The story begins with a guy named Raskolnikov. He is going to a pawnbroker to pawn his ring and watch. After he pawns his items he goes to a bar where he meets a guy named Semion Marmeladov. Semion tells him about how bad his life is and how much suffering he and his family goes through. After he leaves the bar he heads back to his house. When he wakes up in the morning he receives a letter from his mother. That tells him about how his sister Dunia, who was working as a tutor for the Svidrigailov's, was harassed by Mr. Svidrigailov who planned on seducing her. His wife, Martha Petrovna, misinterpreted a conversation she overheard and blamed Dunia. She then spread vicious rumors about Dunia all over town only to realize later on that Dunia was innocent. Martha Petrovna then apologizes and visits each home in the area to correct the damage to Dunia's reputation. Then the letter tells how Dunia received a marriage proposal from Peter Petrovich Luzhin, who had mentioned his interest in marrying a girl from a poor background. This all upsets Raskolnikov and he goes out to wander the streets. He believes that by Dunia marrying Luzhin she is sacrificing herself from her family. He then decides to go to the home of his friend Razumikhin. Raskolnikov decides not to go to Razumikhin's after all and goes to a bar instead. At the bar he has some vodka and then goes to a park and falls asleep. .
He dreams that he is a child in his hometown, walking with his father through the streets. He observes a peasant trying to force his old mare to pull a heavy wagon full of people. The horse is struggling beneath the peasant's whip and cannot pull the weight. The peasant becomes angry and he beats the animal to death while Raskolnikov watches. The boy becomes so distraught that he tears away from his father and runs to the dead horse, throwing his arms around it and weeping. Raskolnikov wakes shaken and disturbed, asking himself whether he will really murder the old pawnbroker woman with an ax.