Crime and Punishment By Fyodor Dostoevsky Summary and Analysis Part 6: Chapter 4

Summary

Svidrigailov persuades Raskolnikov to remain a while longer and he tells how his wife Marfa rescued him from debtor's prison, and knowing that he had a wandering eye, made him agree to a verbal contract where she was to be informed of his various "wandering eyes." He did often flirt with the hired help until Dunya reprimanded him. When Dunya grew sorry for him, he knew he had a chance with her because she was the type of woman who could enjoy being martyred. As he tells the story of his seduction of a faithful wife, Raskolnikov becomes more and more disgusted, especially when he speaks of how "Dunya's eyes can flash fire." When he tells of all the intimate details of his 15-year-old fiancée who would often cuddle in his lap and then confesses that in his own debauchery he likes "my sewers to be filthy," Raskolnikov's repulsion is too much. He departs this "vile, nasty, depraved, sensual man."

Analysis

Svidrigailov is a consummate artist in the ways of seduction, and he horrifies Raskolnikov with his descriptions. The modern reader must realize that in the latter part of the nineteenth century all of Europe had a period of great prudery and restraint. For a person to talk as Svidrigailov did, even though today it seems harmless, was a horrible shocking matter. To discuss Dunya in sexual terms to the brother is an indescribable violation of decency. For Svidrigailov to regale himself in these vividly realized scenes characterizes him as an exceptionally vulgar person. And yet, in the final analysis, how can a murderer find a horrible fault in a sensualist?

Even though Raskolnikov cannot yet see what draws him to Svidrigailov, he is finally able to see what it is in Svidrigailov that disgusts him and sets him apart — it is his vile sensuality that makes him so vulgar and depraved.

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