Fyodor Dostoevsky (18211881). Crime and Punishment.
The Harvard Classics Shelf of Fiction. 1917.
RASKOLNIKOV had been a vigorous and active champion of Sonia against Luzhin, although he had such a load of horror and anguish in his own heart. But having gone through so much in the morning, he found a sort of relief in a change of sensations, apart from the strong personal feeling which impelled him to defend Sonia. He was agitated too, especially at some moments, by the thought of his approaching interview with Sonia: he had to tell her who had killed Lizaveta. He knew the terrible suffering it would be to him and, as it were, brushed away the thought of it. So when he cried as he left Katerina Ivanovnas, Well, Sofya Semyonovna, we shall see what youll say now! he was still superficially excited, still vigorous and defiant from his triumph over Luzhin. But, strange to say, by the time he reached Sonias lodging, he felt a sudden impotence and fear. He stood still in hesitation at the door, asking himself the strange question: Must he tell her who killed Lizaveta? It was a strange question because he felt at the very time not only that he could not help telling her, but also that he could not put off the telling. He did not yet know why it must be so, he only felt it, and the agonising sense of his impotence before the inevitable almost crushed him. To cut short his hesitation and suffering, he quickly opened the door and looked at Sonia from the doorway. She was sitting with her elbows on the table and her face in her hands, but seeing Raskolnikov she got up at once and came to meet him as though she were expecting him.
This time Luzhin did not want to prosecute you, he began, not looking at Sonia, but if he had wanted to, if it had suited his plans, he would have sent you to prison if it had not been for Lebeziatnikov and me. Ah?
I thought you would cry out again dont speak of it, leave off. Raskolnikov gave a laugh, but rather a forced one. What, silence again? he asked a minute later. We must talk about something, you know. It would be interesting for me to know how you would decide a certain problem as Lebeziatnikov would say. (He was beginning to lose the thread.) No, really, I am serious. Imagine, Sonia, that you had known all Luzhins intentions beforehand. Known, that is, for a fact, that they would be the ruin of Katerina Ivanovna and the children and yourself thrown insince you dont count yourself for anythingPolenka too for shell go the same way. Well, if suddenly it all depended on your decision whether he or they should go on living, that is whether Luzhin should go on living and doing wicked things, or Katerina Ivanovno should die? How would you decide which of them was to die? I ask you?
But I cant know the Divine Providence. And why do you ask what cant be answered? Whats the use of such foolish questions? How could it happen that it should depend on my decisionwho has made me a judge to decide who is to live and who is not to live?
Of course youre right, Sonia, he said softly at last. He was suddenly changed. His tone of assumed arrogance and helpless defiance was gone. Even his voice was suddenly weak. I told you yesterday that I was not coming to ask forgiveness and almost the first thing Ive said is to ask forgiveness. I said that about Luzhin and Providence for my own sake. I was asking forgiveness, Sonia.
And suddenly a strange surprising sensation of a sort of bitter hatred for Sonia passed through his heart. As it were wondering and frightened of this sensation, he raised his head and looked intently at her; but he met her uneasy and painfully anxious eyes fixed on him; there was love in them; his hatred vanished like a phantom. It was not the real feeling; he had taken the one feeling for the other. It only meant that that minute had come.
He could not utter a word. This was not at all, not at all the way he had intended to tell and he did not understand what was happening to him now. She went up to him softly, sat down on the bed beside him and waited, not taking her eyes off him. Her heart throbbed and sank. It was unendurable; he turned his deadly pale face to her. His lips worked, helplessly struggling to utter something. A pang of terror passed through Sonias heart.
Nothing, Sonia, dont be frightened. Its nonsense. It really is nonsense, if you think of it, he muttered, like a man in delirium. Why have I come to torture you? he added suddenly, looking at her. Why, really? I keep asking myself that question, Sonia.
I must be a great friend of his since I know, Raskolnikov went on, still gazing into her face, as though he could not turn his eyes away. He did not mean to kill that Lizaveta he killed her accidentally. He meant to kill the old woman when she was alone and he went there and then Lizaveta came in he killed her too.
