Crime and Punishment

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Crime and Punishment

  • Born 1821; died 1881

  • Son of military Russian doctor (lower middle class)

  • Father was stern and righteous; mother was opposite

  • Educated as engineer (bored with the drill) but desperately in love with French and

Russian literature.

Father insisted on the engineering.

  • 1839 while still in engineering school, father was murdered.

  • After engineering institute, at age of 25, he submitted novel to Nekrasow, famous

editor and poet. Nekrasow gave it to famous critic Vissarion Belinsky (very popular

among liberals). Belinsky did not want to read work by engineer, but finally consented

and was amazed. Woke Dostoevsky up at 4 a.m. and proclaimed him a genius. This novel

was called Poor Folk (showed emphasis on psychological analysis) (Weil37)

  • Praise went to his head and he lost friends. High profile figure made him vulnerable to jealous barbs of other writers (also lacked social graces and was shy).

  • He published this novel in 1840s. It showed split personality or inner contradictions of the human spirit.

  • Belinsky rejected his next novel The Double. Dostoevsky drifted into “mildly revolutionary circle of moderate liberals” (Weil 41). Radical ideas from the West out to revolutionize Russia. They published contraband articles (the gov. controlled printing).

  • Group was arrested in 1849. Fifteen were condemned to die. On Dec. 22, led out to square for execution. The first rank was tied to the stakes and rifles were raised when a stay of execution brought by messenger(prearranged) came from Czar Nikolai I. Soul- shaking encounter with death that he has never forgotten (Weil 420

  • Prisoners were to spend 4-5years in Siberian prison and 4-5 years in army.


  • Psychological novel (also political, social, and religious)

  • Setting: July, Petersburg 1860s (Now Lenigrad).

  • Haymarket Square, a slum section of St. Petersburg, notorious for intolerable living conditions (Morris)

  • “By choosing to set the novel in the summer, when the drunken crowds filled the streets and the air reeked, Dostoevsky was able to create the feelings of physical repulsion brought on by an oppressive environment”(Morris).

  • Gruesome ax murder of two old women in Moscow in summer of 1865 was model for his scene (Morris).

  • Drunkenness and prostitution were commonplace

  • Gap between the middle class and the poor was huge.

  • Realistic details of mid 19th century Russian life and social conditions (squalor and humiliation of social degradation seen in Sonia, Katerina (social commentary)

  • Builds suspense: doesn't tell you details or plan all at once. Doesn't even know Raskolnikov's name at first. Don't know the crime he wants to commit or what plan is troubling him so much.

  • Language steers clear of trappings of sophistication or sentimentalism, but delves into the complex workings of the human mind

  • Style is simple, direct, and unpretentious but has remarkable precision in narrative and analytical sections.

  • To depict his dark and obscure motives for the crime, the author explores different theories of crime. To capture the sordid depths of the criminal mind, Dostoevsky employs dreams and nightmares and other images like the tiny attic and its contrasting symbol of fresh air.

  • Cliff Hanger: man following Sonya, man who accuses Rodya of murder (pt 3 ch 6)

  • Subplots:

  • Marmelodovs

  • Dounia's engagement

  • Svidrigailov

  • Foreshadowing

  • killing of mare

  • Lazarus returning from the dead

  • Dounia worries that Svidrigailov is contemplating something horrible (Pt. 4 ch 3)

  • Allusions

  • Zeus

  • Lazarus

  • Golgotha


  • Raskol’nik—schismatic

  • Luzha— muddy puddle

  • Rasum—reason, intelligence

  • Zametit—to notice

  • Marmelad—sort of sweet jelly, no substance

  • Svidrigailov—name from medieval Russian history, Lithuanian prince

  • Word for crime

  • Flashbacks

  • to the idea to commit the murder. Overhearing a student and a soldier talking

  • Marmeledov’s history

  • To the murder itself when talking to others later

  • Divided into Parts

  • Part 1: the crime

  • Part 2: punishment and suffering

  • Foils

  • Raskolnikov and Rashumihin (cheerful, caring, relaxed, outgoing, self-supporting, extremely motivated, makes the best of situations, not crushed by setbacks well-liked by fellow students. Rodya is moody, selfish, not well-liked by fellow students, completely confounded by setbacks, has lapses into depression, crushed by poverty

