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Free Study Guide-Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky-Free Booknotes
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PART IV, CHAPTER 1

Summary

Svidrigailov tells Raskolnikov that he hopes to renew his acquaintance with Dounia. He claims that he was in love with Dounia. Raskolnikov asks him to leave. Raskolnikov learns that Svidrigailov's wife, Marfa Petrovna, has died under mysterious circumstances and he asks Svidrigailov whether he was responsible for her death. Svidrigailov denies having caused his wife's death. However, he admits that he used to beat her up with a riding crop. Svidrigailov tells how he was part of a fashionable circle of rich men and poets in St. Petersburg eight years ago; he fell into debt and was rescued by Marfa Petrovna, who later became his wife. He reveals to Raskolnikov that Marfa Petrovna's ghost sometimes visits him. He asserts that Raskolnikov and he are "kindred spirits," as they have something in common. But Raskolnikov does not understand Svidrigailov's statement.

Svidrigailov assures Raskolnikov that he feels, at present, no love for Dounia. He says that he wishes to beg forgiveness from Dounia for his past unpleasant behavior towards her and to offer her 10,000 rubles so that she need not feel obliged to marry Luzhin. He informs Raskolnikov that he is about to marry another young girl and asks Raskolnikov to convey this message to Dounia. He tells Raskolnikov that Marfa Petrovna had left 3,000 rubles for Dounia in her will. Svidrigailov leaves as Razumihin arrives to take Raskolnikov to the Bakaleyev house for the meeting with Luzhin.


Notes

Svidrigailov comes across as a remarkably self-assured person. He is also a sadist who used to beat his wife and probably caused her death. He talks with an air of superiority and cares mainly about his own pleasure. Svidrigailov is reminiscent of Nietzche's superman, and he also appears to think of himself as the extraordinary man of Raskolnikov's article on crime. Raskolnikov can see behind Svidrigailov's mask of seeming repentance and observes that Svidrigailov's intentions in meeting Dounia are base and vulgar.

Yet, one can hardly miss the similarities between Raskolnikov and Svidrigailov. They both believe in the superiority of the individual self over the rest of society and in all probability, both are guilty of murder. Like Raskolnikov, Svidrigailov is isolated from the rest of the world. Also, both of them realize that Dounia's proposed marriage to Luzhin is a sham. Svidrigailov offers 10,000 rubles to prevent Dounia from entering into a false pact with a man whom she does not love. While Svidrigailov is not to be trusted on this point, his assertion about Dounia's engagement to Luzhin echoes Raskolnikov's earlier objections. The 3,000 rubles that Marfa Petrovna left to Dounia will be of help later, as this sum provides Dounia with some bargaining power when the time comes for her to dissolve the engagement to Luzhin.

Thus, both Svidrigailov and Raskolnikov share something in common: they misuse their intellect for questionable purposes and try to impose their will on other people.

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