Raskolnikov does not know why exactly he wishes to see his friend—he does not really want any of Razumikhin’s teaching lessons, nor does he want advice about Dunya’s situation. But he also does not wish to return to his cramped apartment. He decides simply to walk where his feet take him. He walks through a nicer part of town, eats pie and drinks a glass of vodka, and overcome by sleepiness he collapses in the bushes.
One of many scenes of Raskolnikov walking for no reason. Parts of Petersburg are described explicitly, but others are referred to only by their first initial. Dostoevsky might have had many reasons for doing this, but one seems to be descriptive: perhaps Raskolnikov himself does not remember or recognize the names of the street he walks on.
Raskolnikov has a vivid dream, which the narrator attributes to his “morbid” condition. In the dream he is about seven and walking with his father on a holiday. He passes a tavern en route to a cemetery to pay respect to his deceased grandmother and younger brother, who died when Raskolnikov himself was quite young. Near the tavern, a group of drunk peasants are standing around a small, old horse fixed to an enormous, heavy cart. One of the peasants shouts that he will take all assembled in the cart, although no one believes it is possible.
An extremely important scene. As a child, Raskolnikov could not bear to witness violence, and he does not understand the cruelty of those who beat the horse. It is also noteworthy that this dream is in fact a perfectly recounted memory of Raskolnikov’s. We are led to believe the scene actually took place when he was a young boy.
The peasants get into the cart. The man says he will make the horse gallop, though she is old and probably hasn’t galloped for years. The peasants begin whipping the horse, which can only manage a very slow walk under the cart’s strain. The man says he will whip the horse to death, and when whipping is no longer sufficient he takes a large shaft from the cart and beats her on the back. One peasant cries that they ought to use an ax, but the man continues with the shaft until the horse is dead. He justifies the killing by saying the horse is his own property.
The ax mentioned here seems to reference Raskolnikov’s plan: to kill the pawnbroker with an ax (an instrument he later has a hard time stealing). This part of the dream is an illustration of pure cruelty. The horse is not beaten to make it go faster; it is merely beaten to make it suffer and die, for the enjoyment of those drunken peasants who have gathered to watch.
Young Raskolnikov rushes toward the peasant and tries to fight him; his father has to pull him away. Raskolnikov awakes in the bushes in a fever and sweat. For the first time he wonders aloud whether he really can hit the pawnbroker with an axe, kill her, and take her money. Although he made a “trial run” yesterday, the dream leads Raskolnikov to believe that he would not be able to carry out the murder in reality. He decides to return home but takes a longer route, through the Haymarket.
Thus the dream has important consequences for Raskolnikov “in real life.” He feels that, since he could not bear the suffering of the animal in his memory, he would never be able to take a human life. But this is sadly not the case, and it will take another act of fate (or coincidence) to convince Raskolnikov to carry out the plan.
It is nighttime. Raskolnikov enjoys walking through the Haymarket because his rags and poor appearance do not attract people’s attention here, amidst other signs of poverty. Suddenly, as if ordained by a kind of fate (he thinks later), he sees Lizaveta speaking to a man and woman on a corner. The man and woman insist that Lizaveta disregard her sister’s orders, whatever they may be (Raskolnikov hears only the middle of the conversation), and come back to the Haymarket the next day between six and seven.
An important incident in the novel—and the act of fate that prompts Raskolnikov to commit his crime. If he had not walked through the Haymarket at this moment, Raskolnikov would not have learned of Lizaveta’s absence the next day, and he might never have achieved the “courage” necessary to put the plan in motion.
Raskolnikov recognizes that this means the old woman will be alone for one hour tomorrow. Now the freedom and aversion to murder he experienced after his dream disappear. He feels fate has ordained this set of circumstances; he must carry out his original murderous plan. Even if he had tried to learn the old woman’s schedule, he would never have known with such exactness when to find her alone. The chance encounter in the Haymarket must, then, have been fated.
Chance is important to Raskolnikov and to Dostoevsky, who understood that novels tend to operate on chance occurrences: characters overhear one another, misunderstand one another, are reunited with one another. Thus a feature of novels in general is, to Raskolnikov, a feature of life as it is lived. In this sense the novel truly is “realist”: a representation of life as it appears to those who live it.