  • Rodya sought greatness through crime; Raz is great because of kindness

  • Sonya and Rodya: humble/proud

Style of writing

  • Mirrors Rask’s confusion and inability to think clearly about important things: Simply describes random actions with no attempt to analyze because Rodya performs them without thinking

  • Recounts scene with Porfiry as he recalls it later to show how memorable and important it is in the course of events

  • Repeats certain phrases by different people: Sonya’s little finger is worth more than the people around her to draw parallels (first said by R and then by her mother)

  • A great deal of dialogue and inner monologue (the narrator makes no comment about those ideas, but “he does describe the physical environment, the looks on people’s faces, and the levels of tension between them” (Morris).

  • Uses different speech mannerisms and sentences of differing lengths for different characters. Those with artificial language like Luzhin, sounds like a pompous businessmen, “while Lebeziatnikov’s speech resembles that of a half-baked politician” (Morris). Both are unattractive people. Mrs. Marmeladov’s “disintegrating mind” is seen in her language.

  • Point of view

  • through Rodya's eyes most of the time but does become omniscient occasionally

  • most of the time the narrator keeps his opinions to himself

  • he commits a crime but author is sympathetic to him. Basically a good person only misdirected

  • Inner monologue shows conflict

  • Symbols

  • Sonya as Christ: Only begotten daughter, lived with Kapernaumovs (Capernium). Sacrificed herself for others, talks of crucifixion

  • Marmelodov: symbol of poverty and degradation of soul

  • Sonya is symbol of his compassionate side; Svidragailov is symbol of cold, intellectual side.

  • Blood has two symbolic meanings:

  • Blood is a symbol of guilt and violence. Blood cannot be wiped away. Note: no guilt when Marmeledov’s blood spatters on him.

  • Blood is a sign and means of initiation. According to Ryan Mclaughlin, it evokes the image of the Orthodox sacrament of the Holy Eucharist. Blood is often associated with or described as wine (spilt like champaigne (Dost. 423), as from an overturned glass (Dost. 63). Christian doctrine that crucifixion of Christ is a punishment for the transgressions of the world. (Crime and Punishment)

  • At the pawnbroker’s death, Rodya is initiated into the evil (as pawnbroker is evil) . Feels no regret for killing Lizaveta because he treats her as her sister has—cruelly, to its final degree).

  • As in the Holy Eucharist, Christ does not die, so the pawnbroker does not die (dream where he keeps hitting her with axe and she laughs at him but does not die. “Though her blood has been shed, she is alive in Raskolnikov’s psyche” McLaughlin).

  • He not only has murdered two women, but himself as well (spiritually)

  • Second initiation deals with Marmeladov’s death. Chance at resurrection as Christ arose. Rodya steps in to provide for and protect Marmeadov family.

  • Through Marm’s death, Rodya comes in contact w/ Sonia. Represents joy and suffering. She urges him to confess, reads to him Lazarus, and offers him hope for his own return from the dead.

  • Third initiation: death of Katerina: suffering. This blood sustains him. Wrongdoing deserves punishment.

  • Water is a purifying element. Svid is afraid of water. Symbolic of his inability to seek salvation

  • Determined to throw money in the water after the murder to wash away all traces

  • Like Lady Macbeth in her ability to cleanse her soul.

  • Water –clear water—oasis –symbolizes life in a desert. May be hoping to regain his own life which he lost through the murder.

  • Whip (flogging of horse Svid’s whip suggest cruelty)

  • Smell of paint (guilt)

  • Two redemptive figures:

  • Sonya: passive, through suffering she makes him realize the importance of love and humanity

  • Porfiry: intellectual man who has used intellect for good. Recognizes Rodya's theory is base but there is good in Rodya.

