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Crime & Punishment By Fyodor Dostoevsky

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Crime & Punishment

By Fyodor Dostoevsky

Plot Summary

Though the novel is written in third person, it contains a vast amount of commentary and access to Raskolnikov’s thoughts and inner workings.

Rodion Raskolnikov is a young man with no money who theorizes that there are men that are so superior that they may ignore the laws and do as they wish, since their sense of knowledge and justice is so much greater than that of everyone else. Raskolnikov believes that he is one of these Extraordinary Men and, eventually, comes to believe that Svidrigailov is one as well. By the end of the novel, however, Raskolnikov does not necessarily believe that he is one of these men.

After plotting the murder of Alyona Ivanovna, Raskolnikov questions himself and his motive, but eventually follows through with his plan. After murdering the old woman, her half- sister, Lizaveta, walks in and he murders her as well. Raskolnikov takes some money from the home and eventually hides it. He returns home, where he becomes ill. He is taken care of by his friend Razumihin, a doctor, and a maid named Nastasya. After recovering, many seem to take notice of the interest that Raskolnikov has in the news of the murders. Raskolnikov eventually decides to confess the murders, but is stopped when he witnesses a man being hit and murdered by a carriage. The man happens to be Marmeladov, father of Sonia, whom Raskolnikov knew from a conversation in a tavern. Upon Marmeladov’s death, Raskolnikov meets Sonia, a sad and downtrodden prostitute. He gives his money to Katrina Marmeladov (Sonia’s mother). After returning home, Raskolnikov is greeted by his sister and mother. Razumihim, the friend, escorts Raskolnikov’s sister and mother to their lodgings and becomes infatuated with Donia.

There is a heated conversation between Raskolnikov, Donia, and the mother about Donia’s engagement to Pyotr. Raskolnikov eventually turns full circle in his opinion telling her to marry whom she likes. Sonia comes into the room and requests that Raskolnikov attend her father’s funeral.

Everyone leaves and Raskolnikov and Razumihin go to have an interview with Porfiry. Raskolnikov and Porfiry discuss Raskolnikov’s theory; Raskolnikov also believes that Porfiry and the police already know about his guilt. Raskolnikov states that an Extraordinary Man would always suffer due to his higher intellect and understanding.

Raskolnikov reconsiders the murder and questions his own motives, as well as using the old woman as the target. While walking home, someone whispers “murderer” at him. He, again, thinks of confession. Upon waking from sleep, Raskolnikov finds Svidrigailov in his room. He asks for help in obtaining time with Sonia. Svidrigailov states that he and Raskolnikov have much in common.

There is a meeting of the Raskolnikov family, Luzhin, and Razumihin. In it, Luzhin’s lies and exaggerations come to light and, after throwing a tantrum, Dunia orders him to leave. Raskolnikov goes directly to Sonia’s home. Raskolnikov asks Sonia many personal questions, but she answers all of them and remains calm, even when Raskolnikov tells her how horrible things will be in the future. He then realizes Sonia’s great suffering and literally bows down and kisses her foot. Raskolnikov asks her to read him the story of Lazarus. Neither Sonia or Raskolnikov know that Svidrigailov is listening in the room next to theirs.

There is another interview with Porfiry. In it, Raskolnikov admits that he knows the ‘cat and mouse’ game that Porfiry is playing with him. During this interview, one of the painters comes in and confesses to the murder of the pawnbroker and her sister, to the shock of both Porfiry and Raskolnikov. After returning home, Raskolnikov resolves to try harder in and for his life.

At the funeral for Marmeladov, Luzhin comes in and accuses Sonia of stealing from him (this is after a brief encounter between the two where he gives her 10 rubles). However, Luzhin’s roommate confesses that he saw Luzhin slip the bill into Sonia’s pocket. Eventually, Sonia hurries home due the vast amount of stress. Raskolnikov follow her and in their conversation, he confesses that he is the killer. He begs her not to abandon him and she vows not to desert him. Though, on mentioning prison, his haughty attitude returns.

Sonia’s mother goes crazy and dies. Svidrigailov give the money that Donia refused to Sonia’s family and reveals that he overheard Raskolnikov and Sonia’s confession. Raskolnikov requests that Razumihin look after his mother and sister. Porfiry comes to Raskolnikov’s apartment and states that knows that Raskolnikov is the murderer. Porfiry decides to leave Raskolnikov free until he chooses to confess. During a conversation with Svidrigailov, Raskolnikov’s hypocrisy in judging Svidrigailov’s listening at doors, but not judging his own murder, is pointed out.

Dunia is tricked into Svidrigailov’s room and, still, refuses his attempts to seduce her. The door is locked and Dunia aims and shoots a gun at him. He gives her time to reload and is more than willing to let her kill him. Svidrigailov lets her go and leaves to give money to Sonia. Upon returning home, he kills himself.

Raskolnikov visits his mother and tells her that he has to leave for a long time. Raskolnikov meets Dunia in his room and, while she is proud of him for being willing to confess, he states that it was only his clumsiness and baseness that was at fault. He visits Sonia and then goes and confesses.

