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Crime and Punishment

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English Literature

Crime and Punishment (1866) is a story about murder and the mental anguish that comes with grappling with moral dilemmas. Crime and Punishment was written by the Russian author Fyodor Dostoevsky in 1866. It was originally published over twelve months as a monthly installment in the literary journal The Russian Messenger. The book was a massive success and today is considered one of the greatest writing achievements in world literature.

Crime and Punishment A drawing of Fyodor Dostoevsky StudySmarterFyodor Dostoevsky wrote Crime and Punishment in 1866, Pixabay.

A Summary of Crime and Punishment

In a worn-down apartment in St. Petersburg, Rodion Romanovich Raskolnikov, a sickly former student, is thinking about committing a crime. He is characterized as being quite poor, forced to dress in rags, good-looking, and very intelligent. Unsure of what his crime will be, Raskolnikov visits Alyona Ivanovna, an old pawnbroker, to get money for a watch.

Afterward, while drinking at the tavern, he meets Semyon Zakharovich Marmeladov. Marmeladov left his job and drank for five days straight, unable to face his family, who live in poverty. His wife Katerine Ivanovna is sickly and their daughter, Sonya (Sofya Semyonovna Marmeladov), was forced into prostitution. Raskolnikov and Marmeladov go to Marmeladov's apartment, where Raskolnikov sees the run-down conditions they live in.

Crime and Punishment St Petersburg StudySmarterSt. Petersburg, Russia is the setting of the book, Pixabay.

The following day, Raskolnikov reads a letter sent to him by his mother. In the letter, she tells him his sister Dunya (Avdotya Romanovna Raskolnikov) will be married to Luzhin, a government official. They are all planning to move to St. Petersburg. At another tavern, Raskolnikov listens to a student talking about how great it would be if Alyona Ivanovna were dead.

Later, Raskolnikov overhears that Alyona will be in her apartment alone. The next day, with little sleep, he goes to Alyona's apartment and kills her with an ax. Her sister Lizaveta walks in, so he kills her too. He runs away and collapses in his room.

Crime and Punishment A red axe stuck on a wood StudySmarterAn axe is the murder weapon Raskolnikov uses to commit his crime, Pixabay.

The next morning, Raskolnikov is summoned by the police. However, the summons is unrelated to the murder of Alyona and is rather about the money Raskolnikov owes to his landlady. The police begin speaking about the murder of Alyona and Lizaveta and Raskolnikov faints, arousing suspicion. As soon as Raskolnikov returns home, he disposes of any goods he stole from Alyona under a rock.

Raskolnikov falls into delirium and fever, resulting in nightmares and fitful sleep. Four days later, he wakes up to learn that Nastasya, his housekeeper, and Dmitri Prokofych Razumikhin, his friend, have been caring for him. He also learns that the doctor, Zossimov, and a detective, Zamyotov, have visited him.

Luzhin, his sister's fiancé, visits Raskolnikov and confronts him. Under a lot of pressure, Raskolnikov nearly confesses his crime to Zamyotov at a café but decides not to. Rather, he impulsively goes to Alyona's apartment. On his way home, he sees Marmeladov, who has been run over by a carriage. Raskolnikov carries him home. Marmeladov dies and Raskolnikov gives the family 20 rubles, which he had received from his mother.

Upon returning home, Raskolnikov faints after he sees his sister and mother waiting for him. He tells Dunya to break off her engagement to Luzhin and orders them both out. Razumikhin falls in love with Dunya. Raskolnikov apologizes to his sister and mother for his behavior and tells them he gave away the money his mother gave him.

It is not long before Raskolnikov gets angry once more and orders Dunya not to marry Luzhin. Dunya tells Raskolnikov to come and meet Luzhin with her and he agrees. Sonya then enters the room, embarrassed, but invites Raskolnikov to Marmeladov's funeral, which he accepts. Sonya is followed by a stranger on her way to her apartment. The stranger is Dunya's former employer, Arkady Ivanovich Svidrigailov, who is obsessed with Dunya.

