Table of Contents | Message Board | Printable Version | Barron's Booknotes
PART I, CHAPTER 6
Raskolnikov recalls an incident that occurred a month and a half ago. After his first trip to Alena Ivanovna's flat, Raskolnikov was seated in a tavern when he overheard a conversation between two young men. They asserted that it would be quite all right to kill the old pawnbroker without feeling any qualms of conscience, as she is miserly and hard hearted. Yet they admitted that they would not kill her themselves. At that time, Raskolnikov had the same idea in his head.
Back in the present, Raskolnikov has returned from the Haymarket Square and falls into a deep slumber on the sofa. He is awakened by the chiming of a clock at around six. He now prepares a loop and stitches it into the inside of his overcoat, where he intends to hide the hatchet. He picks up his 'pledge,' consisting of pieces of wood and iron, which he has wrapped to look like a cigarette case. He sets off downstairs intending to steal a hatchet from the landlady's kitchen, but unexpectedly finds that Nastasya is still there. Quite by chance, he discovers the caretaker's hatchet lying under a bench in the archway. He picks it up, hides it beneath his coat and sets out for Alena Ivanovna's place. It is about half past seven as he climbs up to the third-floor apartment. His heart beats violently as he presses the doorbell once, twice and then a third time, until the old woman finally comes to the door and withdraws the bolt.
Raskolnikov's mind tries to discover motives for the crime he is about to commit. Some of these motives are made evident in the conversation between the two youths in the tavern. Raskolnikov recalls how the two men had agreed that the old pawnbroker was a "stupid, senseless, evil and sickly old woman," of no use to society. Therefore, her murderer need not feel any guilt. By contrast, her sister, Lizaveta, is a goodly soul. Furthermore, the two men propose the Machiavellian theory ("the end justifies the means") when they declare that the person who murders Alena Ivanovna could spend the money to help the underprivileged. Thus, the would-be murderer could also play the role of an altruist (one who works for the welfare of others). Strikingly, Raskolnikov overhears this relevant conversation when he is considering murdering the old pawnbroker.
Despite the discussion of the possible motives for and benefits of the crime, it becomes apparent that Raskolnikov has not carefully planned this murder. Indeed, even on the evening of the murder, he goes about his tasks carelessly. He sleeps until it is past six, and he leaves the stitching of the loop to the last minute. His plan to steal the hatchet from the kitchen is ruined. It is only by chance that he discovers another hatchet, thus once again, the question of the debate between free will and destiny is raised. Although he knows that Lizaveta has a meeting at seven, he reaches the pawnbroker's apartment thirty minutes later, thus leading to an unnecessary encounter with Lizaveta. Not being a hardened criminal, Raskolnikov is nervous: his heart beats violently, but he still has the nerve to ring the bell a third time. On his way upstairs, he notices that painters are working in one of the other apartments.