In Part I, chapter 2, Raskolnikov meets Marmeladov.
How do you feel about Marmeladov?
I can’t decide whether I pity him or despise him. I think it’s both.
Raskolnikov can’t seem to decide either.
Marmeladov broke off, tried to smile, but suddenly his chin began to twitch. He controlled himself, however. The tavern, the degraded appearance of the man, the five night in the hay barge, and the pot of spirits, and yet this poignant love for his wife and children bewildered his listener. Raskolnikov listened intently but with a sick sensation. He felt vexed
Does Raskolnikov feel compassion for Marmeladov as a fellow human being who is down on his luck? or is he disgusted by the unemployed drunkard who has a starving family at home?
I think he’s as torn as I am.
Dostoyevsky seems to want us to feel disdain for Marmeladov. This is a man who has a wife and children who depend on him at home and yet he sold his wife’s shawl and stockings to buy drinks at the tavern. The author makes a point of telling us that Marmeladov took money from his prostitute daughter so that he could have more to drink.
Raskolnikov takes Marmeladov home. It’s not a pretty scene. Rask sneaks out leaving some coins (of which he has precious little) for the family. I think, “Oh, that was a good thing to do, Rask.” The poor family shouldn’t suffer for Marmeladov’s choices.
But then Raskolnikov regrets his act of charity.
“What a stupid thing I’ve done,” he thought to himself, “they have Sonia and I want it myself.”
Then I found myself perturbed with Rask. Maybe I’m not sure how I feel about him either.
How do you feel about Raskolnikov and Marmeladov?