Raskolnikov leaves quite angrily, and can’t believe he has betrayed some part of his lie to Porfiry. He resents that he has been suspected without even a shred of physical evidence. Razumikhin, relieved to be discussing the murder out in the open, admits he has sensed Porfiry’s suspicions but cannot understand why, since Raskolnikov has clearly been ill on account of his family troubles and grinding poverty. Raskolnikov worries, to himself, that Porfiry has figured out the case.
Raskolnikov is afraid, now more than ever, that Porfiry has realized the truth—that Raskolnikov is the murderer. Even Razumikhin appears to have some doubts about Raskolnikov’s story, though he continues to support this friend in the hopes that Raskolnikov is only sick with an unrelated “nervous agitation.” But Razumikhin’s doubts about Raskolnikov’s innocence will increase throughout.
Raskolnikov argues that, had he committed the crime, he would have admitted to seeing the painters, since it behooves a criminal to admit as much as he can to officials, strategically, in order to throw them off the scent. Razumikhin goes up to visit Dunya and Pulcheria and Raskolnikov leaves in a huff, returning to his apartment. As he arrives, he learns from the caretaker that a man has come by asking after Raskolnikov.
Razumikhin sees about Dunya and Pulcheria while Raskolnikov simply returns to his apartment. Razumikhin has more or less taken over care of the family from Raskolnikov: he has become a brother to Dunya and a son to Pulcheria. Once again, someone has paid Raskolnikov a visit at his small apartment.
Raskolnikov runs after the man, a “tradesman,” who tells Raskolnikov that he is a murderer and walks away. Raskolnikov returns to his room, notably weakened, and is caught again in a flurry of anxieties. He awakes to find Razumikhin and Nastasya present; they leave quickly thereafter. Raskolnikov wonders who this “man from under ground,” the tradesman, might be.
The “man from under the ground” reappears. This man is convinced that Raskolnikov is a killer, and Raskolnikov is confused as to how this man knows the truth. But the man does not turn Raskolnikov in to the police: he is content simply to torment Raskolnikov by announcing Raskolnikov’s guilt.
Raskolnikov curses himself for not being a Great Man after all. He was able to kill, but not able to “step over”: to justify his killing as part of some new principle. He lacks the courage and willpower of a man like Napoleon or Muhammad. He then thinks of “poor” Lizaveta and Sonya, the weak of the earth, and remarks that he rarely considers the fact that he murdered the pawnbroker’s innocent sister.
Raskolnikov realizes that he is not an “extraordinary” man like Napoleon. He was able to kill, but he was not able to transcend the guilt that society attaches to brutal acts of murder, whatever their motivation. Because Raskolnikov is incapable of using his crime as a springboard into a new social order, he ceases to see himself as a great man after all.
He falls asleep and, in a dream, follows the tradesman to the pawnbroker’s house, up to the fourth floor. He discovers that the old crone is still there, seated silently, her face obscured, and when he tries to hit her on the head with an axe he feels she is “made of wood.” He flees the building, where many people have gathered to observe him, and wakes up to find a man in the room. Raskolnikov pretends he is still sleeping but eventually wakes; Svidrigailov introduces himself and says he knew Raskolnikov was not really asleep.
Another of Raskolnikov’s dreams. This time the murder “plays again,” although Raskolnikov is unable to kill the old woman: he finds that his axe does nothing to the woman’s incredibly hard, wood-like skull. The dream is not explained, but it seems, in part, an acknowledgment that Raskolnikov is a murderer but not a strong man. Raskolnikov, like any criminal, is capable of killing. But he is not powerful enough to remake the world in his image.