Pulcheria Alexandrovna and Dunya are grief-stricken at Raskolnikov’s condition, but he becomes annoyed with them and orders them out. He upsets them both by commanding Dunya to break off her engagement. Razumikhin promises to abandon his party and stay the night with Raskolnikov. Speaking to them on the stairs, the half-drunk Razumikhin tries to convince Dunya and Pulcheria Alexandrovna to leave Raskolnikov alone, offering to bring Zossimov to look after him. At first, Razumikhin frightens them with his intensity, but they soon both trust him. He, in turn, appears to be strongly attracted to Dunya. He makes drunken declarations of loyalty to her and says that Luzhin is unworthy of her. The mother and daughter return to their lodgings. The narrator describes Razumikhin’s attraction to Dunya, explaining that she is beautiful, self-confident, strong, and tender, and, as if that weren’t enough, Razumikhin is also somewhat drunk. After checking up on Raskolnikov, Razumikhin visits the two women, first by -himself, then accompanied by Zossimov, who is thrilled to calm their fears. He remarks, however, that he believes Raskolnikov to be suffering from some sort of obsession. Outside, Razumikhin becomes violently jealous when the doctor idly compliments Dunya, and he tries to fix the doctor up with Raskolnikov’s -landlady instead.
At times, however, he’s . . . just inhumanly cold and callous, as if there really were two opposite characters in him.
The next morning, Razumikhin rises from bed overcome with regret at the bold things that he said the previous night. He renounces his desire for Dunya as absurd. Still, he washes and dresses himself with extra care in preparation for his next visit with Dunya and Pulcheria Alexandrovna. He finds them quite glad to see him. He relates how Raskolnikov is doing, emphasizing his self-involvement and even cruelty. He remains calm for most of the conversation but cannot help letting his feelings for Dunya slip out again. They show him a worrisome letter from Luzhin in which Luzhin asks not to see Raskolnikov again. Luzhin also tells them that Raskolnikov donated a large portion of the money that they sent him to Marmeladov’s family. Razumikhin advises Pulcheria Alexandrovna to follow her daughter’s wishes in the matter. Dunya thinks Raskolnikov should meet with her fiancé despite Luzhin’s request. Pulcheria Alexandrovna declares her trust in Razumikhin, to his delight. The three then go to Raskolnikov’s room.
Zossimov greets mother, daughter, and friend and informs them that Raskolnikov’s condition has greatly improved. Raskolnikov pretends to be in a better mood and apologizes profusely to Zossimov and Razumikhin for his ingratitude. He apologizes to Pulcheria Alexandrovna for his thoughtlessness and warmly extends his hand to Dunya, a gesture that touches everyone in the room. Raskolnikov confesses to having given the money that he received from Pulcheria Alexandrovna to the Marmeladovs, and she forgives him. But the tranquillity of the scene is soon ruined when Raskolnikov becomes anxious and annoyed again. He commands Dunya not to marry Luzhin, saying that the engagement is dirty and “sordid.” She retorts that she is doing nothing wrong, stating, for emphasis, that she is “guilty of no one’s death.” At this remark, Raskolnikov faints but recovers quickly. His sister explains to him her plan for testing her fiancé, showing him Luzhin’s letter, and adding that she plans to defy his request that Raskolnikov not meet with them that evening. Luzhin’s response to the situation, she declares, will reveal his true feelings for her. Raskolnikov agrees to meet with them that night.
Razumikhin’s falling in love with Dunya complicates the subplot of her engagement to Luzhin. His attachment comes about with almost incredible suddenness, as he becomes infatuated with her almost as soon as he meets her. This development can be explained plausibly by Razumikhin’s honesty and straightforwardness, Dunya’s undeniable charms, and Razumikhin’s state of drunkenness when he first meets her. Besides illustrating Razumikhin’s character and advancing the plot, his mad declarations of loyalty and burning affection provide a break in the heavy tone of the novel, which has been dominated so far by descriptions of Raskolnikov’s delirious downward spiral and the suffering of the Marmeladovs. In fact, the subplot of Dunya’s engagement constitutes one of the few bright spots in an otherwise overwhelmingly gloomy narrative.
With the character of Zossimov, the novel takes another short break from its seriousness to inject a bit of dry humor. Zossimov, while certainly not a boor like Luzhin, has a high opinion of himself and is not afraid to show it: “the doctor retired delighted with his call, and still more with himself.” But Zossimov is a minor character in the novel, and the fact that he is a doctor has little effect beyond impressing Pulcheria Alexandrovna and Dunya. Perhaps his most important contribution is his suspicion that Raskolnikov is mentally ill. That others perceive Raskolnikov’s guilty conscience as mental illness may be a comment on the connection between a criminal mindset and madness, or on the inability of the medical profession to tell the difference between the two.
Dostoevsky develops Dunya thoroughly in these chapters. He shows her to be intelligent, thoughtful, and practical. Her plan for testing her fiancé and her willingness to leave herself stranded in St. Petersburg if he doesn’t measure up show that she is much stronger and more resourceful than Raskolnikov believes her to be. Dunya, in fact, faces the same problems that Raskolnikov does, but she confronts them with dignity and pride. It is interesting to note that, in Raskolnikov’s behavior toward Dunya, Dostoevsky reverses the conventional gender roles in nineteenth-century fiction: Dunya, a woman, proves the model of collected rationality and practicality, while Raskolnikov, a man, is lost in abstractions and prone to fainting.