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Crime and Punishment

by Fyodor Dostoevsky

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Part 6, Chapter 3 Summary

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Svidrigailov has some hidden power over Raskolnikov and he must find out what it is. His worst fear is that Svidrigailov has spoken with Petrovitch, though he is almost certain that has not happened. Strangely, Raskolnikov has only a vague anxiety about his immediate future, though his mind is weary with “moral fatigue.” He wonders whether any of this is worth doing, but he goes to see Svidrigailov nevertheless, questioning whether it was mere chance that connected him to Sonia. Thinking of Sonia makes him wistful, but he knows he must go either her way or his own, and he has already chosen.

Something sinister about Svidrigailov has been haunting Raskolnikov. The man has discovered his secret and may still have “designs on Dounia.” Now Raskolnikov wonders whether Svidrigailov has gained power over him so he can use it against Dounia as a weapon. This thought torments his dreams, and now that he is on his way to see the man, it enrages him; if this is true, it will transform everything. Raskolnikov might have to confess everything to Dounia, and perhaps even to Razumihin to secure his help in protecting Dounia. Raskolnikov is exhausted with thinking about such things, and he knows only the end: if Svidrigailov is trying to hurt Dounia, Raskolnikov will kill him.

Suddenly Raskolnikov looks around and wonders how he got here, in a place just past the Hay Market. He sees a building in which the entire second story is a tavern. He is shocked to see Svidrigailov sitting at one window, smoking a pipe and silently scrutinizing him, obviously intending to slip away unobserved. Raskolnikov immediately averts his eyes, pretending not to have seen the man but watching him stealthily nonetheless. Like the last time they met, Svidrigailov has a sly smile on his face, and now each man is aware that the other is watching him.

Finally Svidrigailov laughs loudly and tells Raskolnikov to come join him. Already Svidrigailov has made himself at home here; he has assumed a patriarchal attitude toward the tavern staff, though it is a filthy, second-rate saloon. Raskolnikov is not sure why he walked this way or how he managed to find Svidrigailov, but Svidrigailov explains that he had given Raskolnikov this address several times and said he could be found here; though Raskolnikov was ill, even delirious, he must have registered the address subconsciously and made his way here today.

Svidrigailov says he has been watching Raskolnikov for several days: he leaves his room and walks precisely twenty paces before talking to himself and waving his hands, sometimes stopping in the middle of the road. Raskolnikov changes the subject and then scrutinizes the older man. There is something distinctly unpleasant about the man’s handsome face. Finally he says what he came to say.

Raskolnikov warns Svidrigailov that if he still has evil intentions toward Dounia and intends to use what he overheard about Raskolnikov to help him pursue her, Raskolnikov will kill him. If there is something Svidrigailov wants to say, he should speak it now.

Svidrigailov explains that he came to Petersburg to pursue what Raskolnikov calls "vice" (primarily women, since he rarely drinks) and was just hoping to learn something new from the brother he had heard so much about from Dounia—probably much like Raskolnikov is hoping to learn something new from him now. Svidrigailov is in an odd state of mind today, for he has drunk some champagne to gather courage for something he must do. Generally, Svidrigailov suffers from boredom. He does not want to talk about death and he does not want Raskolnikov to leave, though his visitor is feeling stifled and oppressed. Svidrigailov offers to tell his guest about a woman who tried to “save” him. That woman is Dounia, and Raskolnikov warns him not to speak ill of his sister; Svidrigailov assures him that Dounia can inspire nothing but respect, even in a scoundrel like himself.

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