The next day, Raskolnikov awakens in his dirty cubbyhole of a room, feeling disgusted with his slovenly and degraded manner of living. He withdraws from human contact but still suffers. Nastasya, the servant meant to look after him, tells him that the landlady, Praskovya Pavlovna, is going to report him to the police because he has not paid his back rent. She also brings him a long letter from his mother.
When Nastasya leaves, he kisses his mother's letter and with trembling hands, he reverently opens it. His mother, Pulcheria Alexandrovna, writes of her abiding love for him and that his sister, Dunya, has been working in the Svidrigailov household as a governess. Unfortunately, Svidrigailov, a well-known sensualist, formed an intense attachment for Dunya and made unwarranted overtures and improper advances, including trying to persuade her to run away with him. The wife, Marfa Petrovna, overhears part of a conversation and believes that the attachment is all Dunya's fault even though she is fully aware of her husband's sensual propensities. Furthermore, Marfa spreads the lie all through the countryside. Later, Svidrigailov corrects her and even shows her a letter reprimanding him for his improper advances and admonishing him to be faithful to his wife. Upon discovering her mistake, once again Marfa Petrovna goes about the countryside showing the letter and proclaiming Dunya's innocence and goodness.
At this time, Marfa Petrovna had a kinsman, Pyotr Petrovitch Luzhin, visiting her who wanted a wife. He is searching for a poor wife with a sound reputation who is without a dowry so that his wife will be always indebted to him for his generosity. Thus he proposes to Dunya, who has accepted him.
Finally, Pulcheria Alexandrovna tells her son that both she and Dunya will soon be in St. Petersburg so as to be with Luzhin who will find them proper living quarters, and she promises to send Raskolnikov more money as soon as she can borrow it.
This chapter provides us again with many small details that will later play an important role. For example, the description of his room, small and cramped, will later be used as one of the reasons for his mental breakdown and will be correlated with his search for clean air and freedom. Also, the servant, Nastasya, tells him that his landlady is going to go to the police about his back rent and debts. Ironically, Raskolnikov forgets this and when the police summons arrive the day after the murder, he immediately thinks that his crime has been discovered.
One should note that the sentimentality that Raskolnikov experiences in the receipt of his mother's letter and the love and the compassion it evokes does not conform to that of the cold, rational Ubermensch.
The letter conveys many important ideas that will influence later actions. First, he hears of Svidrigailov's behavior and propositions to his sister Dunya. Thus, before he ever meets Svidrigailov, he has formed a very negative opinion of him. He hears that Svidrigailov made vulgar propositions to her and that he insulted and frightened her. Thus Raskolnikov is prepared to dislike Svidrigailov before he ever meets him.
Secondly, he hears about Dunya's engagement to Luzhin, who wants a wife who will be subservient, obedient to his authority, and always indebted to him. Raskolnikov recognizes that Luzhin is a petty, selfish, and egocentric person, and subsequent events will prove that he is correct in his evaluation of Luzhin.
Finally, Pulcheria Alexandrovna explains their dire financial situation and their need for the bare necessities in arriving in St. Petersburg, but she hopes to squeeze 25 to 30 rubles to send to Raskolnikov. This money, which he receives and subsequently gives to the Marmeladov family, will become a central issue during the remainder of the novel.