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Crime and Punishment

Fyodor Dostoevsky

Part II: Chapters V–VII

Summary Part II: Chapters V–VII

In the following chapter, Raskolnikov is shown to be capable of compassion, or at least desirous to atone for his crime, when he offers his support to the Marmeladov family. Unlike Razumikhin, who helps Raskolnikov out of nothing but kindness and a genuine sense of humanity, Raskolnikov clearly acts out of an unavoidable sense of guilt. After donating money to the Marmeladovs, he experiences “a feeling akin to that of a dead man upon suddenly receiving his pardon.” Dostoevsky himself had exactly this experience, having been subjected to a mock execution after his conviction for being a member of an illegal socialist group, and he refers to it frequently in his fiction. But Raskolnikov’s rebirth or resurrection does not last. He is “simply catching at a straw,” according to the narrator, and it takes a much deeper repentance for him to experience peace. Nonetheless, he appears to have taken the first, minuscule step on the road to reconciliation.

Dostoevsky continues to employ the narrative device of coincidence to propel the plot forward. Here, coincidence brings Raskolnikov back into contact with the Marmeladov family, thereby uniting the main plot and a subplot, as Raskolnikov implausibly happens upon the scene just after Marmeladov is injured. This type of coincidence gives the novel a quick, almost frantic pace, as Dostoevsky forces his characters to act within the confines of the world that he has established for them.