Raskolnikov visits the magistrate, Porfiry Petrovich, who has taken over the murder investigation. Raskolnikov pretends he is there to recover the watch he pawned to Alonya. Zamyotov appears as well and they discuss the murders. Raskolnikov believes that Porfiry suspects him and is trying to trap him. When Raskolnikov returns home he learns a man was waiting for him, and Raskolnikov catches the man before he leaves. The man accuses him of murder and Raskolnikov goes to bed that night with nightmares.

When he wakes up, Svidrigailov is in his room. He demands that Dunya break off her engagement to Luzhin. He offers ten thousand rubles of his own money and three thousand rubles from the will of his dead wife, Marfa Petrovna. Raskolnikov rejects the offer, especially because he heard Svidrigailov say he saw Marfa's ghost. Raskolnikov is convinced Svidrigailov is insane.

Raskolnikov then meets Razumikhin, Dunya, his mother, and Luzhin at a restaurant. Raskolnikov confides in Razumikhin about his belief that the police suspect him. Luzhin is insulted that Raskolnikov is at the restaurant. They begin arguing after Raskolnikov tells them about Svidrigailov's offer.

Luzhin offends everyone in the room and Dunya breaks off the engagement. With everyone delighted, Razumikhin tells everyone about his plans to go into the publishing business, but Razkolnikov's mood changes and he tells everyone he wishes everyone to leave him. He leaves.

Razumikhin runs after him. Now face to face with Raskolnikov, he understands that Raskolnikov is guilty of the murders without either one of them saying a word. Raskolnikov returns to Sonya's apartment where he learns that Sonya was friends with Lizaveta. Raskolnikov forces Sonya to read him the story of Lazarus, a biblical story.

The story of Lazarus: Lazarus of Bethany had been dead and entombed for four days. Jesus resurrects the dead man through a miracle. Jesus declares that he is "the resurrection and the life" (John 11:1-45).

Svidrigailov listens in. The following day, Raskolnikov visits Porfiry Petrovich and as they speak about Raskolnikov's request for his pawned watch, Raskolnikov feels that Porfiry is trying to trap him. Raskolnikov breaks and accuses Porfiry of psychological manipulation.

Then Nikolai, a man suspected of the murders, bursts into the room and confesses. Raskolnikov leaves and heads to the memorial being held for Marmeladov. Raskolnikov runs into the mysterious man who called him a murderer on the way and realizes this man knows very little about the case.

The scene shifts suddenly and we are now in Luzhin's apartment where he is speaking to his roommate Lebezyatnikov about his hatred for Raskolnikov. He blames Raskolnikov for Dunya's decision to break off the engagement. Luzhin also refuses to go to Marmeladov's memorial and invites Sonya into his room. He gives her ten rubles.

The memorial goes poorly with only a few guests showing up, most of whom are drunk, except for Raskolnikov. Luzhin then enters the room and accuses Sonya of stealing one hundred rubles. Sonya denies this, but one hundred rubles are found in her picket. She is about to be marked a thief, but Lebezyatnikov tells everyone he saw Luzhin place the money there. Luzhin leaves and Marmeladov's widow gets into a fight with the landlady.

Raskolnikov goes to Sonya's room after the memorial and confesses to her he committed the murders. They speak for a long while and Sonya tries to convince him to confess to the police. They are cut short when Lebezyatnikov enters the room to let them know the widow is parading her children in the street, begging for money. She seems to have gone mad.

Sonya leaves immediately and Raskolnikov returns home to speak with Dunya. When Raskolnikov goes to the street he sees the widow dancing and singing and she collapses. She later dies in her room. Svidrigailov appears and offers to cover all the funeral expenses and care for the children. He tells Raskolnikov that he knows Raskolnikov is guilty of the murders.

Raskolnikov goes into a blurry haze and wanders around. He is confronted by Razumikhin in his room. He tells Raskolnikov that he is hurting his mother and Dunya. He leaves as Porfiry arrives to apologize for how he treated Raskolnikov.

However, Porfiry doesn't believe Nikolai's confession and accuses Raskolnikov. With a lack of evidence, Porfiry cannot arrest him. He urges Raskolnikov to confess. He doesn't. Rather, Raskolnikov goes to find Svidrigailov, who is engaged to a 16-year-old.

