Part I - Chapter I

ON AN EXCEPTIONALLY hot evening early in July a young man came out of the garret in which he lodged in S. Place and walked slowly, as though in hesitation, towards K. bridge.

He had successfully avoided meeting his landlady on the staircase. His garret was under the roof of a high, five-storied house and was more like a cupboard than a room. The landlady, who provided him with garret, dinners, and attendance, lived on the floor below, and every time he went out he was obliged to pass her kitchen, the door of which invariably stood open. And each time he passed, the young man had a sick, frightened feeling, which made him scowl and feel ashamed. He was hopelessly in debt to his landlady, and was afraid of meeting her.

This was not because he was cowardly and abject, quite the contrary; but for some time past he had been in an overstrained irritable condition, verging on hypochondria. He had become so completely absorbed in himself, and isolated from his fellows that he dreaded meeting, not only his landlady, but anyone at all. He was crushed by poverty, but the anxieties of his position had of late ceased to weigh upon him. He had given up attending to matters of practical importance; he had lost all desire to do so. Nothing that any landlady could do had a real terror for him. But to be stopped on the stairs, to be forced to listen to her trivial, irrelevant gossip, to pestering demands for payment, threats and complaints, and to rack his brains for excuses, to prevaricate, to lie—no, rather than that, he would creep down the stairs like a cat and slip out unseen.

This evening, however, on coming out into the street, he became acutely aware of his fears.

“I want to attempt a thing like that and am frightened by these trifles,” he thought, with an odd smile. “Hm…yes, all is in a man's hands and he lets it all slip from cowardice, that's an axiom. It would be interesting to know what it is men are most afraid of. Taking a new step, uttering a new word is what they fear most…But I am talking too much. It's because I chatter that I do nothing. Or perhaps it is that I chatter because I do nothing. I've learned to chatter this last month, lying for days together in my den thinking…of Jack the Giant-killer. Why am I going there now? Am I capable of that? Is that serious? It is not serious at all. It's simply a fantasy to amuse myself; a plaything! Yes, maybe it is a plaything.”

The heat in the street was terrible and the airlessness, the bustle and the plaster, scaffolding, bricks, and dust all about him, and that special Petersburg stench, so familiar to all who are unable to get out of town in summer—all worked painfully upon the young man's already overwrought nerves. The insufferable stench from the pot-houses, which are particularly numerous in that part of the town, and the drunken men whom he met continually, although it was a working day, completed the revolting misery of the picture. An expression of the profoundest disgust gleamed for a moment in the young man's refined face. He was, by the way, exceptionally handsome, above the average in height, slim, well-built, with beautiful dark eyes and dark brown hair. Soon he sank into deep thought, or more accurately speaking, into a complete blankness of mind; he walked along not observing what was about him and not caring to observe it. From time to time, he would mutter something, from the habit of talking to himself, to which he had just confessed. At these moments he would become conscious that his ideas were sometimes in a tangle and that he was very weak; for two days he had scarcely tasted food.

He was so badly dressed that even a man accustomed to shabbiness would have been ashamed to be seen in the street in such rags. In that quarter of the town, however, scarcely any shortcoming in dress would have created surprise. Owing to the proximity of the Hay Market, the number of establishments of bad character, the preponderance of the trading and working class population crowded in these streets and alleys in the heart of Petersburg, types so various were to be seen in the streets that no figure, however queer, would have caused surprise. But there was such accumulated bitterness and contempt in the young man's heart, that, in spite of all the fastidiousness of youth, he minded his rags least of all in the street. It was a different matter when he met with acquaintances or with former fellow students, whom, indeed, he disliked meeting at any time. And yet, when a drunken man who, for some unknown reason, was being taken somewhere in a huge wagon dragged by a heavy dray horse, suddenly shouted at him as he drove past: “Hey there, German hatter” bawling at the top of his voice and pointing at him—the young man stopped suddenly and clutched tremulously at his hat. It was a tall round hat from Zimmerman's, but completely worn out, rusty with age, all torn and bespattered, brimless, and bent on one side in a most unseemly fashion. Not shame, however, but quite another feeling akin to terror had overtaken him.

