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Dostoevsky, Crime and Punishment > Part 4, Chap 4 - 6

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Thomas | 4430 comments When Raskolnikov leaves his family he says that it might be the last time they see him, and then he goes straight to Sonya, and says the same thing to her. Why does he go to Sonya?

He notices that Sonya is extremely thin, her fingers "quite transparent. Fingers like a dead person's." She mentions that she thought she saw her father, the deceased Marmeladov. She also speaks of Lizaveta, who was killed alongside Alyona the pawnbroker, and her stepmother Katerina Ivanovna, who is dangerously ill. (Raskolnikov says it's better if she dies.) Raskolnikov asks Sonya to read from the book on her chest of drawers. It is a Russian New Testament, and he wants her to read the story of Lazarus.

The theme of death is well developed in this chapter, and it is capped off with the story of Lazarus. Why does Raskolnikov zero in on this story? (Or the same question asked slightly differently: why does Dostoevsky have him do this?)

What does Raskolnikov mean when he bows deeply before Sonya, kisses her feet, and says, "I was not bowing to you, I was bowing to all human suffering." ??

How does the story of Lazarus relate to the manner in which Raskolnikov tries to persuade Sonya to go with him? He says to her, "We're cursed together, so let's go together!" Is this a complete disconnect, or is there some way this makes sense?

The next morning (in the next chapter) Raskolnikov visits the Detective, Porfiry. How would you describe Porfiry's interrogation technique? Why does he not hide his technique from Raskolnikov rather than disclose it in some detail?

Raskolnikov gets furious with Porfiry and tells him,

"I repeat...that I can no longer endure..."
"What, sir? The uncertainty?" Porfiry interrupted.


I have to admit that sometimes I feel the same way about this novel.


message 2: by Xan (last edited Oct 18, 2017 04:23AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Xan  Shadowflutter (shadowflutter) | 386 comments Raskolnikov is intentionally nasty to Sonya, brutal really, but I think he's looking for answers from her. Sonya suffers in silence sacrificing herself for others. Though her life is much worse than his, she accepts a world he rejects. This perplexes him, and I think he's being intentionally nasty to see if Sonya has a breaking point. How much will she take? How strong is she? He goes right for the jugular: Katerina, Polenka, hopelessness, despair. She does not break. Her existence both shames him and gives him hope.


message 3: by Cphe (last edited Oct 18, 2017 04:57AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Cphe | 586 comments I felt he had a plan for Sonya that he was hoping would coincide with his own but she wasn't quite open to R's suggestion/reasoning.

I also had the feeling that he perceived Sonya as aiding his redemption.

Now I'm wondering who is behind the door at the end of the third chapter, who has Porfiry hidden?


Xan  Shadowflutter (shadowflutter) | 386 comments The meeting with Sonya is where I think D. really gets going. We're done with the preliminaries :). Here is where Christianity, redemption, and human suffering come to the forefront.

This is the second time the story of Lazarus is mentioned. The first is when Porfiry asks Raskolnikov if he believes the story. Why does Porfiry ask him this? They are having this intellectual discussion about the extraordinary man, then Porfiry turns 180 and asks Raskolnikov this. Why?

The Christ raises Lazarus from the dead. Raskolnikov wants to be raised from his symbolic death. I think this is why he's always on the verge of confession. But Raskolnikov needs a reason to be reborn, and he hasn't found it.

Raskonikov tells Sonya: "I need you. That's why I've come to you."

Perhaps Raskolnikov is looking for his reason in Sonya. Also, now we may know why Raskolnikov agreed to marry his landlady's daughter and what Dunya meant when she warmly said to her brother "Not just that brother."

I need you.

But it is not only Raskolnikov who wishes to be raised from the dead so to speak. Sonya wants to be saved too. Sonya reads the story over and over again to herself and to Lizaveta. Lizaveta is the one who gave the New Testament to Sonya. Raskolnikov cannot escape Lizaveta, can he?


Cphe | 586 comments So do you think in some ways that R sees Sonya as a mother figure in part....the nurturing, loving, forgiving figure. (Mary Magdalene)

I originally thought he was attracted to Sonya (the waif) but after reading that part I got a different connotation.


Xan  Shadowflutter (shadowflutter) | 386 comments I do.

Interesting this. Raskolnikov brings her dying father home and leaves money for the funeral. That's the second time he leaves money. Later Sonya learns it was all the money he had. Perhaps up to the point Raskolnikov arrives at her apartment Sonya thinks he is her savior. This may be why she's all a flutter when he tells her he will come see her. If so, what a rude awakening that she handles with great strength and grace.

Of course, Raskolnikov comes to her place to see if she's his savior. Neither are thinking of carnal love. Wonderfully layered twist by D.

Also, I read somewhere that Lazerus is raised on the 4th day. R visits Sonya on the 4th day after the murders. The religious references expressed and implied are everywhere.


Xan  Shadowflutter (shadowflutter) | 386 comments With all the references to Napoleon I suddenly thought Porfiry's physical description to be much like Napoleon's.


