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FREE Barron's Booknotes-Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky-Free
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CHAPTER 4

Raskolnikov once more assumes center stage in this chapter, as he expresses his outrage at his sister's approaching marriage. Again, watch what he does and listen to what he says for clues to his complex character. His ability to read between the lines of his mother's evasive letter and his refusal to allow Dunya to sacrifice herself for him seem to many readers assertive signs of his intelligence and humanity.


The letter has arrived at a critical moment. Raskolnikov, fresh from his evening with Marmeladov, focuses on the parallels he sees between his own family and the drunkard's. He decides that he, like Marmeladov, is the unworthy recipient of someone else's sacrifice and self-denial. In his mind, Dunya is selling herself exactly as Sonia has done. In fact, he decides that Dunya is more corrupt because she is selling herself for luxuries, while Sonia is acting out of desperation, to ensure her family's survival. How can Raskolnikov prevent the sacrifice and the marriage? How can he avoid being more indebted to his sister?

Inevitably, he returns to the mysterious, horrible plan of the opening chapter. He must act to stop the marriage, or else he must give up and submit. But the action he plans is still buried in his anguished consciousness. The reader is still uncertain what it will mean. Does his decision to act suggest a devoted brother acting to rescue his sister from an unhappy life? Or is this a handy, irrational excuse to do what he wants?

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FREE Barron's Booknotes-Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky-Free
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