“Crime and Punishment” is one of the most famous and most read novels by F.M. Dostoyevsky which brought him fame. He writes about the same theme he wrote about in “The Idiot” and “The Brothers Karamazov” – sin and redemption. Dostoyevsky deals with the degradation of Russian society and family in most of his works. This novel was no exception because here he talks about a poor student Raskolnikov who kills an old pawnbroker Alyona Ivanovna and her sister Lizaveta Ivanovna to accomplish a higher goal and free people from her harassment.
Because of the murder planning, going through with the plan, investigation and the judge’s decision the novel is a crime novel but it contains elements of many other novel genres. It is also considered to be psychological because Raskolnikov’s inner world is portrayed completely before and after the crime and all the way to Siberia where he serves his sentence.
Next to Raskolnikov’s life we also follow the lives of the alcoholic Marmeladov and his family that’s consisted out of his ill wife Katerina Ivanovna and their daughter Sonya who has sacrificed her life for her family.
Also, there is the family of Marfa Petrovna that, next to the other characters who symbolize poverty and misery, comes off as the reign of the poor and because of that social division we can consider this novel to be a social novel as well. Also, the novel has some philosophical tendencies because the whole novel is about the murder made out of ethical reasons in which Raskolnikov believes.
He formed an idea of extraordinary people that have the higher right to break the rules to achieve a higher cause that will help the humanity. The novel is divided into 6 parts and an epilog. The killer and the murder are represented to us in the first part and through the next 5, the investigation develops and so do the Raskolnikov’s inner battles.
Raskolnikov fights himself all the time: he tries to trick the investigator Porfiry Petrovich but in the same time he wants to turn himself in because the guilt and the feeling that he was just another vermin in the world were tearing him apart. Dostoyevsky leaves us with ethical doubts: can our good deeds fix our bad deeds, can the cause justify the means, does a human have the right to take matters into his own hands to create another destiny for the world and finally does a human have the right to cross the line and take another person’s life.
Theme: Raskolnikov is tormented by the idea of justice that he will realize once he kills Alyona Ivanovna, a pawnbroker, and makes the poor ones happy with her money. After he commits the murder his conscience doesn’t let him live in peace.
Time: 19th century
The time span of the plot is only 9 and a half days and the plot is settled in Sankt Petersburg, Russia. Everything happens in the 19th century. The story revolves around a young, poor law student Rodion Raskolnikov. He is absent on his lectures and he gets more and more consumed by the ideas coming from the Western Europe into Russia.
Raskolnikov thinks humanity is divided into two parts. The ordinary mortals who had to live according to the laws and the exceptions, such as Napoleon, that write their own laws. Individuals such as those can commit any crime if in return they’ll be able to offer something more valuable to the mankind.
Raskolnikov decides to put his thoughts to life by killing Alyona Ivanovna. She was an old, greedy pawnbroker and by killing her at least a thousand more people would be saved. With her disappearance, many people would be happy and that included her poor sister Lizaveta Ivanovna who suffers due to the harassments of her older sister.
In the beginning, Raskolnikov is repulsed by the solution he had and the idea that was roaming through his head. Despite that he decided to work on the murder plan even though he wasn’t convinced he’ll go through with it.
He is affected by many little details that make him commit the crime such as his mother’s letter, the talk he had with Marmeladov and his encounter with Sonya. His mother wrote to him that the only way his sister will be saved from the Svidrigaïlov’s terror is marrying Luzhin. The wealth she will acquire then will help them put Raskolnikov through law school. He wasn’t capable of accepting his sister’s sacrifice and the sad faith of Sonya puts him into an even bigger depression. In the end, he found out that the old pawnbroker will be alone around 7 o’clock.
After fighting himself and his conscious he came to Alyona’s apartment. He killed the old, greedy woman but things get complicated when Lizaveta unexpectedly appears. Raskolnikov killed her as well.
He started panicking and didn’t know what to take with him in that moment. He took a few things and started to run away. After that, he got extremely ill and spends the next few days in a semi- conscious state. Razumikhin, his friend, takes care of him. While he’s in bed ill Luzhin, his sister’s rich fiancé, pays him a visit.
Luzhin was actually looking for a poor and helpful woman who will be thankful to him for the rest of her life. He wanted someone to serve him and be faithful to him. Raskolnikov tells him to get away because he is against the dominance he is showing towards his sister.
When Raskolnikov felt better he got out of bed and decided to go out and read the papers. He wanted to know the description of the crime in the papers. He came close to confessing everything to a police officer and he also placed himself as the number one suspect because he goes to the crime scene.
Raskolnikov lives through some awful things. He became the witness of Marmeladov’s death. He was run over by a carriage while he was trying to cross the road drunk. Raskolnikov wanted to help by giving his widow some money.
He found Dunya, his sister, and his mother in his room. They were getting ready for Dunya’s wedding but Raskolnikov is against it. He didn’t want his sister to get married to such a pathetic and awful man. Also Svidrigaïlov, Dunya’s ex- employer whose wife died a suspicious death, came to town.
