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Free Study Guide-Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky-Free Booknotes
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PART III, CHAPTER 5

Summary

Zametov and Porfiry greet Raskolnikov and Razumihin. As they enter, Raskolnikov tells Porfiry about the items he had left with Alena Ivanovna. Porfiry advises Raskolnikov to prepare an official statement regarding this matter. Raskolnikov begins to believe that Porfiry suspects him in the murder case. All the while, Raskolnikov wonders whether he appears sufficiently at ease. Porfiry tells Raskolnikov that he is the last of Alena Ivanovna's clients to come forward.

Porfiry reveals that he knows about Raskolnikov's illness and has heard of his meeting with Zametov in 'The Crystal Palace' restaurant. Raskolnikov senses that Porfiry is playing a 'cat and- mouse' game with him, and on an impulse, he feels like confessing everything about the murders.

Raskolnikov's train of thought is interrupted by Porfiry's questions regarding an article Raskolnikov wrote on crime for the magazine, Periodical Discourses. In it Raskolnikov had described the morbid state of the criminal's mind while committing a crime. Porfiry questions the rationale behind Raskolnikov's theory of the ordinary and the extraordinary man. Raskolnikov believes that the extraordinary man has the right to commit any crime, if it is necessary to fulfill his goals for the future. Zametov openly asks if somebody like Raskolnikov, with his theories of the superman, could have killed Alena Ivanovna. Raskolnikov leaves Porfiry's house in a huff.


Notes

Note how Raskolnikov has entered Porfiry's house in a good mood and leaves in a distinctly bad mood. Porfiry subtly hints at Raskolnikov's possible involvement in the crime. Raskolnikov appears to be very nervous and very self-conscious in the course of the interview. Porfiry displays his skills at maneuvering his opponent into a position of disadvantage. He cleverly questions Raskolnikov about his amoral theory of crime, which seems to justify criminal acts.

In this chapter, the main reason for Raskolnikov's committing murder is given. It is mainly because Raskolnikov believes in this theory of the extraordinary man, who is permitted to commit murder (or any other crime) in order to further an important idea or a great cause. The extraordinary man is allowed to refer to his own conscience, and not to the laws to which everyone else (the ordinary men) is subjected. Raskolnikov believes that "great men must experience great sorrow on earth," and that they must sometimes violate society's norms in order to achieve their greatness. Raskolnikov appears to have made up his theory of the extraordinary man with himself in mind. Therefore, it is quite logical for Zametov to come to the conclusion that Raskolnikov may have been behind the murders of the pawnbroker and her stepsister.

The real question here is whether Raskolnikov is really a genius possessing a relevant theory about life, or whether he is a madman. He may be a bit of both. One can see here the danger of intellectualizing one's actions. Raskolnikov is intelligent, but his poverty prevents him from moving ahead in life. Hence, he has created a theory, according to which the intelligent man (or genius) can even commit murder so as to fulfill his dreams. Raskolnikov believes that society will be better served if its geniuses are able to assert themselves. Thus, in the Machiavellian fashion, the end justifies the means. As Raskolnikov does not believe in the laws laid down by ordinary men in society, he does not consider himself guilty of any crime. Right up to the end of the novel, he feels no remorse for what he has done.

In this important chapter, Porfiry begins to play his 'cat-and-mouse' game with Raskolnikov. It is quite plain that he suspects Raskolnikov although he does his best to act nonchalant and to be friendly. Porfiry manages to put Raskolnikov into a position where Raskolnikov will lose his composure. The indignant Raskolnikov walks out of Porfiry's flat, and this first meeting between the two ends dramatically. Porfiry even attempts to trap Raskolnikov by asking him whether he had noticed the painters who were in the building on the day of the murder, but he does not succeed. Raskolnikov perceives Porfiry's trick and flatly denies that he was in the building that day. This shows that even though the criminal is almost trapped, he retains his rational powers in the face of intense cross examination.

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