Luzhin is in his room with Lebezyatnikov, a younger man who is his roommate. Luzhin now realizes that his engagement with Dunya is irrecoverably broken. He nurses a deep hatred for Raskolnikov, and shivers to think of the money that he lost on deposits for their newlywed home and furnishings. He fantasizes that if he had given his fiancée and her mother more presents, they would not have broken the engagement. Meanwhile, he and Lebezyatnikov have been invited to the memorial dinner that Katerina Ivanovna, who lives in the same building, is holding for Marmeladov. Lebezyatnikov is a pompous fool, though Luzhin initially thought of him as a thoughtful young man who could help him navigate the new political waves of liberalism, radicalism, and nihilism washing over Russia. Luzhin invites Sonya to his room and gives the embarrassed girl a ten-ruble note.
The narrator considers Katerina Ivanovna’s reasons for spending more than half of the money given to them by Raskolnikov on the memorial banquet and concludes that it is probably because of her pride. Only Raskolnikov and the lowliest of the tenants, who behave rudely, attend the affair. Katerina, who claims repeatedly to be of a “noble, if not aristocratic,” family, hurls insults at her low-class guests. Meanwhile, she appears increasingly unwell, coughing up blood during the meal. She ends up fighting with her landlady while her guests egg her on. In the middle of the fight, Luzhin appears in the doorway and Katerina rushes to him.
Luzhin insultingly brushes Katerina aside as she implores his protection from the landlady. Turning to Sonya, he accuses her of stealing a one-hundred-ruble note. Sonya denies the theft. Katerina becomes incensed at the insult to her stepdaughter and starts raving against Luzhin and the landlady. To prove Sonya’s innocence, she defiantly turns the girl’s pockets out and is shocked when a one-hundred-ruble note falls out. Luzhin magnanimously agrees not to press charges. To Luzhin’s horror, however, Lebezyatnikov appears and declares that he saw Luzhin place the note in Sonya’s pocket earlier. Raskolnikov then explains that Luzhin was probably trying to embarrass him about his association with Sonya. Luzhin, faced with the complete ruin of his plan, tries to extricate himself by maintaining his innocence and insulting Lebezyatnikov and Raskolnikov. After Luzhin leaves, the fight between Katerina and the landlady continues. In the end, the Marmeladovs are evicted.
Raskolnikov visits Sonya in her room. He tells her that her family has been turned out of their building but urges her not to go to help them. He confesses the murders to her. Sonya responds with immense pity and promises to support Raskolnikov and not abandon him. She is astonished when he tells her that his poverty was not the motive. Rather, he says, “I was ambitious to become another Napoleon; that was why I committed a murder.” He also confesses that he feels detached from other people and believed, and perhaps still believes, in his superiority over most other people. Sonya tells him that he has been punished for turning away from God. He reiterates that self-absorption fueled his actions, that he wished to prove that he was somehow extraordinary and able to transgress the moral codes that bind ordinary people. Sonya tells him that he must confess his sins publicly for God to give him peace. At first he resists, but he soon consents. Sonya promises to come to see him in prison and support him. She gives him a pendant cross to wear, similar to the one that she wears, saying that they will both bear their crosses. Just then, Lebezyatnikov knocks at the door.
Luzhin’s profoundly materialistic and self-serving nature is brought to the fore in this section. Obsessed with money and material objects, he blames Dunya’s rejection of him on entirely material motives, thinking that once she had the inheritance from Marfa Petrovna, she and her mother no longer needed him. His plan to frame Sonya solidifies his status as one of the novel’s villains. His ploy is clumsy and mean-spirited, and, although he tries to maintain his pride, it is clear that he will never regain Dunya’s favor. After this scene, Luzhin disappears from the narrative, never to return again, since he has played his last cards and been beaten. Dunya is now completely free to turn her attention to Razumikhin, the man whose rightness for her has been clear from the start.
Lebezyatnikov functions as a humorous and sarcastic caricature of the pompous but stupid intellectual, a proverbial emperor with no clothes. Even as he rushes to Sonya’s defense, Lebezyatnikov feels the need to make little speeches about the ethics of private charity. In depicting Lebezyatnikov as obsessed with intellectual fads and unrealistic utopias, Dostoevsky criticizes the actual intellectual currents that were sweeping Russia in the 1860s, such as nihilism, and emphasizes how much more profound, albeit equally misguided, Raskolnikov’s theories are.
Katerina Ivanovna appears as a tragic figure, portrayed in vivid images of coughed-up blood and inflamed cheeks. Her pride, unlike Raskolnikov’s, is deeply pathetic and intertwined with her poverty. She rails against a world that she believes has unjustly punished her. Her pride motivates her to spend too much money on Marmeladov’s memorial dinner, even though, with his death, the family is certain to starve. She sees the dinner as one last chance to pretend that she truly is “noble, even aristocratic.” Instead, the event proves to be only one more illustration of the impossibility of escaping the poverty that surrounds her. The subplot of the Marmeladovs’ unrelenting misfortune provides the reader a broader context for Raskolnikov’s struggle against a society filled with injustice, poverty, anonymity, and hopelessness.
Raskolnikov’s confession to Sonya and his promise to confess to the police are major developments. At the end of this section, Raskolnikov seems finally to have started on the path to resolving the torment that he has felt since the murders. His pride has given way to the realization that he is not the “superman” that he once fantasized himself to be. Still, it is important to note that his return to humanity is not happy; he still thinks of the people around him as despicable creatures and, understanding himself as part of humanity, views himself as necessarily despicable. This realization that he is only human constitutes the first big step toward confession and redemption. Though true remorse stands a long way off, the simple act of confessing to Sonya and receiving her sympathy—his first meaningful connection with another person—helps him break through his alienation from all of humanity.
These developments occur in tandem with a shift for Raskolnikov from a theoretical to a realistic understanding of matters. Whereas he initially justifies the murder of Alyona Ivanovna on the nihilist grounds of ridding humanity of a parasite, he now admits that his actions were based less in philosophy than in emotional insecurity: “All I wanted was to do some daring thing, Sonya; that was my sole motive!” By committing an exceptional act, by stepping over the normal bounds of human behavior, he had hoped to prove that he himself was exceptional. The self-serving nature of his actions, however, contradicts and undermines the utilitarian and nihilist motives that he originally professes.