Raskolnikov feels compelled to go to Sofia and tell her who killed her friend Lizaveta. He does not yet know why he must do so, but the “sense of his impotence before the inevitable” is nearly crushing him. When he arrives, Sofia is obviously waiting for him and immediately thanks him for supporting her.
Raskolnikov tells her the landlady evicted the family and that Katerina Ivanovna has run off into the streets. Of course, Sofia wants to leave immediately, but Raskolnikov wryly assures her that her stepmother will certainly find her, as she has every other time she was in desperate need. When Sonia finally sits, he reminds her that she was not Luzhin’s target this time, but she might have been, and he asks her this question: if Luzhin had been trying to ruin her, thereby ensuring Katerina Ivanovna’s death, and if she had known so before he acted and the decision were in her hands, how would she choose between letting a wicked man live and letting an innocent woman die?
The question is odd and makes Sonia uncomfortable; her only answer is that it is a foolish question and something for God to decide, not her. Sonia wonders whether Raskolnikov came here simply to torture her and cries until he finally speaks; he says he must know the killer very well to know what the police do not know, and Sonia recognizes the horrible truth in his eyes.
The look on Sonia’s face is the same terrified, helpless look he remembers seeing on Lizaveta’s face. Sonia wails helplessly and looks again at his eyes, but there is no doubt. She throws herself at him, distressed at what he has done to himself. Weeping violently, Sonia cries that he must be the most miserable man in the world and impulsively says that from now on, she will go where he goes. When she begins to think about the reality of the murder, she assumes Raskolnikov needed the money for himself or his mother. He did not. Suddenly Sonia is appalled at the idea that the money he gave her stepmother belonged to the old pawnbroker. It did not.
He says he does not even know how much money he took and explains where he buried the stolen items. Sonia once again cries and embraces him, and Raskolnikov realizes that what he wants is for her not to leave him. He tries to explain that he was trying to become Napoleon; however, she does not understand the analogy. In a feverish passion, he explains that he was desperate for money so his mother, sister, and he would not suffer any longer, but Sonia says that could not be enough reason to commit murder. He agrees.
He continues his feverish rant and admits that it was his own unwillingness to work, his “sulkiness,” that caused him to leave school, close himself up in his room, and virtually give up on life. The old pawnbroker was only “a louse,” anyway. In his madness, Raskolnikov does not care whether Sonia understands him; it has been too long since he had spoken freely, and he must say it all now. He has discovered the only way to be wise, to rise above the stupid people, is to despise the law; and he “who dares most of all will be most in the right.” Sonia still does not understand when he tells her he killed the old woman because he wanted to “have the daring.”
Raskolnikov spent too much time in his dark room thinking about these things, and now he knows it was...
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the devil leading him. He did not commit murder for the money; he simply wanted to know whether he was a “louse like everybody else or a man.” The devil has since shown him that he is an ordinary man, and the person he really murdered that day was himself.
Sonia begs Raskolnikov to admit his guilt to the authorities, but he knows they will think him a coward and a fool for murdering the woman but not even taking the money; besides, he says they have no proof that he committed the crime. Now that he imagines his mother’s and sister’s futures are provided for, he may turn himself in, as long as Sonia will visit him in prison. She gives him her wooden cross (she will wear the one Lizaveta gave her), but he will not take it until he goes to confess; then they will pray together.
A sudden knock on the door interrupts them. It is Lebeziatnikov.