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Raskolnikov goes to Sonya’s room. She is surprised and frightened by his visit. They discuss Katerina Ivanovna, whom Sonya defends as kind, childlike, and fiercely proud, though she concedes that misfortune has more or less deranged Katerina. Sonya clearly cares immensely for her stepmother and is deeply troubled to think that she might soon die, leaving her children defenseless. Yet she clings to the belief that God will provide for the family and take care of them. Sonya reveals that she was a friend of the murdered Lizaveta. In fact, Lizaveta gave Sonya a cross and a copy of the Gospels. Raskolnikov commands Sonya to read him the story of Lazarus. Sonya manages to overcome her terror of the crazed Raskolnikov and reads, shaking as she does so. It is clear that the passage has special significance for her. Raskolnikov shares with her his resolution to separate from his family and asks her to go away with him. He thinks of her as a kindred spirit, someone who has, as a prostitute, also transgressed moral law and “destroyed a life—her very own.” He tells her that she will soon know who killed Lizaveta. Meanwhile, in a vacant room next door, Svidrigailov eavesdrops on the conversation.
Freedom will no longer be dear to him, he’ll fall to thinking, get entangled . . . he’ll worry himself to death!
The following morning, Raskolnikov pays a visit to Porfiry Petrovich at the police station. While he waits in the lobby, he mulls over his hatred for the magistrate. Once inside Porfiry’s office, Raskolnikov presents him with a written request for his pawned possessions. The two embark on a long conversation in which Raskolnikov quickly starts to feel as though he has fallen into a trap. Frustrated by the games that he thinks Porfiry is playing, he asks the magistrate to submit him to the questioning discussed the previous day. Porfiry tries to put Raskolnikov at ease and become friendly with him. He chatters away, speaking mostly nonsense, though occasionally adding an enigmatic remark. He discusses the psychological methods by which he hopes to catch the murderer. He includes observations about the “youth” and “intelligence” of his suspect that are pointed directly at Raskolnikov. Throughout Porfiry’s rambling monologue, Raskolnikov, though agitated, stays quiet. But after a while, he bursts out wildly, accusing the official of suspecting him and challenging Porfiry either to accuse him outright or to let him be. Porfiry tries to calm him down. But even as he does so, he reveals that he knows of Raskolnikov’s recent visit to the scene of the crime. He tries to trick Raskolnikov into admitting that he sent Razumikhin to ask Porfiry about his suspicions. Raskolnikov becomes violently upset, but then a “singular incident” occurs.
Suddenly, Nikolai, the prisoner who is under suspicion for the murders, rushes into the office and confesses to the crime. Although Porfiry does not believe the man, he takes the confession seriously. He shows Raskolnikov out. As Raskolnikov is on the stairs, Porfiry detains him to say that he will need to see him again soon for more questions. Raskolnikov goes home, where he realizes that, if Nikolai hadn’t burst into Porfiry’s office, he might have confessed to the murders. He decides to go to the memorial dinner for Marmeladov. Just then, the stranger who had called him a murderer the previous day appears in the doorway. The man, who identifies himself as a tenant of the pawnbroker’s building, says that he witnessed Raskolnikov’s visit to the crime scene and heard him question the workers about the blood. He reveals that he knows nothing more and, having overheard his conversation with Porfiry at the police station, is now sympathetic to Raskolnikov’s plight. Raskolnikov is greatly relieved and feels renewed hope that he will not be caught after all.
Dostoevsky’s inclusion of the Lazarus story provides both Raskolnikov and Sonya with a model of hope for their lives. In the Christian tradition, the raising of Lazarus from death is the most profound miracle that Jesus performed while on earth. Sonya may adapt the story to her life as a promise that a similar miracle will rectify her situation, a kind of death induced by her poverty and self-sacrifice. The story also carries deep significance for the skeptical Raskolnikov. Although he claims not to believe in the story, he is moved by it, since it no doubt resonates with his sense of total alienation from society. His death has been a death of the soul. Separated from those who love him by his own pride and his terrible secret, Raskolnikov longs for some kind of chance to start anew, to be, like Lazarus, resurrected. He is still proud, but his veneer of superiority is beginning to crack.
The Lazarus story also serves as allegorical foreshadowing, predicting Raskolnikov’s return to humanity at the end of the novel. Despite his conviction that killing Alyona Ivanovna was justified, Raskolnikov already feels his guilt and alienation on a deep, almost physical level. He is eventually driven to confess, if for no other reason than to put an end to the doubt and emotional turmoil that now hound him. His ultimate confession and subsequent imprisonment lead him to some form of redemption.
Sonya’s humility is much more profound than her embarrassment about being a prostitute. She is a pious Christian, believing that her fate is firmly in God’s hands and trusting that he is just, as Raskolnikov observes, against all proof to the contrary. It is Sonya’s faith that allows her to continue surviving and helping her family to survive. The contrast between Sonya and Raskolnikov is striking, illuminating the depth of Sonya’s devotion and self-sacrifice and the shallowness of Raskolnikov’s pride. Raskolnikov’s attempt to compare himself to Sonya as a fellow sinner falls flat, since she has turned to prostitution only out of the need to help her family, and laments her sin, while Raskolnikov has not yet repented for the murders, the first of which is shakily predicated on utilitarian grounds and the second of which is purely self-serving. Raskolnikov’s blindness to these differences shows that he is still a long way from recognizing his guilt.
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