“I like hearing songs to the barrel-organ on a cold, dark, and wet autumn evening — it must be a wet evening — when all the passers-by have pale green sickly faces; or, even better, when wet snow is falling, straight down, with no wind — you know? — and the gaslights are shining through it…”

Part Two, Chapters 4-6
by Dennis Abrams

Zossimov, “a tall, fat man with a puffy, colorlessly pale, clean-shaven face and straight blond hair, wearing spectacles, and with a large gold ring on his fat-swollen finger…about twenty-seven years old…his linen was impeccable, his watch-chain massive,” checks up on Raskolnikov and insists on at least one more day of rest. Razumikhin’s housewarming party and its possible guests: his distant relation, police inspector Porfiry Petrovich, and his friend Alexander Grigorievich Zamyotov (the foppish police clerk). Zamyotov has an “open palm” and “is still a boy.” Zossimov and Razumikhin discuss the murders as Raskolnikov tries to appear disinterested and “turned to the wall where, from among the little flowers on the dirty yellow wallpaper, he picked out one clumsy white flower with little brown lines and began studying it…” Police suspicion of the murders has shifted from Koch and Pestryakov to one of the housepainters from the second floor, Mikolai, who shortly after the murder returned to the second floor room to clean up and found a box with gold earrings and tried to pawn them, earrings which Raskolnikov obviously had dropped when he was briefly hiding behind the door of the room as he made his escape. “‘Behind the door? It was behind the door? Behind the door?’ Raskolnikov suddenly cried out, staring at Razumikhin with dull, frightened eyes, and slowly raising himself on the sofa with the support of his arm.'” Razumikhin figures out the the painter couldn’t have done it, and that the murderer must have dropped the earrings while hiding behind the door as the caretaker, Koch and Pestryakov came back upstairs to the pawnbroker’s apartment. “But the box clearly proves that he was standing precisely there. That’s the whole trick!” “Clever, brother! Really clever! Couldn’t be cleverer!” “But why, why?” “Because of the timing…the way it all falls together so nicely…just like a stage play.” A new gentleman enters the picture, “…already well past his youth, grim, stately, with a wary and peevish physiognomy.” His astonishment and alarm at the state of Raskolnikov’s apartment, then “at the disheveled, uncombed, unshaven figure of Rasumikhin,” and then at Raskolnikov himself — the man is Pyotr Petrovich Luzhin, his sister’s fiancee. Raskolnikov’s appraisal: “First, it was evident, and even all too noticeable, that Pyotr Petrovich had hastened to try to use his few days in the capital to get himself fitted out and spruced up while waiting for his fiancee — which, incidentally, was quite innocent and pardonable. Even his own, perhaps all too smug awareness of his pleasant change for the better could be forgiven on such an occasion, for Pyotr Petrovich did indeed rank as a fiancee. All his clothes were fresh from the tailor and everything was fine, except perhaps that it was all too new and spoke overly much of a certain purpose. Even the smart, spanking-new top hat…Even the exquisite pair of lilac-colored, real Jouvain gloves testified to the same thing…In Pytor Petrovich’s attire, light and youthful colors predominated. He was wearing a pretty summer jacket…light-colored summer trousers, a matching waistcoat, a fine, newly purchased shirt, a little tie of the lightest cambric with pink stripes, and the best part was that it all even became Pyotr Petrovich…” Luzhin he announces he has find an apartment for Raskolnikov’s sister and mother, one that Razumikhin declares to be “Utterly vile, filth, stench, and a suspicious place besides…I went there on a scandalous occasion myself. But it’s cheap.” Luzhin’s defense. The name “Lehezyatnikov” a young clerk who had been Luzhin’s ward, and Raskolnikov’s response. Luzhin tries to praise the younger generation and their fresh ideas, but is attacked for simply mouthing “commonplaces” by Razumikhin, “I did have some purpose when I started talking, but all this self-gratifying chatter, this endless stream of commonplaces, and all the same, always the same, has become so