Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1046
Raskolnikov wakes up late after a broken, unrefreshing sleep and looks with hatred at his tiny, poverty-stricken room. For the past two weeks, he has been like a turtle in its shell; his landlady has stopped sending up his meals, so he has gone without eating. The servant girl, Nastaysa, is pleased with his attitude, for she has not had to clean his room, other than wandering in once a week or so. Today she brings him some weak, stale tea with yellowed sugar cubes, and Raskolnikov asks her to get him some bread and cheap sausage. She brings him some of yesterday’s cabbage soup which she had saved for him.
Nastaysa sits by him as he eats, chatting about all manner of things, including the fact that his landlady intends to complain to the police about him for not paying the rent and then not leaving. She wonders why he no longer goes out and tutors children as he used to. Raskolnikov assures her he is working: He is thinking. He laments that he cannot go out without proper boots and lessons pay so little, in any case. Nastaysa asks if he expects to get a fortune all at once. Raskolnikov looks at her strangely and tells her he does, indeed, want a fortune. As she leaves to get the bread, the servant remembers he has received a letter. It is from his mother. He shoos the woman out so that he can read it in private.
It has been a long time since he has heard from his dear mother, and Raskolnikov kisses the envelope before he opens the letter. It is long, relating all the news for the past few months. His mother apologizes that she is not sending him any money, like last time—money she borrowed against her pension and has just managed to repay. She tells of her daughter’s horrible circumstances, all the while asking Raskolnikov’s forgiveness for not telling him about them sooner; she knows he would have been mortified and would have wanted to come home, but it would only have ruined his own life worrying about them.
Dounia went to work as a governess and took an advance on her pay to send her brother the money he so badly needed and requested. Unfortunately, shortly after she began her job, the master of the house surprisingly confessed his love for the much younger woman and implored her to go away and live with him. Because she still owed him the money she had sent Raskolnikov, she was not free to leave for six weeks and had to endure the man’s persistent efforts to persuade her to go with him.
One day the mistress of the house heard her husband begging the girl to leave with him and blamed Dounia for enticing her husband. She hurriedly sent the girl away in a peasant’s cart, throwing all of her belongings onto the back of the cart as she rode away in the rain. For an entire month after Dounia arrived home, the entire town was consumed with gossip, until the offending master confessed to his wife that their former governess was innocent in the matter. He proved it to her by a letter Dounia was forced to write him, and the servants corroborated his story.
Shortly thereafter, Dounia’s former mistress came to visit her; she apologized for her terrible treatment and begged for Dounia's forgiveness. In an attempt to restore the girl's reputation, she went to everyone in town, over several days, and read them the letter which had exonerated Dounia. It worked, as many asked Dounia to give lessons. She refused, but now she has a suitor. Raskolnikov's mother apologizes to him because he should have been part of the arrangements, but she knows he could not have made any judgments without being there in person.
Pyotr Petrovitch Luzhin is a rather abrupt and conceited man, much older than Dounia, but he is clever and has the means to keep his wife comfortably. It is true he wants a wife of good reputation and little means so that she will be the more dependent on her husband; it is also true that there is no love between them. After a night of prayerful consideration, however, Dounia decided to marry the prominent lawyer. She has determined to make this marriage work and endure whatever hardships she must.
Raskolnikov’s mother warns him not to make a hasty critical judgment when he meets Luzhin, for the lawyer makes a negative first impression. She and Dounia are hopeful that Luzhin will be able to assist Raskolnikov in his career once the older man opens his law firm in Petersburg, for he has an important case before the Senate. The two women have already made the case for Luzhin's hiring Raskolnikov as his law secretary, though the man was evasive in his acceptance of the idea. Dounia thinks of nothing else but her brother's one day becoming a partner in her future husband’s law firm, since he is a now a law student. Neither mother nor daughter has shared those plans with Luzhin yet, knowing he will soon come to recognize Raskolnikov’s superior mind and talents.
His mother saved the best news for last: She and Dounia are coming to Petersburg in a week or so and are ecstatic at the thought of seeing him again. Dounia, especially, loves him enough to do anything for him, and she has much to tell him. Luzhin is paying for their bags to travel, so they must only pay for themselves and, if they travel cheaply, they will have money to send him soon. She does not plan to live with her daughter and her new husband, even if they do ask her. She ends the letter by asking if Raskolnikov still says his prayers as he used to, afraid he may be forgetting his faith as so many now have done.
Though he started reading the letter in tears, Raskolnikov finishes reading with a deep bitterness and wrath in his heart. His room is suddenly too small to contain him, and he walks the streets like a drunken man, heedless of anyone or anything around him.
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