“Mother, you’re so pale, don’t make yourself upset,” said Dunia, caressing her. Then with flashing eyes she added, “He ought to be happy to see you, and you’re tormenting yourself so badly.”
Dunia reassures her mother in the way she has of taking wonderful care of all those around her. Dunia’s mother, Pulcheria Alexandrovna, feels anxious about visiting her son Raskolnikov. A stream of worries passes through Pulcheria’s mind, from the state of her son’s apartment, to the state of his mind. Dunia calms her agitated mother by urging a balanced perspective: Raskolnikov should be glad to see his mother, and she should have confidence in visiting him. Dunia clearly values and respects her mother.
“But people in perfect health act the same ways as well,” observed Dunia, looking uneasily at Zossimov.
Dunia questions Zossimov’s diagnosis of Raskolnikov’s strange behavior when she, Pulcheria, and Razumikhin all go to visit Raskolnikov to check on his condition. Raskolnikov perplexes everyone when he relates where he was the day before, saying he spent the day in a delirium while recalling incidents clearly. Zossimov, Raskolnikov’s doctor, offers that Raskolnikov might be mentally ill. Here, Dunia’s sharp intelligence allows her to observe that sane people could behave similarly, and Zossimov’s explanation isn’t quite sufficient.
“In fact,” continued Dunia, “I’m marrying Peter Petrovich because I have decided to choose the lesser of two evils. I intend to do everything he asks me to do honestly, so I’m not deceiving him …”
Raskolnikov feels deeply annoyed by Dunia’s insistence on marrying Luzhin, a man Raskolnikov considers unintelligent, a boor, and unworthy of his sister. As they argue, Dunia staunchly defends her position, reminding Raskolnikov of her limited choices. Dunia sees her situation clearly and takes a rational approach to her life decisions.
I wouldn’t marry him if I weren’t absolutely satisfied that I can respect him.
Admirably, Dunia explains that above all other qualities, she looks for mutual respect in marriage. Raskolnikov has accused her of marrying for money. She knows that her poverty limits her options, yet she realizes that a marriage devoid of respect is far worse than being alone. Dunia’s intelligence and rationality rival Raskolnikov’s and make her one of the strongest female characters in the novel.
I don’t want to be mistaken in my choice, and I must not be.
Even though Dunia feels willing to marry Luzhin, above all for the good of her family, she still recognizes that she gets to choose whom she marries. Dunia takes her engagement as a serious matter—quality of life for both her and her family hinges upon her decision. Yet, Dunia does not feel willing to debase herself by marrying someone who has low character. Dunia has dignity.
“What!” cried Dunia, flushing. “I set your interest beside everything that has up until now been most precious in my life, what has made up the whole of my life, and here you are offended because I haven’t sufficiently taken you into account!”
After Dunia defies Luzhin’s request not to bring Raskolnikov near him, he breaks off their engagement. He states that a wife would not put her brother over her husband. Here, an enraged Dunia fights back and calls Luzhin’s accusation self-centered and insensitive.
“Judging from that remark, we may certainly assume that you were counting on our helplessness,” Dunia observed irritably.
Dunia rebukes her fiancé Luzhin for a crude observation he makes. As things deteriorate between the Raskolnikov family and Luzhin, Luzhin remarks to Dunia’s mother, Pulcheria, that she behaves more familiarly with him now that she knows she’s about to inherit money. Dunia sees in his insult an attitude of condescension. She accuses Luzhin of exploiting their impoverished state to ingratiate himself to Dunia. Like her brother, Dunia shrewdly observes the human mind.
“Wicked, heartless egoist!” cried Dunia.
Razumikhin proposes that he and the family go into business together, which delights everyone and gives them new hope. Dunia’s angry response comes when Raskolnikov decides, at this crucial moment, to leave the family. Dunia doesn’t hold back, and condemns Raskolnikov as wicked, heartless, and self-centered. Dunia loves her brother, but feels horrified by his seeming lack of regard for family, something most important to Dunia.
“Don’t be angry, brother; I’ve only come for a minute,” said Dunia.
Despite his failures towards his family, Dunia remains devoted and committed to her brother. Here, she comes to Raskolnikov to tell him that she has heard about the police’s suspicion of him, and offers her support through the ordeal. Dunia once again proves her steadfast nature and unwavering loyalty to family.
But what does that mean, Rodia? Are we really parting for ever so you … can give me such a parting message?
Dunia questions the finality she hears in Raskolnikov’s goodbye. She has just pledged her undying love and support for her brother, seeing the police’s suspicions as persecution of an innocent man. Rather than address his guilt or innocence, he has responded with a formal blessing of her upcoming marriage and a dismissal. Dunia expresses complete confusion, yet she honors her brother’s wishes and walks out. Dunia, blinded by her love for brother, still can’t see Raskolnikov’s guilt.