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Free Study Guide-Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky-Free Booknotes
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PART I, CHAPTER 7

Summary

The old woman opens the door a crack, and Raskolnikov grabs hold of the door handle and forces his way into the house. He tells Alena Ivanovna that he has a silver cigarette case as a pledge. The old lady takes the packet from him, and while attempting to open it, she turns towards the window for light. In that instant, Raskolnikov removes the hatchet, and as the old lady turns back toward him, he raises his weapon and hits her violently several times on the head until she dies. He sees that she wears two crosses, one of cypress wood and the other made of copper. With trembling hands, he takes the keys from her and opens a chest of drawers in the bedroom. In this, he finds old pledges, such as watches and bracelets, and he puts these in his pockets. Suddenly, Lizaveta walks in and sees the terrible sight of her murdered stepsister. Raskolnikov, in his haste and anxiety, had left the front door open. Now he rushes at Lizaveta with the hatchet and swiftly kills her. This second and unpremeditated murder fills even him with horror as he uses the sharper edge of the hatchet to split open the woman's skull.

From the staircase, Raskolnikov can hear the sound of footsteps that are growing louder all the time. He bolts the door and waits inside the flat. Outside, two men, who had come to meet Alena Ivanovna for business transactions, ring the doorbell. On not receiving a reply, one of them becomes suspicious and sets off downstairs to call the caretaker, while the second stands guard outside the door. After some time, when the first man does not return, the second loses patience and follows him downstairs.


Raskolnikov seizes this opportunity to rush downstairs and to hide in a vacant first-floor apartment that the workers he saw earlier had just left. While Raskolnikov hides, the two men, along with the caretaker and others, climb up to the apartment. Raskolnikov steps out into the street. He is dripping with sweat and his strength is gone. He reaches home, after making a detour, and puts the hatchet back under the bench. He collapses on the sofa in his room and falls into a stupor.

Notes

In this climactic chapter, Dostoevsky gives the grisly details of the two murders. Fittingly, it is the final chapter of Part I. Dostoevsky paints every minor detail in this major scene. One is not sure whether Raskolnikov will be able to go through with the murder, as he appears to be on the verge of a nervous breakdown. However, once he raises the hatchet, his strength returns to him and he is transformed into a killer. Here, Dostoevsky shows us the potential of any man to do evil. He makes use of the Hegelian concept of "dialectical movement," the idea that the opposite of anything is inherent in the thing itself. Raskolnikov has the capacity to do good as well as evil. Interestingly, this complex character commits two murder, instead of one: these two women could not be more different, and Raskolnikov's feelings about each of them are very different.

Raskolnikov's plans prove inadequate. He arrives late at the pawnbroker's residence and consequently has to murder the younger sister as well. The unforeseen arrival of the two men forces Raskolnikov to improvise, and he hides in the freshly painted apartment downstairs. Despite his nervous state, he is still able to use his instincts in order to avoid detection. Yet, at times throughout the ordeal he wishes to give up and confess, a desire that becomes more compelling in the days following the murders.

The theme of the intellectual as criminal is dealt with in Chapters 6 and 7. In Chapter 6 Raskolnikov had thought that most crimes are discovered and the criminal is arrested due to a weakening of the criminal's will power and mental faculties. Raskolnikov views crime as an intellectual activity. As long as the criminal is mentally strong, his crime will not be discovered. However, as soon as his mental powers slacken, he is in danger of being discovered. Raskolnikov knows this, and thus, after he commits the murders, he asks himself: "Am I going mad?" He is frightened by the possibility that his 'madness' will be the ruin of him. As he leaves the scene of the crime, he is "in poor command of his faculties." He arrives home in a daze, yet he manages to put the hatchet back. His thinking throughout the evening has been disjointed, and everything appears to him in a blurred fashion as he lies awake in bed.

Two other notable points in this gory murder scene are Raskolnikov's desire to confess soon after the crime and his frantic efforts to clean the blood stains from his person before he leaves the apartment. The smell of the fresh paint in the flat he hides in will also haunt him later in the police station.

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