When Raskolnikov leaves, Svidrigailov invites Dunya into his room. He threatens to take advantage of her if she does not marry him. She then pulls out a revolver and fires at him, missing. When she leaves, he takes the revolver and wanders the streets of St. Petersburg. The next morning he kills himself, but before he does so he gives three thousand rubles to Dunya and fifteen thousand rubles to her family.

The story shifts back to Raskolnikov, who is telling his mother he loves her and tells Dunya he will confess. He then goes to Sonya, who gives him a cross to wear. On the way to the police station, he stops in the market and kisses the ground. When he reaches the police station and learns of Svidrigailov's suicide he nearly changes his mind. The image of Sonya encourages him, however, and he confesses.

Crime and Punishment A snowy road on a sunset StudySmarterRaskolnikov is imprisoned in Siberia after his confession, Pixabay.

The story jumps to a year and a half later. Raskolnikov is in prison in Siberia. Rather than be sentenced to death, Raskolnikov is sentenced to eight years of hard labor due to his confused mental state surrounding the murders. Sonya has moved to a town near the prison and visits him regularly. His mother died of delirium following his arrest and his sister, Dunya, has married Razumikhin. Raskolnikov sheds his pride and realizes he loves Sonya. He even feels remorse for his crime.

Key Characters in Crime and Punishment

Dostoevsky masterfully wrote each character in Crime and Punishment to have a full backstory, philosophical ideology, and unique personality. Each character plays an important role in the narrative, even if it is minor.

CharacterDescriptionQuote
Rodion Romanovich RaskolnikovThe protagonist of the novel, murders a pawnbroker and her sister. Raskolnikov is ill which is caused by his confused feelings surrounding the murders. He is poor and alienates himself from society. "Only to live, to live and live! Life, whatever it may be! ... How true it is! Good God, how true! Man is a vile creature! ... And vile is he who calls him vile for that” (Part 2, Chapter 6).
DunyaRaskolnikov's sister, who is engaged to Luzhin. Similar to her brother in that she is intelligent and proud, she differs from him. She is moral and has feelings of compassion which he lacks. "Why do you demand of me a heroism that perhaps you have not either? It is despotism; it is tyranny. If I ruin anyone, it is only myself.... I am not committing a murder. Why do you look at me like that? Why are you so pale? Rodya, darling, what’s the matter?" (Part 3, Chapter 3).
SonyaThe daughter of Marmeladov, forced into prostitution to support her family. She is very religious and Raskolnikov falls in love with her. “What should I be without God?” she whispered rapidly, forcibly, glancing at him with suddenly flashing eyes, and squeezing his hand" (Part 4, Chapter 4).
Dmitri Prokofych RazumikhinRaskolnikov's friend and literary foil. Rather than steal due to his poverty, he works hard. He is kind and helpful contrasting Raskolnikov's alienation from society. "Through error, you come to the truth! I am a man because I err! You never reach any truth without making fourteen mistakes and very likely a hundred and fourteen...To go wrong in one’s own way is better than to go right in someone else’s" (Part 3, Chapter 1).
Arkady Ivanovich SvidrigailovDunya's former employer, who is obsessed with her. He wants Dunya to love him and when he realizes he can't, he kills himself. "I agree, that it is a disease like everything that exceeds moderation. And, of course, in this one must exceed moderation. But in the first place, everybody does so in one way or another, and in the second place, of course, one ought to be moderate and prudent..." (Part 6, Chapter 3).
LuzhinDunya's fiancé, she is self-absorbed and shallow. He only wishes to marry Dunya for her beauty and likes that she is poor. "...he (Luzhin) had made up his mind to marry a girl of good reputation, without dowry and, above all, one who had experienced poverty, because, as he explained, a man ought not to be indebted to his wife, but that it is better for a wife to look upon her husband as her benefactor" (Part 1, Chapter 3).
Semyon Zakharovich MarmeladovAn alcoholic Raskolnikov meets in the tavern. His drinking has ruined his family. Eventually, it leads to his death. "Do you suppose I don’t feel it? And the more I drink the more I feel it. That’s why I drink too. I try to find sympathy and feeling in drink.... I drink so that I may suffer twice as much!" (Part 1, Chapter 1).