Thomas | 4430 comments Xan Shadowflutter wrote: "The meeting with Sonya is where I think D. really gets going. We're done with the preliminaries :). Here is where Christianity, redemption, and human suffering come to the forefront."

The feeling I get from Raskolnikov at this point is not so much a desire for redemption as the desire to take Sonya down with him. He tries to convince her that her lot in life is to suffer, and that she has only three choices: "to throw herself into the canal, to go to the madhouse, or ...or, finally, to throw herself into a depravity that stupifies reason and petrifies the heart." (Raskolnikov himself opted for this last choice.)

I'm not even sure that Raskolnikov acknowledges Sonya as a real person. He bows down to her and then says he's not really bowing down to her, he's bowing down to an abstraction, "human suffering."

I'm starting to wonder if abstraction itself might be at the heart of Raskolnikov's illness. When Sonya asks him what is to be done if Katerina Ivanovna dies and the children are left with no one, Raskolnikov's solution is to "Smash what needs to be smashed, once and for all, and that's it -- and take the suffering upon ourselves!" When Sonya doesn't understand this he tells her that she will understand it later... and then says something about freedom and power. More abstractions.


message 9: by Xan (last edited Oct 18, 2017 07:59PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Xan  Shadowflutter (shadowflutter) | 386 comments I like the abstraction idea. He's certainly nasty and uncaring, but he doesn't do the one thing I thought he would do after Sonya reads the Lazarus story. He doesn't tell her she's deluded and a fool for believing such nonsense. That seemed the next vicious thing to say to her. Instead he demands she go with him for reasons I don't think he fully understands, the only person he doesn't reject, this symbol of all human suffering. He says he needs her, the only person he says this too.


message 10: by Dave (new) - rated it 5 stars

Dave Redford | 145 comments Agree that Raskolnikov's abstraction or sense of detachment from the world around him is at the heart of his dangerous psychosis. In chapter 4 here, he is described (or describes himself, it's hard to tell) as "young, theoretical and, by that token, cruel". Dostoevsky's depiction of a young man who places ideology over common humanity is arguably a key aspect of C&P's enduring appeal.

That said, I do think we are starting to see, in these latter sections of the book, R's growing sense of self-awareness. At the end of chapter 4, he says he wants to escape with Sonya, but he doesn't know where. He's dimly aware of the effect of the environment on him and others, and perhaps want to save Sonya from it. He says to her:

You mean you haven’t seen the children around here, on street corners, sent out by their mothers to beg? I’ve seen where these mothers live, the conditions they live in. Children can’t remain children there, it’s impossible. There, a seven year old is depraved and a thief. Yet children are the image of Christ: “Theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.”

Reading the book this second time around, the theme of how our environment influences our behaviour has really struck me. Right from the first page, we find Raskolnikov trapped in a small room in the large, alienating city of St Petersburg. Several times we find him staring at fake flowers on wallpaper, and there's a sense of city sickness in all the yellow interiors. R's mother Pulcheria, after arriving from the country, is aghast at his living conditions. She says to Dounia at one point, "But where can you find fresh air here? Even the streets are like rooms without windows." The isolation of modern city life appears to have been an incubator for R's abstract ideas.


message 11: by Tamara (last edited Oct 19, 2017 05:53AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Tamara Agha-Jaffar | 1532 comments I didn’t get the sense R wants to save Sonya. I got the sense he wants to drag her down to his level. He tries to bully her into submission. He orders her to read to him; he reminds her of the hopelessness of her situation; and he challenges her faith. He wants her to see the world as he sees it to validate his world view.

As Dave points out, this is not a wholesome environment. It is dirty and dingy and gritty. People starve; children are thrown out into the streets. R sees despair and desperation wherever he looks so he wonders why Sonya doesn’t just kill herself.

Sonya lives in the same environment. Even the wallpaper in her room is “yellow, scratched, and shabby.” But she doesn’t share his world view because she differs from him: she is compassionate, selfless—her sole concern is for her family—and she has strong religious convictions. Her spirituality shines when she reads the story of Lazarus. She refuses to see the bad in people and even defends Katerina Ivanovna.

I see R's plea for Sonya to run away with him as his attempt to legitimize his world view:

Freedom and power, and above all, power! Over all trembling creation and all the ant-heap!… That’s the goal, remember that! That’s my farewell message.

If he can get Sonya to agree that life stinks; that nothing and no one is worth it (creation as an ant-heap); that no matter how much you struggle, you will fail; then maybe his world view has legitimacy.

Sonya doesn’t buy it. (And for what it's worth, neither do I.)


message 12: by Xan (last edited Oct 19, 2017 07:04AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Xan  Shadowflutter (shadowflutter) | 386 comments I enjoyed the middle chapter most, the one in which Porfiry slowly disassembles Raskolnikov. Rodya, thinking himself an extraordinary man, visits Porfiry believing he can handle him, and nothing could be further than the truth. Rodya is putty in Porfiry's hands.

