Svidrigailov recounts first the story of his marriage to Marfa, who bought him out of debtor’s prison, and to whom he confided, at the start of the relationship, that he could not remain totally faithful. They strike a deal in their marriage whereby Svidrigailov is allowed dalliances with servant girls but no permanent mistress while living on Marfa’s estate in the provinces.
Funnily enough, Svidrigailov’s arrangement with Marfa is quite similar to the projected marital possibilities of Lebezyatnikov’s much-yearned-for utopian commune, revealing the utopian ideal to be no different from pragmatic human arrangements that already exist, and which do not bring joy or utopian outcomes.
Svidrigailov says that Marfa often confided in Dunya on the estate, saying Svidrigailov was an immoral man—this aroused in Dunya a sense of pity and made it easier, Svidrigailov says, for him to win her affections. Svidrigailov told Dunya that he wished to become a better man, and it was by this stratagem he managed to court her.
Svidrigailov is able to play on Dunya’s essential goodness, pretending that he is a man who needs to be “saved” by the love of a “good woman.” Dunya is intelligent, but she falls for this ploy to an extent, although she is not willing to elope with Svidrigailov and ruin her family’s name in the province.
He then offered Dunya a good deal of money if she would run away with him to America; Dunya, of course, said no, but Svidrigailov claims he offered the money out of a desire to help Dunya, who was supporting both her mother and Raskolnikov.
Svidrigailov once again argues that his intentions with Dunya were motivated by a kind of goodness—a desire to help Dunya, Pulcheria, and even Raskolnikov, whom he had not met at the time.
Svidrigailov details the circumstances of his current engagement; the girl is not even sixteen, yet her parents see in Svidrigailov a “man of property” who can pay enough to take care of her. Svidrigailov details the scene in which he was first invited to meet the girl, after a conversation with her family. Svidrigailov offered the girl and her family a large sum of money “upfront,” and the girl has promised total respect for Svidrigailov.
Svidrigailov has managed to find another fiancée very quickly after Marfa’s death. The girl is young and the family in need of money—they appear willing to look past the strangeness of Svidrigailov’s circumstances in order to provide for their and their daughter’s future.
Svidrigailov complains of the nightlife in Petersburg, the life he used to enjoy before his marriage to Marfa, and says that he does not wish to see those friends anymore—drunks and layabouts as they are. He accuses Raskolnikov of being a “Schiller,” or a young romantic, a man of ideals in a world that no longer respects morality and goodness. They vow to part ways, but when they leave Raskolnikov follows behind Svidrigailov on the street.
Schiller was a German romantic writer, whose first stage-play, “The Robbers,” caused a sensation when it was first staged in 1782. Schiller was often associated with a kind of wanton romanticism that included a lust for violence and for physical satisfaction, although he distanced himself from these ideas as he grew older and befriended Goethe.