  • Rodya is represents skeptical youth in 19th century Russia whose materialism and revolutionary ideas Dost hated

  • Recovery and new clothes: symbolic of road to recovery

  • Square yard of space

  • Svidrigailov is symbol of what Rodya will become in future if he continues on the same path

  • Disease is the symbol of the psychological sickness; loss of reason

  • Dreams are a link with the unconscious and psychological. Reveal cruelty and horror of act.

  • Mare symbol of women being sacrificed for survival of men

  • Also symbolizes death of Alyona

  • 2nd dream of policeman between landlady shows his fear and cold-heartedness

  • 3rd of hitting pawn broker again with no affect. She laughs at him. Laughter symbolizes his humiliation at not being successful

  • Dream in prison—comment on hyper rationalism—endowed with reason and will

  • Svid’s dream

  • Conflict

  • desire to kill versus horror in idea

  • desire to confess versus self-preservation

  • conflict between estranged individual and hostile universe

  • conflict between isolated soul and ethical conscience

  • Irony

  • Intellectually rationalize murder but can't stand sight of suffering

  • Sonya’s innocence given her profession

  • Rash’s belief in coincidence and an unseen force compelling him to act belies the rationalization that he will have control through his will and reasoning

  • Rask prides himself in being rational, but falls apart and becomes confused and irrational. Raz’s name means reason or brings to reason.

  • R tells Svid he needs to see a doctor, when the shoe fits.

  • Saved by a prostitute

  • Zamitov didn't have a clue to Rodya's guilt but Rodya says, "What if it were I who committed the murder?'

  • Prides himself on reason, but gets a reduced sentence because of insanity

  • Tries to free himself from constricting poverty and isolation by murdering pawnbroker but this further restricts his freedom

  • Never uses the money to advance himself or any one else, thereby disproving his theory

  • Appears meticulous in the planning but commits serious blunders and oversights. Expects to hardly be effected as superior man is expected to stifle conscience. Yet, he suffers

  • Thinks he is confessing in secret, but Svid is listening

  • In trying to rid society of horrible person, he himself stoops to the level of thief and murder. Renders himself a monster

  • Thinks he is superior but is whipped by coach driver and given money like a beggar.

  • Hyperbole: Marfa's action exaggerated to show

  • Satire of philosophy of nihilism. Dost does not believe in it and satirizes it through characters such as Luzhin, Lebezyatnikov, and Svidrigailov.

  • Uses Lebezyatnikov: “Compassion is even forbidden by science, as it is already happening in England

  • Coldly states that a certain percentage of girls are predisposed to become prostitutes according to social science. Uses scientific term to dilute effect of their misery

  • Socialism assumes that once socialism is adopted, crime will magically disappear. Does not take into account nature or history. They are all talk and no practicality. Rejects the lessons of the past.

Social commentary:

  • Cruelty of Russian society

  • Marfa: People are given to both extremes of behavior. Can be exceedingly kind but can also be brutally cruel to those they see as dishonored.

  • People do not go to the funeral but will go eat

  • Svid talks about “people are drinking, educated youth are burning themselves up in idleness, in unrealizable dreams, crippling themselves with theories.

  • Detailed descriptions

  • depicts life of poverty, drab surroundings,


  • Through involvement in humanity, you can avoid pains of alienation and enjoy life

  • Crime causes emotional estrangement and social isolation

  • Too much thinking and not enough attention to instinct and emotion create inhumane people

  • Enslavement: to poverty, to mad desires

  • Psychology of a crime and the consequences

  • The worst criminals think only of personal gain or of revenge (Luzhin). They are doomed to isolation and failure (Morris).

  • Some criminals can be salvaged because they can reestablish themselves with their fellow man and with God.

  • “Alientation is the key to both the causes and the consequences of crime” (Morris).

  • Rejects the idea that crime can be justified, and character is ultimately responsible for his own behavior and for the consequences.

