Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 863
Raskolnikov follows Svidrigailov because he believes the man still “has designs” on Dounia. Even when Svidrigailov tells him that Sonia is with her three siblings at the orphanage, Raskolnikov insists on following him. Svidrigailov believes that Raskolnikov is suspicious of him only because he has not spoken of the secret he has discovered, but Raskolnikov is not convinced that Svidrigailov knows anything for certain based on what he overheard.
Sonia is gone, so Raskolnikov follows Svidrigailov, who does exactly what he said he was going to do. He goads Raskolnikov by saying he should leave the country if he is worried about having murdered the old woman, but Raskolnikov finally decides his suspicions about his sister and the letter are unfounded and walks away. He does not see that Svidrigailov gets out of his carriage a hundred yards down the road and follows him.
Raskolnikov sinks into deep thought, as he often does when he is out walking, and passes right by his sister as he goes to stand on the bridge. Dounia is dismayed at her brother’s condition, for she has not seen him in this state before now. While she debates whether or not to disturb him, she sees Svidrigailov. He seems to be hiding from her brother but gestures at her to come talk to him, which she does.
He is concerned because Raskolnikov is terribly suspicious about the letter and his intentions toward her. Dounia is frightened but will not be deterred by her fear; she follows Svidrigailov to his boarding house. Sonia is gone, so he shows Dounia the empty room next door to Sonia’s apartment where he spent several hours listening to Raskolnikov talk with Sonia about something awful.
They go back to his room. Dounia is terrified but determined to discover what damning information Svidrigailov has against her brother. She pulls out the letter and demands to know what evidence he has. If it is what she suspects, she tells Svidrigailov that she is well aware of the ridiculous accusations and rumors and wants something concrete if he has it. His evidence is incontrovertible: he heard Raskolnikov confess to Sonia that he murdered the old pawnbroker and her sister and buried the stolen goods, afraid to make use of them.
Dounia is distraught and cannot believe her brother would commit such a senseless act, and Svidrigailov tries to explain Raskolnikov’s theory concerning ordinary humans and superior humans, such as Napoleon. Though he had always imagined himself to be a genius (like Napoleon and others) who would feel no regret at “boldly overstepping the law,” Raskolnikov was soon faced with the reality that he is not such a person—he is not one of the superior humans—and that realization along with his guilty conscience have caused him to fall into his current condition.
Dounia demands to go see Sonia, but the door is locked; when Svidrigailov tells her Sonia will be gone all day, Dounia accuses him of lying and faints. Svidrigailov revives her and offers to help Raskolnikov get out of the country, where he can expiate his sin by doing hundreds of good deeds and possibly becoming a superior man.
When Dounia tries to leave, Svidrigailov stops her and insists that if she talks to Raskolnikov now, he will make a damning confession; Raskolnikov is already being watched, and such an outburst would surely condemn him. Dounia asks how her brother might be saved, and with glittering eyes, Svidrigailov says it all depends on her. He loves her still, and all he wants is to be allowed to kiss the hem of her dress, for even the rustle of it drives him to madness.
Dounia goes to the door and shouts, but he assures her no one will hear. She backs herself into a corner with a table in front of her, keeping her eyes on her tormentor. His face is composed but pale, and he wears a mocking smile. He tells her he has no interest in violence, but her family’s fate is in her hands. He promises to be her slave for life and waits for her decision.
Dounia does not doubt his resolution; she pulls a revolver out of her pocket and sets it on the table. It is Svidrigailov’s gun; she took it from his house when she realized what he might be capable of doing to his wife. If he takes one step toward her, she will kill him. He is inflamed by the passion in her face and walks toward her. She shoots at his head and the bullet grazes his temple; he laughs and tells her he will wait so she can shoot at him again, which she does. The gun misfires and he tells her he will wait again for her to reload. She does not, and he wraps his arms around her waist. When he asks if she can truly never love him, she replies, “Never!” and he believes her. He gives her the key and tells her to leave quickly. After she leaves, he cleans the blood from his temple and pockets the gun, which has one remaining bullet.
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