Study Guide

Crime and Punishment Part 1, Chapter 2

By Fyodor Dostoevsky

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Part 1, Chapter 2

  • Raskolnikov has been isolated lately, as we've heard.
  • He feels drastically changed and also wants to be around people.
  • The month has been awful and dreary, as we've heard, and he's enjoying being out and doesn't mind the filth of the bar, a multi-room affair.
  • Cucumbers, fish, and bread are the bar snacks, and they smell hideous.
  • The bartender and the waiter are boys, barely teenagers.
  • The air is so thick with booze, you could get drunk on it.
  • Raskolnikov is fascinated with the man that was described at the very end of Part I, Chapter One.
  • In the future, the narrator tells us, Raskolnikov will think he was drawn to the man by prophecy.
  • Raskolnikov and the man, who looks like a "retired clerk," stare at each other for a time from across the crowded bar.
  • He's about 50 with both green and yellow skin, red eyes, intelligent eyes, alive with something, including "something like madness."
  • His clothes are in bad shape, he needs a shave, and he is obviously desperate.
  • Now, the man starts up a conversation with Raskolnikov. He introduces himself as "Marmeladov — […]; titular counselor."
  • (A titular counselor is a position in the Russian Civil Service. If this interests you, read more here.)
  • He asks if Raskolnikov is in the civil service. Raskolnikov says he's a student and starts getting irritated, as usual, when somebody gets too close to him.
  • Marmeladov guesses that Raskolnikov has dropped out of school.
  • He tells Raskolnikov that, while poverty isn't a crime, begging is—and he's a beggar.
  • The experience has been so humiliating that he's been forced to come to the bar.
  • Somebody named Mr. (Andrey Semyonovitch) Lebeziatnikov beat up his wife, causing him to leave home and sleep on a hay boat for almost a week now. There are bits of hay on his clothes. Apparently, the people in the bar have heard this before, and they heckle Marmeladov.
  • Lots of groaning from Marmeladov follows. He can't stand to be in this condition, so low he can't even protect his wife from getting beat up because he can't stop drinking.
  • Andrey Semyonovitch beat up Marmeladov's wife because Marmeladov owes him money.
  • When Marmeladov begged for mercy, so he says, Andrey Semyonovitch said that mercy was forbidden by science.
  • Marmeladov still borrows money from Andrey Semyonovitch, even though both he and Andrey Semyonovitch both know he won't pay it back.
  • He explains that he can't help it—sometimes he doesn't have a better alternative.
  • This gets him talking about the night his daughter became a prostitute.
  • He claims that this is something he can deal with, that he can deal with his suffering.
  • Then, he dares Raskolnikov not to call him a pig.
  • He says that he might be a pig, but his wife, Katerina Ivanovna, "is a lady." She's also well educated and from a good family, Marmeladov says.
  • Apparently, she also pulls him around by his hair, which he thinks is good for him.
  • Marmeladov wishes that Katerina would, in addition to pulling him around by the hair, love him and have sex with him.
  • Considering the fact that he's sold her stockings for money to buy alcohol, this doesn't seem likely.
  • He explains that he chose to tell Raskolnikov his story because he knows Raskolnikov is troubled, too, and will understand.
  • After that, Marmeladov gives Raskolnikov the background on why things are so bad right now.
  • It goes back to his wife, Katerina. She cleans her own floors but wouldn't have sex with Andrey Semyonovitch to work off her husband's debt. That's why Andrey Semyonovitch beat her.
  • Marmeladov is Katerina's second husband. The first husband is dead. The marriage was violent. The husband had gambling problems. She has three children by him.
  • Marmeladov's own daughter was 14 at the time he proposed to Katerina. Her family was against it, but they didn't care.
  • Marmeladov stopped drinking for the first year of their marriage but started again when he lost his job.
  • It's been about a year and a half since they've moved here, to St. Petersburg.
  • He got a job but lost it (because of drinking).
  • Now, they all live in an extremely overcrowded building (he's not sure how it's paid for) with lots of people they don't know.