  • Stepping over the line: he steps over the line by committing a crime and can’t go back to the way things were before.

  • Importance of suffering for salvation

  • Dreams reveal deep psychological truths about human behavior and subconscious fears/desires (Morris).

  • “Both Svidrigailov and Raskolnikov have frightening dreams at the end of the novel. Both see themselves and their behavior as it really is. The dreams are so persuasive that each man makes a critical decision based on them” (Morris).

  • No place to turn

  • Marmelodov says that about Katerina and marrying him

  • Rodya thinks it when Dounia is to marry Luzhin and he has no money to stop it

  • Women saving men, sacrificing themselves

  • Human love is an expression of divine love with the power to save or damn (Morris).

  • Rodya’s love for sonia and respect her enough to accept her beliefs, he begins his journey to salvation.

  • Dounia: first her salary, then enslaving herself to the Svids, then marriage to Luzhin. They are braver than men because it takes more to ruin themselves than to ruin others p. 2903

  • Sonya


  • Confession

  • out of fear= shows he is not extraordinary man

  • out of isolation =extraordinary man should be able to stand alone

  • his desire to confess is not repentance but a desire to get weight of fear off his chest

  • No where to turn motif

  • Marmelodov

  • Crime originated out of solitude and causes it

  • no where to go to help Dounia. Does not want Dounia to sacrifice herself, but has no money, no job, no pull to stop her, no way to finish studies

  • Katerina evicted and no where to go. First husband died, ostracized from family, desperate with 3 children. No place to turn because she married beneath herself.

  • Polenka; no other choice

  • Poverty causes girls to go into prostitution; no other choice

  • Svidragailov tries everything for happiness. Dounia is his last chance. When she rejects him, he has no where to turn but death

  • Square yard

  • To great a reliance on intellect with sacrifice of human side leads to a type of imprisonment.

  • Crime has imprisoned him, isolated him in a sq yard of space.

  • Suffering: Great suffering leads to salvation. Expiates sins. Great men suffer. Does he suffer as result of failure of crime rather than regret over crime

  • Nikolay

  • Marmelodof

  • Sonya

  • Katerina: does not need a priest. She has suffered

  • Recommended by Sonya and Porfiry. Dounia says willingness to suffer alleviates severity of crime

  • Fresh air: goes hand in hand with Square yard. Tiny cupboard of room. Cramped soul. Mentioned by Zossimov, Svid, and Porfiry

  • Water is a recurring symbol, a purifying element

  • determined to throw money into water after murder to wash away all traces

  • Like Lady Macbeth it shows an inner desire to cleanse soul

  • water: clear cool water: oasis: Water symbolizes life in desert. May be hoping to regain his own life which he lost through murder.

Dual Personality

  • Root of name "Raskolot" means to split (echoes the schism in Russian Orthodox Church)

  • Crimes is atrocious, degrading etc. but still pans it in detail

  • Gives money; regrets it

  • Dream shows the duality of his fears]

  • Complete self-will and power (cold, inhumane, detached) versus extreme meekness and self-submission (charitable acts, reluctance to accept credit)

  • Intellectual versus emotional. Emotional responses are spontaneous; intellectual responses after struggle with himself.

  • Wants to confess; doesn't want to confess

  • Raz describes him as “Sometimes it is as if there really were 2 opposite characters in him, changing places with one another. Ch 2 p. 2

  • Svid also has dual personality

Isolation after committing crime:

  • Rejects Raz’s work and help

  • Rejects lady’s 20 kopeks- throws them into water

  • Deep self-loathing. Admits that his baseness made him lie to the landlady


  • “The black snake of wounded vanity had been gnawing at his heart all night” p. 311


  • Luzhin asks himself why he was such a Jew.