Analysis of Crime and Punishment

Crime and Punishment is a novel that falls under the genre of Psychological Fiction.

Psychological Fiction – A narrative that explores the emotional, spiritual, and mental aspects of a human's life. Often the interior experiences and motivations of a character – and how these experiences play out in the character's life – are explored in the genre.

Throughout Crime and Punishment, the reader can see an emphasis placed on the psychology of the characters and how they interact with other characters or events. In the novel, the thoughts, emotions, and motivations of the murderer Raskolnikov are explored in depth.

There are long passages in which the reader gets to see his thought processes. An example can be found in Part 1 in planning his crime, committing the murder, and the aftermath of the murder.

He was in full possession of his faculties, free from confusion or giddiness, but his hands were still trembling. He remembered afterwards that he had been particularly collected and careful, trying all the time not to get smeared with blood...." (Part 1, Chapter 7)

There is also an element of thrill which heightens the suspense and grabs the reader's attention. Suspenseful and thrilling scenes can be found repeatedly throughout the book. One example is the interactions between the detective Porfiry and Raskolnikov.

Porfiry suspects Raskolnikov and often plays psychological mind games to try and make him confess. The reader is never sure if he will be successful, therefore the reader is unsure what to anticipate.

Dostoevsky believed his book fell into the Fantastic Realism genre of literature, which means that aspects of reality are exaggerated or stretched making them nearly unbelievable. The book is based in St. Petersburg, and the places in which Raskolnikov goes are real.

The philosophies and societal ideas are also realistic as they are based on what was being discussed in Russia at the time. However, in scenes where visions, dreams, and even the mentions of ghosts appear, we see that reality is stretched.

In a morbid condition of the brain, dreams often have a singular actuality, vividness, and extraordinary semblance of reality. At times monstrous images are created, but the setting and the whole picture are so truth-like and filled with details so delicate, so unexpectedly, but so artistically consistent, that the dreamer, were he an artist like Pushkin or Turgenev even, could never have invented them in the waking state. Such sick dreams always remain long in the memory and make a powerful impression on the overwrought and deranged nervous system. (Part 1, Chapter 5)

Dostoevsky wrote Crime and Punishment as a psychological thriller because he wanted to illuminate the dark side of people's souls, which was not often done. Dostoevsky wrote in a way that was exciting and captivating to relay his viewpoint on humanity.

Writing Style of Crime and Punishment

Crime and Punishment is written from the third-person omniscient point of view.

Third-person omniscient point of view – when the narrator of the story knows all the thoughts, actions, feelings, and events that occur throughout the book.

The book primarily focuses on Raskolnikov and his internal world and actions. We do, however, get a glimpse into the internal world and actions of other characters such as Luzhin, Sidrigailov, and Razumikhin.

The book also contains a lot of internal monologues, which creates confusion and chaos, especially when the reader is unable to tell whether the protagonist, Raskolnikov, is talking to himself only or to other characters. There is also a focus on dialogue between characters, or between a character and the thought of another character.

In Part 1, Chapter 3, Raskolnikov is reading a letter written to him by his mother. While he is reading the letter, he is responding to her, creating a dialogue with a character who is not there.

Through the chaos, the reader begins to feel excited because they are unsure what direction the story will go in. It also heightens and mirrors Raskolnikov's heightened emotional world and confusion surrounding his feelings toward the murders. This relates to the thriller aspect of the book, creating suspense.

Another key element in Dostoevsky's writing style in Crime and Punishment is his deep and artful characterization. Every character has a back story, a personality, an ideological belief, and most importantly a function in the story.

This technique allows for each character to be well-rounded and it creates a universality to them, which means the reader can relate to at least one character in the novel. This creates characters that are memorable, life-like, and unique.

Dostoevsky also uses literary techniques such as repetition, foreshadowing, and coincidence. Each of these literary techniques is used to create suspense.

Repetition in Crime and Punishment

There are multiple times repetition is found throughout Crime and Punishment.

Repetition – the use of the same word, phrase, or scene in a literary text to make it more memorable, clear, and/or emphatic.

When a scene is repeated, we are directed to pay attention to certain details of the story and to remember them as they will be important later in the story.

