Part 4, Chapter 5 Summary

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 804

At eleven o’clock the next morning, Raskolnikov arrives at the department of the investigation of criminal causes and sends word to Porfiry Petrovitch that he is here. Raskolnikov is surprised that he is kept waiting for more than ten minutes before being ushered into Petrovitch’s study.  No one at the station seems to have any idea that there is a murderer in the building, as their actions are normal in every way. Petrovitch closes the door and they talk genially until a sudden awkwardness falls over the older man.

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Raskolnikov begins to grow suspicious and both men watch each other but look away as soon as their eyes meet. He hands Petrovitch the paper requesting his pawned goods and Petrovitch takes it hastily. Raskolnikov reminds Petrovitch that yesterday he mentioned interviewing him formally, but Petrovitch says there is plenty of time and offers him a cigar as they talk about inconsequential things. This prompts Raskolnikov to anger and he incautiously issues a kind of challenge.

He asks Petrovitch if it is true that all investigating lawyers are taught to speak of inconsequential things at the beginning of their “attack” so as to disarm those they are questioning. Petrovitch answers in the affirmative and with an unmistakable wink as he asks if that is what Raskolnikov thinks he is doing now. He is laughing in Raskolnikov’s face, uncaring that he is making his visitor quite angry. Feeling as if he has somehow fallen into a trap, Raskolnikov says he is busy and if Petrovitch does have some questions for him, he should ask them now for he must go to a funeral. Suddenly he is angry and shouts at the investigator either to question him now, and in the proper way, or let him go at once.

Petrovitch stops laughing, says he sees Raskolnikov only as a guest, and apologizes for laughing; it is simply something he does when people amuse him with their wit. As he flits about the room, Petrovitch talks aimlessly about many things, including his agreement that the primary strategy for a formal interrogation is, indeed, to disarm the suspect by talking about meaningless things. He laughs again as he explains that as a law student, Raskolnikov must surely understand that when Petrovitch suspect a man of committing a crime he sometimes does not arrest him immediately because that gives the man “moral support.” If a man is incarcerated too soon, Petrovitch will not be able to gather any further evidence from him because the man is then put out of his suspense and “retreats into his shell.”

Of course, every case is different, and sometimes he leaves a suspect to wonder indefinitely about whether or not he suspects the man of the crime, so the man lives in continual suspicion and terror. This suspect often gets sick, irritable, and even angry, but there is no escape for him, physically or psychologically. He will eventually confess because he has no choice. Raskolnikov only gazes at Petrovitch, determined not to show the reaction he feels and convinced the man has no real evidence against him and is just trying to get him to talk. Petrovitch continues in his self-deprecating way, saying that these special suspects tend to lie, but it is their temperaments which betray them. They grow pale at the wrong times and will even make fun of those who suspect them. They put themselves forward unnecessarily for questioning and speak at all the wrong times. Petrovitch stops to ask why Raskolnikov looks so pale, and suddenly both men are laughing, one of them hysterically.

Raskolnikov is trembling as he yells at Petrovitch that he knows he is a suspect in the murders but he did not commit the crimes and will no longer be treated as if he did. He ends his tirade by screaming that he will not allow it, and Petrovitch asks him to be quiet as he gets him some water and opens the window, trying to calm him. When Petrovitch seems to know some of what actually happened after the murders, Raskolnikov is frightened; when Petrovitch says he must be suffering from delirium, Raskolnikov insists he was not delirious and knew “perfectly well what he was doing.”

Petrovitch slyly states that a guilty man would try to claim delirium as an excuse, so clearly Raskolnikov must be innocent. Still laughing, he tells Raskolnikov that, in his excitement, he tells people everything they need to know about his role in the murders and Petrovitch has been listening. Soon Raskolnikov is pounding on the table and insisting he can take no more; Petrovitch, gloating with excitement, again warns him to be quiet. Raskolnikov hollers that Petrovitch can send the deputies for he is ready, but something unexpected and extraordinary puts an end to their interview.

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