“I knew it,” he muttered in confusion, “I thought so! That's the worst of all! Why, a stupid thing like this, the most trivial detail might spoil the whole plan. Yes, my hat is too noticeable…It looks absurd and that makes it notice-able…With my rags I ought to wear a cap, any sort of old pancake, but not this grotesque thing. Nobody wears such a hat, it would be noticed a mile off, it would be remembered…What matters is that people would remember it, and that would give them a clue. For this business one should be as little conspicuous as possible…Trifles, trifles are what matter! Why, it's just such trifles that always ruin everything…”

He had not far to go; he knew indeed how many steps it was from the gate of his lodging house: exactly seven hundred and thirty. He had counted them once when he had been lost in dreams. At the time he had put no faith in those dreams and was only tantalizing himself by their hideous but daring recklessness. Now, a month later, he had begun to look upon them differently, and, in spite of the monologues in which he jeered at his own impotence and indecision, he had involuntarily come to regard this “hideous” dream as an exploit to be attempted, although he still did not realize this himself. He was positively going now for a “rehearsal” of his project, and at every step his excitement grew more and more violent.

With a sinking heart and a nervous tremor, he went up to a huge house, which on one side looked on to the canal, and on the other into the street. This house was let out in tiny tenements and was inhabited by working people of all kinds—tailors, locksmiths, cooks, Germans of sorts, girls picking up a living as best they could, petty clerks, etc. There was a continual coming and going through the two gates and in the two courtyards of the house. Three or four door-keepers were employed on the building. The young man was very glad to meet none of them, and at once slipped unnoticed through the door on the right, and up the staircase. It was a back staircase, dark and narrow, but he was familiar with it already, and knew his way, and he liked all these surroundings: in such darkness even the most inquisitive eyes were not to be dreaded.

“If I am so scared now, what would it be if it somehow came to pass that I were really going to do it?” he could not help asking himself as he reached the fourth storey. There his progress was barred by some porters who were engaged in moving furniture out of a flat. He knew that the flat had been occupied by a German clerk in the civil service, and his family. This German was moving out then, and so the fourth floor on this staircase would be untenanted except by the old woman. “That's a good thing anyway,” he thought to himself, as he rang the bell of the old woman's flat. The bell gave a faint tinkle as though it were made of tin and not of copper. The little flats in such houses always have bells that ring like that. He had forgotten the note of that bell, and now its peculiar tinkle seemed to remind him of something and to bring it clearly before him…He started; his nerves were terribly overstrained by now. In a little while, the door was opened a tiny crack: the old woman eyed her visitor with evident distrust through the crack, and nothing could be seen but her little eyes, glittering in the darkness. But, seeing a number of people on the landing, she grew bolder, and opened the door wide. The young man stepped into the dark entry, which was partitioned off from the tiny kitchen. The old woman stood facing him in silence and looking inquiringly at him. She was a diminutive, withered up old woman of sixty, with sharp malignant eyes and a sharp little nose. Her colourless, somewhat grizzled hair was thickly smeared with oil, and she wore no kerchief over it. Round her thin long neck, which looked like a hen's leg, was knotted some sort of flannel rag, and, in spite of the heat, there hung flapping on her shoulders, a mangy fur cape, yellow with age. The old woman coughed and groaned at every instant. The young man must have looked at her with a rather peculiar expression, for a gleam of mistrust came into her eyes again.

“Raskolnikov, a student, I came here a month ago,” the young man made haste to mutter, with a half bow, remembering that he ought to be more polite.

“I remember, my good sir, I remember quite well your coming here,” the old woman said distinctly, still keeping her inquiring eyes on his face.

“And here…I am again on the same errand,” Raskolnikov continued, a little disconcerted and surprised at the old woman's mistrust. “Perhaps she is always like that though, only I did not notice it the other time,” he thought with an uneasy feeling.

The old woman paused, as though hesitating, then, stepped on one side, and pointing to the door of the room, she said, letting her visitor pass in front of her:

“Step in, my good sir.”

The little room into which the young man walked, with yellow paper on the walls, geraniums and muslin curtains in the windows, was brightly lighted up at that moment by the setting sun.

“So the sun will shine like this then too!” flashed as it were by chance through Raskolnikov's mind, and with a rapid glance he scanned everything in the room, trying as far as possible to notice and remember its arrangement. But there was nothing special in the room. The furniture, all very old and of yellow wood, consisted of a sofa with a huge bent wooden back, an oval table in front of the sofa, a dressing-table with a looking-glass fixed on it between the windows, chairs along the walls and two or three half-penny prints in yellow frames, representing German damsels with birds in their hands—that was all. In the corner a light was burning before a small ikon. Everything was very clean; the floor and the furniture were brightly polished; everything shone.

