Summary and Analysis Part 4: Chapter 4



"Raskolnikov went straight to. . .where Sonya lived." His appearance there agitates and frightens Sonya. Rodya is stunned at how her apartment reeks of poverty and at how thin she is. As they sit together, Rodya questions her about her landlord Kapernaumov, about her profession, and then about her relationship to Katerina Ivanovna. Even though Sonya was ashamed and embarrassed with his questions, she answers with simplicity and innocence.

He then paints a horrible, depressing future life for Katerina and the children. He taunts her with the thought that Katerina will soon die — she is coughing up blood now — and the children will be left without anything. He taunts her with her inability to save any money. He taunts her with the thought that Polenka will probably have to enter also into a life of prostitution. To all of these taunts, Sonya responds with despair and dismay, and maintains that "God will not allow it to be so." To Raskolnikov's taunt that perhaps there is no God, Sonya's suffering increases because she cannot conceive of life without God.

At this point, Raskolnikov suddenly bows down to Sonya and kisses her foot, and says "I did not bow down to you, I bowed down to all the suffering of humanity." And he shocks Sonya by telling her that he did his sister honor by seating her next to his sister, "not because of your dishonor and your sin but because of your great suffering." He asks her to explain how "such shame and such baseness can exist in you side by side with other feelings, so different and so holy?" Rodya then realizes that there are only three options open to her: suicide, the madhouse, or abandonment into total debauchery.

He spots an old worn Bible on the dresser, and he is surprised to learn that it was a gift from Lizaveta who was her good friend and she has had a requiem said for Lizaveta. He asks her to read to him the story of the raising of Lazarus. She hesitates because she did not want to read to an unbeliever, but slowly and carefully, she read the story for both of them.

After she finishes reading the story, Raskolnikov tells her how much he needs her and asks her to join him and go the same road with him because they both have transgressed against life — that is Sonya has transgressed against her own self, and he has taken life. As he is about to leave, he tells Sonya that if he comes tomorrow, he will tell her who killed Lizaveta.

At the end of the chapter, we discover that Svidrigailov has been standing and listening in the next room, an empty one between his room and Sonya's. He so thoroughly enjoyed their conversation that he brings a chair so as to be more comfortable for their next meeting in which Raskolnikov has promised to reveal the murderer.


Raskolnikov's visit to Sonya in her lodgings is in preparation for his later confession. Dostoevsky's theory that "suffering leads to salvation" and that through suffering man's sins are purified (or expiated) are now brought into the foreground. It now becomes apparent that Raskolnikov is attracted to Sonya because he sees in her the symbol and the representative of "all the suffering of humanity." Even though she is thin and frail, she can carry a very heavy burden. Thus Raskolnikov will test her further to see how much she can bear. Since she is capable of "great suffering," he torments her with taunts such as the death of Katerina, the possibility that Polenka will be forced into prostitution, and the distressing state in which she now lives. These taunts are used to test her ability to suffer intensely and ultimately to see if she will be capable of withstanding Raskolnikov's confession. Will she be able to take his suffering upon herself and help him to "bear his own cross"?

Earlier in the novel, Porfiry Petrovitch has asked Raskolnikov if he believed in the raising of Lazarus from the dead. Now he asks Sonya to read him that same story. Thus the two principal redemptive figures, Porfiry and Sonya, are both connected through the same biblical episode. A further note of coincidence is that the story is read from the Bible that belonged to Lizaveta, the woman he did not intend to murder. The story of Lazarus is pertinent mainly in the general outline rather than in the specific detail. Raskolnikov, like Lazarus, died one type of death as a result of the crime; in other words, his crime isolated him from society and from his family to the point that he is figuratively dead. Through Christ, Lazarus was raised from the dead and became one of the living. Now through Sonya, Raskolnikov hopes to again assume his place among the living. Therefore, both stories are of people who were separated from the living and through some incredible miracle were restored to the living. The incredible aspect of the Lazarus story also appeals to Raskolnikov. The raising of Lazarus is considered one of the greatest miracles that Christ performed. In a lesser aspect, that story is one of suffering, of great suffering that was alleviated by the miracle of restoring life. Therefore, if Sonya can restore Raskolnikov to life, his suffering will be alleviated. And finally, note that Lazarus had been dead for four days before Christ performed the miracle. Likewise, it has been four days since Raskolnikov's crime.

After the reading of the story of Lazarus, Raskolnikov tells Sonya that "I have come to you because I need you." She does not understand at that moment, but he maintains that she will understand later, if not rationally then intuitively. He knows that their "paths lie together" and that they need each other as fellow sufferers to "take the suffering on ourselves."

Raskolnikov sees in Sonya one who has also transgressed against life and asks her to join him so that we "may go our way together." In asking even Sonya to join him, he symbolically breaks out of his isolation caused by the crime. Also he begins to deny that aspect of this theory that advocated the extraordinary man must stand alone and apart from all other people. But still, he has one reservation: Sonya is too much of a "religious fanatic."