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

Summary

Svidrigailov threatens to call the police if Raskolnikov does not stop following him. Raskolnikov, who is by now thoroughly disgusted by Svidrigailov, leaves and walks alone towards Haymarket square. He walks past Dounia in a trance-like state and stands at the parapet of a bridge.

Svidrigailov meets Dounia on the bridge. He asks her to come with him around the corner so that Raskolnikov cannot see them. He persuades her to come to his apartment against her better judgment because what he has to tell her cannot be said in the street. Dounia goes with Svidrigailov to his apartment. In the house he explains to her how he had sat and overheard Raskolnikov's confession to Sonia. In his letter to Dounia, Svidrigailov had hinted at a crime committed by Raskolnikov. Svidrigailov now tells Dounia that Raskolnikov killed Alena Ivanovna and Lizaveta. Dounia does not believe Svidrigailov. Svidrigailov begins to give reasons for Raskolnikov's having committed the murders. These reasons include Raskolnikov's isolation, poverty, and pride. He mentions Raskolnikov's article on crime, and because Dounia has read it, she begins to suspect her brother's guilt. Dounia states that she wishes to speak to Sonia now. Svidrigailov informs her that Sonia is not at home. Dounia accuses him of lying and in a swoon sinks into her chair. Svidrigailov sprinkles some water on Dounia's face until she recovers.


Svidrigailov offers to help Raskolnikov escape from the law. Dounia wishes to leave but finds that the door is locked. Svidrigailov looks at her menacingly and refuses to open the door. Svidrigailov tries to blackmail Dounia into giving herself up to him for the sake of her brother's freedom. Dounia takes a loaded revolver out of her pocket. It had once belonged to Marfa Petrovna. Dounia accuses Svidrigailov of murdering his wife by poisoning her. Svidrigailov does not deny that he had a hand in Marfa Petrovna's death. Dounia points the revolver at Svidrigailov, who walks towards her threateningly. She fires at him. The bullet grazes his scalp. Dounia swears that she will kill Svidrigailov, but Svidrigailov is unafraid. He walks closer to her. She pulls the trigger again, and the gun misfires. Svidrigailov now steps even closer to Dounia. Dounia throws away the gun although there is still one bullet left.

Svidrigailov is relieved to see Dounia's last action. He puts his arm around her waist. Dounia asks him to let her go. Svidrigailov ask her whether she could ever love him. She replies "never!". He lets go of Dounia and gives her the key to the door. After Dounia has left the house, Svidrigailov picks up the revolver and puts it into his pocket.

Notes

Svidrigailov finally shows his true colors. He succeeds in enticing Dounia to come to his apartment on the pretext that he has something to tell her about her brother's involvement in the murders. He uses his knowledge of Raskolnikov's guilt to try to force Dounia into giving herself up to his pleasure. She has, however, come prepared for such an eventuality by carrying a revolver in her pocket. Ironically, the revolver belongs to Svidrigailov's dead wife. It is the same revolver with which Svidrigailov will, later, end his life. Until this moment in the novel, he seems to need nobody. However, here, he needs a show of emotion from Dounia, but even under desperate circumstances, she cannot give this to him. Like Raskolnikov, Svidrigailov is driven from his isolation to turn to other people.

The fact that Svidrigailov fails to deny Dounia's charge that he has killed Marfa Petrovna shows that he is probably guilty of murdering his wife. Svidrigailov, however, does not use force to take advantage of Dounia's helpless position after she drops the revolver. Perhaps, in his own way, he truly loves her. He does not merely desire her body, but also her soul. This, of course, is most unlike Svidrigailov, but it proves that even an apparently wicked man like Svidrigailov, has a heart. When he realizes that Dounia does not love him, he sees that his efforts to seduce her have been futile and lets her go. His picking up the revolver seems almost to be an after thought, but it is crucial, as it carries over to Svidrigailov's suicide scene. Here, the reader sees how Svidrigailov's iron will bends to Dounia's gentler ways and is humbled by her rejection.

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