“Lizaveta's work,” thought the young man. There was not a speck of dust to be seen in the whole flat.

“It's in the houses of spiteful old widows that one finds such cleanliness,” Raskolnikov thought again, and he stole a curious glance at the cotton curtain over the door leading into another tiny room, in which stood the old woman's bed and chest of drawers and into which he had never looked before. These two rooms made up the whole flat.

“What do you want?” the old woman said severely, coming into the room and, as before, standing in front of him so as to look him straight in the face.

“I've brought something to pawn here,” and he drew out of his pocket an old-fashioned flat silver watch, on the back of which was engraved a globe; the chain was of steel.

“But the time is up for your last pledge. The month was up the day before yesterday.”

“I will bring you the interest for another month; wait a little.”

“But that's for me to do as I please, my good sir, to wait or to sell your pledge at once.”

“How much will you give me for the watch, Alyona Ivanovna?”

“You come with such trifles, my good sir, it's scarcely worth anything. I gave you two roubles last time for your ring and one could buy it quite new at a jeweler's for a rouble and a half.”

“Give me four roubles for it, I shall redeem it, it was my father's. I shall be getting some money soon.”

“A rouble and a half, and interest in advance, if you like!”

“A rouble and a half!” cried the young man.

“Please yourself”—and the old woman handed him back the watch. The young man took it, and was so angry that he was on the point of going away, but checked himself at once, remembering that there was nowhere else he could go, and that he had had another object also in coming.

“Hand it over,” he said roughly.

The old woman fumbled in her pocket for her keys, and disappeared behind the curtain into the other room. The young man, left standing alone in the middle of the room, listened inquisitively, thinking. He could hear her unlocking the chest of drawers.

“It must be the top drawer,” he reflected. “So she carries the keys in a pocket on the right. All in one bunch on a steel ring…And there's one key there, three times as big as all the others, with deep notches—that can't be the key of the chest of drawers…then there must be some other chest or strongbox…that's worth knowing. Strong-boxes always have keys like that…but how degrading it all is.”

The old woman came back.

“Here, sir: as we say ten copecks the rouble a month, so I must take fifteen copecks from a rouble and a half for the month in advance. But for the two roubles I lent you before, you owe me now twenty copecks on the same reckoning in advance. That makes thirty-five copecks altogether. So I must give you a rouble and fifteen copecks for the watch. Here it is.”

“What! only a rouble and fifteen copecks now!”

“Just so.”

The young man did not dispute it and took the money. He looked at the old woman, and was in no hurry to get away, as though there was still something he wanted to say or to do, but he did not himself quite know what.

“I may be bringing you something else in a day or two, Alyona Ivanovna— a valuable thing—silver—a cigarette-box, as soon as I get it back from a friend…” he broke off in confusion.

“Well, we will talk about it then, sir.”

“Good-bye—are you always at home alone, your sister is not here with you?” He asked her as casually as possible as he went out into the passage.

“What business is she of yours, my good sir?”

“Oh, nothing particular, I simply asked. You are too quick…Good-day, Alyona Ivanovna.”

Raskolnikov went out in complete confusion. This confusion became more and more intense. As he went down the stairs, he even stopped short, two or three times, as though suddenly struck by some thought. When he was in the street he cried out, “Oh, God, how loathsome it all is! and can I, can I possibly…No, it's nonsense, it's rubbish!” he added resolutely. “And how could such an atrocious thing come into my head? What filthy things my heart is capable of. Yes, filthy above all, disgusting, loathsome, loathsome!—and for a whole month I've been…” But no words, no exclamations could express his agitation. The feeling of intense repulsion, which had begun to oppress and torture his heart while he was on his way to the old woman, had by now reached such a pitch and had taken such a definite form that he did not know what to do with himself to escape from his wretchedness. He walked along the pavement like a drunken man, regardless of the passers-by, and jostling against them, and only came to his senses when he was in the next street. Looking round, he noticed that he was standing close to a tavern which was entered by steps leading from the pavement to the basement. At that instant two drunken men came out at the door, and abusing and supporting one another, they mounted the steps. Without stopping to think, Raskolnikov went down the steps at once. Till that moment he had never been into a tavern, but now he felt giddy and was tormented by a burning thirst. He longed for a drink of cold beer, and attributed his sudden weakness to the want of food. He sat down at a sticky little table in a dark and dirty corner; ordered some beer, and eagerly drank off the first glassful. At once he felt easier; and his thoughts became clear.

