Crime and Punishment Part 1, Chapter 4 Summary
by Fyodor Dostoevsky

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Part 1, Chapter 4 Summary

His mother’s letter was torturous for Raskolnikov. As he walks the streets like a crazy, drunken man, he determines one thing: Even if they think it is all arranged, his sister will not marry Luzhin. He understands what this man must be like by his mother’s use of seems: He seems kind, he seems sensible, and he seems impressive. The reason his mother says she will not go to live with her daughter and her new husband is that she knows Luzhin does not want her. Furthermore, Raskolnikov is incensed that this man is sending a cart for the women’s luggage but allows the women themselves to ride in a crude peasant cart at their own expense. His mother tries to soften the realities, but Raskolnikov perceives the truth and will not allow his sister to ruin her life for his sake.

The burden is heavy for Raskolnikov because he understands and loves his sister. She is a strong young woman who can (in fact, already has) endured some horrible things, things she would never tolerate on her own behalf but is willing to endure for another. Dounia adores him, and Raskolnikov knows that she is willing to endure a loveless, parsimonious, and probably even cruel marriage for his benefit. She sees this move as something she must do in order to promote Raskolnikov’s career and secure his future happiness. Dounia would never sell her soul for her own benefit and comfort, but she is willing to sell herself for his.

It is clear to Rodion Romanovitch Raskolnikov that he is the central figure in this drama, and though his mother has doubts, she is willing to sacrifice her daughter for her adored firstborn. As he walks and thinks, Raskolnikov makes the comparison between Sonia, the young girl forced to sell herself to support her family, and Dounia, who is willing to endure a lifetime of misery for his sake. He concludes that he will not allow either his mother or his sister to make this sacrifice, as long as he is alive to stop it.

He suddenly stops walking and asks himself what he can realistically do to stop the marriage, since he has been living on their money and accomplishing nothing with his life. Raskolnikov tortures himself with these thoughts, finding a kind of enjoyment in them. In truth, these are old thoughts; this present anguish began long, long ago and has coalesced and grown strong until he now wonders if he should continue living and what it means when there is “absolutely nowhere to turn.”

Suddenly his thought from yesterday rushes to his mind, causing a hammering in his head and darkness in his eyes. What seemed like a dream now seems real, and Raskolnikov must find a place to sit down and think. His attention is gradually drawn to a strange woman walking about twenty paces ahead of him. She is quite young, walking bareheaded without a parasol in the oppressive heat; she is also “waving her arms about in an absurd way.” Her light, silky dress is not worn correctly, and it is ripped and torn in several places. She is walking unsteadily, stumbling and staggering from side to side. Raskolnikov reaches her just as she drops to a bench and closes her eyes in apparent exhaustion.

A closer look reveals that the girl, only fifteen or sixteen years old, is completely drunk, apparently unaware of where she is or what she is doing. Raskolnikov is unwilling to leave her here, but he is perplexed about what to do. The street is virtually deserted, except for a gentleman standing about fifteen paces away, looking as if he, too, would have approached the girl but for reasons of his own. The gentleman looks angrily at Raskolnikov and waits impatiently for the man he sees dressed in rags to finally leave. The gentleman is rather a dandy, and Raskolnikov has a sudden urge to insult this foppish man somehow. He leaves the girl for a moment and walks toward the stranger.

Raskolnikov yells at the man to leave, and the astonished, scowling gentleman shakes his cane at his assailant. Just as Raskolnikov rushes the man, fists flailing, he is seized from...

(The entire section is 1,173 words.)