Raskolnikov quickly dresses in his news clothes, pockets the 25 roubles and change left behind by Razumikhin after the clothing purchases, and slips outside unnoticed. On his way to the Haymarket he spots a young girl of fifteen singing and accompanied by an organ-grinder. He gives the girl five kopecks and asks a bystander if he enjoys music, but the bystander is frightened by Raskolnikov and hurries away.
Raskolnikov here attempts to speak to another person on the street—a rare desire, for him, since he is often reluctant even to speak to friends and family. But the person becomes frightened of Raskolnikov’s appearance and runs away. Not even new clothes can hide the fact that Raskolnikov is pale, ill, and mentally unstable.
Raskolnikov passes through the Haymarket and continues to a building filled with taverns and bars. He approaches one, is propositioned by a prostitute, and gives her a few kopecks before walking away. He remarks to himself something he once read somewhere: that if man were to live on a narrow ledge, with only two feet allotted him, still that would be better than death.
An important scene in the novel. Raskolnikov realizes that being alive, even in terrible circumstances, is preferable to being dead. This is what prevents him from killing himself—as Svidrigailov does later in the novel.
He walks into a tavern called The Crystal Palace and asks for tea and some old newspapers. Raskolnikov begins reading but is interrupted by Zamyotov, the clerk who is surprised to see the ailing Raskolnikov out of the house. Raskolnikov indicates to Zamyotov what he knows: that Zamyotov visited him in his delirium, that he looked for Raskolnikov’s sock, about which he was raving, and that the painter is being held for the murder of the two women.
The Crystal Palace was an enormous display erected by the British government for the 1851 World’s Fair. The Palace was a symbol of rational, scientific thought: a window onto a world of materials collected from all corners of the British Empire. Here, Dostoevsky ironically joins this image of rationality to the degraded, sooty environment of a Russian tavern.
Raskolnikov jokes with Zamyotov, claiming the latter enjoys many people’s generosity (another hint that Zamyotov can be bribed) and calling him an educated man. Raskolnikov tells him, eagerly, that he has been reading about the murder case. Zamyotov wonders why he ought to care, but Raskolnikov insists on the subject, saying it was the same one discussed just before he fainted in the police station.
In this scene Raskolnikov appears manic, hyper-alert. It is as though his lust for life has returned, but this energy can only be directed toward discussion of the murders, which have come to dominate every facet of his life.
Zamyotov is perplexed by Raskolnikov’s joking attitude and repeated reference to the murder. He says Raskolnikov must either be crazy or . . . but he trails off. The two discuss a recent counterfeiting trial in Moscow, and Raskolnikov calls those criminals beginners. Raskolnikov tells Zamyotov how he would have arranged the counterfeiting so as not to be caught, but Zamyotov doesn’t believe he could pull off the crime so easily.
Raskolnikov, in his new, manic state, begins to brag of his abilities as a criminal. This makes Zamyotov uncomfortable—the clerk refuses to believe that Raskolnikov could be the killer of Lizaveta and the old woman, so he tries to change the subject. But Raskolnikov’s behavior he finds deeply disturbing.
Zamyotov brings the conversation back to the murder case. He claims that the criminal did a poor job of things, and Raskolnikov counters that they ought to catch the perpetrator, then. Raskolnikov tells Zamyotov how he would act if he were the killer: he would take the valuables and hide them under a stone, someplace far away. Zamyotov takes this “joke” gravely, and Raskolnikov asks what Zamyotov would do if he, Raskolnikov, were in fact the killer. Zamyotov turns white, but Raskolnikov pretends he was joking. Zamyotov believes he was joking, and, getting up to leave, Raskolnikov flaunts the money he has just received from his mother, asking Zamyotov how he has come upon so much, and new clothes, too, in the days since the murder.
Raskolnikov’s speech in this scene is either a symptom of his mental illness or a brilliant ploy to throw off the authorities’ suspicions. Would a man who had just killed two woman go about bragging of his cleverness, his ability to murder, to a police-station clerk? The behavior is so strange that it could only be attributed to madness, and not to guilt. Raskolnikov therefore frightens Zamyotov and seems to convince him that he, Raskolnikov, is innocent of the crimes.
As he is leaving, Raskolnikov runs into Razumikhin, who chastises him for going out of the house in his condition. Raskolnikov tells his friend he no longer desires his charity; Razumikhin is offended but nevertheless wishes to convince Raskolnikov to come to his housewarming party that night. Raskolnikov heads outside and arrives at a bridge, where a tall woman looks at him and silently jumps off the bridge in an attempt to drown herself. People gather around in horror and the woman is rescued and returned to life, coughing and sputtering.
A scene of attempted suicide. Raskolnikov has coincidentally come upon a woman who, in the throes of some terrible agony, has decided to end her life. But the woman is saved. Raskolnikov sees firsthand what it would be like to attempt suicide, and he is repulsed by the act. Raskolnikov determines that, no matter the discomfort, he will remain alive and attempt to evade the authorities.
The episode causes Raskolnikov to rethink his initial plan, which he only now realizes fully: that he left the house tonight to kill himself. He is now disgusted at the thought of suicide. He begins walking, at first headed to the police station, but then finds he is in front of the old woman’s house. He enters, walks up to the fourth floor, and finds two workmen in the apartment, which has been renovated.
Another coincidence. Raskolnikov appears to come upon the old woman’s apartment building without realizing what he is doing. But once there, he is drawn up to her apartment as if mechanically.
Raskolnikov says that he wishes to rent the apartment—the workmen are confused because he has come at night, unannounced, without the caretaker. Raskolnikov asks if any blood remains in the apartment. He offers to explain all to the police. He walks to the courtyard with the workmen, who explain to the caretaker and others gathered there that Raskolnikov has said ominous things about the murders in the apartment. They do not take him to the police but instead throw him out into the street. Raskolnikov notices a commotion and resolves that “now it is all going to end.”
This becomes a major event in the case against Raskolnikov. Later, Raskolnikov will regret visiting the apartment and asking about the blood. One of the tradesmen assembled in the courtyard hears this exchange and follows Raskolnikov later in the novel: he is the “man from under the ground” who tells Porfiry of Raskolnikov’s guilt. It is a strange paradox that the people gathered are too frightened by Raskolnikov to believe he might have been involved in the murder.