“All that's nonsense,” he said hopefully, “and there is nothing in it all to worry about! It's simply physical derangement. Just a glass of beer, a piece of dry bread—and in one moment the brain is stronger, the mind is clearer and the will is firm! Phew, how utterly petty it all is!”

But in spite of this scornful reflection, he was by now looking cheerful as though he were suddenly set free from a terrible burden: and he gazed round in a friendly way at the people in the room. But even at that moment he had a dim foreboding that this happier frame of mind was also not normal.

There were few people at the time in the tavern. Besides the two drunken men he had met on the steps, a group consisting of about five men and a girl with a concertina had gone out at the same time. Their departure left the room quiet and rather empty. The persons still in the tavern were a man who appeared to be an artisan, drunk, but not extremely so, sitting before a pot of beer, and his companion, a huge, stout man with a grey beard, in a short full-skirted coat. He was very drunk: and had dropped asleep on the bench; every now and then, he began as though in his sleep, cracking his fingers, with his arms wide apart and the upper part of his body bounding about on the bench, while he hummed some meaningless refrain, trying to recall some such lines as these:

Or suddenly waking up again:

“Walking along the crowded row
He met the one he used to know.”

But no one shared his enjoyment: his silent companion looked with positive hostility and mistrust at all these manifestations. There was another man in the room who looked somewhat like a retired government clerk. He was sitting apart, now and then sipping from his pot and looking round at the company. He, too, appeared to be in some agitation.

“His wife a year he fondly loved
His wife a—a year he—fondly loved.”

Footnotes

  1. Raskolnikov struggles with his health throughout the tale. While there are certainly physical factors that contribute to this, this indication that he possibly suffers from hypochondria, an abnormal anxiety about illness and disease, emphasizes the strain that he is under.

    — Wesley James
  2. This is actually the Kokushkin Bridge (кокушкин мост) that crosses the Griboedov Canal in St. Petersburg. Bridges serve as a motif throughout the novel with river crossings meant to be transformative for Raskolnikov or the events in the tale.

