eBooks Cube


Siberia. On the banks of a broad solitary river stands a town, one of
the administrative centres of Russia; in the town there is a fortress,
in the fortress there is a prison. In the prison the second-class
convict Rodion Raskolnikov has been confined for nine months. Almost a
year and a half has passed since his crime.

There had been little difficulty about his trial. The criminal adhered
exactly, firmly, and clearly to his statement. He did not confuse nor
misrepresent the facts, nor soften them in his own interest, nor omit
the smallest detail. He explained every incident of the murder, the
secret of /the pledge/ (the piece of wood with a strip of metal) which
was found in the murdered woman's hand. He described minutely how he
had taken her keys, what they were like, as well as the chest and its
contents; he explained the mystery of Lizaveta's murder; described how
Koch and, after him, the student knocked, and repeated all they had
said to one another; how he afterwards had run downstairs and heard
Nikolay and Dmitri shouting; how he had hidden in the empty flat and
afterwards gone home. He ended by indicating the stone in the yard off
the Voznesensky Prospect under which the purse and the trinkets were
found. The whole thing, in fact, was perfectly clear. The lawyers and
the judges were very much struck, among other things, by the fact that
he had hidden the trinkets and the purse under a stone, without making
use of them, and that, what was more, he did not now remember what the
trinkets were like, or even how many there were. The fact that he had
never opened the purse and did not even know how much was in it seemed
incredible. There turned out to be in the purse three hundred and
seventeen roubles and sixty copecks. From being so long under the
stone, some of the most valuable notes lying uppermost had suffered
from the damp. They were a long while trying to discover why the
accused man should tell a lie about this, when about everything else
he had made a truthful and straightforward confession. Finally some of
the lawyers more versed in psychology admitted that it was possible he
had really not looked into the purse, and so didn't know what was in
it when he hid it under the stone. But they immediately drew the
deduction that the crime could only have been committed through
temporary mental derangement, through homicidal mania, without object
or the pursuit of gain. This fell in with the most recent fashionable
theory of temporary insanity, so often applied in our days in criminal
cases. Moreover Raskolnikov's hypochondriacal condition was proved by
many witnesses, by Dr. Zossimov, his former fellow students, his
landlady and her servant. All this pointed strongly to the conclusion
that Raskolnikov was not quite like an ordinary murderer and robber,
but that there was another element in the case.

To the intense annoyance of those who maintained this opinion, the
criminal scarcely attempted to defend himself. To the decisive
question as to what motive impelled him to the murder and the robbery,
he answered very clearly with the coarsest frankness that the cause
was his miserable position, his poverty and helplessness, and his
desire to provide for his first steps in life by the help of the three
thousand roubles he had reckoned on finding. He had been led to the
murder through his shallow and cowardly nature, exasperated moreover
by privation and failure. To the question what led him to confess, he
answered that it was his heartfelt repentance. All this was almost
coarse. . . .

The sentence however was more merciful than could have been expected,
perhaps partly because the criminal had not tried to justify himself,
but had rather shown a desire to exaggerate his guilt. All the strange
and peculiar circumstances of the crime were taken into consideration.
There could be no doubt of the abnormal and poverty-stricken condition
of the criminal at the time. The fact that he had made no use of what
he had stolen was put down partly to the effect of remorse, partly to
his abnormal mental condition at the time of the crime. Incidentally
the murder of Lizaveta served indeed to confirm the last hypothesis: a
man commits two murders and forgets that the door is open! Finally,
the confession, at the very moment when the case was hopelessly
muddled by the false evidence given by Nikolay through melancholy and
fanaticism, and when, moreover, there were no proofs against the real
criminal, no suspicions even (Porfiry Petrovitch fully kept his word)
--all this did much to soften the sentence. Other circumstances, too,
in the prisoner's favour came out quite unexpectedly. Razumihin
somehow discovered and proved that while Raskolnikov was at the
university he had helped a poor consumptive fellow student and had
spent his last penny on supporting him for six months, and when this
student died, leaving a decrepit old father whom he had maintained
almost from his thirteenth year, Raskolnikov had got the old man into
a hospital and paid for his funeral when he died. Raskolnikov's
landlady bore witness, too, that when they had lived in another house
at Five Corners, Raskolnikov had rescued two little children from a
house on fire and was burnt in doing so. This was investigated and
fairly well confirmed by many witnesses. These facts made an
impression in his favour.

And in the end the criminal was, in consideration of extenuating
circumstances, condemned to penal servitude in the second class for a
term of eight years only.

At the very beginning of the trial Raskolnikov's mother fell ill.
Dounia and Razumihin found it possible to get her out of Petersburg
during the trial. Razumihin chose a town on the railway not far from
Petersburg, so as to be able to follow every step of the trial and at
the same time to see Avdotya Romanovna as often as possible. Pulcheria
Alexandrovna's illness was a strange nervous one and was accompanied
by a partial derangement of her intellect.

