Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 851
Raskolnikov is ill for a long time. His conditions have not made him sick, for the hard work, bad food, and other hardships of prison life are all endurable. His wounded pride made him ill. He is not ashamed to let Sonia see his shaved head and his fetters; he is ashamed that after stringent self-examination, he discovers no terrible fault in his past. The entire episode was merely a blunder, and he is ashamed only because he stupidly allowed himself to submit to this punishment after some decree of blind fate caused him to confess.
Now he has nothing for which to live; his continual sacrifice will lead to nothing. It is no comfort to him that he will be free, at the age of thirty-two, to pursue whatever life he chooses. He had been ready before to give up his life for the sake of an idea, a hope, or even a fancy; he had always wanted more. Raskolnikov wishes now that fate would have sent him repentance of the fiercest, deepest kind; but he feels no repentance.
He thinks about others in history who have committed horrible acts and were not punished; they succeeded and so they were right; Raskolnikov did not succeed, so he had no right to take the actions he did. It is his only admission of criminal guilt. He also wonders why he had not killed himself like Svidrigailov; perhaps his will to live is so strong that he cannot overcome it. Instead of realizing that he must have inherently recognized the falseness of his convictions and his hope for the future, Raskolnikov sees his inability to act as evidence of his weakness and baseness.
Eventually he begins to feel the chasm that exists between him and his fellow prisoners. He is disliked and avoided by everyone, and soon they begin to hate him. In the second week of Lent, it is his group’s turn to take the sacrament, and suddenly the entire group turns on him, calling him an infidel who should be killed, though he had never once spoken of his faith. Raskolnikov did not say a word or fight back in any way; if the guards had not intervened, there would have been bloodshed.
Raskolnikov wonders why everyone adores Sonia. She has never shown any of the other prisoners particular favor, but over time, she becomes messenger, confidante, and unattainable lady to them and their families. This adoration and respect borders on reverence. Raskolnikov is in the hospital for weeks and suffers from delirium. Sonia is able to visit him only twice in that time. He has feverish dreams in which there is a deadly plague consuming all but a chosen few. Men are fighting one another for no reason, and there are conflagrations and famine. The plague spreads and everyone knows that only a few men will be saved, but no one has seen them or heard from them.
Signs of spring begin to appear. One evening when he is almost well again, he looks out the window and sees Sonia standing in the distance, as if she were waiting to meet someone. “Something stabs him to the heart in that minute.” Sonia does not come to visit for days, and when he is finally discharged, Raskolnikov learns that she is sick and unable to leave her house. She is able to send him a note saying she only has a cold and will come visit him soon.
It is a beautiful day, and Raskolnikov contemplates the thriving and growing world outside of the prison. Suddenly Sonia is beside him. She is thinner and paler than when he saw her last, but she gives him a joyful smile and timidly holds out her hand to him. Usually Raskolnikov takes it with a certain repugnance. Today, however, their hands do not part and they sit together alone. Without warning, Raskolnikov finds himself falling at Sonia’s feet, weeping and throwing his arms around her knees. At first Sonia is alarmed at this strange behavior, but soon the “light of infinite happiness” shines in her eyes. Sonia now knows that Raskolnikov loves her beyond everything. They want to speak but cannot. They know they have seven years to wait, but they are renewed by love.
That night Raskolnikov thinks about how even his relations with the other inmates seem to be friendlier. He is not surprised, for it seems right that everything should now be changed. He vows to repay all of Sonia’s sufferings with love. It is new for him just to feel. Today has been a great agitation to Sonia, and that night she becomes ill again; however, she is so unexpectedly happy that she is almost frightened by the intensity. The next seven years will seem like seven days to them.
Raskolnikov does not yet know that his new life will not be given to him for free. He will “pay dearly for it” and it will cost him great suffering and striving. But that is the beginning of a new story, one of renewal and regeneration.
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