Crime and Punishment By Fyodor Dostoevsky Summary and Analysis Part 4: Chapter 1

Summary

Svidrigailov announces that he has come to see Raskolnikov for two reasons: First, he has long wanted to meet him, and second, he wants help in obtaining an interview with Dunya. Raskolnikov's immediate response is a negative one, and Svidrigailov begins to reveal himself freely and openly to Raskolnikov by relating many episodes of his past life. He cannot see that he has done anything wrong: He admits that once he took a riding whip to his wife Marfa Petrovna, but some women like such dominance; he admits that he did make proposals to Dunya, but many women are pleased at such attentions, and others are "highly gratified at being outraged, in spite of their pretended indignation. . .women in general love to be affronted."

This type of degenerate talk on such intimate terms prompts Raskolnikov to get up and leave at once, but his curiosity keeps him from doing so. In the midst of the conversation, Svidrigailov points out that he and Raskolnikov have a great deal in common. Raskolnikov rejects this idea, and yet he is fascinated with the talk of this admitted "vulgarian and sensualist" who is simply saturated with experiences of every kind. As Raskolnikov listens attentively and with some fascination, Svidrigailov again repeats his idea that there is "something in common" between them, a vague sense of camaraderie.

Finally, Svidrigailov announces that he wants to meet Dunya and makes her a present of 10,000 rubles so as to aid in her a rupture with Luzhin. He maintains that Dunya "is sacrificing herself, with great nobility for her family." If she does not accept his gift, she will be taking money from Luzhin anyway and would be dreadfully confined in such a cruel marriage.

Again Svidrigailov emphasizes that "there is something about you like me," and he vows if Raskolnikov does not help him arrange a meeting with Dunya, he will do so himself. As he leaves, he tells Raskolnikov that Marfa Petrovna left Dunya 3,000 rubles in her will.

Analysis

Part Four opens with the appearance of Svidrigailov to Raskolnikov. He will emerge as the epitome of the sensualist and the type of Ubermensch who is thoroughly and completely interested in the gratification of his own appetites and desires and in the assertion of his own will. He has no qualms about his activities and depends on no one. He uses his intellect only so as to aid him in obtaining sensual pleasures. In a restricted nineteenth century society, he openly discusses his sexual pleasures in a manner that identifies him as being depraved and unprincipled.

Therefore, Raskolnikov rejects his request to see Dunya because he fears this aspect of Svidrigailov and thinks that the man still has ulterior motives and designs upon Dunya. Even though Svidrigailov says that he wants to give Dunya 10,000 rubles (in today's spending value, at least fifty thousand dollars or considerably more) so that she will not have to marry Luzhin, and even though Raskolnikov believes that she is marrying Luzhin only for money, he still refuses Svidrigailov's offer of help. The mere fact that Svidrigailov makes the same point about Dunya's marriage that he had previously made, he is still offended that someone else, especially such a sensualist and vulgarian as Svidrigailov, would make that point.

Svidrigailov's repeated emphasis that there is something in common between him and Raskolnikov repulses Raskolnikov; but still he does recognize some type of affinity toward Svidrigailov, especially since the latter has made the identical point about Dunya's marriage that he had made earlier. But more centrally, the thing in common is that both men will try to assert their own will above that of others, and this aspect of the Ubermensch aligns them.

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