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PART I, CHAPTER 2
Raskolnikov now suddenly finds himself drawn to people. After a month of gloom, in which he had shunned all company, he feels the need to take in the atmosphere of the outer world, even if it is the sordid world of the tavern.
The man in the tavern, who resembles a retired government clerk, is over fifty. He wears a tattered, black frock-coat. He addresses Raskolnikov, for he thinks that Raskolnikov is a man of education and sensibility and will understand his problems. The man, Marmeladov, had been a titular councilor (the lowest rank in the Russian civil service.) The people in the tavern make fun of him because he is drunk and disheveled. He tells Raskolnikov that he drinks not to receive pleasure, but to be able to feel his suffering all the more.
Marmeladov tells Raskolnikov about his second marriage to a widow, Katerina Ivanovna, who has three children from her first marriage. For a year their marriage had worked well, but then Marmeladov lost his government job and took to the bottle. His daughter from a previous marriage, Sonia, left them after she started working as a prostitute in order to support her father's second family. Recently, Marmeladov's luck changed and he got his job back. However, after receiving his first salary, he had given in to the lure of liquor. When Raskolnikov meets him, he has been away from home for five days after having made off with twelve rubles that his wife was setting aside for the family.
Marmeladov's tale ends in an outburst of self-pity and a demand that he should be punished for his sins. Raskolnikov leads him out of the tavern and back to the squalid room where his family stays. Back at home, Marmeladov is beaten up by his wife, Katerina, who wishes to know what he has done with the money he took. Raskolnikov, who has been scolded by Katerina for drinking with her husband, leaves the place after dropping some kopecks on the windowsill. He later regrets having left the money. He thinks about Sonia, the teenage prostitute, and concludes that mankind is vile.
Raskolnikov's complex nature is evident in the beginning of this chapter. Dostoevsky informs us that Raskolnikov had withdrawn from the world for a month and then suddenly feels himself being drawn to other people in the tavern. Throughout the novel, one can see Raskolnikov withdrawn, like a tortoise in its shell, struggling to come to terms with outer reality. His chance encounter with Marmeladov becomes one such link with the outer world, and it leads ultimately to a relationship with Sonia, which is to control the novel. Although Raskolnikov is contemplating a horrible murder, he is shown to be compassionate and understanding toward Marmeladov's family: the two-sided portrait of Raskolnikov will continue to be of great importance to the novel.
The former government clerk, Marmeladov, is drinking away a small fortune while his wife and young children starve. His eldest daughter, Sonia, enters the prostitution trade in order to support the family. Marmeladov's sufferings are mainly of his own making. Dostoevsky portrays the drunk as a man who wishes to confess all his sins to a stranger. Marmeladov's desire to be punished for his sin is later reflected in Raskolnikov's wish to be punished for his crime.
For Marmeladov, Christ is the compassionate savior, and he does not expect to be forgiven by his irate wife. He discerns "a kind of sorrow" in Raskolnikov's face. He remarks to Raskolnikov, "There comes a time when it is essential to have at least some place to go to!," recalling the theme of the isolation and loneliness of man, and the need for companionship and understanding.
Raskolnikov neither sympathizes with, nor upbraids Marmeladov (who attempts to justify his drunkenness), but he is kind enough to take the ex-clerk home. In her fury, Katerina Ivanovna reprimands Raskolnikov, instead of thanking him, and Raskolnikov leaves the house all the more depressed after having witnessed the wretchedness of the Marmeladovs. Dostoevsky portrays a touching scene in which the Marmeladov children are shown in states of despair and hopelessness. The scene is almost Dickensian in character, depicting the low life of St. Petersburg, with which the bohemian Dostoevsky was well acquainted. Again one sees the split nature of Raskolnikov's mind, for as he leaves the house, he regrets having left money with the Marmeladov family. However, the gesture is also an example of Raskolnikov's instinctive generosity.