    — Wesley James
  3. Dostoevsky chose these names for particular reasons. In Russian, raskol (раскол) means "split" and the main characters family name roughly translates to "of the splitters." Considering what we learn about his state of mind and ideas regarding crime and justice, the choice of this name more than adequately represents the conflicts, both internal and external, that he will face.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  4. Raskolnikov finally eats and drinks something and, unsurprisingly, feels immediately better. He considers the feelings of confusion he was having as "simply physical derangement"; that is, his body was out of order due to a lack of nourishment which caused his confusion and anxiety rather than any mental reasons. Despite this, Raskolnikov's mental health affects his physical health throughout the story.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  5. Astute readers will likely have developed a strong hypothesis regarding what kind of crime Raskolnikov intends to commit. Notice here how he focuses on the details of the room and the pawnbroker while simultaneously calling such actions degrading, or humiliating. Recall how Dostoevsky indicated that Raskolnikov has subconsciously accepted that he will commit the crime, but that he has yet to full realize his intention to do it. This example helps to illustrate this difference.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  6. In Russian Orthodoxy, many Christians have small religious ikons (icons) depicting Jesus Christ, the Virgin Mary, or other saints in the Christian faith on display in their homes. Sometimes, small candles are lit around these icons to serve as prayer candles.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  7. This character, Lizaveta Ivanovna, sells old clothing and cleans for her sister, Alonya Ivanovna--the old woman Raskolnikov is currently speaking with. Lizaveta is revealed to be a little simple-minded and suffers much at the hands of her abusive sister. She remains innocent of much wrongdoing, and her appearance later in the novel in a crucial scene has lasting implications on Raskolnikov's well-being.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  8. Dostoevsky particularly names Germans here because they were historically one of the largest non-slavic ethnic groups in the Russian Empire. Catherine the Great, of German descent herself, proclaimed open immigration for Europeans during her rule, which resulted in a large German influx, and once Russia abolished serfdom in 1863, the labor shortage resulted in another influx of German workers.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  9. The Hay Market is a district in Saint Petersburg filled with vendors, bars, hotels, and brothels that developed during the late 18th century. This area was filled with alleys and bordered by slums, like where Raskolnikov lives). Interestingly, it was only one-half mile from the fashionable and more upscale Nevskii Prospect.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  10. Raskolnikov's request confirms the old woman's profession as a pawnbroker, or someone who lends money to others in exchange for personal property that can be sold if the money is not returned within a specific time frame. Failing to repay the pawnbroker can often lead to someone getting into a cycle of debt that is very difficult to get out of. Considering how the plot advances, this profession for Alyona Ivanovna and her relationship with Raskolnikov were key choices for Dostoevsky.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  11. In Russian Orthodoxy, a branch of the Christian religion, it is common for women, particularly elderly ones, to wear a kerchief, or headscarf. The absence of such an article of clothing doesn't necessarily imply that the woman is not religious; however, Dostoevsky might be subtly implying a non-reverent quality to add to the generally detestable description.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  12. The young man finally introduces himself. In Russian, common ways of calling someone by name include either simply the family name, as shown here, or the first name and the patronymic (a middle name derived from the person's father's name). In the latter case, the main character would be addressed as Rodion Romanovitch.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  13. Dostoevsky utilizes an omniscient perspective, and we get special access to the thoughts of several of the characters in the story. These view points provide an intimate relationship between the readers and several of the main characters, most notably Raskolnikov.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  14. The color yellow has strong symbolic significance and meaning throughout this story that Dostoevsky continually builds on. In this instance, the description of the old woman portrays a very mean spirited, dirty woman, whose skin has yellowed with age, suggesting that she is not only unhealthy, but she is also spiritually corrupted. Also notice the soon-to-come description of her room.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  15. The use of this *simile* (a figure of speech comparing two unlike things and often introduced by like or as) helps provide a better understanding of how small the young man's room actually is.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  16. Russian currency consists of the rouble, which is a paper currency similar to the dollar or euro, and the copeck (kopeck), which is equal to one hundredth of a ruble.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  17. While Dostoevsky provides elaborate details on the house and its inhabitants, the implication here is that the man also knows these things. Based on his desire to not seem obvious and his preference for darkness to keep "inquisitive eyes" away, it is becoming clear that the man intends to eventually do something unlawful.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  18. The man's response reveals that he feels no shame in how he dresses, but he does care a lot about how noticeable his clothing is. Notice how he mutters aloud, almost chastising himself, for not having thought about how obvious his hat is and how it could allow others to easily identify him. This focus on trifles, or small things of little importance, and his attitude towards them will continue to develop.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  19. "Fastidiousness" refers to a quality or characteristic of being very concerned with attention to detail and/or cleanliness. Dostoevsky states that although the man may want to care about his appearance, he has such anger inside of him that such things as how he looks in the general public are not high on his list of priorities.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  20. In addition to the general smells of Saint Petersburg in the summer, the man also notices the strong smells coming from the pot-houses, or taverns. Considering how numerous these are, and the intoxicated men in the area, Dostoevsky paints a vivid image of a very seedy neighborhood.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  21. Despite being located fairly far north, the foundations of the port city of Saint Petersburg were built on a swamp, which explains why during summer there would be a particular smell in the area in addition to the other things Dostoevsky shortly mentions.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  22. While in the original Russian version Dostoevsky did not choose Jack the Giant-Killer for this passage, the translator has likely used this reference to help provide context for a Western audience to better understand the man's thought process behind this *thing* he is contemplating.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  23. The man contrasts his fright at having to listen to his landlady with something else he is thinking of attempting. While we don't know what this other thing is yet, we do know that he considers it something of importance. He continues to mutter to himself in an effort to make sense of his thoughts and actions, and we see how this inner conflict develops over time.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  24. Dostoevsky's characters often struggle with feelings of isolation and anxiety. Here he tells us how this young man, possibly a hypochondriac (someone who imagines they're often sick), has stopped caring about his financial troubles and attending to important things in his practical life. His self absorption and lack of self-care provide clues into how he approaches and rationalizes his behavior.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  25. The emergence of the not-yet-named man from a "garret" (a small and unpleasant room or space just below the roof of a building) gives readers the impression that the man lives in poverty or has very few financial resources. Notice how Dostoevsky embellishes on this character's living arrangement below.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  26. One convention of 19th-century literature included using an initial instead of a specific name or location. Dostoevsky used this technique as did many other authors of the time, possibly due to the aggressive censorship that governments, particularly Imperial Russia, imposed on publications.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor