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PART I, CHAPTER 5
Raskolnikov changes his mind about seeing Razumihin and decides to wait until after the murder is committed. He wonders whether he will really have the nerve to commit the murder. He walks on toward the islands in the Neva River on the outskirts of the city. In the midst of this landscape, Raskolnikov experiences a sense of liberation, but it is short lived. He soon returns to his earlier morbid state. He sees rich ladies and gentlemen on horseback and fine 'dachas' (Russian country-houses). He compares their splendor to his own impoverished state. With only 30 kopecks in his pocket, he enters a tavern and has a glass of vodka that immediately goes to his head. Wishing to sleep, he sets off for his home, but instead stops at Petrovsky Island, lies down on the grass and falls asleep.
Raskolnikov has a horrifying dream. He sees himself as a child of seven accompanying his father to the town cemetery on a feast day. On their way they pass by a tavern. They see a boisterous drunkard, Mikolka, beating his old mare, who is unable to pull a wagon that is loaded with his fellow drunks. The young Raskolnikov is distraught at seeing the mare being beaten. Mikolka at first whips the mare and then hits it mercilessly with an iron crowbar. He does not heed the young boy's pleas and kills the old mare. Raskolnikov embraces the dead beast.
Raskolnikov wakes up with a start. He realizes that the dream is some kind of premonition. He wonders whether he is really going to attack his intended victim with a hatchet. He is terribly shaken and swears to abandon his "accursed obsession." He crosses the Canal Bridge and enters the Haymarket Square. There, he notices Alena Ivanovna's stepsister, Lizaveta, who is busy talking to a huckster (a hawker or peddler of goods). The huckster and Lizaveta agree to meet in the square the next evening after six on some business. Thus, Raskolnikov knows that Alena, the pawnbroker, will be alone at home around seven the next evening.
Once again the reader sees how Raskolnikov's mind sways first one way and then the other. In the last chapter, he had decided to meet Razumihin but now he puts off the visit. Instead, he wanders off to the outskirts of the city. One can see that Raskolnikov has no steady occupation. He can no longer afford to pay his university fees. As he leaves the city, the lush appearance of the islands refreshes his spirit. Dostoevsky here emphasizes the contrast between the unhealthy oppressiveness of the city and the inviting wide open spaces of the surrounding countryside. However, Raskolnikov is unable to relish the joys of nature for long as he observes the rich country folk and compares their riches to his impoverished condition.
Dostoevsky makes use of a dream to reveal his protagonist's disturbed state of mind. He shows deep insight into the nature of dreams. Raskolnikov, who is planning a murder, dreams of the killing of a mare. The incident in the dream symbolizes the oppression that the innocent victim suffers at the hands of a cruel exploiter. It also touches upon the idea of how ownership of property gives the owner the right to treat this property in any manner she or he sees fit. The dream reinforces the subconscious thought in Raskolnikov's mind of the planned murder of the old pawnbroker.
This violent dream disturbs Raskolnikov. His plan of using the hatchet is reflected in the dream through Mikolka's crowbar. Repulsed by the thought of the horrible crime, Raskolnikov resolves not to commit the murder. He feels a sense of relief and sets off homewards. However, instead of going straight home, as is his habit, he makes a detour through the Haymarket Square. Dostoevsky makes it appear as though what happens next has either been preordained or occurs through pure chance. Raskolnikov, who has just decided not to carry out the heinous crime of murder, changes his mind when he overhears information that indicates that the old pawn broker, Alena Ivanovna, will be all alone the next evening around seven. The question of the individual's freedom of will is raised at this point. Does Raskolnikov act now according to his own volition, or does he act because the circumstances are favorable for him to murder Alena Ivanovna?