Dunya used to work as a nanny and Svidrigaïlov wanted to seduce her. He asked Raskolnikov to arrange him a meeting with his sister. He even offered him a lot of money but Dunya and Raskolnikov agreed that a marriage with such a suspicious man was out of the picture.
While the plot twists on Razumikhin and Dunya fall in love.
Raskolnikov was asked by the police to come to the station and pick up the watch he pawned at Alyona. He was dragged into an uncomfortable situation by the tricky question asked by Porfiry Petrovich. The plot suddenly takes an unexpected turn when a painter Nikolai confesses to the crime.
Even though he was happy to be free of the accusations Raskolnikov’s conscience couldn’t be still. He wanted to confess to the murder.
He came to Marmeladov’s daughter Sonya. Since her family became very poor she had no other choice but to become a prostitute to feed her family.
Despite her job, she was a woman of high morals and very religious. She told Raskolnikov to confess and repent for his crimes. Soon he found out that Nikolai confessed only because he was a religious fanatic who believed he could expiate his sins by taking on other people’s sins.
The story twists when Svidrigaïlov hears a conversation between Raskolnikov and Sonya in which Raskolnikov confesses to having murdered Alyona. Since he found out a valuable information he decides to use it to blackmail Dunya into sleeping with him. She rejected him and shoots him. The bullet only scratched him but then he took the gun and committed suicide.
The money he had Svidrigaïlov left to Dunya, Sonya, and Marmeladov’s kids and in that way he decided to do one good thing because he led a bad life.
In the end, Raskolnikov confesses to the crime and he was sentenced to eight years in Siberia. Sonya decides to join him and next to her he goes through a spiritual renewal.
Characters: Rodion Raskolnikov, Marmeladov, Katerina Ivanovna, Alyona Ivanovna, Lizaveta, Sonya, Dunya, Porfiry, Svidrigaïlov, Pulkheria Alexandrovna Raskolnikova, Razuminkhin, Luzkhin…
Rodion Raskolnikov – is the main character of the novel. He is pretty, tall and has dark eyes. He is forced to live in a small room in Petersburg that reminds him of a coffin where the streets are dirty and filled with tap houses.
He is described as a law student with a sensitive character who is at the same time a criminal and a righteous man. One of the starting points of a crime novel is the clear motivation of the crime (revenge, passion, mental instability, out of use…). The enjoyed the moments in which he felt he had control over the situation and that he was pulling all the strings.
Raskolnikov is a bit more complex than an ordinary criminal. He wanted to prove a point by committing a murder, and for him, the crime was nothing else but a moral decision because he killed an old pawnbroker that harassed people. In that way, he also checked his moral and psychical strength.
The main character thinks that if he’s able to kill a vermin that was causing pain to the society then he clearly belonged to the chosen ones, the moving strength that will be remembered as the creators of history.
The man can take someone’s life just for a higher cause. The main character wanted to help the Marmeladov’s family. He didn’t think once about profiting from the murder.
He got ill in Siberia and his ego was also hurt. He wasn’t tormented by taking a life away, but by not being able to achieve the higher cause. Only love was able to cure him when Sonya made him read the Gospel. The Christian way of thinking conquers his mind and he becomes another person.
Alyona Ivanovna – an old, greedy pawnbroker that was killed by Raskolnikov after he saw her for the first time. He wanted to kill her so he could do something good for humanity.
Marmeladov – alcoholic gone to waste whose family lives in poverty. He is the true example of a life becoming miserable due to unfortunate events and he also became the victim of his own vice.
Sonya – Maremeladov’s daughter that started working as a prostitute to feed her family. She helped Raskolnikov to change.
Dunya – Raskolnikov’s sister, described as a person capable of doing anything for her family. She was even ready to get married out of financial use.
Fyodor Dostoyevsky Biography
Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoyevsky (1821 – 1881) was a Russian novelist and, side by side with Tolstoy, one of the best writers of Russian realism. He lived a hard life in poverty and also had epilepsy. He faced a death sentence, Siberian jail and the death of dear members of his family.
He went to a military academy in January 1838, when he was 16, to please his father. He never liked it. He began writing in his 20s, and completed his first novel, Poor Folk, in May 1845.
A big turn in his life was his participation in the utopian – socialist society because of which he was sentenced to death in 1849, but then he was saved by going to Siberia where he spends 10 years.
In the beginning of his career he followed the footsteps of Gogol and he represented some advanced social point of views and after he served his sentence, described in the work “Notes from Underground” in 1861, not only did he left but also judged the revolutionary actions (novel “Demons” from 1871- 1872) and fell deep into the world of mysticism, Eastern Orthodox Church and preached non-defiance of evil with force.
Dostoyevsky worked as a journalist. He began to travel around western Europe and developed a gambling addiction, which led to financial hardship. For a time, he had to beg for money, but he eventually became one of the most widely read and highly regarded Russian writers.
His books have been translated into more than 170 languages. His main works are the novels: “Crime and Punishment”, “Poor Folk”, “Notes from Underground”, “The idiot” and “The Brothers Karamazov”.
He dies in January 1881 from a pulmonary hemorrhage.