An example can be found in the story of Madame Resslich's niece committing suicide. Madame Resslich had a mysterious relationship with Svidrigailov. One day, Resslich's niece was found hanging in the garret. It was considered suicide but the detective believed Svidrigailov's cruelty led her to suicide. This story can be found in Part 4, Chapter 2, and in Part 6, Chapter 4.

Repetition can also be found in symbols such as the image of the cross appearing over and over again.

Foreshadowing in Crime and Punishment

Dostoevsky, like many 19th-century authors, was a frequent user of foreshadowing.

Foreshadowing—a hint that is given to readers in advance before the actual event takes place.

Foreshadowing creates anticipation in the reader. An example can be found when Svidrigailov tells Raskolnikov he would have to shoot himself if he didn't have his vice of seeking women (Part 6, Chapter 3). Svidrigailov does shoot himself in Part 6, Chapter 6 after he is rejected by Dunya, who he is obsessed with.

Coincidence in Crime and Punishment

Coincidence is a plot technique that became popular in the 19th century. It moved the plot along quickly, increasing the reader's engagement.

Coincidence— When two unlikely things happen at the same time in a written text.

There are many examples of coincidence in Crime and Punishment.

Raskolnikov overhears a student talk about how great it would be if Alonya died, which conveniently gives Raskolnikov an idea for the crime he was searching for.

Dostoevsky's writing is considered to be intentionally bulky, hard to read, and full of different perspectives. This is to mirror the multiple points of view on philosophy, ideology, and politics that were occurring in Russia in the mid to late 19th century. It was an incredibly confusing time, which Dostoevsky wished to portray in Crime and Punishment.

Russia in the mid to late nineteenth century, saw a rapid change. Western ideas and culture were spread throughout Russia and were forced onto a mostly agrarian, orthodox society. This created huge social divides. A new educated upper class was formed called the Intelligentsia who looked to Western philosophies and ideologies and discussed them. German idealists such as Kant, Hegel, and Marx, French socialist utopians, John Stuart Mill, Jeremy Bentham, and William Godwin's Utilitarianism were all particularly popular. Raskolnikov's idea about extraordinary men committing crimes comes from a rough reading of Hegel.

Themes of Crime and Punishment

A theme is an overall topic or idea that is present throughout the entirety of a piece of literature. There are four main themes in Crime and Punishment: alienation from society, criminality and morality, nihilism, and the Superman complex.

Crime and Punishment: Alienation from society

At the beginning of the book, Raskolnikov is prideful and believes he is a superior human being. He separates himself from society and rather than see people as people, he sees them as opportunities for personal advancement.

When Raskolnikov commits murder, his guilt and confusion causes him to further isolate because he is unable to repress these feelings. Even when characters such as Dunya, his mother, or Sonya, try to help him he pushes them away.

His intense isolation is intolerable and in the end, he confesses his crime. While in prison, he sheds his pride and finally accepts that he loves Sonya, showing a stage of growth for Raskolnikov. Other characters isolate themselves as well – often at their lowest moments – such as when Marmeladov goes on a drinking binge rather than tell his family he left his job. Alienation represents one of the worst traits of an individual.

Crime and Punishment: Criminality and morality

Raskolnikov commits a terrible crime in Crime and Punishment. However, in a way to suppress his guilt, he tries to rationalize his crime by claiming that great, moral people have committed crimes.

Crime and Punishment Statue of justice StudySmarterMorality and criminality is a major theme in Crime and Punishment, Pixabay.

Then, I remember, I maintain in my article that all... well, legislators and leaders of men, such as Lycurgus, Solon, Mahomet, Napoleon, and so on, were all without exception criminals, from the very fact that, making a new law, they transgressed the ancient one, handed down from their ancestors and held sacred by the people, and they did not stop short at bloodshed either... In short, I maintain that all great men or even men a little out of the common, that is to say, capable of giving some new word, must from their very nature be criminals—more or less, of course. (Part 3, Chapter 5).

This is an example of how Raskolnikov tries to justify his crime. He compares himself to leaders of countries such as Napoleon who engaged in bloody wars to create a new form of government.

