Crime and Punishment


Part VI: Chapters VI–VIII

Summary Part VI: Chapters VI–VIII

Raskolnikov’s mother’s desperate faith in her son’s greatness adds poignancy to his decision to confess. Her pathetic attachment manifests itself in her being proud of her son’s dreadful article (“On Crime”), a pride made all the more ridiculous by her admission that she didn’t understand the article. The pain that she feels when he tells her that she cannot accompany him highlights their opposing views concerning the value of family relationships: while Pulcheria Alexandrovna, like Dunya and Sonya, places great weight on supportive relationships within the family, Raskolnikov shows concern for his family only in urgent circumstances, such as when he fears that Svidrigailov is planning to pursue Dunya aggressively. His ability to dismiss his mother somewhat callously, thinking first of his own needs, reveals the depth of his isolation from society.

Although Raskolnikov wonders why he visits Sonya before going to confess, it is clear to the reader that he needs to gather strength from her in order to go through with his confession. After he first leaves the police station, having failed to confess, it is the sight of Sonya, not the suspicions of the police or his own emotional turmoil, that pushes him to finally make his confession. Sonya is thus a pivotal character in the plot of the novel. Her crucial role in encouraging Raskolnikov to confess foreshadows her indispensability to Raskolnikov’s eventual start toward redemption.

Raskolnikov’s confession at the end of the main body of the novel constitutes the climax of Crime and Punishment, drawing the suspense surrounding the consequences of Raskolnikov’s crime to a close. Even at the very end, Dostoevsky heightens the anticipation with the long, irrelevant conversation between Raskolnikov and Ilya Petrovich, and the outcome is temporarily cast into doubt when Raskolnikov turns and leaves the police station. The long-awaited confession does not come until nearly the last sentence of the last chapter. Subsequently, the uncertainty about Raskolnikov’s fate drives the reader on to the Epilogue.