Raskolnikov pays a visit to his mother, who is now staying with Dunya in a better apartment arranged for by Razumikhin. Pulcheria admits that she has been reading Raskolnikov’s article, and though she does not understand it, she feels her son will one day be a great man. Raskolnikov tells his mother that he loves her, and that nothing will ever change that.
Pulcheria is convinced that Raskolnikov is a genius. His difficulties of recent months will eventually be overcome, and then Raskolnikov will achieve the university post for which he has always labored. She does not understand Raskolnikov’s arguments , though. She believes he is a genius because he is her son, and because, as such, he is extraordinary to her.
Pulcheria does not understand what is happening but recognizes that Raskolnikov is in a dire situation. She crosses him and blesses him before he leaves, asking if he will come again soon—he promises that he will, and departs. He goes back to his apartment and finds Dunya, who has spent the day waiting for Raskolnikov. Dunya asks if he has confessed his crime to their mother, and he says no. He says he could not kill himself, and Dunya says he will have to suffer for his misdeed.
Pulcheria understands only that Raskolnikov has gotten himself into a terrible situation—this is not dissimilar from Razumikhin’s assertion that Raskolnikov is embroiled in political intrigue. Dunya knows the truth about her brother, and, like Sonya, she demands that Raskolnikov be punished in order to make up for his crime.
Dunya says that his suffering will “wash away” some part of the guilt. Raskolnikov says that the act itself wasn’t really a crime, since the pawnbroker was a vile woman who deserved to die, but Dunya argues that he killed and therefore must pay the price.
This idea of “washing away” is very much in line with Christian ideas of penance, requiring that the sufferer make up for his sins with a sincere effort to face up to and accept those sins and whatever punishment must come.
Raskolnikov says that he has never been less clear why his actions are a crime, whereas other forms of killing are justified. Yet he tells Dunya that the end is near; he must confess. He wonders aloud how hard labor will make him a better person, or atone for the crime, but he has resolved to confess anyway. He takes his leave of Dunya, who loves him. He feels that he is unworthy of that love.
Raskolnikov, on the other hand, does not understand how hard labor will change him, The two women will remain dead—his labors will not bring them back. But Raskolnikov comes later to realize that his punishment is necessary in order to attain divine forgiveness. This comes after a moment of euphoria, experienced in Sonya’s presence while observing nature near the penal colony in Siberia.