As soon as he had said this again, the same familiar sensation froze his heart. He looked at her and all at once seemed to see in her face the face of Lizaveta. He remembered clearly the expression in Lizavetas face, when he approached her with the axe and she stepped back to the wall, putting out her hand, with childish terror in her face, looking as little children do when they begin to be frightened of something, looking intently and uneasily at what frightens them, shrinking back and holding out their little hands on the point of crying. Almost the same thing happened now to Sonia. With the same helplessness and the same terror, she looked at him for a while and, suddenly putting out her left hand, pressed her fingers faintly against his breast and slowly began to get up from the bed, moving further from him and keeping her eyes fixed even more immovably on him. Her terror infected him. The same fear showed itself on his face. In the same way he started at her and almost with the same childish smile.
She sank helplessly on the bed with her face in the pillows, but a moment later she got up, moved quickly to him, seized both his hands and, gripping them tight in her thin fingers, began looking into his face again with the same intent stare. In this last desperate look she tried to look into him and catch some last hope. But there was no hope; there was no doubt remaining; it was all true! Later on, indeed, when she recalled that moment, she thought it strange and wondered why she had seen at once that there was no doubt. She could not have said, for instance, that she had foreseen something of the sortand yet now, as soon as he told her, she suddenly fancied that she had really foreseen this very thing.
She jumped up, seeming not to know what she was doing, and, wringing her hands, walked into the middle of the room; but quickly went back and sat down again beside him, her shoulder almost touching his. All of a sudden she started as though she had been stabbed, uttered a cry and fell on her knees before him, she did not know why.
Again after her first passionate, agonising sympathy for the unhappy man the terrible idea of the murder overwhelmed her. In his changed tone she seemed to hear the murderer speaking. She looked at him bewildered. She knew nothing as yet, why, how, with what object it had been. Now all these questions rushed at once into her mind. And again she could not believe it: He, he is a murderer! Could it be true?
Whats the meaning of it? Where am I? she said in complete bewilderment, as though still unable to recover herself. How could you, you, a man like you. How could you bring yourself to it? What does it mean?
Could it, could it all be true? Good God, what a truth! Who could believe it? And how could you give away your last farthing and yet rob and murder! Ah, she cried suddenly, that money you gave Katerina Ivanovna that money Can that money
No, Sonia, he broke in hurriedly, that money was not it. Dont worry yourself! That money my mother sent me and it came when I was ill, the day I gave it to you. Razumihin saw it he received it for me. That money was minemy own.
And that money. I dont even know really whether there was any money, he added softly, as though reflecting. I took a purse off her neck, made of chamois leather a purse stuffed full of something but I didnt look in it; I suppose I hadnt time. And the thingschains and trinketsI buried under a stone with the purse next morning in a yard off the VProspect. They are all there now.
I dont know. I havent yet decided whether to take that money or not, he said, musing again; and, seeming to wake up with a start, he gave a brief ironical smile. Ach, what silly stuff I am talking, eh?
Do you know, Sonia, he said suddenly with conviction, let me tell you: if Id simply killed her because I was hungry, laying stress on every word and looking enigmatically but sincerely at her, I should be happy now. You must believe that! What would it matter to you, he cried a moment later with a sort of despair, what would it matter to you if I were to confess that I did wrong! What do you gain by such a stupid triumph over me? Ah, Sonia, was it for that Ive come to you to-day?
Not to steal and not to murder, dont be anxious, he smiled bitterly. We are so different. And you know, Sonia, its only now, only this moment that I understand where I asked you to go with me yesterday! Yesterday when I said it I did not know where. I asked you for one thing, I came to you for one thingnot to leave me. You wont leave me, Sonia?