The epilogue takes place in Siberia. It explains the happenings of the trial. While in prison, Raskolnikov becomes sick and longs for Sonia. He realizes how much Sonia means to him and also discovers that happiness lies ahead of him.


  • Rodion Raskolnikov- a poor, young man who develops a theory of Uber Mensche or Extraordinary Men; murders the pawnbroker and her half- sister and is the main character of the novel

  • Alyona Ivanovna- pawnbroker that Raskolnikov murders to support and prove his theory of being an Uber Mensche (or extraordinary man); she is a very skeptical old woman

  • Semyon Marmeladov- father of Sonia and the man that Raskolnikov witnesses being hit by a carriage; lost his government position because of alcoholism (story told in chap. 2); he is an example of hopelessness within the novel

  • Svidrigailov- vulgarian and sensualist who is first despised by Raskolnikov because he made advances towards Dunia; believes that he and Raskolnikov are much alike; eventually shoots himself

  • Dunia Raskolnikov- Raskolnikov’s sister who is engaged to Luzhin; previously employed by Svidrigailov, but refused his advances;

  • Pyotr Luzhin- Dunia’s fiancé; a rude and stingy person who does not pamper or

  • Razumihin- a friend of Raskolnikov’s; is asked to take care of Dunia and her mother by Raskolnikov

  • Sonia (Sofya) Marmeladov- a suffering prostitute that becomes the salvation figure for Raskolnikov; she urges him to confess throughout the novel

  • Lizaveta- an honest, but submissive and timid woman- as well as the half- sister of the pawnbroker; she is murdered by Raskolnikov because she walked in on Raskolnikov’s murder of her half- sister

  • Porfiry Petrovitch- police official who is investigation the murder of Alyona and Lizaveta Ivanovna; he discusses Raskolnikov’s Extraordinary Man theory with him, among other things


( my book is different than the one in the bookstore, so I put the chapters down, as well as the pagination for my book)

Resurrection/ New Beginnings

(Part 4 Chap 4; Epilogue 504-5)

Raskolnikov’s resurrection is really one of the themes that develop over the course of the entire novel. It is only after his introduction to Sonia that he really moves towards this resurrection. The story of Lazarus that Sonia reads to Raskolnikov represents the journey that Raskolnikov must go on. As well as the ‘cross’ that he chooses to bear in the end of the novel (represented literally by the actions he takes before confessing).

( Part 1 Chap 5- 52-57; Part 2 Chap 2- 110-111; Part 3 Chap 6- 257-259; Part 6 Chap 6)

The dreams within the novel represent the inner workings and subconscious of the characters. Raskolnikov and Svidrigailov are the only two characters that have dreams written in the novel. Raskolnikov’s dreams generally indicate his guilt and have to do with the murder. Svidrigailov’s remains in the same line by indicating the guilt he feels at his lifestyle.
Uber Mensche/ Extraordinary Man Theory:

(Part 3 Chap 5 241-247)

This is Raskolnikov’s theory that there are extraordinary men in the world that have the logic and sensibility to be able to set aside the world’s laws and do as they like. Indeed, to be great, he believes that they must go against the laws. Raskolnikov believes that he is one of these extraordinary men and, thus, uses the murder of the old woman to prove this to himself.

(Part 2 Chap 7 173-174; Part 5 Chap 4 388- 389; Part 6 Chap 8 482)

Sonia is the character who most embodies the idea of suffering within the novel. All of Raskolnikov’s encounters with her show her sympathy and suffering. In the end, it is her suffering that leads him to ‘bear his cross’ and confess; and her sympathy as well that leads him out of suffering and allows him to hope for the future. Raskolnikov believes that the Exraordinary Men are condemned to suffer forever, as well, since they have a greater understanding of their actions, as well as those around them. Minor sufferings and longings, such as Svidrigailov for Dunia, are also present within the novel.

‘Good God!’ he cried, ‘can it be, can it be, that I shall really take an axe, that I shall strike her on the head, split her skill open… Good god, can it be? (1- 5, 57) (Ras.)