sickening after three years that, by God, I blush not only to say such things, but to hear them said in my presence…” Zossimov insists that the pawnbroker’s killer must have been one of her clients, and states that Porfiry will be interrogating all of them. Zossimov and Razumikhin: Was the killer a cunning and experienced rogue, or was he just the opposite, “not cunning, and this was certainly his first attempt…He takes things worth ten or twenty roubles, stuff his pockets with them, rummages in a woman’s trunk, among her rags — while in the chest, in the top drawer, in a strongbox, they found fifteen hundred roubles in hard cash…He couldn’t even rob, all he could do was kill…And he got away not by calculation, but by chance!” Luzhin’s interest in the murder, his insistence that the killer must have been a man of higher society “because peasants do not pawn gold objects…” and his disbelief that crime has been climbing among the upper classes. Raskolnikov turns on Luzhin, ultimately threatening to send him flying down the stairs. Luzhin bears a hasty retreat, and Raskolnikov, in a frenzy begs Razumikhin and Zossimov to stop tormenting him and leave him alone. Going down the stairs, Razumikhin and Zossimov discuss Raskolnikov’s condition: “…And did you notice that he’s indifferent to everything, doesn’t respond to anything, except for one point that drives him wild: this murder…” “‘Yes, yes!!’ Razumikhin picked up, ‘of course I noticed it! He gets interested, frightened. He got frightened the very day of his illness, in the police chief’s office: he passed out.'” Raskolnikov hits the streets. His wild energy, “his inflamed eyes…his pale and yellow, emaciated face…he knew only one thing — that ‘all this must be ended today, at once right now; otherwise he would not back home, because he did not want to live like that.'” “Do you like street singing?” Back to the Haymarket. The alley leading to Sadovaya. The tawdry crowd. The song, “My soldier-boy so fine and free, What cause have you for beating me!” Coins for Dukilda. The thoughts of the condemned man. Raskolnikov enters the Crystal Palace, orders tea and asks for the newspapers of the past few days to be brought to him so he can read about the murder. Zamyotov unknowingly sits down next to Raskolnikov, “What! You here…Razumikhin told me just yesterday that you were still unconscious…” Raskolnikov plays with Zamyotov, calling him “a dear little boy…my little sparrow….” “‘You’re either crazy, or…'” Zamyotov said, and stopped, as if suddenly struck by a thought that flashed unexpectedly through his mind. ‘Or? Or what? Well, what? Go on, say it!’ ‘Nothing!’ replied Zamyotov, exasperated. ‘It’s all nonsense!'” A discussion of crookedness and counterfeiters. Taking risks — Raskolnikov “suddenly felt a terrible urge to ‘stick his tongue out.’ Shivers momentarily ran down his spine. How he’d do it. Raskolnikov dares Zamyotov to catch the murder. Raskolnikov explains to Zamyotov how he’d do the murder and get away with it, by burying the money and goods under a flat rock in an abandoned courtyard. “‘And what if it I was I who killed the old woman and Lizaveta?’ he said suddenly — and came to his senses.” Raskolnikov pays the bill and leaves, leaving Zamyotov to sit and ponder. Raskolnikov meets up with Razumikhin who was out looking for him, and enrages him by telling him to leave him alone. Razumikhin forgives him. The bridge. Afrosinyushka’s suicide attempt. Raskolnikov contemplates doing the same, “‘No, it’s vile…the water…better not,’ he was muttering to himself. ‘Nothing’ll come of it,’ he added, ‘no point in waiting…” Raskolnikov almost goes to the police station, but instead, returns to the scene of the crime. The workmen redecorating the pawnbroker’s apartment, fresh wallpaper, white with little purple flowers. Cat and mouse with the workmen, daring them to turn him over to the police. Thrown out into the street (as he had threatened to do to Luzhin). “A small light started flickering in the middle of the street. ‘What’s going on?’ Raskonikov turned to the right and went towards the crowd. It was as if he were snatching at anything, and he grinned coldly at the thought of it, because he had firmly decided about the police and knew for certain that not it was all going to end.”

