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FREE Barron's Booknotes-Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky-Free
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CHAPTER 3

From the conversation with Porfiry, Raskolnikov heads straight for Svidrigailov. After all, he could be a damaging witness in any trial. But as Raskolnikov hurries toward the meeting, he is conscious of a new feeling, one of being completely tired of the whole business. Worn down by tension is another way to express the way he feels. For some reason he doesn't really understand, he feels drawn to Svidrigailov.

NOTE:

Remember all the earlier hints from the narrator and from Svidrigailov himself that Raskolnikov and Svidrigailov had a lot in common? Dostoevsky clearly wants the reader to think about the ways in which the two men are alike and the ways in which they're different.

As he hurries along, a dreadful thought occurs to him: what if Svidrigailov tries to use what he knows in order to get what he wants from Dunya? The old urgency to protect her wells up in him. If he has to confess in order to save Dunya from that awful man, he'll do it! And while it never occurs to Raskolnikov what a revealing decision this is, you may be pleasantly surprised by it. Is it possible that he really loves his family more than he loves himself?

"I shall kill him," he decides. Should we conclude from his words that Raskolnikov is really more dangerous to society than Porfiry thinks? There isn't really any evidence to think the threat is serious. The desire to kill occurs to many people, but most don't do it. Raskolnikov killed before to test his theory, not in rage or self-defense. If anything, this threat makes him seem more normal.


Quite by accident Raskolnikov spots Svidrigailov in a tavern and joins him. As they talk, it is clear that one enormous difference between them is in their attitudes toward sex. Raskolnikov is puritanical, and disgusted with the idea of Svidrigailov's "debauchery." Svidrigailov's excuse is that without women, he'd be so bored he'd have to kill himself.

NOTE:

It is interesting that sexuality is associated only with Svidrigailov and with Luzhin. Neither Dunya and Razumikhin's nor Sonia and Raskolnikov's relationship has an explicit sexual component. Many readers think this is the result of Dostoevsky's own puritanical attitudes toward sex.

Sex doesn't interest Raskolnikov, but suicide fascinates him. "Could you shoot yourself?" he asks Svidrigailov.

The subject tortures Svidrigailov, and he doesn't want to talk about it. He doesn't want to be alone, either, so he implores Raskolnikov to stay. Clearly he's a man in deep emotional trouble.

NOTE:

Raskolnikov and Svidrigailov do a lot of talking, but they don't really communicate. Each is in his own world of private torture. We know more about what Raskolnikov is thinking than we do about Svidrigailov's thoughts. But at this point it is still difficult to see what the two men have in common, since they seem so different in tastes, attitudes, and behavior.

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