Study Guide

Crime and Punishment Part 6, Chapter 4

By Fyodor Dostoevsky

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Part 6, Chapter 4

  • The chapter begins with Svidrigaïlov talking. He's telling Raskolnikov about his late wife, Marfa.
  • He reminds Raskolnikov that he was in "debtor's prison" (in St. Petersburg, about eight years ago).
  • Marfa was older than Svidrigaïlov and without much education. She was a jealous and honest person. He told her that he would marry her but that he was going to have sex with other people.
  • At first, she was shocked, but she agreed. It came down to negotiations:
  1. He can't ever leave her.
  2. He has to ask for permission and get it before he can go anywhere.
  3. No full-time girlfriends.
  4. He is allowed to have sex with their servants as long as she knows about it.
  5. No "love" within their class.
  • She didn't much worry about #5 because she didn't think him able to really "love" anyone.
  • They both knew that Dounia would mean trouble for them. Svidrigaïlov thinks that Marfa hired her because she "literally fell in love" with Dounia, too.
  • Svidrigaïlov was keeping his feelings on the down low to avoid problems, but Marfa praised Dounia like mad and tried to get Svidrigaïlov to join in her praising.
  • What's more, Marfa told Dounia "all those dark mysterious rumours" about Svidrigaïlov.
  • Raskolnikov suddenly asks him if the rumors that he heard from Luzhin are true. Did he abuse a young girl, which contributed to her decision to hang herself? Did he drive a servant to suicide?
  • Svidrigaïlov deftly brings the conversation back to Dounia.
  • After hearing all those stories from Marfa, Dounia became really interested in Svidrigaïlov. He saw she was coming to him of her own choice, and he planned to take advantage of the situation.
  • Of course, Raskolnikov can't let that comment pass, but Svidrigaïlov shushes him, telling him that it doesn't matter because nothing ever happened between them.
  • He explains that Dounia is a martyr, that her main delight in life is to suffer for other people. Razumihin, he tells Raskolnikov, is a good match for Dounia.
  • One night when he was having sex with a young servant girl who was terrified of him, Dounia intervened.
  • After that, Dounia put her energy into reforming Svidrigaïlov. He pretended to want to change and then used flattery on her.
  • According to him, any woman or girl can be seduced by flattery.
  • He laid it on thick with Dounia, worshipping her and trying to convince her that it was okay to have sex with him because it wouldn't be on purpose. It would be because he seduced her.
  • It might have worked, but he went too far, and even made fun of Dounia when she talked about helping him turn to religion.
  • Things got ugly, but this only made Svidrigaïlov want Dounia more. He would have done anything for her. He invited her to run away with him.
  • What stopped the whole thing was Marfa arranging for Dounia to meet Luzhin.
  • Raskolnikov sees that Svidrigaïlov is drunk and decides to get more information out of him. He asks Svidrigaïlov if he's only in St. Petersburg to mess with Dounia.
  • Svidrigaïlov denies this. Apparently, he's getting married to a 16-year-old girl, the daughter of some people in financial trouble. His landlady has arranged it.
  • He says it doesn't matter if she's 16 and he's 50.
  • At this point, he gives a really creepy speech about how wonderful 16-year-old girls are. He describes holding her on his lap and kissing her in front of her parents.
  • Her parents told her she should do whatever he wants.
  • Raskolnikov accuses him of being a child molester, which he readily admits and even flaunts in Raskolnikov's face until Raskolnikov can't take it any more and stops him.
  • They finally leave the bar. Svidrigaïlov walks toward the Hay Market.

Crime and Punishment Part 6, Chapter 4 Study Group

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