When Dounia returned from her last interview with her brother, she had
found her mother already ill, in feverish delirium. That evening
Razumihin and she agreed what answers they must make to her mother's
questions about Raskolnikov and made up a complete story for her
mother's benefit of his having to go away to a distant part of Russia
on a business commission, which would bring him in the end money and

But they were struck by the fact that Pulcheria Alexandrovna never
asked them anything on the subject, neither then nor thereafter. On
the contrary, she had her own version of her son's sudden departure;
she told them with tears how he had come to say good-bye to her,
hinting that she alone knew many mysterious and important facts, and
that Rodya had many very powerful enemies, so that it was necessary
for him to be in hiding. As for his future career, she had no doubt
that it would be brilliant when certain sinister influences could be
removed. She assured Razumihin that her son would be one day a great
statesman, that his article and brilliant literary talent proved it.
This article she was continually reading, she even read it aloud,
almost took it to bed with her, but scarcely asked where Rodya was,
though the subject was obviously avoided by the others, which might
have been enough to awaken her suspicions.

They began to be frightened at last at Pulcheria Alexandrovna's
strange silence on certain subjects. She did not, for instance,
complain of getting no letters from him, though in previous years she
had only lived on the hope of letters from her beloved Rodya. This was
the cause of great uneasiness to Dounia; the idea occurred to her that
her mother suspected that there was something terrible in her son's
fate and was afraid to ask, for fear of hearing something still more
awful. In any case, Dounia saw clearly that her mother was not in full
possession of her faculties.

It happened once or twice, however, that Pulcheria Alexandrovna gave
such a turn to the conversation that it was impossible to answer her
without mentioning where Rodya was, and on receiving unsatisfactory
and suspicious answers she became at once gloomy and silent, and this
mood lasted for a long time. Dounia saw at last that it was hard to
deceive her and came to the conclusion that it was better to be
absolutely silent on certain points; but it became more and more
evident that the poor mother suspected something terrible. Dounia
remembered her brother's telling her that her mother had overheard her
talking in her sleep on the night after her interview with
Svidriga´lov and before the fatal day of the confession: had not she
made out something from that? Sometimes days and even weeks of gloomy
silence and tears would be succeeded by a period of hysterical
animation, and the invalid would begin to talk almost incessantly of
her son, of her hopes of his future. . . . Her fancies were sometimes
very strange. They humoured her, pretended to agree with her (she saw
perhaps that they were pretending), but she still went on talking.

Five months after Raskolnikov's confession, he was sentenced.
Razumihin and Sonia saw him in prison as often as it was possible. At
last the moment of separation came. Dounia swore to her brother that
the separation should not be for ever, Razumihin did the same.
Razumihin, in his youthful ardour, had firmly resolved to lay the
foundations at least of a secure livelihood during the next three or
four years, and saving up a certain sum, to emigrate to Siberia, a
country rich in every natural resource and in need of workers, active
men and capital. There they would settle in the town where Rodya was
and all together would begin a new life. They all wept at parting.

Raskolnikov had been very dreamy for a few days before. He asked a
great deal about his mother and was constantly anxious about her. He
worried so much about her that it alarmed Dounia. When he heard about
his mother's illness he became very gloomy. With Sonia he was
particularly reserved all the time. With the help of the money left to
her by Svidriga´lov, Sonia had long ago made her preparations to
follow the party of convicts in which he was despatched to Siberia.
Not a word passed between Raskolnikov and her on the subject, but both
knew it would be so. At the final leave-taking he smiled strangely at
his sister's and Razumihin's fervent anticipations of their happy
future together when he should come out of prison. He predicted that
their mother's illness would soon have a fatal ending. Sonia and he at
last set off.

Two months later Dounia was married to Razumihin. It was a quiet and
sorrowful wedding; Porfiry Petrovitch and Zossimov were invited
however. During all this period Razumihin wore an air of resolute
determination. Dounia put implicit faith in his carrying out his plans
and indeed she could not but believe in him. He displayed a rare
strength of will. Among other things he began attending university
lectures again in order to take his degree. They were continually
making plans for the future; both counted on settling in Siberia
within five years at least. Till then they rested their hopes on

Pulcheria Alexandrovna was delighted to give her blessing to Dounia's
marriage with Razumihin; but after the marriage she became even more
melancholy and anxious. To give her pleasure Razumihin told her how
Raskolnikov had looked after the poor student and his decrepit father
and how a year ago he had been burnt and injured in rescuing two
little children from a fire. These two pieces of news excited
Pulcheria Alexandrovna's disordered imagination almost to ecstasy. She
was continually talking about them, even entering into conversation
with strangers in the street, though Dounia always accompanied her. In
public conveyances and shops, wherever she could capture a listener,
she would begin the discourse about her son, his article, how he had
helped the student, how he had been burnt at the fire, and so on!
Dounia did not know how to restrain her. Apart from the danger of her
morbid excitement, there was the risk of someone's recalling
Raskolnikov's name and speaking of the recent trial. Pulcheria
Alexandrovna found out the address of the mother of the two children
her son had saved and insisted on going to see her.

