Part 4, Chapter 4 Summary

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 767

Raskolnikov walks directly to Sonia‘s lodgings and climbs the dark stairway; as he is wandering in the dark trying to find the tailor’s apartment, a door swings open. It is Sonia, and she is both embarrassed and pleased to see him. She takes him to her room, a large, dark, odd-shaped attic room with the unmistakable signs of poverty. It is after eleven o’clock, and Raskolnikov tells her this is the last time he shall see her, that he may not be at her father’s funeral but has something to say to her now.

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He knows all about her life from what her father told him; he knows about the tailor’s family with whom she boards, and he knows she leaves between six and nine o’clock every evening. Sonia is pale and thin, and she whispers that she saw her father as she was walking the street today as she was trying to get to Katerina Ivanovna’s. Raskolnikov asks if the woman used to beat her; Sonia denies it and says she loves the woman. Though “her mind is unhinged” and she is like a child now, she was once clever, generous, and kind. And even if she did beat her, Katerina Ivanovna is pure, righteous, and good.

Raskolnikov asks what will happen now, since her family will now be dependent solely on her. Katerina vacillates between violent despair and grand dreams of moving back to her native town and opening a boarding school for the daughters of gentlemen. The rather crazed woman has built all her hopes on Raskolnikov, and Sonia feels remorse for all the times lately that she has caused her to cry. Raskolnikov says perhaps it would be best if the consumptive woman died. The idea of caring for all the children is obviously a frightening one for Sonia; the thought of the children ending up homeless and motherless is an even worse thought.

Raskolnikov paces the room and assumes that since Sonia cannot save anything she earns and, by her own embarrassed admission does not earn money every day, Polenka will also end up selling herself to support her family. Sonia is horrified at the thought, and Raskolnikov’s eyes are piercing and feverish. Suddenly he bows down and kisses her foot; he is bowing to all the suffering of humanity. They sit, and he explains that she is, indeed, a sinful woman, but only because she has destroyed and betrayed herself for nothing. She must be desperate, knowing that her sins are helping no one; it might be better and wiser for her to kill herself.  

Sonia has obviously had the thought before but has refrained because of what would happen to the children. Raskolnikov wonders what could be sustaining this young woman in the face of such a miserable existence, and he discovers a worn Bible which Sonia tells him Lizaveta brought her. Sonia was at Lizaveta’s funeral, for she had been a good friend to Sonia; she will go to church again for her father’s funeral. He asks Sonia to read the story of Lazarus, but her faith is the one private thing left to her and she is reluctant.

Finally she begins reading, and by the end of the passage her voice is trembling with the power and passion of the greatest miracle in the Bible, just as Raskolnikov had known it would. She lives and believes the miracle of life and death as she reads. Five minutes of silence follow the reading; then Raskolnikov tells her he has abandoned his family and says the two of them only have each other now. With the glittering eyes of a madman, he asks her to go their way together, though he cannot explain what that means.

He tells her they have both destroyed a life (she has destroyed her own) and they must travel the same road. She must break with her family and take the suffering on herself. He may see her tomorrow; if he does not, she will hear everything and remember his words. If he sees her, he will tell her who killed Lizaveta; he has long known she is the only one he will tell. Sonia has feverish, delirious dreams that night.

Unknown to both of them, Svidrigailov has spent the past hour standing in the empty room next to hers—the one between his room at Madame Resslich’s—listening to their conversation. It was so enjoyable and remarkable to him that he brings in a chair so he can listen in comfort next time.

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