Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 799
At seven o’clock that evening, Raskolnikov is walking to see his mother and sister. His steps are lagging, as if he is hesitating, but nothing will dissuade him now that he is determined to talk to them. He looks appalling; in the past twenty-four hours, he has experienced fatigue, exposure, and inner turmoil, and last night he slept outside somewhere.
Dounia is out, but his mother answers the door and is surprised and pleased to see her son. Pulcheria Alexandrovna is full of questions but tells Raskolnikov she will not ask him anything, for she has learned that things are different here in Petersburg and has read his article, brought to her by Razumihin, for the third time. She now knows that her son is a learned man who thinks great thoughts, and she should not bother him with her questions or worries.
Raskolnikov asks to see the article, and he feels a temporary thrill when, at the age of twenty-three, he sees his name in print. After he reads the first few lines, however, all his anguish about the past few months flows over him, and he throws the magazine down in disgust. His mother continues making excuses for his deplorable lifestyle, claiming he must certainly be among the greatest intellectuals of the day and not mad, as some have asserted. Even Dounia had started to believe in his insanity.
Dounia is not here; she seems to have her secrets, and Pulcheria Alexandrovna does not ask her about them. She is now content that her son has come to see her and understands that he has important things to do and think about; she will be content with whatever time he is able to give her. Raskolnikov stops her outpouring of love and acceptance and asks whether she would continue to love him as she does now, no matter what she hears about him. Pulcheria Alexandrovna assures him she would never listen to or believe anyone who said such things.
Raskolnikov is passionate when he tells his mother that he has always loved her, no matter how things might have seemed to her lately. She hugs him and says she has been feeling as if there is some great tragedy in store for him, which is why he has been so miserable. When Raskolnikov confirms that he is going away, his mother offers to go with him and offers Dounia and Sonia, as well. If he must leave, Razumihin will help keep them together until he returns. Raskolnikov begs her to pray for him and falls at her feet, weeping. Pulcheria Alexandrovna is not surprised, for she has known for days that something awful is happening to her son, and now is the most terrible moment.
Finally, Raskolnikov leaves, promising to return tomorrow. He hurries to his apartment and is surprised to see Dounia waiting for him there, sitting alone in the near dark. When she looks at him, he sees horror and infinite grief in her eyes, and he realizes that Dounia knows his awful secret. She has spent the entire day with Sonia, certain that he would come to see her. Raskolnikov confesses he visited the bridge several times, contemplating suicide, and Dounia is glad he still has some faith in life. He tells her he has been to see their mother, and Dounia is appalled to think he might have confessed to her. Raskolnikov is convinced his mother has a sense of his crimes, as Dounia has been talking in her sleep.
He is ready now to face his suffering, and as he says it, he feels a sense of pride that makes him glad. Suddenly he gets up to leave but angrily says he is not sure why he is confessing, for what he did was not a crime. Getting rid of a “vile, noxious insect” was atonement for forty sins, as the woman was “sucking the life out of poor people.” He claims that it is because he is a contemptible person that he feels the need to confess. He intended to do this one vile thing and then atone for it by doing hundreds of good deeds for mankind; it was not a “stupid idea” until it failed. But Raskolnikov could not even accomplish the first step because he is contemptible. If he had succeeded, he would have been “crowned with glory,” but now he is trapped.
Raskolnikov does not see himself as guilty, but he recognizes the horror of his actions in Dounia’s eyes. He knows that twenty years of incarceration will crush him, but it is not likely that he will understand his crime any better for having borne the penalty. Even knowing that, he goes to turn himself in after waving Dounia away with an angry gesture.
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