At last her restlessness reached an extreme point. She would sometimes
begin to cry suddenly and was often ill and feverishly delirious. One
morning she declared that by her reckoning Rodya ought soon to be
home, that she remembered when he said good-bye to her he said that
they must expect him back in nine months. She began to prepare for his
coming, began to do up her room for him, to clean the furniture, to
wash and put up new hangings and so on. Dounia was anxious, but said
nothing and helped her to arrange the room. After a fatiguing day
spent in continual fancies, in joyful day-dreams and tears, Pulcheria
Alexandrovna was taken ill in the night and by morning she was
feverish and delirious. It was brain fever. She died within a
fortnight. In her delirium she dropped words which showed that she
knew a great deal more about her son's terrible fate than they had

For a long time Raskolnikov did not know of his mother's death, though
a regular correspondence had been maintained from the time he reached
Siberia. It was carried on by means of Sonia, who wrote every month to
the Razumihins and received an answer with unfailing regularity. At
first they found Sonia's letters dry and unsatisfactory, but later on
they came to the conclusion that the letters could not be better, for
from these letters they received a complete picture of their
unfortunate brother's life. Sonia's letters were full of the most
matter-of-fact detail, the simplest and clearest description of all
Raskolnikov's surroundings as a convict. There was no word of her own
hopes, no conjecture as to the future, no description of her feelings.
Instead of any attempt to interpret his state of mind and inner life,
she gave the simple facts--that is, his own words, an exact account of
his health, what he asked for at their interviews, what commission he
gave her and so on. All these facts she gave with extraordinary
minuteness. The picture of their unhappy brother stood out at last
with great clearness and precision. There could be no mistake,
because nothing was given but facts.

But Dounia and her husband could get little comfort out of the news,
especially at first. Sonia wrote that he was constantly sullen and not
ready to talk, that he scarcely seemed interested in the news she gave
him from their letters, that he sometimes asked after his mother and
that when, seeing that he had guessed the truth, she told him at last
of her death, she was surprised to find that he did not seem greatly
affected by it, not externally at any rate. She told them that,
although he seemed so wrapped up in himself and, as it were, shut
himself off from everyone--he took a very direct and simple view of
his new life; that he understood his position, expected nothing better
for the time, had no ill-founded hopes (as is so common in his
position) and scarcely seemed surprised at anything in his
surroundings, so unlike anything he had known before. She wrote that
his health was satisfactory; he did his work without shirking or
seeking to do more; he was almost indifferent about food, but except
on Sundays and holidays the food was so bad that at last he had been
glad to accept some money from her, Sonia, to have his own tea every
day. He begged her not to trouble about anything else, declaring that
all this fuss about him only annoyed him. Sonia wrote further that in
prison he shared the same room with the rest, that she had not seen
the inside of their barracks, but concluded that they were crowded,
miserable and unhealthy; that he slept on a plank bed with a rug under
him and was unwilling to make any other arrangement. But that he lived
so poorly and roughly, not from any plan or design, but simply from
inattention and indifference.

Sonia wrote simply that he had at first shown no interest in her
visits, had almost been vexed with her indeed for coming, unwilling to
talk and rude to her. But that in the end these visits had become a
habit and almost a necessity for him, so that he was positively
distressed when she was ill for some days and could not visit him. She
used to see him on holidays at the prison gates or in the guard-room,
to which he was brought for a few minutes to see her. On working days
she would go to see him at work either at the workshops or at the
brick kilns, or at the sheds on the banks of the Irtish.

About herself, Sonia wrote that she had succeeded in making some
acquaintances in the town, that she did sewing, and, as there was
scarcely a dressmaker in the town, she was looked upon as an
indispensable person in many houses. But she did not mention that the
authorities were, through her, interested in Raskolnikov; that his
task was lightened and so on.

At last the news came (Dounia had indeed noticed signs of alarm and
uneasiness in the preceding letters) that he held aloof from everyone,
that his fellow prisoners did not like him, that he kept silent for
days at a time and was becoming very pale. In the last letter Sonia
wrote that he had been taken very seriously ill and was in the convict
ward of the hospital.

Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
General Fiction
Nabou.com: the big site