A delirious haze settles over Raskolnikov in the days following Katerina Ivanovna’s death and his confession to Sonya. He wanders the streets, hanging around in bars and outside the building in which Sonya lives. One day, Razumikhin comes to visit him in his room. He says that he has come to find out once and for all whether or not Raskolnikov has gone mad. Razumikhin decides that he has not. He tells Raskolnikov that Pulcheria Alexandrovna is heartbroken and feels abandoned. The always compassionate Razumikhin finally seems to have lost patience with Raskolnikov’s selfishness, now that he has seen the pain that it causes his family. He informs Raskolnikov of a mysterious and upsetting letter that Dunya has received. He also mentions that Porfiry Petrovich apparently believes that the painter, Nikolai, is guilty of the murders. When Raskolnikov tells him of Dunya’s earlier visit, Razumikhin becomes suspicious of a “conspiracy” between the two. After Razumikhin leaves, Porfiry appears.
Porfiry tells Raskolnikov that he wants to apologize for his treatment of him, admitting that he was trying to extract a confession from him. He attributes his suspicions to Raskolnikov’s article, his fainting on his first visit to the police station, and his remarks to Zamyotov at the Crystal Palace. But the official soon admits that he still does not believe Nikolai’s confession, since the painter seems too childlike and is ignorant of most of the details of the crime. Raskolnikov, Porfiry claims, is the true murderer. Raskolnikov denies the accusation, but Petrovich repeats the charge with confidence. He has not arrested Raskolnikov, he says, because he has not gathered enough evidence. He is sympathetic to Raskolnikov, he says, and urges him to confess. He claims that he has proof of Raskolnikov’s guilt and that Raskolnikov would look better in the eyes of the judge if he confessed before the evidence was produced. If he confesses, Porfiry promises to put in a good word with the judge. He is confident that Raskolnikov’s guilt will eventually cause him to confess. Before leaving, he asks Raskolnikov to leave a note disclosing the location of the stolen loot should he decide to commit suicide. Raskolnikov leaves his room soon after.
Raskolnikov goes looking for Svidrigailov. He finds him in a café, being entertained in one of the back rooms by a singer. After a series of elusive exchanges with Svidrigailov, Raskolnikov, unsettled, threatens to kill him if he uses “some recent discovery” about Raskolnikov to force his will upon Dunya. Svidrigailov tells Raskolnikov that he enjoys observing him, and then begins to talk about his life. Thinking Svidrigailov a worthless and depraved man, Raskolnikov gets up to leave. Svidrigailov, however, persuades him to stay by mentioning Dunya.
Svidrigailov proceeds to tell Raskolnikov at length about his relationship with Marfa Petrovna, who allowed him to be unfaithful to her, and his attraction to Dunya. Raskolnikov notices that Svidrigailov is becoming drunk and announces that he is convinced that Svidrigailov still has designs on Dunya. Svidrigailov tries to deflect Raskolnikov’s concerns by telling him that he has found himself a young, vulnerable fifteen-year-old girl and has recently become engaged to her. According to Svidrigailov, this girl possesses a mixture of childlike qualities and mature intelligence that he finds alluring. Raskolnikov is disgusted at the engagement and the depraved pleasure that the older man clearly takes in it, but Svidrigailov is unfazed. He leaves, amused by Raskolnikov’s disapproval. Raskolnikov follows Svidrigailov into the street, worried that he might still be a threat to Dunya despite his engagement.
Svidrigailov notices Raskolnikov pursuing him and again tells him goodbye. Raskolnikov decides not to follow Svidrigailov after Svidrigailov boards a carriage for a distant part of the city. He fails to notice that Svidrigailov rides the carriage for only a hundred paces before getting off. Svidrigailov lures Dunya to his room by reminding her that he knows about her brother’s secret, referring to the information that he promised to reveal in the mysterious letter mentioned by Razumikhin. Dunya is incredulous when Svidrigailov reveals that he overheard Raskolnikov confessing to the murders of Alyona Ivanovna and Lizaveta. While Dunya becomes faint with anger and confusion, Svidrigailov offers to help Raskolnikov avoid punishment if she will marry him. In horror, she runs to the door, only to discover that Svidrigailov has locked it. He threatens to rape her, warning that he can report her brother if she reports him. She pulls out a revolver, threatens him with it, and accuses him of poisoning his late wife. He dares her to fire, and she does, twice, but manages only to graze his temple. Svidrigailov moves to embrace her but, realizing that she will never love him, lets her go. Putting the revolver in his pocket, he goes out shortly thereafter.
The mind game between Raskolnikov and Porfiry Petrovich reaches its climax in Part VI, Chapter II. Porfiry’s shrewd expertise in psychology leads him to the bold move of declaring his suspicions to Raskolnikov. He guesses correctly that his suspect is tormented by his guilt. By placing the possibility of confession before Raskolnikov, he provides him with a method of resolving his unhappiness and thus appeals to his human side.
Svidrigailov embodies the qualities of immorality and self-absorption. Although he is human in a way that Luzhin and Raskolnikov are not, he greatly exceeds both in his capacity to be sneaky and calculating. While Luzhin is plainly nothing more than a cold, self-centered materialist, Svidrigailov is a complex character. His actions are ambiguous and his generosities can all be interpreted in ways that cast doubt on his good intentions. One can argue that his donation in support of the Marmeladov children is not, as it first seems, the kind gesture of a sinful but repentant man, but merely an attempt to get closer to Raskolnikov and, through him, Dunya. Conflicting stories about Svidrigailov’s past, including whether he caused the death of one of his servants and whether he contributed to his wife’s death, leave his motivations for his behavior in doubt.
Nonetheless, Svidrigailov’s attempted rape of Dunya removes any lingering doubts about his character. But even here, the incident turns on more than just the pursuit of a goal. Although Dunya’s gunshots cause no physical harm, they prove to Svidrigailov that she will never care for him. His subsequent urgency in asking her to leave evidences an intense inner struggle. He has managed to rein in, if only for a moment, the appetites that have driven him to sin in the past. Dostoevsky reveals that Svidrigailov, so often glib and cynical, suffers deeply when he sees his fantasy fractured. Svidrigailov’s character adds depth and complexity to the novel’s depiction of evil; in the extremity of his emotions, he is similar to the self-conscious, tormented Raskolnikov.
Dunya’s use of the revolver in Chapter V presents a striking contrast to an earlier act of violence—the murders of Alyona and Lizaveta. Even with the justification of self-defense against an immediate physical threat, Dunya is unable to go through with the act, firing only twice before laying the gun down. Her unwillingness or inability to kill Svidrigailov renders irrelevant the philosophical rationalizations of murder that prompt Raskolnikov’s actions. Dostoevsky seems to suggest that what matters is not whether the murder leads to the greatest good for the greatest number of people, but simply whether the individual with the gun can find it within him- or herself to kill another human being. Dunya clearly cannot, which distinguishes her from Raskolnikov.