Furthermore, Raskolnikov justifies the murder of Alonya by saying she was an immoral person herself; therefore Raskolnikov's crime was not as great. He also sees people he believes to be moral engaging in "immoral" behavior – for example, Sonya, who is deeply religious, kind, and loyal, has to become a prostitute, which is seen as immoral. Raskolnikov's odd reasoning and justifications for his crime only further his madness. By the end of the book, he acknowledges his guilt and his crime and must face the punishment for it.

Crime and Punishment: Nihilism and Utilitarianism

Raskolnikov's thoughts and actions reflect two philosophical beliefs that were common in Russia in the mid to late 19th century: nihilism and utilitarianism.

Nihilism – A philosophical belief that emerged in Russia in the 1850s that saw life as meaningless. Nihilists reject all ties to family, society, religion, and morality.

Utilitarianism – The idea that rather than make moral decisions based on individual happiness, one must make moral decisions based on what will provide the greatest happiness to the largest amount of people.

Raskolnikov exhibits nihilism through his lack of disregard for other people, their needs, and their feelings. He sees no importance in the concept of family, and tries to tie himself off from a society that he views as inferior. He also exhibits utilitarianism in his justification for the murder of Alonya. He states that by removing her from the world he is achieving a greater good for the people.

One death, and a hundred lives in exchange—it’s simple arithmetic! Besides, what value has the life of that sickly, stupid, ill-natured old woman in the balance of existence! No more than the life of a louse, of a black-beetle, less in fact because the old woman is doing harm. She is wearing out the lives of others; the other day she bit Lizaveta’s finger out of spite; it almost had to be amputated. (Part 1, Chapter 6).

This excerpt is a prime example of the utilitarianism found throughout the book.

Crime and Punishment: Superman Complex

Raskolnikov characterizes himself as a superman. He believes he has extraordinary qualities that make him superior to the moral rules everyone else must follow. This self-identification allows Raskolnikov to believe it is ok to murder someone he views as immoral.

However, Raskolnikov develops a feeling he did not anticipate feeling after the murders: guilt. His inability to repress his guilt and the ultimate madness that results from it are the first signs his superman identification is falling apart.

By continually resisting the idea that he is not a superman, Raskolnikov further pushes himself into a delirium. He only sheds his superman identification while imprisoned in Siberia, when he finally realizes his love for Sonya. It also occurs when he lets himself feel guilt and remorse for his crimes.

Symbols in Crime and Punishment

Many symbols appear throughout the book Crime and Punishment. The most notable symbols are the cross, a horse dream, and the city of St. Petersburg.

The cross in Crime and Punishment

Crime and Punishment A cross StudySmarterThe cross is an important symbol in Crime and Punishment, Pixabay.

Raskolnikov is handed the cross by Sonya right before he goes to confess his crimes at the police station. The cross symbolizes his redemption. In Christianity, the cross is symbolic of Jesus Christ's sacrifice on behalf of the sins of humanity. It is a reminder that redemption is possible. Sonya, who is deeply religious, believes Raskolnikov can be redeemed, so she hands him the cross.

Raskolnikov does not immediately understand, and still represses the notion that the murders were sinful. The cross, therefore, does not represent immediate redemption, but the road to redemption. After his confession and while imprisoned, Raskolnikov slowly begins to acknowledge his sins and feel remorse for them.

The horse dream in Crime and Punishment

During one of Raskolnikov's nightmares, he dreams of a mare murdered by a man named Mikolka. It is a violent and bloody scene. In his dream, there is also a boy who runs up to the horse feeling great sadness about its death.

But the poor boy, beside himself, made his way, screaming, through the crowd to the sorrel nag, put his arms round her bleeding dead head and kissed it, kissed the eyes and kissed the lips.... (Part 1, Chapter 5).

The horse can be seen to represent different things. Some interpretations believe the death of the mare by a man is symbolic of the sacrifices women have to make on behalf of men. For example, due to Marmeladov's alcoholism, the family is thrown into poverty, which forces Sonya to sacrifice her virtues and become a prostitute.

Another interpretation is that the mare represents Alonya, and Raskolnikov is both Milkoka and the poor boy. It reveals his confused mental state. On one hand, he plans to murder Alonya because he doesn't see it as a crime much like Milkolka in the dream, but on the other hand, a small part of him feels remorse for the crime before it has even happened. It is symbolic of Raskolnikov's journey of finding the humanity within himself.

