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Crime and Punishment

by Fyodor Dostoevsky
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Epilogue, Chapter 1 Summary

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 785

In Siberia, on the banks of a river, is a town in which there is a fortress. Inside the fortress is a prison, and inside the prison is Raskolnikov. He has been there for nine months, and it has been a year and a half since the murders. The trial had been simple and straightforward, for Raskolnikov told the court everything and never wavered from his original statement. He gave every detail he was asked for, including where the stolen trinkets were located. The court was most stunned by the realization that Raskolnikov knew virtually nothing about and never made use of anything he stole.

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The court deduced that Raskolnikov suffered from some kind of mental derangement at the time of the murders—“a homicidal derangement without object or the pursuit of gain.” It was the most fashionable theory of the day in Russia, and Raskolnikov’s certified hypochondriacal tendencies helped point to the conclusion that he was not an ordinary criminal. When asked why he committed his crime, Raskolnikov answered simply that it was his miserable condition, his poverty, and his helplessness that compelled him to seek money through such despicable means. The only thing that made him confess was his “heartfelt repentance.”

His sentence was more merciful than expected. Raskolnikov was, indeed, living in depraved conditions at the time of the murder; that he did not try to mitigate his guilt in any way, that he must have been deranged to leave the door open so Lizaveta could discover him, the false confession of the painter Nikolay, and the fact that there was no evidence against Nikolay aside from his confession were all factors in the lenient sentence. In addition, Razumihin proved that his former colleague had performed at least one extraordinary act of compassion, and Raskolnikov’s landlady testified (corroborated by several witnesses) that he had once saved two young children from a burning building. As a result of these facts, Raskolnikov was condemned to “penal servitude in the second class” for eight years.

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During the trial, Pulcheria Alexandrovna became ill with a kind of delusion. When Dounia returned from seeing her brother for the last time, her mother had already invented an elaborate story in which Raskolnikov had to leave to escape his many enemies, who were jealous of his brilliant literary talent. She never asked why she did not hear from her son; it soon became evident that Pulcheria Alexandrovna was not in complete control of her faculties, though she seemed to suspect something terrible had happened to her son.

Raskolnikov was sentenced five months after his confession. Razumihin and Sonia came to visit him as often as possible. Razumihin began preparations for all of them eventually to move to Siberia, where there was a great need for workers, so they would all be settled into a new life together. In the meantime, Sonia followed Raskolnikov to Siberia. Two months later, Dounia and Razumihin were married. It was a quiet, somber affair, and Dounia put implicit faith in him to take care of everything. Razumihin displayed a rare sense of will, attending university lectures so he could finish his degree. Pulcheria Alexandrovna grew more morose, and eventually, Razumihin shared the two great things Raskolnikov did so she would have something more positive to think about. Soon these feats of valor became all Pulcheria Alexandrovna could think or talk about, driving her into a delirium that eventually resulted in a brain fever. When she spoke in her feverish state, it was clear that she knew more about her son’s fate than they had supposed. She died a fortnight later.

All news of Raskolnikov comes through a consistent correspondence with Sonia. The letters are not particularly interesting but draw an accurate picture of Raskolnikov’s life in prison. At her first visits with him, Raskolnikov was sullen and unwilling to talk. Even the eventual news of his mother’s death did not seem to incite much emotion in him. Now Raskolnikov is generally indifferent to nearly everything in his life; he does what he must and no more and is anxious that no one be inconvenienced on his behalf. The food is so bad that he does eventually take money from Sonia so he can have his own tea; otherwise, he asks nothing of anyone. He comes to rely on Sonia’s visits to assuage his depression.

One day Dounia receives a letter that relates the terrible news she has been expecting: Raskolnikov remains aloof from everyone, is hated by the other prisoners, has grown pale, and keeps silent for long periods of time. Now he has grown so seriously ill that he is in the convict ward of the hospital.

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