Wow. A few observations…

1. I’m impressed with Dostoevsky’s narrative skill in keeping the plot going even though there isn’t really much happening in these three chapters. It was interesting to see how he used the conversation between Zossimov and Razumikhin to both inform us (the reader) what is going on with the murder investigation while at the same time allowing us to see Raskolnikov’s reactions as well as their reaction to his reaction.

2. Luzhin. What an ass. Between the new clothes, the “pretty” summer jacket (how contemptuous is that single word?) the lousy apartment he has decided to put his future wife and mother-in-law in, his eagerness to latch onto new ideas by spouting generalizations based on what everybody else is saying, and his casual contempt for the poor (his shock that the upper classes are now indulging in crime as well, his belief that “peasants do not pawn gold objects”…I almost have to say that he deserved what he got from Raskolnikov.

3. The street scene when Raskolnikov is out: The “street singer” and Raskolnikov’s bizarre monologue to a perfect stranger (where he reminded me of any number of NYC street people who would suddenly come up to you to share their opinions on this or that), his sudden need to talk to people, the description of the short alley, where everybody seemed to be swearing at somebody else…and the song, “What cause have you for beating me?”

4. I can’t help but think that this passage is important:

“‘Where was it,’ Raskolnikov thought as he walked on, ‘where was it that I read about a man condemned to death saying or thinking, an hour before his death, that if he had to live somewhere high up on a cliffside, on a ledge so narrow that there was room only for his two feet — and with the abyss, the ocean, eternal darkness, eternal solitude, eternal storm all around him — and had to stay like that, on a square foot of space, an entire lifetime, a thousand years, an eternity — it would be better to live so than do die right now! Only to live, to live, to live! To live, no matter how — only to live!…How true! Lord, how true! Man is a scoundrel! And he’s a scoundrel who calls him a scoundrel for that,’ he added in a moment.”

5.. The conversation between Raskolnikov and Zamyotov, where Raskolnikov is almost daring Zamyotov to see him as the murderer. Is he playing? Does he want to get caught? He’s obviously enjoying the game…

Monday’s Reading:

Part Two, Chapter Seven

Enjoy

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4 Responses to “I like hearing songs to the barrel-organ on a cold, dark, and wet autumn evening — it must be a wet evening — when all the passers-by have pale green sickly faces; or, even better, when wet snow is falling, straight down, with no wind — you know? — and the gaslights are shining through it…”

  1. Catherine says:

    Dennis, I appreciate your summary and the observations points too. Please could you put in a few paragraph breaks? My eyes and screen both get confused without a break now and then.

    I am looking forward to see how Part Two ends and I’m curious about Zamyotov, who I think will bring about his ultimate downfall. And what about Marmeladov? I assume he may have a further part. His wife is certainly an unsympathetic character.

    Out of curiosity do you have an approximate timeline for finishing Crime and Punishment and the start dates of the other titles? I want to make sure I have the books in a timely manner but not borrow them from the library too soon.

    • Catherine:

      I’ll try to remember to put in more breaks — sorry about that. And an approximate timeline…I’m guessing probably another three to four weeks of Crime and Punishment, followed by another week to wrap it up and do some introductory material
      for The Idiot before we start the reading. Hope that helps.

      Dennis

  2. Charie says:

    (2) Why were Luzhin’s thoughts expressed to us more than many of the other characters’? Even though you are correct in your description, due to the way Dostoyevsky placed me inside his brain, I almost began to feel sympathetic for him.

    Earlier you brought up the color “yellow,” so now I have been paying more attention to when it came up. It is certainly not wealth as it represented in Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby.” I thought a bit about what it could be, and “bile” came to mind (especially the yellow glass with the yellow liquid). Then I re-read some chapters and was surprised to see how many times the word “bile” is used! I need to be more imaginiative.

    • I’m not sure that we’re inside Luzhin’s brain more than we are other characters — maybe you felt sympathy for him because he was getting it from both Razumikhin and then Raskolnikov? (He never really stood a chance, at least on their ground like that.) As for being more imaginative – what I’d say is that reading great books teaches us and forces us to become better readers.

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