Similarities between Rask and Svid

  • Both need to see doctor; people thing they are mad

  • Inconsistencies in speech and action. Svid says he is going on a voyage or not go on a voyage

  • Both haunted by crimes. Criminals suffering the psych. Effect of crime


  • Radical or extreme radical attitude which denies all traditional values, and moral values as well.. People believed that the only way to achieve anything was to destroy completely all prevailing systems.

  • Comes from the Latin nihil meaning nothing. (*Appears in verb “annihilate to bring to nothing or destroy completely.

  • Belief that all values are baseless and that nothing can be known or communicated.

  • Associated with extreme pessimism and a radical skepticism that condemns existence. A true nihilist would believe in nothing, have no loyalties, and no purpose other than an impulse to destroy.

  • Corrosive effects would destroy all moral, religious, and metaphysical convictions

  • In Russia, it is identified with loosely organized revolutionary movement that rejected the authority of the state, church, and family. It advocated a social arrangement based on rationalism and materialism as the sole source of knowledge and individual freedom as highest goal.

  • Believed that ethics should be based on scientific claims

  • Man could create a perfect society (rational utopia) if he lived according to the principles of enlightened self interest

  • Distortion seen in

    • Rask justification of murder

    • Luszhen’s self-centered motives and Dounia’s benefactor. Manipulation

    • Leb’s vulgarization of the idea of progress (theories presented in absurd way which mocks what he tries to defend. View of emancipation of women provides comic relief. (respect wife more if she is cheating on him)

    • Svid’s sensuality which is responsible for several deaths

    • Characters act only in accordance when their selfish interests are met, not the good of society.

    • What nihilistic ideas does Dost parady in the discussions between Luzhen and Leb?

Extraordinary Man (Superman) Theories

  • Hegalian Superman

    • German philosopher. Exists for noble purposes in the view that if the ends are noble then the means can be justified.

    • Emphasis on the ends rather than the means

      • Pawnbroker is evil who is harming society. Any harmful segment should be removed. Murdering her would be removing a harmful thing from society

      • If the ends are noble then the means are justified. Pawnbroker has a lot of money which will be wasted on requiem services after her death. Money can help Rask complete his education so that he can devote himself to humanity.

      • One small crime can be wiped out by thousand s of good deeds. Rask can use the money to distribute to families and hundreds of people can be helped

  • Nietzschean Superman

    • Does not exist for the benefit of society

    • Exists for his own personal gratification

    • Aims not prompted by nobility;

    • Svidrigailov is representation.

    • Come to the conclusion that God is dead

    • Since there is no will beyond my own, then I must assert my own will.

    • Since there is no power beyond me to punish, I am free to do my own will

    • Nietzsche superman is the one who possesses the strongest will and is able to dominate

      • Can rape 13 year old girl

        • Can be instrumental in causing death of servant or wife

        • Can pursue Dounia without fear of punishment

        • Test of this superman is that he can stand completely alone. Isolated from society (Rask can’t stand the isolation

Raskolnikov Superman

  • All men are divided into two categories, ordinary and extraordinary

  • Ordinary man is inferior and can only reproduce his own kind

  • He has to live in submission and has no right to transgress the law

  • Extraordinary men have right to commit any crime and transgress law

  • They have gift or talent to utter a new word. To forge civilization onward to new heights.

  • Since these achievements are important to all mankind, he has the right to decide whether to overstep the law

  • They must not submit to common law are they cease to be great. They create new laws and should have right to eliminate a few men in order to make new discoveries.

  • Rask uses Napoleon as point of reference. He has the daring

    • Murder was committed to see if he dare commit it and prove himself to be a man and proving his will strong.

    • Man may commit a crime is it serves a noble purpose.

    • He contradict himself.

    • Dostoevsky wanted to show the young intellectual using the theories before he had a chance to analyze them

    • Rask maintains the murder was committed to benefit mankind, but then maintains that he is above mankind and cannot be concerned with what they think

Dost uses comic characters and buffoons as vehicles for compelling ideological issues

      • Marmelodov—alcoholic with ironic metaphysical side

      • Draws readers attention to quest about environment’s influence

      • Leb

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