And why, why did I tell her? Why did I let her know? he cried a minute later in despair, looking with infinite anguish at her. Here you expect an explanation from me, Sonia; you are sitting and waiting for it, I see that. But what can I tell you? You wont understand and will only suffer misery on my account! Well, you are crying and embracing me again. Why do you do it? Because I couldnt bear my burden and have come to throw it on another: you suffer too, and I shall feel better! And can you love such a mean wretch?
Sonia, I have a bad heart, take note of that. It may explain a great deal. I have come because I am bad. There are men who wouldnt have come. But I am a coward and a mean wretch. But never mind! Thats not the point. I must speak now, but I dont know how to begin.
It was like this: I asked myself one day this questionwhat if Napoleon, for instance, had happened to be in my place, and if he had not had Toulon nor Egypt nor the passage of Mont Blanc to begin his career with, but instead of all those picturesque and monumental things, there had simply been some ridiculous old hag, a pawnbroker, who had to be murdered too to get money from her trunk (for his career, you understand). Well, would he have brought himself to that, if there had been no other means? Wouldnt he have felt a pang at its being so far from monumental and and sinful, too? Well, I must tell you that I worried myself fearfully over that question so that I was awfully ashamed when I guessed at last (all of a sudden, somehow) that it would not have given him the least pang, that it would not even have struck him that it was not monumental that he would not have seen that there was anything in it to pause over, and that, if he had had no other way, he would have strangled her in a minute without thinking about it! Well, I too left off thinking about it murdered her, following his example. And thats exactly how it was! Do you think it funny? Yes, Sonia, the funniest thing of all is that perhaps thats just how it was.
You are right again, Sonia. Of course thats all nonsense, its almost all talk! You see, you know of course that my mother has scarcely anything, my sister happened to have a good education and was condemned to drudge as a governess. All their hopes were centred on me. I was a student, but I couldnt keep myself at the university and was forced for a time to leave it. Even if I had lingered on like that, in ten or twelve years I might (with luck) hope to be some sort of teacher or clerk with a salary of a thousand roubles (he repeated it as though it were a lesson) and by that time my mother would be worn out with grief and anxiety and I could not succeed in keeping her in comfort, while my sister well, my sister might well have fared worse! And its a hard thing to pass everything by all ones life, to turn ones back upon everything, to forget ones life, mother and decorously accept the insults inflicted on ones sister. Why should one? When one has buried them, to burden oneself with otherswife and childrenand to leave them again without a farthing? So I resolved to gain possession of the old womans money and to use it for my first years without worrying my mother, to keep myself at the university and for a little while after leaving itand to do this all on a broad, thorough scale, so as to build up a completely new career and enter upon a new life of independence. Well thats all. Well, of course in killing the old woman I did wrong. Well, thats enough.
I too know it wasnt a louse, he answered, looking strangely at her. But I am talking nonsense, Sonia, he added. Ive been talking nonsense a long time. Thats not it, you are right there. There were quite, quite other causes for it! I havent talked to anyone for so long, Sonia. My head aches dreadfully now.
His eyes shone with feverish brilliance. He was almost delirious; an uneasy smile strayed on his lips. His terrible exhaustion could be seen through his excitement. Sonia saw how he was suffering. She too was growing dizzy. And he talked so strangely: it seemed somehow comprehensible, but yet But how, how! Good God! And she wrung her hands in despair.