The city of St. Petersburg in Crime and Punishment

The story is based in the city of St. Petersburg and in Crime and Punishment, it is described as dirty and crowded. People live in tiny apartments, there are drunks passed out in the street, women are seen beating their children, and there are people forced to beg for money due to the high levels of poverty there.

It is chaotic and there are a lot of equality issues. St. Petersburg is symbolic of Raskolnikov's mental state. Both are chaotic and show signs of disorder, whether it be social disorder or mental disorder. It is not surprising then that Raskolnikov finds internal peace when in the Siberian wilderness, where the chaos of the city does not exist.

Meaning of Crime and Punishment

The meaning behind Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment has less to do with the murders committed by Raskolnikov, and more to do with Raskolnikov's psychology that motivated the murders. Raskolnikov isolates himself from society, believing he is above the moral laws of humanity.

He commits murders out of self-pride and self-worship. To redeem himself, he must shed the pride and accept the feelings of guilt and remorse that follow an act of sin. Therefore not only does sinning have consequences externally, but also internally.

Crime and Punishment - Key takeaways

  • Crime and Punishment is a book written by Fyodor Dostoevsky in 1886. It was originally published as twelve monthly installments in The Russian Messenger.
  • The book follows the story of Raskolnikov. It begins with Raskolnikov murdering a pawnbroker and her sister, and follows the confusion, chaos, and delirium that follows Raskolnikov as he grapples with guilt and issues of morality.
  • Crime and Punishment falls under the Psychological Fiction genre of literature. It is written in the third person omniscient point of view and contains fully developed characters, monologues, dialogues, and literary techniques that build up suspense and anticipation in the reader.
  • The book contains four central themes: alienation from society, criminality and morality, nihilism and utilitarianism, and the Superman complex.
  • The three key symbols in Crime and Punishment are the cross, the horse dream, and the city of St. Petersburg.

Crime and Punishment

The book follows the story of Raskolnikov. It begins with Raskolnikov murdering a pawnbroker and her sister and follows the confusion, chaos, and delirium that follows Raskolnikov as he grapples with guilt and issues of morality. 

Fyodor Dosteovsky

Sins such as self-pride and self-worship that are internal sins can only be redeemed by shedding one's pride and accepting self-renunciation. 

Crime and Punishment is considered one of the greatest literary achievements in the world. 

1866

Final Crime and Punishment Quiz

Question

Who wrote Crime and Punishment (1866)?

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Answer

Fyodor Dostoevsky

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Question

Who is Raskolnikov?

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Answer

The protagonist of the novel who murders a pawnbroker and her sister. Raskolnikov is ill which is caused by his confused feeling surrounding the murders. He is poor and alienates himself from society. 

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What justification does Raskolnikov give for committing murder?

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Answer

Extraordinary and great men have committed sins and are still moral. He cites men like Solon and Napoleon.

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Who is Sonia?

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Answer

A pious woman driven into prostitution. She is Raskolnikov's beloved.

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Who does Dunia marry?

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Razumikihn

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Where does Raskolnikov go after his confession?

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Siberia

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What literary genre does Crime and Punishment fall under?

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Psychological fiction/thriller

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What does Sonya give to Raskolnikov before he confesses?

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The cross

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Why does Svidrigailov shoot himself?

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Answer

Dunya, who he is obsessed with, refused to marry him and tried to shoot him with a revolver.

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What is Zossimov's profession?

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Doctor

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What is a major theme in Crime and Punishment?

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Answer

alienation from society, criminality and morality, Nihilism, and the Superman Complex 

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How does Raskolnikov exhibit Nihilism?

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Through his lack of disregard for other people, their needs, or their feelings. He sees no importance in the concept of family and tries to tie himself off from a society that he views as inferior.  

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What opinion of Raskolnikov's is an example of Utilitarianism?

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That removing Alonya from the world does a greater good for all of humanity. 

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Who does Dunya end up marrying?

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Razumikhin

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What is the point of view in Crime and Punishment?

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Third-person Omniscient

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