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Crime and Punishment

by Fyodor Dostoevsky

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Part 4, Chapter 6 Summary

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Later, Raskolnikov remembers the scene this way: the noise behind Petrovitch’s door increases until suddenly the door is slightly opened. Petrovitch says he gave orders and this is too soon, but there is silence and it is clear several people are trying to keep someone from entering. Someone says it is the prisoner Nikolay and Petrovitch is angry and wants the man taken away immediately. After a two-second struggle, Nikolay shoves himself into the room. The man has a determined gleam in his eyes though he sees nothing; that and his deathly pallor make it seem as if he is a man headed for the gallows.

A crowd has gathered at the doorway, and an extremely annoyed Petrovitch warns them away, saying they have brought the prisoner too soon. Nikolay suddenly drops to the floor and confesses to the murders of the old pawnbroker and her sister Lizabeta. Petrovitch waves his hand and the spectators instantly vanish; then he looks at Raskolnikov, standing in the corner and staring wildly at the prisoner. Petrovitch looks at them both and finally moves to Nikolay and begins questioning him about the specifics of the murders.

Nikolay’s answers are weak and rather contradictory because, of course, he did not commit the murders—and Petrovitch knows almost immediately that “it is not his own tale he is telling.” Suddenly remembering Raskolnikov, Petrovitch tells him he must leave. Raskolnikov says this is finally good-bye, but Petrovitch says that is in God’s hands and is still playing the wit with Raskolnikov. He heard Petrovitch tell Nikolay that he was not telling his own tale, and Raskolnikov says there must be many amusing moments ahead for Petrovitch as he questions the prisoner.

Raskolnikov walks straight home and is still so amazed that he sits for fifteen minutes just trying to collect his thoughts. Raskolnikov is stupefied at Nikolay’s confession and thinks the man must be under tremendous strain to confess to a crime he did not commit. Until the lie is discovered, Raskolnikov is free to do something for himself, though the danger is imminent. After just a little more time spent with Petrovitch, Raskolnikov knows he would probably have given himself away completely. Though he has been compromised, Raskolnikov is certain there are no facts to connect him to the murders—unless he is mistaken.

Finally he gets up to leave; he has some kind of presentiment that for today, at least, he is safe. Raskolnikov feels what might almost be called joy and is suddenly anxious to go to the funeral. He will be late, but he will arrive in time to attend the memorial dinner and he will get to see Sonia again. Just as he opens the door, someone is pushing it open from the other side. It is the stranger from yesterday, though there is a change in his demeanor. He has come to ask forgiveness.

The man is a tanner who does business in the same house in which the murders occurred, and he overheard Raskolnikov ask the porters if there were any bloodstains in the murdered woman’s apartment. He wanted to go to the police right then, but the porters refused. The tanner lost sleep over what he had overheard and eventually went to see Petrovitch. Twice he was turned away, but the third time he told the lawyer his story. That was only two minutes before Raskolnikov had arrived, but Petrovitch was scolding him, saying if he had known before he would have arrested the scoundrel. Petrovitch ranted and scolded the man, but as soon as Raskolnikov arrived he locked the man in an adjoining room and told him not to move no matter what he heard.

The man heard everything, and Petrovitch sent him away right after Raskolnikov left and before questioning Nikolay any further. The man suddenly stands still and then bows, asking Raskolnikov to forgive him for his evil thoughts and slander before bowing low again and leaving. Raskolnikov smiles maliciously and says now he and Petrovitch will “make a fight for it,” but the malice is aimed at himself and his own cowardice.

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