…he felt suddenly in his whole being that he had no more freedom of thought, no will, and that everything was suddenly and irrevocably decided. (1- 5, p 60) (Ras.)
He felt it almost amusing, and yet it wrung his heart. Deep down, hidden far away out of sight all that seemed to him now- all his old past, his old thoughts, his old problems and theories, his old impressions and that picture and himself and all, all…He felt as thought he were flying upwards, and everything were vanishing from his sight… It seemed to him, he had cut himself off from everyone and everything at that moment. (2-2, 109)(Ras.)
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 who calls him vile for that. (2-6, p 149) (Ras.)
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. Other wise it’s hard for them to get out of the common rut… (3-5, 242) (Ras.)
Pain and suffering are always inevitable for a large intelligence and a deep heart. The really great men must, I think, have great sadness on earth… ( 3-5, 247) (Ras.)
The question is, am I a monster, or an I myself a victim? ( 4-1, 262) (Svi.)
‘Didn’t I say that there was something in common between us, eh?’ (4- 1, 267)(Svi.)
‘We always imagine eternity as something beyond our conception, something vast, vast! But why must it be vast? Instead of all that, what if it’s one little room, like a bath house in the country, black and grimy and spiders in every corner, and that’s all eternity is? I sometimes fancy it like that.’ (4-1, 267) (Svi.)
‘God would not allow anything so awful!’ (4- 4, 299) (Sonia)
‘I did not bow down to you, I bowed down to all the suffering of humanity… I said just now to an insolent man that he was not worth your little finger… and that I did my sister honour making her sit beside you.’ (4- 4, 299- 300) (Ras)
‘I have only you now,’ he added. ‘Let us go together… I’ve come to you, we are both accursed, let us go our way together!’ (4- 4, 306) (Ras.)
‘There is no one- no one in the whole world now so unhappy as you!’ (5-4, 381) (Sonia)
‘Nothing in the world is harder than speaking the truth and nothing easier than flattery.’ (6- 4, 440) (Svi)
…you made a little mistake in your theory. But if you are convinced that one mustn’t listen at doors, but one may murder old women at one’s pleasure, you’d better be off to America and make haste.’ ( 6- 5, 448)
‘Yest,’ said Raskolnikov, smiling. ‘I have come for your cross, Sonia. It was you told me to go to the cross- roads’ (6- 8, 482) (Ras.)
‘It was I killed the old pawnbroker woman and her sister Lizaveta with an axe and robbed them.’ (6- 8, 490) (Ras.)
‘They [Ras. & Sonia] wanted to speak, but could not; tears stood in their eyes. tHey were both pale and thing; but those sick pale faces were bright with the dawn of a new future, of a full resurrection into a new life. They were renewed by love; the heart of each held infinite sources of life for the heart of the other.’ (epilogue, 504)
‘But that is the beginning of a new story- the story of the gradual renewal of a man, the story of his gradual regeneration, of his passing from one world into another, of his initiation into a new unknown life. That might be the subject of a new story, but our present story is ended.’ (epilogue, 505)

Crime and Punishment

Feodor Dostoevsky

1. Major Characters

Romanovitch Raskolnikov - An impoverished law student. He writes a brilliant thesis on the role of "the extraordinary man," who, he believes, stands above the law.

Razumikhin - Raskolnikov's fellow student and only friend from university, he takes care of Raskolnikov during the sickness. He falls in love with Dunya and vows to take care of her and Raskolnikov’s mother.
Porifry Petrovitch - A police official in charge of investigating the double murder. He suspects Raskolnikov and guesses that he murdered the two women.
Sofya Semyonovna Marmeladov - Usually called "Sonia," she is the daughter of the alcoholic clerk, Marmeladov. She becomes the saving force for Raskolnikov.
Svidrigailov – He is the former employer of Raskolnikov’s sister. He thinks that he can force Dunya to love him. He commits suicide after discovering Dunya’s hatred for him.
2. Plot

Crime and Punishment centers around the life of Raskolnikov, a law student at the university in St. Petersburg. He writes a brilliant if somewhat shocking paper on a theory that he has developed: that the world consists of two types of people; the ordinary and the extraordinary. In his thesis, he asserts that the extraordinary human has the right to commit any crime, as long as this is done to further an important goal. As he considers himself one of these superior people, he decides to test his theory by putting it into practice. He meticulously plans the murder of a greedy old moneylender, Alena Ivanovna, as he feels she is a parasite who preys upon the poor and deserves to die; he also kills Alena’s sister, Lizaveta, when she enters the murder scene. Shortly afterward, he witnesses the death of Marmeladov, a former government clerk, who is knocked down by a carriage when he is wandering, drunk, in the street. Raskolnikov had met him previously in a tavern, and he helps the man's family and meets his daughter, Sonia, for the first time. She has turned to a life of prostitution to help support her father's family. On his way home, a stranger taunts him with the word, "Murderer!" This incident leaves him shaken, and he begins to have terrible nightmares about the murder. Raskolnikov and Svidrigailov, the former employer of Raskolnikov’s sister Dunya, meet. They both share a partiality for evil and a forceful will. Then, in a state of deep agitation Raskolnikov visits Sonia. He asks her to read the biblical story of how Christ raised Lazarus from the dead. Ironically, she reads this story from a Bible that Lizaveta once gave her. He leaves Sonia with the promise to tell her who killed Lizaveta and her elder sister. He then decides to reveal everything to Sonia. Porfiry, the magistrate for the case, then meets Raskolnikov and tells him that he knows who murdered the two women. However, he says that he prefers to have the murderer come forward and confess his crime of his own accord. Raskolnikov finally goes to the police and reveals that he is the murderer. He is tried and sentenced to eight years hard labor in a Siberian prison camp. His sister marries Razumihin, while his mother dies soon after, blissful ignorant of her son's deadly crimes.

3. Themes

Effects of social isolation

Application of and full belief in theories

Suffering for others

Redemption and punishment/Are crimes justifiable?

Effects of a guilty conscience


"there is no particular love either on her side or on his" (30)

“carrying [Rodya's] burdens" so "it will be easier for [him]' (349)

"She loves [Rodya] more than herself" (33)

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