Rodion Raskolnikov, an impoverished student in St. Petersburg, dreams of committing the perfect crime. He murders an old widowed pawnbroker and her stepsister with an ax and steals some jewelry from their flat. Back in his room, Raskolnikov receives a summons from the police. Weak from hunger and illness, he prepares to make a full confession. The police, however, call merely to ask him to pay a debt his landlady reported to them. When he discovers what they want, he collapses from relief. Upon being revived, he is questioned; his answers provoke suspicion.
Raskolnikov hides the jewelry under a rock in a courtyard. He returns to his room, where he remains for four days in a high fever. When he recovers, he learns that the authorities visited him while he was delirious and that he said things during his fever that tended to cast further suspicion on him.
Luzhin, betrothed to Raskolnikov’s sister Dounia, comes to St. Petersburg from the provinces to prepare for the wedding. Raskolnikov resents Luzhin because he knows his sister is marrying to provide money for Raskolnikov. Luzhin visits the convalescent and leaves in a rage when the young man makes no attempt to hide his dislike for him.
A sudden calm comes upon the young murderer; he goes out and reads the accounts of the murders in the papers. While he is reading, a detective joins him. The student, in a high pitch of excitement caused by his crime and by his sickness, talks too much, revealing to the detective that he might well be the murderer. No evidence, however, can be found that puts direct suspicion on him.
Later, witnessing a suicide attempt in the slums of St. Petersburg, Raskolnikov decides to turn himself over to the police; but he is deterred when his friend, a former clerk named Marmeladov, is struck by a carriage and killed. Raskolnikov gives the widow a small amount of money he received from his mother. Later, he attends a party given by some of his friends and discovers that they, too, suspect him of complicity in the murder of the two women.
Back in his room, Raskolnikov finds his mother and his sister, who are awaiting his return. Unnerved at their appearance and not wanting them to be near him, he places them in the care of his friend, Razumihin, who, upon meeting Dounia, is immediately attracted to her.
In an interview with Porfiry, the chief of the murder investigation, Raskolnikov is mentally tortured by questions and ironic statements until he is ready to believe that he is all...
(The entire section is 1032 words.)