolnikov is all the more disturbed and he wanders aimlessly until he reaches the tavern. Dostoevsky now prepares the reader for the meeting with the alcoholic ex-clerk, Marmeladov.

Dostoevsky concentrates on the inner state of mind of his protagonist and shows Raskolnikov as isolated and overwrought. His handsome physical appearance belies his growing mental depravity.

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Free Study Guide-Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky-Plot Synopsis


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