Crime and Punishment Chapter 24
Raskolnikov makes his way to Sonia's place. She is surprised to see him. His eyes gaze about the room. He begins by telling her that he is going away. He then asks if Katernia Ivanovna beats her. Confused as to the nature of Raskolnikov's inquiries, Sonia firmly denies it, saying that Katerina Ivanovna is child-like and good. She tells him of Katerina Ivanovna's dream of the family going back to her hometown where they will open a boarding school for girls. Sonia confesses that for now, Katerina Ivanovna is relying on him for help. Sonia recounts a story of once being cruel to her stepmother, refusing to give her (who never requested anything) a collar she really admired. Raskolnikkov begins to ask Sonia what would happen if Katerina Ivanovna dies from consumption, or if she gets sick and cannot provide for her family. Polenka would surely follow in her footsteps, Raskolnikov predicts coldly. Sonia cannot bear these awful scenarios. God would not allow it, she cries. Perhaps there is no God, Raskolnikov challenges. Sonia is speechless. Five minutes pass before Raskolnikov stops pacing, drops to the ground before Sonia, and kisses her feet like a madman. Raskolnikov exclaims:
"I did not bow down to you, I bowed down to all the suffering of humanity." Chapter 24, pg. 279
Raskolnikov tells Sonia that although she is a sinner, she is worthy because of her great suffering. But her sin is having destroyed herself for nothing. How can such sinfulness and goodness coexist? Raskolnikov asks. It is better to drown. Sonia asks what would happen to her family then, as if she had considered this suggestion before (she does not even notice the cruelty of such words). Raskolnikov realizes that Sonia would have taken her life long ago, were it not for her concern over her family. He is amazed that Sonia has not succumbed to any of the three usual ways open for someone in her situation: the canal (suicide), the madhouse, or total submission to depravity. But how can she remain so pure in spirit? Is she not mad, who hopes for a miracle? Raskolnikov asks if she prays to God. "What should I be without God?" Sonia whispers (p. 281). He asks what God does for her. She refuses to answer such a frivolous question, but finally says that He does everything. Raskolnikov thinks her to be a religious maniac. Raskolnikov asks about the Russian copy of the New Testament on top of a chest of drawers. He learns that Lizaveta had brought it for Sonia-they had been good friends. Raskolnikov asks Sonia to read to him the passage about the raising of Lazarus. Sonia questions the worth of reading it to an unbeliever. Raskolnikov insists.
Sonia reads from the eleventh chapter of the Gospel of John: Two women, Martha and Mary, are despondent over the death of their brother, Lazarus. They had been waiting for Jesus to come heal him. But he comes too late. At the sight of the weeping, unbelieving Jews, Jesus weeps. He then performs the miracle of raising Lazarus from the dead. Raskolnikov observes that Sonia knows the story by heart. She emphasizes certain lines that she wants Raskolnikov to hear. It is an interesting sight to behold-the murderer and the prostitute reading from the New Testament. Sonia finishes the passage in estatic rapture. Raskolnikov tells Sonia about having cut himself off from his mother and sister. Sonia wonders why he did that. As they are on the same road, having both transgressed and destroyed life (Sonia, her own), Raskolnikov asks Sonia to go with him. Sonia does not understand; she thinks him mad. Raskolnikov talks of breaking out of suffering through freedom and power. Before leaving, Raskolnikov tells Sonia that tomorrow, he will tell her who killed Lizaveta. He tells her he had chosen to reveal this long ago to her, when he first heard about her from Marmelodov. Sonia spends the whole night in torment, replaying episodes of that night in her dreams.
On the other side of the wall, Svidrigailov is intrigued at what he has accidentally overheard. He even gets a chair so that tomorrow, he could listen in more comfortably.