  • Katerina was mean to Marmeladov's daughter, Sonia, while she was growing up.
  • Sonia has never been to school, but she reads and tries to make money.
  • She made some shirts for one guy, but he said they were badly made and didn't pay her (even though he knew there were hungry children involved).
  • Katerina was not happy and berated Sonia, calling her a freeloader.
  • From where he was lying, drunk, he could hear Katerina and Sonia talking. Katerina was insisting that Sonia start having sex for money.
  • Sonia protested, but Katerina insisted.
  • Marmeladov begs Raskolnikov not to blame Katerina. Times are hard, the kids are hungry, and when the kids cry for food, Katerina beats them. This is why, says Marmeladov, Katerina had to turn Sonia into a prostitute.
  • Sonia left the house shortly after her conversation with Katerina, then returned a few hours later, with 30 roubles, which she presented silently to Katerina.
  • Then, she wrapped herself up in the family shawl and huddled up under it, on the bed.
  • Katerina went to her, knelt by the bed, and kissed her feet all night.
  • Eventually, they fell asleep, embracing.
  • Now, Sonia can't live with her family. People complained about her activities.
  • Sonia had to register as a prostitute with the police. Registered prostitutes have to carry yellow identification cards in order to be legal, and nobody wanted a registered prostitute in the building.
  • Sonia visits them after dark to bring money. She lives in a room at a tailor's house.
  • Five weeks ago, when Sonia left, Marmeladov managed to find a job in the civil service.
  • Things got much better for him. Katerina started being nicer, and they had money for food.
  • But, five days ago, Marmeladov took back all the savings and went on a drinking spree.
  • This morning, Marmeladov went to visit Sonia and asked her for money. Sonia gave him her last 30 copecks, and he bought booze with it.
  • Marmeladov tells Raskolnikov not to feel sorry for him. He says he deserves to be crucified.
  • He says God will forgive Sonia for being a prostitute when she's at the gates of heaven and that God will also forgive Marmeladov when he is at the gates of heaven.
  • Katerina, he says, will also forgive him. He then asks Raskolnikov to take him home.
  • Raskolnikov agrees.
  • They get to Marmeladov's building and go up the stairs to the fourth floor, where his room is. It's around 11 p.m. and very dark on the stairs.
  • The door to the tiny room where the family lives is open. It is a picture of horrible poverty. There is laughter and noise coming from some of the other rooms.
  • Raskolnikov sees the woman who must be Katerina.
  • She is thin and wasting away from illness, but she is obviously beautiful, about 30 years old.
  • She doesn't seem to notice Raskolnikov and Marmeladov outside the door.
  • A little girl, about 4 years old, is sleeping, her head against the couch. A boy, about 5, is crying, like he's just been spanked. His older sister, a very thin girl, about 9, is trying to comfort him.
  • Marmeladov pushes Raskolnikov into the room, and then Katerina notices her husband and starts screaming at him, asking where the money is.
  • She searches him for the money and, not finding any, concludes that he spent it on booze.
  • She grabs him by the hair and pulls him.
  • Marmeladov screams that it feels good when she pulls his hair.
  • She thinks Raskolnikov helped him drink away the money and screams at him to get out.
  • Raskolnikov leaves, but not before taking the money in his pocket and putting it on the windowsill.
  • Nobody sees him do it.
  • On his way to the street, Raskolnikov has second thoughts and almost goes back for the money, thinking that Sonia can take care of them.
  • Then, he has third thoughts and thinks that if Sonia hasn't made any money, the children will be hungry.
  • Then, Raskolnikov gets angry about what's happened to Sonia and feels sad about her.
  • Katerina and Marmeladov will adjust to what they've done to Sonia, he thinks.
  • They were sad, but now they've adjusted.
  • When people become villains, he thinks, they can adjust to anything.
  • All people are villains! he thinks.
  • But Raskolnikov wonders if he's wrong. If people aren't villains, "then all the rest is prejudice, simply artificial terrors and there are no barriers and it's all as it should be."
  • (This will make more sense later on.)

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