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Crime and Punishment - Part 4

#179: Oct. - Dec. 2021 (Fiction)
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Crime and Punishment - Part 4

Crime and Punishment - Part 4

Please use this thread to discuss Part 4 of Crime and Punishment, by Fyodor Dostoyevsky.
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Re: Crime and Punishment - Part 4

Part Four

After the high heavy psychological drama of the close of Part Three, with Raskolnikov privately accused of murder and apparently under police suspicion, Part Four begins with a return to domestic concerns. Svidrigaïlov, widower of Marfa Petrovna and acquaintance of Raskolnikov’s mother and sister in the country, appears in R’s room and proceeds to tell a tale of seeing his dead wife several times as a ghost, warns against the marriage of R’s sister Avdotya Romanovna to Luzhin, and offers ten thousand rubles to encourage her to break it off. R responds quite strangely, rudely suggesting S is an impudent liar and rejecting his request to convey the offer.

While R is consumed by guilt, he is still able to engage in the family business of who-whom - deciding who should marry whom. But he spurns this apparent golden opportunity to achieve the break for his sister that he had himself advocated to her directly. His basis for this inconsistency seems to be his psychological derangement rather than anything rational and considered.
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Re: Crime and Punishment - Part 4

Chapter Two of Part Four brings the confrontation between Dounia’s fiancé Luzhin and the Raskolnikov family. While rather confusing in its details, the rupture caused by this heated argument appears impossible to repair. Luzhin asks Dounia to choose between him and her brother, and she chooses her brother, leading her fiancé to abandon the wedding plans. Constantly the reader must wonder, what would these people do if they knew R is a murderer? It is like these domestic concerns proceed in a parallel universe, blissfully unaware of the real context that must shortly bring their dreams crashing down.

The chapter begins with a summary of the conversation between R and Svidrigaïlov in the previous chapter, helping us put the rather complicated relationships in order: R explains to his friend Razumihin that Svidrigaïlov is “that landowner in whose house my sister was insulted when she was their governess. Through his persecuting her with his attentions, she was turned out by his wife, Marfa Petrovna. This Marfa Petrovna begged Dounia’s forgiveness afterwards, and she’s just died suddenly. It was of her we were talking this morning. I don’t know why I’m afraid of that man. He came here at once after his wife’s funeral. He is very strange, and is determined on doing something.... We must guard Dounia from him.”

The murder secretly overshadows everything. The consequences of ignorance of his guilt of the crime continue with Razumihin telling R how he has defended him to the police, leading to the rather decisive but understated thought from the murderer, “Strange to say, till that moment it had never occurred to him to wonder what Razumihin would think when he knew.” R has managed to block out the psychology of his systematic deception of everyone around him. Here for perhaps the first time he admits the inevitability of his detection and punishment, starting to ponder how those he has betrayed through his pretense of innocence will react.

Luzhin arrives to meet his fiancee, and is immediately perturbed by the presence of R, whom he had specifically asked should not be present. How will this open disobedience be handled? Dostoyevsky gives a remarkable insight into the psychology, describing Luzhin as one of the class of people “who, directly they are crossed in anything, are completely disconcerted, and become more like sacks of flour than elegant and lively men of society.” The reader is left to wonder at the wisdom of this apparent contempt for his wishes.

Luzhin proceeds to engage in slanderous gossip about Svidrigaïlov, accusing him of murder, child rape, frittering his money and persecuting a serf into suicide. Dounia objects, starting the slide of the conversation toward breakdown. The tension accelerates when R then breaks his mute silence to give a partial account of his conversation with Svidrigaïlov about meeting Dounia and giving her money, bringing Luzhin to ask again why R is even in the room in defiance of his direct request. Dounia leaps to her brother’s defence, but this only escalates the problem, as it transpires that her love for R will lead to sacrificing her marriage prospects. Luzhin finds this strange and offensive, even contemptuous, and proceeds to explain that Dounia must choose between him and her brother, accusing R of maliciously twisting his words in their previous conversation. The tension of this direct confrontation is unbearable, with Luzhin quivering with fury.

Now we find a great irony, as R indirectly compares himself to Jesus Christ, implying his action in giving all his money to the prostitute daughter of his drunkard acquaintance (in a gesture of unstated expiation of his crime) shows he is morally superior to Luzhin. Naturally this is the breaking point, as R’s perspective looks insane from any normal worldly view, but his sister still sides with him against her fiancé. When Luzhin then explains he had thought to rescue Dounia from a sullied reputation, Razumihin leaps up and threatens him with physical violence, Dounia calls him mean and spiteful, and he leaves full of blame and vindictive hatred toward Raskolnikov.
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Re: Crime and Punishment - Part 4

Chapter Three

Luzhin is mortally offended by Dounia’s rejection of him, as the marriage was central to his plans for social advancement. Seeing her as destitute and defenceless, his power game included mention of gossip that he fully knew was false. As the master of gratuitous character assassination, Dostoyevsky describes him as one who “sometimes even gloated in solitude over his image in the glass.” The self-satisfied narcissism describes a well-known social type who gains prestige through wealth alone, as the author takes us into Luzhin’s mind, his affronted sense of undeserved injury. His calculated admiration for Dounia sees her as “a girl of pride, character, virtue, of education and breeding superior to his own (he felt that), and this creature would be slavishly grateful all her life for his heroic condescension, and would humble herself in the dust before him, and he would have absolute, unbounded power over her.” Imagining he can use what we now call coercive control, Luzhin is now in the grip of what seems a hideous joke.

Back with the family, who feel they have dodged a bullet. Maintaining an attitude of sullen indifference, Raskolnikov explains Svidrigaïlov’s high-minded offer of ten thousand roubles to Dounia, expressing his grave suspicions about the bona fides of this generosity. Razumihin opens another strange interlude as he dreams of how he will spend Dounia’s money, investing it in publishing. The façade of normalcy suddenly collapses as Raskolnikov departs, telling his mother and sister he doubts if he will see them again. He alarms them by saying “now if you love me, give me up... else I shall begin to hate you, I feel it.... Good-bye!”. This can only create the alarming fear that he plans suicide. His sister’s eyes flash while his are dull. Razumihin calls him insane but cannot persuade him to stay.
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