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.
This chapter centers on the climax of the Marmeladov subplot, with the frenzied death of Katerina Ivanovna. The combination of Luzhin’s accusation of Sonya with the family’s eviction by their landlady pushes Katerina over the edge, and she explodes in a frenzy of activity that culminates in her death. She desperately turns to illusions of her nobility and fantasies of the rich offering her support. When the rich treat her as badly as everyone else, however, it is more than her defenses can take, and she breaks down. In contrast to Raskolnikov, who accepts the deconstruction of the “superman” identity that he has envisioned for himself, Katerina defiantly plows through the reality that her proclaimed nobility is meaningless.
Although Katerina is delusional about the world around her, her sense of dignity is very real and quite strong. When her dignity bears the brunt of an intolerable attack, she responds by singing, dancing, and screaming her outrage against the world. Even her death, marked by sighs and convulsions, comes in a burst of activity. The juxtaposition of her grotesque behavior and repeated claims to nobility accentuates her obstinate refusal to alter her perception of herself in response to circumstances. Her pathetic claim to nobility becomes an increasingly angry assertion. On her deathbed, Katerina irritably refuses the services of a priest, declaring, “A priest? I am not in need of one. My conscience is free from sin! And, even were it not, God must forgive me. He knows how I have suffered!” Believing that her unending and highly visible tribulations have rendered her a martyr, Katerina believes that not even God can legitimately find fault with her.
This final portrait of Katerina Ivanovna completes the picture of the ruined Marmeladovs, a family that includes a drunk husband trampled to death in the streets, a proud but consumptive mother reduced to beating her children and begging, and an older daughter forced into prostitution. Sonya’s suffering and devotion to her family stands out remarkably against this backdrop of utter despair. She has long understood and accepted her identity and role, despite the cruel and crushing reality of her life.
Svidrigailov’s appearance at Katerina’s deathbed moves the plot in two important directions. First, by offering to pay for the funeral and provide for Katerina’s children, he frees Sonya from the overwhelming burden of caring for them, just as Razumikhin’s willingness to care for Pulcheria Alexandrovna and Dunya enables Raskolnikov to separate himself from them without feeling that he is abandoning them. Second, Svidrigailov draws Raskolnikov into his web by revealing that he has overheard Raskolnikov’s confession of the murders. He, Sonya, and Raskolnikov himself are now the only three people who know without a doubt that Raskolnikov is the murderer. While Sonya uses this knowledge for good—to try to persuade Raskolnikov to confess—it is unclear what Svidrigailov intends to do with it, but it is certain to be something much less honorable. Raskolnikov is losing control of his secret, and his control over events is about to unravel rapidly as well.