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Free Study Guide-Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky-Free Booknotes
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PART V, CHAPTER 4

Summary

When Raskolnikov arrives at Sonia's house, Sonia thanks him for defending her against Luzhin. She asks Raskolnikov not to speak to her as he did on the previous day. Raskolnikov asks Sonia the following question: if she were to decide whether Luzhin or Katerina Ivanovna should die, which one she would choose? Sonia replies that such a choice does not lie in her hands, but in God's hands.

Raskolnikov's face turns pale and he falls silent. Finally, he says that he has come to tell Sonia about the identity of Lizaveta's murderer. Sonia asks him how he knows this. Raskolnikov asks her to guess and tells her to "take a good look" at him. Sonia realizes that it is Raskolnikov who committed the murders. After some hesitation, she flings herself at his knees and asks him: "What have you done to yourself?" Then she embraces him, telling him, "There is no one . . . more unfortunate than you in the whole world." Sonia swears that she will never forsake him and that she will go to Siberia with him. Raskolnikov does not wish to go to Siberia and objects to this suggestion.

Sonia asks to know the motive for his crime. Initially, Raskolnikov tells her that he murdered for the sake of money; but when he remembers that he has hidden the stolen property under a stone, he denies that his motive was robbery. He then tells Sonia about his "extraordinary man" theory. Sonia, however, does not accept this theory as the cause for the murders. Now, Raskolnikov lays the blame for the murders on his poverty, his inability to support his mother and sister, and his desire to study further. Sonia remarks that he has done a horrible thing. When Raskolnikov says he killed a louse, Sonia asks: "Can a human creature be a louse?"


Raskolnikov now blames his crime on his illness. He cites his depressing surroundings and describes how he had spent long hours thinking by himself in his low-ceilinged room. He tells Sonia that he decided to take the law into his hands so as to better himself. Sonia exclaims that Raskolnikov has strayed away from God and has given himself over to the devil. Finally, Raskolnikov asserts that he murdered to prove to himself that he was not a louse.

Sonia observes that Raskolnikov suffers greatly. He asks her what he should do. She tells him to go to the crossroads, to kiss the earth that he has defiled, and then to announce aloud to the world that he has committed murder. She asks him to accept suffering and thus to gain atonement. Raskolnikov, however, does not intend to give himself up as yet. He wishes to evade the police to the very end. Sonia agrees to come to see him in prison if and when he is arrested. She tells Raskolnikov that when he is ready to accept suffering, she will put on him the cypress wood crucifix that once belonged to Lizaveta. There is a knock at the door, and Sonia opens it to find Lebeziatnikov outside.

Notes

Raskolnikov's feelings for Sonia vary from love to hatred during this meeting. He feels a deep urge to confess his crime to her, but at the same time, his reasoning does not allow that such a confession is necessary. However, he gives into instinct when he confesses to her that he is the murderer. He prepares her for this revelation by asking her a hypothetical question, whether she would like to see Katerina Ivanovna dead or Luzhin dead. Sonia, whose Christianity has taught her to love life and abhor murder, leaves such a choice in the hands of the creator. As a typical Christian, she chooses not to make such choices, but decides to follow the will of God.

Sonia sees that Raskolnikov is unfortunate and offers him her love and devotion. The motives he gives her for his crime are either false or insufficient. He himself is uncertain as to why he killed the old lady. His inability to explain his motive is another reason why the magistrates at his trial believe that he was temporarily insane at the time of the murder. As he himself concludes, he did not murder for money. Although he needed money, he did not use the stolen property for his personal needs. His theory of the extraordinary man appears to Sonia to be outrageous, and he himself admits that it is "all nonsense." His attempts to blame the deed on his living conditions and illness also come to naught. Finally, he produces a reason for the murder: he wanted to prove that he was a man, not a "louse." He wanted to show that he had the courage to take action and to commit the murder. Yet the fact that he realizes that he is still a louse shows that he does not believe in this idea either. Sonia's religious ideals lead her to conclude that the devil is at work inside Raskolnikov. Raskolnikov tries to blame the murder on the devil in himself.

Raskolnikov lives in torment after having committed the murders and Sonia believes that he will have no salvation until he suffers punishment for his crime. She wishes that he would give himself up to the police. Raskolnikov is not ready for that option, as he still does not acknowledge that he has committed a crime. Sonia promises that she will be waiting for him to change his mind. When is ready to accept suffering in a Siberian prison, she will put the symbolic cross n his neck and go with him. Ironically, the cross belonged to Raskolnikov's victim, Lizaveta. One can see that Sonia will be a true friend and support Raskolnikov in the difficult days that lie ahead of him. Yet he responds with hostility to her compassion and rejects the thought of his inevitable punishment.

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