Lebeziatnikov says Katrina Ivanovna has gone out of her mind. She finally came back to the boarding house after going in a mad frenzy to her husband’s former chief; she had returned without money and looking as if she had been beaten. Now she is beating her children and is saying they will go live on the streets and make a living by begging.
Lebeziatnikov would have told her more, but Sonia has already grabbed her cloak and hat and rushed out of the house. The two men follow her, and Lebeziatnikov assures Raskolnikov that the woman is insane and wishes she would listen to logic, citing a study that claims a madman can be cured of his madness if he is shown his errors. Raskolnikov is not listening, and when they reach his house, he goes inside, leaving Lebeziatnikov to follow Sonia alone.
Never had Raskolnikov felt so alone. He wonders now why he had felt the need to poison Sonia’s life and determines that he will remain alone and that she shall not visit him in prison. Soon he wonders whether Siberia might be better than anything ahead of him here. Dounia enters his room; she looks silently at him just as he had looked at Sonia yesterday. Dounia sits, but neither of them speaks until she apologizes for coming to see him.
Dounia’s face is full of love for him as she explains that she “knows everything.” Razumihin has explained to her that the police are persecuting him only on the basis of their suspicions, and she is certain that is what is causing his temporary madness. She promises not to tell their mother and assures him they will not hate him for his avoidance of them because of this awful thing. As she leaves, Dounia tells her brother that she is willing to help him if he needs her and that she will always love him. As Dounia is walking out, Raskolnikov tells her that Razumihin is a decent, hardworking fellow capable of love. Dounia worries that this is their final good-bye.
At sunset, Raskolnikov walks the streets, feeling an oppressive hopelessness weigh heavily on him. Lebeziatnikov suddenly appears and tells Raskolnikov that the madwoman took her children and left the boarding house. He and Sonia found them: Katerina Ivanovna was banging on a frying pan, and her children were dancing and crying. A crowd of mockers has gathered around them. There is no doubt the woman is mad, and it is certain the police will arrest her soon. Lebeziatnikov urges Raskolnikov to come, and he does.
It is a fearful sight. Sonia desperately beseeches her stepmother to return home, but Katerina Ivanovna will not be dissuaded. Raskolnikov tries to talk reasonably with her, explaining that the headmistress of a boarding school must not be seen begging on the streets, but Katerina Ivanovna laughs and says that dream has been stolen from her. She continues pushing her children to dance and sing as she coughs and rants. Finally, a policeman pushes his way through the crowd just as a gentleman in a civil service uniform silently hands Katerina Ivanovna a three-rouble note, a look of genuine sympathy on his face.
When the policeman reaches the spectacle, he tells Katerina Ivanovna that she and the children must go home or he will take them away; the children are frightened and run off, crying. Soon Katerina Ivanovna runs after them and stumbles; when Sonia turns her over, there is blood on her chest. Raskolnikov and Lebeziatnikov help take the dying woman to Sonia’s nearby lodgings; she is almost unconscious....
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A doctor and priest are sent for, and the children have returned. Among the crowd is Svidrigailov, which surprises Raskolnikov for a moment, but Katerina Ivanovna has recovered enough to dismiss the thought of a priest, saying God will either forgive her or not and that a priest is unnecessary. As she is dying, she sings bits of songs and remembers many things about her life; finally, she says farewell to her children with “vindictive despair” and dies.
Sonia cries and Raskolnikov wonders how Katerina Ivanovna’s certificate of merit came to be on the bed beside her. Lebeziatnikov quietly leaves the room, and Svidrigailov tells Raskolnikov he will pay for the funeral and ensure that the children will be paid for in an orphanage until they come of age. He will also help Sonia get a new profession. When Raskolnikov asks the reason for such benevolence, Svidrigailov recites several lines, word for word and with a kind of winking slyness, that Raskolnikov had said to Sonia just yesterday. Raskolnikov grows immediately pale and asks how he knows; Svidrigailov explains that he is boarding with a friend in this building and heard the entire conversation. Svidrigailov says Raskolnikov “quite amuses him” and his prediction that they would one day be friends seems to be coming true. He assures Raskolnikov that he can be quite an accommodating person.