Crime and Punishment Part 1, Chapter 2 Summary
by Fyodor Dostoevsky

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Part 1, Chapter 2 Summary

Though he generally avoids crowds, even more so of late, Raskolnikov suddenly has a desire to be with other people. Something new is happening inside him, and with it comes a thirst for company. After a month of his own wretchedness, he is glad to be somewhere else—even in this awful tavern.

Often a chance meeting with a stranger is interesting even before it happens, and that is the impression Raskolnikov has about the man who appears to be a retired government clerk sitting some distance away from him. Afterwards, he will recall this feeling, even calling it a presentiment. Though he clearly disdains everyone else in the room, the middle-aged man is staring persistently at Raskolnikov, as if he wants to engage in a conversation. His face is yellowish-green from too much drinking, but his eyes are glittering with something like madness.

The man is dirty and unkempt, a fitting patron for this tavern, yet there is a slight air of respectability about him, too. He rumples his hair and drops his head dejectedly into his hands as he sits at the sticky table. Finally he looks directly at Raskolnikov and asks him if he would like to engage in a conversation. His unexpectedly grandiloquent vocabulary and style surprise Raskolnikov, as does being addressed so directly. Just as a moment before he was in the mood for conversation, now Raskolnikov feels his habitual aversion to being approached by strangers.

The drunken man introduces himself as Marmeladov as he staggers over to Raskolnikov’s table. When asked, the younger man introduces himself as a student, and the older man boasts of spending the last five nights on a hay barge; Raskolnikov has no trouble believing it, for the man is filthy and covered in bits of hay. Marmeladov rants about the nobility of poverty as opposed to beggary, and as he speaks, the other people in the room begin to gather near to hear the “funny fellow” speak.

He eloquently laments the troubles he has had, including the facts that his moneylender beat up Marmeladov’s wife because she spoke disrespectfully to him and that his daughter has a yellow passport. All his troubles are shameful, but the men at the bar already know his story. He asks Raskolnikov to tell him honestly if he can deny that Marmeladov seems to be a pig, but Raskolnikov does not answer. The drunken orator goes on to talk about the true nobility of his wife; though she has consistently abused him, she is a lady but he is a pig. The men gathered around him snigger at the picture Marmeladov paints of his pitiful life.

His wife, Katerina Ivanovna, has had much to endure, he tells them. He has stolen her stockings and other personal possessions in order to buy drink, and she has become consumptive as she is forced to live in a cold home and care for their three children. The more Marmeladov drinks, the sharper his guilt—so he drinks more in order to suffer twice as much.

Katerina Ivanovna is a noblewoman who left her family for a military man who became a gambler and died, leaving her with three young children. Marmeladov, a widower with a fourteen-year-old daughter, Sonia, was stationed in the remote area where Ivanovna was eking out a living, and they married. Sonia was not educated, and Ivanovna treated the girl with great disrespect, saying she ate more than she was worth, causing her own children to starve. Eventually she shamed the girl into prostitution in order to help provide for her family, but once Sonia had debased herself, Katerina Ivanovna was grateful.

As a consequence of Sonia’s profession, she was given a yellow card and was not allowed to live in her family’s building, where "a girl like that” would damage the others’ reputations. She moved in with a tailor and his family, all of whom lived in one room above the shop. She sneaks home at night to comfort Katerina Ivanovna and bring what money she can. Marmeladov...

(The entire section is 1,048 words.)