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Free Study Guide-Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky-Free Booknotes
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PART IV, CHAPTER 5

Summary

The next morning, Raskolnikov calls on Porfiry at the police station. Porfiry, who had asked Raskolnikov to drop by for questioning regarding the murders, begins on a very casual note by talking about irrelevant matters. This irritates Raskolnikov, who accuses Porfiry of trying to lull him into a state of complacency, so that he will make a mistake. Raskolnikov asks Porfiry to be frank with him and not to waste his time. When Raskolnikov gets up to leave, Porfiry calms him down and asks him to stay. Porfiry mentions to Raskolnikov that if he (Porfiry) believed that someone was a criminal and if he had evidence against that person, he would either arrest the man immediately or let him wander freely for some time, depending upon the type of criminal he were dealing with. Raskolnikov feels an urge to strangle Porfiry. He decides instead to maintain a careful silence.

When Porfiry comes to the end of his lengthy dissertation on the criminal mind, Raskolnikov stands up and accuses Porfiry of suspecting him of murdering the two sisters. He tells Porfiry either to arrest him, if he has evidence against him, or to let him go and not to trouble him again. Porfiry acts as though Raskolnikov is having a nervous breakdown. He rushes to open the window and get water for Raskolnikov. He advises Raskolnikov to take better care of his health. He reveals that he knows about Raskolnikov's visit to the scene of the crime after the murders occurred. Raskolnikov demands that Porfiry should deal with him in a straightforward fashion. Porfiry tells Raskolnikov that he has a "little surprise" hidden behind a door. Raskolnikov loses his composure again because he believes that Porfiry is about to bring forward witnesses to testify against him. Instead, something totally unexpected occurs.


Notes

Porfiry continues to play his cat-and-mouse game with Raskolnikov and tries to outwit his opponent psychologically. He is a clever talker who is able to irritate Raskolnikov as well as to calm him down. He plays on Raskolnikov's nervous condition and almost makes Raskolnikov confess.

Raskolnikov is so much on edge that he cannot bear to listen to Porfiry's idle talk. He wishes that Porfiry would come to the point and discuss the murders. His pleas fall on deaf ears, as Porfiry makes every effort to spar with his opponent. Like a boxer who is light on his feet, Porfiry strikes a few aggressive blows at his opponent and then dances away from him. The blows are not physical, but mental. It is all too much for Raskolnikov, who finds himself helpless against an opponent who does not come out in the open with his thoughts. Obviously, Porfiry knows much more than he reveals to Raskolnikov in this clever round of verbal sparring.

Porfiry's understanding of criminal psychology is somewhat advanced for a nineteenth-century detective. He does not arrest Raskolnikov, not only because he lacks solid evidence against him, but also because he knows that if he makes Raskolnikov suffer from uncertainty about being arrested, then Raskolnikov may just give himself up of his own accord. The "Surprise" that Porfiry has in store for Raskolnikov is the stranger who saw Raskolnikov at Alena Ivanovna's flat about five days after the murder. This is the man who called Raskolnikov a murderer in the street.

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