Raskolnikov later learns that Lizaveta works as a middleman between families who must sell off their clothing and merchants. She then re-sell these clothes to the public. Raskolnikov recalls his first meeting with Alyona the pawnbroker, recommended by a fellow student in case Raskolnikov ever needed extra cash. After pawning his ring, given him by his sister as a keepsake, Raskolnikov entered a tavern and overheard a student and a young officer discussing the very same pawnbroker, describing her great wealth, her unscrupulous business practices, and her cruel treatment of Lizaveta, whom she beats.
Yet another instance of coincidence. Here the two young men in the tavern appear to know exactly what is running through Raskolnikov’s head. Many students seem to go to Alyona the pawnbroker in order to receive money for tuition, indicating the difficult circumstances for many who attend university in late nineteenth-century Petersburg.
The student and officer went on to discuss Lizaveta, who is younger, timid, humble, and entirely at the beck and call of Alyona. The student tells his friend that he would kill the old woman “without remorse.” He goes on to justify this hypothetical action by saying that the old woman causes great suffering—since hundreds of people depend on her for pawning and small loans—and her death would actually improve those people’s condition. But the student says he himself wouldn’t do the killing.
This justification for the murder of the pawnbroker will reappear later in the novel. It is a “utilitarian” argument: in other words, an argument stating that the greater good would be served through this single instance of violence. Raskolnikov makes use of some portion of this argument in his own magazine article on criminality, which Porfiry will later reference.
Raskolnikov remembers being shocked at this conversation, because he was thinking along exactly the same lines. He later attributes this overheard conversation to fate. After leaving the Haymarket, he returns to his room and sleeps heavily the entire night. He is awoken by Nastasya, who brings him tea and soup, and he daydreams of a caravan making its way across Egypt. He realizes that it is nearly dinner time, and that he must put his plan into action.
Another of Raskolnikov’s dreams—this one is provided without any reference (it is not a memory) and without a “key” to decode its symbols. Raskolnikov will experience another dream toward the very end of the novel, during his incarceration in Siberia.
As he planned two weeks ago, he tears a strip of old clothing and sews it into his coat, as a loop for the axe-head. Raskolnikov also finds the piece of wood lined with iron, wrapped, which he will give to the pawnbroker as a fake “pledge,” or object to be pawned, to distract her during the act. He overhears someone in the courtyard announce it is long past six.
These preparations indicate that Raskolnikov has thought, at least superficially, about the objects and procedures necessary for his crime. It is revealed soon after, however, that there are considerable gaps and miscalculations in his plan.
Raskolnikov must now steal an axe. He remarks how sure his plans once seemed, and now how unresolved and problematic they are. He had planned to borrow the axe out of the house’s kitchen when Nastasya was out. He feels that he is being dragged into the crime as “into the cogs of a machine,” and he believes that, while committing a crime, a disease clouds man’s judgment and makes the man more likely to be caught. Raskolnikov vows to avoid these pitfalls if he can.
A reference to fate as being a kind of “machine.” Some of Raskolnikov’s behavior after the crime is described as “mechanical” or “automatic,” indicating that he does not fully control his actions. Although Raskolnikov knows that crime can cloud man’s judgment, he feels this will not apply to him. He is, of course, mistaken in this assumption.
Despite these rational justifications, however, Raskolnikov feels his plan is slipping away from him, even as he resolves more than ever to carry it out. But as he goes downstairs he sees that Nastasya is home, making it impossible to steal the axe. As he passes by, cursing himself, he looks into the caretaker’s closet and sees an axe under a bench. He is encouraged by this coincidence and slips the axe into the coat’s loop. He realizes, however, that he has not changed out of his noticeable hat. As he walks he daydreams about improvements to be made to a park in Petersburg.
Two instances of “fate” or luck, one negative, one positive. Raskolnikov simply assumes he will be able to take the axe when Nastasya is out, but she is in that evening—he must make other plans. Thus the stroke of good luck: he sees something in the caretaker’s closet that turns out to be an axe suitable for the murder. He slips it into his coat. But the hat, so prominent and strange to onlookers on the street, remains on his head.
Raskolnikov climbs the old woman’s staircase unnoticed, past the second floor where there are painters working. No one else is present. Raskolnikov stands outside the old woman’s door and worries that he is too pale—he fears he will arouse her suspicions—but rings the bell anyway. He senses the old woman on the other side of the door and moves back, to make it seem he is calm and not hiding from her. She begins to lift the latch.
Throughout the novel a motif recurs of people hiding behind doors. Raskolnikov can sense the old woman’s presence even when he does not see her. He is unable, however, to “sense” Svidrigailov behind Sonya’s wall later in the novel, and the consequences for Raskolnikov are disastrous.