Svidrigailov explains that he has come to ask Raskolnikov’s help in his pursuit of Dunya. Raskolnikov immediately refuses. Svidrigailov contends that he has only the purest feelings for Dunya and that, contrary to rumor, he had nothing to do with the recent death of his wife, Marfa Petrovna. He argues that he is not a monster, only a slave to passion. He then tells a story about how he came to marry his wife, saying that she took advantage of a predicament that he was in to control and dominate him. He claims to have been visited by the ghost of his dead wife several times. Raskolnikov wonders whether his visitor is insane. Svidrigailov says that he has heard of Dunya’s engagement to Luzhin, who is a relative of his, and offers to help break off this inappropriate match. Svidrigailov claims that, though he once obsessed over Dunya, he is no longer in love with her but cannot bear her taking such an unsuitable husband. He wants to give her ten thousand rubles as an apology before he either marries or goes on a journey. Raskolnikov assures him that his sister will refuse the gift. Svidrigailov also tells him that his wife has left Dunya three thousand rubles in her will. He leaves, passing Razumikhin on his way out.
Razumikhin and Raskolnikov walk to a restaurant. Razumikhin says that he has spoken with Porfiry Petrovich and Zamyotov and discovered that they suspect Raskolnikov of the murders, which Razumikhin finds absurd. Raskolnikov privately wonders what his friend will think when he finds out that Raskolnikov is indeed guilty. They meet with Luzhin, Dunya, and Pulcheria Alexandrovna and seat themselves around a table. Luzhin’s pride is wounded by the presence of the two young men, whose absence he had specifically requested, and he resolves to punish the women. He upsets them by breaking the news of Svidrigailov’s arrival in St. Petersburg. He goes on to describe the crimes and depravities that he has heard attributed to Svidrigailov, but Dunya rejects his stories as baseless gossip. Raskolnikov abruptly informs the party of his meeting with Svidrigailov and the money that was willed to Dunya by Marfa Petrovna. He refuses to say what Svidrigailov wants with Dunya. Dunya then confronts Luzhin about his annoyance at her brother’s presence, and Luzhin manages to offend everyone in the room with his response. There is an angry confrontation between mother, daughter, and son on one side and fiancé on the other. Dunya orders Luzhin to leave. He does so only after insulting them. As he leaves, he blames his loss of Dunya on Raskolnikov, for whom he now harbors a deep hatred. He convinces himself that he may still have a chance with Dunya.
After Luzhin departs, the group is overjoyed. Razumikhin is the happiest of all. Raskolnikov, however, quickly becomes anxious again. He tells them about Svidrigailov offering to give Dunya ten thousand rubles, which both women refuse. Razumikhin offers to guard Dunya from the man, and Dunya consents. He suggests that Dunya and her mother stay on in St. Petersburg and proposes that they all go into the publishing business together. Dunya is thrilled with this idea and Raskolnikov assents as well. But then Raskolnikov abruptly gets up to leave. He states that he has resolved to separate himself from them for a long time and that they must not pursue him. The rest of the group is dismayed. Razumikhin chases after him, but Raskolnikov sends him back, telling his friend to stay with Pulcheria Alexandrovna and Dunya. The two stare at each other, and Razumikhin realizes that Raskolnikov is the murderer. He returns to the table.
Svidrigailov is depicted as a morally weak man who doesn’t seem to understand when he is unwelcome or perhaps simply doesn’t care. But, unlike most of the other characters, such as the kind and compassionate Razumikhin or the miserly Alyona Ivanovna, Svidrigailov is not drawn quickly and decisively. His mental state, motives, and true nature remain enigmatic throughout the novel. Svidrigailov’s entrance into the plot is almost identical to that of Luzhin: like Luzhin in Part II, Chapter IV, Svidrigailov appears unexpectedly in Raskolnikov’s room, his entrance made ominous by the fact that he, a stranger, hovers over Raskolnikov at the close of the preceding chapter. Additionally, both discuss their interest in Dunya with Raskolnikov. One subtle difference between these two encounters is that Razumikhin is not present when Svidrigailov shows up; rather, Raskolnikov is alone in his room. Svidrigailov is an unreal shadow of Raskolnikov, a figment of his imagination, delusional like he is and equally dysfunctional in society.
Luzhin returns to cause mischief later in the narrative, but it is clear that his engagement with Dunya is permanently broken. In her decision to reject Luzhin, Dunya is revealed as an intelligent, confident, and decisive woman who, though willing to make sacrifices for the sake of her family, is unwilling to disgrace herself by marrying a man as crude as Luzhin. Her pride is as strong as Raskolnikov’s, but, unlike his, it is laced with dignity and motivates her to maintain her integrity in the face of such ill-conceived possibilities as her engagement to Luzhin.
The breaking of the engagement is a major event not only for Dunya but also for Raskolnikov. Raskolnikov’s sudden irritation after Luzhin’s departure seems, at first, abrupt, but a close look at the timing of his decision to leave reveals its significance. Only after he realizes that Razumikhin will take care of Dunya and Pulcheria Alexandrovna does Raskolnikov announce his need to separate from them. Tainted by his crime, he wishes to distance himself from them, but he is unwilling to do so until he knows that they will be cared for. This consideration marks the beginning of a change in his character. For the first time, he seems to care for others and not just for himself. While Raskolnikov’s decision to leave is of a different order than Sonya’s prostitution and Dunya’s decision to become engaged to Luzhin, it nevertheless reflects his understanding of the importance of family. The contrast between Raskolnikov’s lonely, alienated thoughts and the generous affection of Pulcheria Alexandrovna and Dunya only heightens Raskolnikov’s inner turmoil and his compulsion to detach himself from his family. His departure from them makes it clear that he either intends to confess voluntarily or believes that he will soon be found out—or, perhaps, that he simply cannot face the people who love him with the secret of the murders hanging over him.