Svidrigailov wanders aimlessly around St. Petersburg, soaking himself in the rain. In the evening, he visits Sonya. He assures her that her siblings will be provided for and offers her a three-thousand-ruble bond. He tells her that she is to use the money to accompany Raskolnikov to Siberia. He himself is going off to America. After leaving Sonya, Svidrigailov visits his fiancée’s family, informs them that he will be going away for some time, and presents them with fifteen thousand rubles. He then proceeds to a hotel, where he has feverish dreams, imagining that he has found a five-year-old girl in a corner of the hotel, whimpering from the cold. He lovingly puts her in her bed and wraps a blanket around her, but she turns to him with a depraved, seductive look on her face. He also dreams that rain is flooding St. Petersburg. He wakes just before dawn in a daze and goes out, taking Dunya’s revolver with him. He finds a soldier keeping watch, puts the revolver to his head, and, before killing himself, tells the soldier to tell anyone who asks that he has gone to America.
Raskolnikov goes to see Pulcheria Alexandrovna. She says that she has read his article and was impressed by it, though she could not understand it all. Raskolnikov looks at the article with disgust. His mother has apparently convinced herself that her son is a genius destined for great things and that his eccentricities are all attributable to this fact. She is tearfully overjoyed to see him. Raskolnikov shocks her by asking if she will always love him no matter what. He tells her that he will always love her but that he must leave her. She tearfully tries to make him stay with her, but he leaves and returns to his apartment, where he finds Dunya waiting for him. He confesses to her that he contemplated suicide but could not go through with it. He tells her that he will confess, and she urges him to do so, arguing that it will help atone for his crime. But Raskolnikov becomes indignant. He argues that he only killed a “louse,” and that if he had succeeded in profiting from his crime and doing some good by it, he would have nothing of which to be ashamed. Dunya is shocked at his response. Looking into her distraught face, he realizes how much pain he has brought to his family. The two go out, stopping to take one last look at each other as they walk in opposite directions.
Raskolnikov goes to Sonya’s lodging. The narrator tells us that Sonya and Dunya had become good friends during their visit the previous day, when Dunya discovered that Raskolnikov was guilty of the murders. Raskolnikov tells Sonya that he has come to pick up his cross. Sonya has him say a prayer before he leaves.
Raskolnikov starts walking toward the police station, dreading the public humiliation of a confession. He takes a detour to the Haymarket, remembering Sonya’s suggestion that he declare his guilt at the crossroads. Along the way, he carefully observes every detail of the city around him, aware that he is taking his last look as a free man. At the Haymarket, he kisses the ground, but his action meets with jeers from the onlookers and he loses his nerve and decides not to confess publicly. But he then notices Sonya following him at a distance and feels renewed conviction. At the police station, he has a friendly chat with Ilya Petrovich, who apologizes for harboring suspicions about him. Ilya mentions Svidrigailov’s suicide in passing, and Raskolnikov is so stunned that he leaves without confessing. But when he gets outside, he sees Sonya waiting for him, and he turns back into the police station and offers his confession to the shocked Ilya.
Svidrigailov’s suicide sheds light on Raskolnikov’s apparent inability to kill himself. Raskolnikov’s disdain for humanity makes him think that suicide is a vulgar act reserved for common people (he earlier observes a suicide attempt with disgust). But though he is convinced, at times, that such an act is beneath him, it becomes clear that he lacks the moral strength to end his insidious life. Svidrigailov, on the other hand, is a realist; seeing his dreams fractured, he ends his life in a spree of utilitarian action—giving away money and removing a source of pain (himself) from Dunya’s life. Raskolnikov hangs on to his idealism, unable to understand that killing himself would have been much more utilitarian than killing Alyona Ivanovna.
The climax of the Svidrigailov subplot occurs in Chapter VI, and the suspense surrounding Svidrigailov’s true intentions builds in urgency until the last sentence of the chapter. Before he kills himself, Svidrigailov manages to tie up an important loose end in the plot, resolving the question of how Sonya can possibly act as Raskolnikov’s companion when she has to support her younger siblings. Svidrigailov thus plays a critical practical role in the narrative. But even in the last minutes of his life, he is of great interest in his own right—a clearly cynical and depraved but also generous and enigmatic figure.