Porfiry is having a grand time telling Rodya, without explicitly saying so, that he knows he's the murderer but all he need do is wait until the gravity of his crime drives him to confess. He even makes excuses for Rodya when Rodya implicates himself. Raskolnikov is a trapped animal, and I admit to enjoying watching that arrogant, superior smirk get wiped clean off his face. A punch in the nose wouldn't have been as effective.

But the moment is broken with the unexpected confession from an innocent. Now Porfiry has a problem, and I'm wondering if he's extraordinary enough to turn it into an advantage? I also wonder if Rodya will care that another will be held to account for his crime?


Tamara Agha-Jaffar | 1532 comments Xan Shadowflutter wrote: "Raskolnikov is a trapped animal, and I admit to enjoying watching that arrogant, superior smirk get wiped clean off his face. A punch in the nose wouldn't have been as effective.."

I wholeheartedly agree.

Xan Shadowflutter wrote: "But the moment is broken with the unexpected confession from an innocent. Now Porfiry has a problem, and I'm wondering if he's extraordinary enough to turn it into an advantage?"

I'm wondering if Porfiry staged the whole thing. I'm thinking this might be part of his elaborate ruse to trap R.


Xan  Shadowflutter (shadowflutter) | 386 comments David,

I like your point about environment, something not much mentioned about C&P. The city where the individual is swallowed whole and political and social theories are hatched and discussed ad nauseum.

Porfiry asks Rodya where he would escape to? Back home where serfs live and not students like himself?


Xan  Shadowflutter (shadowflutter) | 386 comments Tamara wrote: "I'm wondering if Porfiry staged the whole thing. I'm thinking this might be part of his elaborate ruse to trap R. ..."

Wouldn't that be delightful ... and ... cunning :-)


message 16: by Thomas (last edited Oct 19, 2017 09:14AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Thomas | 4430 comments Xan Shadowflutter wrote: "Tamara wrote: "I'm wondering if Porfiry staged the whole thing. I'm thinking this might be part of his elaborate ruse to trap R. ..."

Wouldn't that be delightful ... and ... cunning :-)"


We know at least that Dostoevsky staged it. :)

The biggest mystery in C&P is Raskolnikov's motive for the murders, and he appears to be incapable of explaining this himself. What he needs is a psychologist, a professional who can draw out and analyze what he himself does not understand. I think Porfiry might be that psychologist. As a police detective he wants a confession, but as a character in the novel he is showing us, the readers, how Raskolnikov's mind works (or how it malfunctions.) It's a wonderful narrative technique.


Christopher (Donut) | 531 comments Thomas wrote: "We know at least that Dostoevsky staged it. :)."

D.'s coups de theatre reached their peak in IDIOT.

I think reading that helped me appreciate C & P more this time.

And, no, I think Porfiry's carefully staged 'surprize' throws him for a loop. But you're right, D. upstages the upstager.


Thomas | 4430 comments Xan Shadowflutter wrote: "With all the references to Napoleon I suddenly thought Porfiry's physical description to be much like Napoleon's."

I've been puzzling over Lazarus so much I forgot all about poor Napoleon. I'm not sure if it has been noted in the discussion so far, but War and Peace was serialized in the same periodical as Crime and Punishment, and at the same time. Is it merely coincidental that Raskolnikov has a Napoleon fixation? Could be, considering the magnitude of the man's reputation... But I think the reference to General Mack is probably not coincidental.

Suggestions have been made that Dostoevsky and Tolstoy may have been having a conversation on the "great man" theory through their works as they were being published. (I'm not sure if that suggestion holds water, but it's an interesting idea.)

Porfiry's argument, using Mack's surrender as an example, is that understanding human nature is more important to discovering truth in human affairs than is intelligence. Raskolnikov thinks that he can outwit Porfiry with his words, but he cannot hide who he really is. He thinks he is free, but he's wracked by illness. He justifies himself with grand ideas like the "extraordinary man" theory, but he forgets to change his hat when he goes on his trial run for the murder.

"Details, details above all! ... It's these details that ruin everything!"

Porfiry and Tolstoy would agree on that point, I think.


Xan  Shadowflutter (shadowflutter) | 386 comments Both War and Peace and Crime and Punishment were in the same issues? Now that's a Collector's Item.


Thomas | 4430 comments Xan Shadowflutter wrote: "Both War and Peace and Crime and Punishment were in the same issues? Now that's a Collector's Item."

Definitely! And way out of my price range, I'm sure. Not that it would do me any good, since my Russian stops at spaseeba. It's fun to look at though:

http://www.fedordostoevsky.ru/works/l...


message 21: by Bigollo (last edited Oct 23, 2017 06:15PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Bigollo | 186 comments Thomas wrote: "Xan Shadowflutter wrote: "Both War and Peace and Crime and Punishment were in the same issues? Now that's a Collector's Item."

Definitely! And way out of my price range, I'm sure. Not that it would do me any good, since my Russian stops at spaseeba. It's fun to look at though:

http://www.fedordostoevsky.ru/works/l...
"


How strange! I would never know. The authors in the Content are listed in genitive case, not in nominative as it is done now.
In English it would be something like:
Of Mice and Men. John Steinbeck's.
War and Peace. Leo Tolstoy's.
etc.


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