No, Sonia, thats not it, he began again suddenly, raising his head, as though a new and sudden train of thought had struck and as it were roused himthats not it! Better imagineyes, its certainly betterimagine that I am vain, envious, malicious, base, vindictive and well, perhaps with a tendency to insanity. (Lets have it all out at once! Theyve talked of madness already, I noticed.) I told you just now I could not keep myself at the university. But do you know that perhaps I might have done? My mother would have sent me what I needed for the fees and I could have earned enough for clothes, boots and food, no doubt. Lessons had turned up at half a rouble. Razumihin works! But I turned sulky and wouldnt. (Yes, sulkiness, thats the right word for it!) I sat in my room like a spider. Youve been in my den, youve seen it. And do you know, Sonia, that low ceilings and tiny rooms cramp the soul and the mind? Ah, how I hated that garret! And yet I wouldnt go out of it! I wouldnt on purpose! I didnt go out for days together, and I wouldnt work, I wouldnt even eat, I just lay there doing nothing. If Nastasya brought me anything, I ate it, if she didnt, I went all day without; I wouldnt ask, on purpose, from sulkiness! At night I had no light, I lay in the dark and I wouldnt earn money for candles. I ought to have studied, but I sold my books; and the dust lies an inch thick on the notebooks on my table. I preferred lying still and thinking. And I kept thinking And I had dreams all the time, strange dreams of all sorts, no need to describe! Only then I began to fancy that. No, thats not it! Again I am telling you wrong! You see I kept asking myself then: why am I so stupid, that if others are stupidand I know they areyet I wont be wiser? Then I saw, Sonia, that if one waits for every one to get wiser it will take too long. Afterwards I understood that that would never come to pass, that men wont change and that nobody can alter it and that its not worth wasting effort over it. Yes, thats so. Thats the law of their nature, Sonia, thats so! And I know now, Sonia, that whoever is strong in mind and spirit will have power over them. Anyone who is greatly daring is right in their eyes. He who despises most things will be a law-giver among them and he who dares most of all will be most in the right! So it has been till now and so it will always be. A man must be blind not to see it!
Though Raskolnikov looked at Sonia as he said this, he no longer cared whether she understood or not. The fever had complete hold of him; he was in a sort of gloomy ecstasy (he certainly had been too long without talking to anyone). Sonia felt that this gloomy creed had become his faith and code.
I divined then, Sonia, he went on eagerly, that power is only vouchsafed to the man who dares to stoop and pick it up. There is only one thing, one thing needful: one has only to dare! Then for the first time in my life an idea took shape in my mind which no one had ever thought of before me, no one! I saw clear as daylight how strange it is that not a single person living in this mad world has had the daring to go straight for it all and send it flying to the devil! I I wanted to have the daring and I killed her. I only wanted to have the daring, Sonia! That was the whole cause of it!
Hush, Sonia! I am not laughing. I know myself that it was the devil leading me. Hush, Sonia, hush! he repeated with gloomy insistence. I know it all, I have thought it all over and over and whispered it all over to myself, lying there in the dark. Ive argued it all over with myself, every point of it, and I know it all, all! And how sick, how sick I was then of going over it all! I kept wanting to forget it and make a new beginning, Sonia, and leave off thinking. And you dont suppose that I went into it headlong like a fool? I went into it like a wise man, and that was just my destruction. And you mustnt suppose that I didnt know, for instance, that if I began to question myself whether I had the right to gain powerI certainly hadnt the rightor that if I asked myself whether a human being is a louse it proved that it wasnt so for me, though it might be for a man who would go straight to his goal without asking questions. If I worried myself all those days, wondering whether Napoleon would have done it or not, I felt clearly of course that I wasnt Napoleon. I had to endure all the agony of that battle of ideas, Sonia, and I longed to throw it off: I wanted to murder without casuistry, to murder for my own sake, for myself alone! I didnt want to lie about it even to myself. It wasnt to help my mother I did the murderthats nonsenseI didnt do the murder to gain wealth and power and to become a benefactor of mankind. Nonsense! I simply did it; I did the murder for myself, for myself alone, and whether I became a benefactor to others, or spent my life like a spider, catching men in my web and sucking the life out of men, I couldnt have cared at that moment. And it was not the money I wanted, Sonia, when I did it. It was not so much the money I wanted, but something else. I know it all now. Understand me! Perhaps I should never have committed a murder again. I wanted to find out something else; it was something else led me on. I wanted to find out then and quickly whether I was a louse like everybody else or a man. Whether I can step over barriers or not, whether I dare stoop to pick up or not, whether I am a trembling creature or whether I have the right
Ach, Sonia! he cried irritably and seemed about to make some retort, but was contemptuously silent. Dont interrupt me, Sonia. I want to prove one thing only, that the devil led me on then and he has shown me since that I had not the right to take that path, because I am just such a louse as all the rest. He was mocking me and here Ive come to you now! Welcome your guest! If I were not a louse, should I have come to you? Listen: when I went then to the old womans I only went to try. You may be sure of that!
