Table of Contents | Message Board | Printable Version | Barron's Booknotes
PART IV, CHAPTER 6
The door opens and the prisoner, Nikolai, rushes into Porfiry's office, after having pushed aside an escort. Porfiry is enraged because he believes that Nikolai has been sent for too soon. Nikolai makes a 'confession,' admitting to having murdered Alena Ivanovna and her sister. Porfiry asks Raskolnikov to leave the room while Nikolai testifies. Raskolnikov notes that Porfiry does not seem to have expected this turn of events, and Porfiry observes the same of Raskolnikov. They apologize to each other for their earlier behavior.
As he walks home, Raskolnikov realizes that Nikolai's 'confession' will be a plain lie and that Porfiry will soon be on his track again. Outside his home he meets the stranger who had earlier called Raskolnikov a murderer. The stranger was the "surprise" that Porfiry had earlier referred to. He has come to apologize to Raskolnikov, as he now believes that because Nikolai has confessed, Raskolnikov must be innocent. (This man was hiding in Porfiry's office and has overheard everything.) Raskolnikov thinks to himself that he can still put up a fight against the law.
Nikolai, the house painter of whose arrest Razumihin had spoken in Part II, Chapter 4, is now directly presented by the author. He makes a dramatic entry into Porfiry's room and falsely states that he is the murderer. The irony of the situation is that the real murderer, Raskolnikov, is present in the room at this time. Porfiry, who was perhaps planning to bring Nikolai forward as a witness against Raskolnikov, certainly did not expect this development. Raskolnikov, too, shows his amazement. Once more, Raskolnikov has escaped detection.
The stranger who meets Raskolnikov outside his house is a furrier who saw Raskolnikov making inquiries about the bloodstains at the murder scene four days after the murder. Although he knows that Nikolai's lie may soon be discovered, Raskolnikov can now breathe easily for a while. He resolves to maintain his composure and to keep fighting.