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Crime and Punishment

by Fyodor Dostoevsky
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Part 1, Chapter 6 Summary

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 700

Raskolnikov has become superstitious and tends to see things strange and mysterious in the coincidences of his life. A fellow student had recommended the old pawnbroker Alyona Ivanovna to him, knowing he was in need of money. Raskolnikov had two items of value to pawn and thought of her much later; he went to see her six weeks ago and found her to be an ugly and unpleasant woman. After that meeting, however, a strange idea began to haunt him.

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After he left her, Raskolnikov went to a tavern, and there he heard someone talking about the old lady, relaying details about her habits and money. More importantly, Raskolnikov hears all about the step-sister, Lizaveta, who is horribly abused by the old woman. Lizaveta is thirty-five, extraordinarily tall, and backward in nearly every way. She is almost always with child, and many people find her to be a clean, kind woman with a pretty face. When her sister dies, Lizaveta will inherit nothing except the few pieces of furniture; the rest will be given to a monastery so the selfish Alyona Ivanovna will have someone praying for her in perpetuity.

The conversation Raskolnikov overheard moved next to a most disturbing topic: that the murder of one horrible old hag would allow so many benevolent things to be done with her money that the sin of her killing would be far outweighed by the benefits. This was a shocking thing for Raskolnikov to hear after his own strange idea. This trivial and accidental conversation had a great impact on his later action.

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Latest answer posted May 15, 2011, 3:14 pm (UTC)

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Now, when he returns home after his day away, Raskolnikov sleeps dreamlessly on the couch until Nastasya wakes him, with great effort, at ten o’clock the next morning. At first he is drowsy and stupefied, but after he eats and sleeps a more restful sleep, he wakes up with a start to realize that it is evening and has done nothing to prepare his plan. Now he is feverish in his haste and makes the necessary preparations.

First he makes a kind of sling and sews it into the lining of his overcoat; he especially designed it and it is unnoticeable once it is hidden, as is the axe he will slip into it. When his hand is in his pocket, no one will see that he is gripping an axe. The next thing he prepares is the pledge, a fake item to pawn which will divert the old pawnbroker’s attention as she unwraps and unwinds it. Downstairs he hears someone shout that it is much after six and Raskolnikov panics. Even now, he thinks of all of these preparations as some grotesque business, and yet he continues.

He wonders why so many crimes are so badly concealed and easily detected and decides that it is the fault of the criminal who wavers in his resolution. Raskolnikov does not see what he is about to do as a crime and is therefore his planning is completely rational. As he leaves the house, though, his plan is upset. Nastasya is in the kitchen and he is unable to get the axe; he had not planned for her to be here and he walks out without making eye contact with the servant.

Raskolnikov is crushed and outraged, even humiliated. Suddenly he spies an axe in the porter’s room and takes it; his plan is still intact. It is ten minutes past seven and he walks sedately but purposefully. He is so consumed in thought that he is startled at the sound of a clock striking seven-thirty; Raskolnikov hurries to the house and manages to enter and climb the stairs unnoticed. At the old woman’s door, he wonders if he looks agitated and will cause her to distrust him. He waits a moment for his heart to stop racing, but it does not stop and he finally rings the bell.

There is no answer the first time, but Raskolnikov is not worried for he knows her to be a distrustful woman. After waiting more patiently than he might have expected, he rings the bell the third time and, an instant later, he hears Alyona Ivanovna unfasten the latch.

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