But how did I murder her? Is that how men do murders? Do men go to commit a murder as I went then? I will tell you some day how I went! Did I murder the old woman? I murdered myself, not her! I crushed myself once for all, for ever. But it was the devil that killed that old woman, not I. Enough, enough, Sonia, enough! Let me be! he cried in a sudden spasm of agony, let me be!
What are you to do? she cried, jumping up, and her eyes that had been full of tears suddenly began to shine. Stand up! (She seized him by the shoulder, he got up, looking at her almost bewildered.) Go at once, this very minute, stand at the cross-roads, bow down, first kiss the earth which you have defiled and then bow down to all the world and say to all men aloud, I am a murderer! Then God will send you life again. Will you go, will you go? she asked him, trembling all over, snatching his two hands, squeezing them tight in hers and gazing at him with eyes full of fire.
But how will you go on living? What will you live for? cried Sonia, how is it possible now? Why, how can you talk to your mother? (Oh, what will become of them now!) But what am I saying? You have abandoned your mother and your sister already. He has abandoned them already! Oh God! she cried, why, he knows it all himself. How, how can he live by himself! What will become of you now?
Dont be a child, Sonia, he said softly. What wrong have I done them? Why should I go to them? What should I say to them? Thats only a phantom. They destroy men by millions themselves and look on it as a virtue. They are knaves and scoundrels, Sonia! I am not going to them. And what should I say to themthat I murdered her, but did not dare to take the money and hid it under a stone? he added with a bitter smile. Why, they would laugh at me, and would call me a fool for not getting it. A coward and a fool! They wouldnt understand and they dont deserve to understand. Why should I go to them? I wont. Dont be a child, Sonia.
Perhaps Ive been unfair to myself, he observed gloomily, pondering, perhaps after all I am a man and not a louse and Ive been in too great a hurry to condemn myself. Ill make another fight for it.
I shall get used to it, he said grimly and thoughtfully. Listen, he began a minute later, stop crying, its time to talk of the facts: Ive come to tell you that the police are after me, on my track.
Well, why do you cry out? You want me to go to Siberia and now you are frightened? But let me tell you: I shall not give myself up. I shall make a struggle for it and they wont do anything to me. Theyve no real evidence. Yesterday I was in great danger and believed I was lost; but to-day things are going better. All the facts they know can be explained two ways, thats to say I can turn their accusations to my credit, do you understand? And I shall, for Ive learnt my lesson. But they will certainly arrest me. If it had not been for something that happened, they would have done so to-day for certain; perhaps even now they will arrest me to-day. But thats no matter, Sonia: theyll let me out again for there isnt any real proof against me, and there wont be, I give you my word for it. And they cant convict a man on what they have against me. Enough. I only tell you that you may know. I will try to manage somehow to put it to my mother and sister so that they wont be frightened. My sisters future is secure, however, now, I believe and my mothers must be too. Well, thats all. Be careful, though. Will you come and see me in prison when I am there?
They sat side by side, both mournful and dejected, as though they had been cast up by the tempest alone on some deserted shore. He looked at Sonia and felt how great was her love for him, and strange to say he felt it suddenly burdensome and painful to be so loved. Yes, it was a strange and awful sensation! On his way to see Sonia he had felt that all his hopes rested on her; he expected to be rid of at least part of his suffering, and now, when all her heart turned towards him, he suddenly felt that he was immeasurably unhappier than before.
No, of course not? Here, take this one, of cypress wood. I have another, a copper one that belonged to Lizaveta. I changed with Lizaveta: she gave me her cross and I gave her my little ikon. I will wear Lizavetas now and give you this. Take it its mine! Its mine, you know, she begged him. We will go to suffer together. and together we will bear our cross!