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.
In some editions, the fifth chapter of Part V is set as a chapter-long Part VI. In such editions, Crime and Punishment is divided into seven parts plus an epilogue, rather than the six parts plus an epilogue into which this SparkNote divides the text.
Lebezyatnikov informs Sonya that Katerina Ivanovna has apparently gone mad. Katerina has visited the homes of well-to-do people, demanding their assistance, and has been violently thrown out. She has now resolved to become an organ-grinder, is tearing up her children’s clothes, and has sent her children to dance in the street and beg for charity. She hopes to perform in front of one of the houses from which she was turned out to shame its inhabitants and the public. Lebezyatnikov reports that she cries, “People shall see the children of a noble family beg in the public streets!”
Sonya rushes out to find Katerina. Raskolnikov goes to his room, where Dunya soon comes to see him. She says that she has heard from Razumikhin of her brother’s “persecution” by the police and pledges her support. Raskolnikov tells her that he thinks highly of Razumikhin. After she leaves, Raskolnikov goes out into the street, where Lebezyatnikov catches up with him and tells him that Katerina has truly gone mad and may soon be taken by the police. Lebezyatnikov leads Raskolnikov to Katerina and the children, around whom a crowd has formed. Katerina looks ghastly. She is obviously in the throes of her disease; she is animated by a mad energy, singing, dancing, and beating her children. She tries to appeal to the sympathies of well-dressed passersby, explaining that her children are of “noble, nay, even aristocratic family.” She and the children are all crying. Katerina refuses Sonya’s pleas that she return home. She has a confrontation with a policeman and coughs up a great deal of blood. She is taken back to their home, where she is laid on a couch. The policeman, Lebezyatnikov, Raskolnikov, Sonya, the children, the landlord, the landlady, and some strangers crowd around her as she dies. She refuses the services of a priest, saying she has no need for them. She starts having hallucinations. She calls for Sonya and, in a fit of convulsions, dies. Sonya, sobbing, throws herself onto the corpse.
Svidrigailov appears and tells Raskolnikov that he will use a portion of the money that he had promised Dunya to pay for a funeral and to provide for the children, who will be sent to an orphanage. He then reveals that he overheard Raskolnikov confessing the murders to Sonya.