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Free Study Guide-Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky-Free Booknotes
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PART IV, CHAPTER 4

Summary

Raskolnikov visits Sonia in her house. Sonia is surprised to see him. Her room is "yellowish, dirty" and shows the signs of poverty. Sonia begins talking about Katerina Ivanovna and the children. She is full of praise for her stepmother. Raskolnikov tells her that she will be responsible for the welfare of Katerina Ivanovna and the three children. He bluntly states that Katerina Ivanovna will die soon of consumption, and Sonia is frightened by this statement. Raskolnikov asks her what will become of the children if their mother is dead. Sonia tearfully replies that she does not know. Raskolnikov paints a black picture of the future. He predicts that the little girl, Polenka, will probably become a prostitute, too. He proclaims that there is no God and breaks out into malicious laughter, which frightens Sonia. There is silence for five minutes, after which Raskolnikov bends down and kisses Sonia's foot. He states that he has prostrated himself not to Sonia, but to all human suffering.

Sonia's great faith in God allows her to withstand suffering. Raskolnikov asks her to read a passage from the New Testament regarding Christ's raising of Lazarus from the dead. Sonia reveals that she was Lizaveta's friend and that it was Lizaveta who had given her this copy of the Bible. She reads the Lazarus passage in a breathless fashion.


Raskolnikov tells Sonia that he has given up his relations with his mother and sister. He wishes that since Sonia and he are both cursed, they should stay together. To him, it appears that Sonia, too, has destroyed a life: her own life. He tells her that he knows who has killed Lizaveta and Alena Ivanovna, and that he will tell her tomorrow. Sonia is baffled by Raskolnikov's behavior. Raskolnikov goes home. Sonia spends a feverish and delirious night dreaming of Katerina Ivanovna, Lizaveta, Polenka and Raskolnikov. Svidrigailov, who resides in the next room, has overheard the whole conversation.

Notes

Raskolnikov comes to Sonia, realizing that she is the only person with whom he can communicate. Sonia knows that he is suffering, but she finds it difficult to understand him because she does not know the cause and nature of this suffering. Raskolnikov, on the other hand, has knowledge of Sonia's problems. He uses this knowledge to try to convince Sonia that her situation is such that she need not be thankful to God. Hence, he proclaims that God is dead. This blunt statement is similar to that made by Nietzsche in his book, Thus Spoke Zarathustra (1885). Theories about religion's failure to bring about man's redemption in modern times were quite common in Paris when Dostoevsky was there in the early 1860s.

Raskolnikov's attempt to make Sonia accept his religious skepticism ends in failure, as Sonia asserts that she has deep faith in God, and it is this faith that keeps her alive. Raskolnikov's request that Sonia read the passage from the New Testament that deals with Christ's raising of the dead man, Lazarus, is not an attempt to mock her faith. It displays Raskolnikov's own need for salvation. The raising of Lazarus from the dead becomes symbolic of Raskolnikov's own redemption through Sonia's love at the novel's end.

Sonia appears to be under great mental strain. Like Raskolnikov, she suffers from moments of delirium. Her delirium seems to arise from her extreme poverty and religion. For Raskolnikov, she becomes a symbol of suffering humanity, before which he must prostrate himself. It is amazing how Dostoevsky portrays two people from the lowest levels of society--a murderer and a prostitute--in such a manner that the reader must acknowledge the human value of both of them. The chapter ends with the important revelation that Svidrigailov has overheard the conversation between Raskolnikov and Sonia, and he plans to eavesdrop again on the next day when Raskolnikov is to reveal his crime to Sonia.

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