Open main menu

Crime and Punishment

Crime and Punishment (Pre-reform Russian: Преступленіе и наказаніе; post-reform Russian: Преступление и наказание, tr. Prestupléniye i nakazániye, IPA: [prʲɪstʊˈplʲenʲɪje ɪ nəkɐˈzanʲɪje]) is a novel by the Russian author Fyodor Dostoevsky. It was first published in the literary journal The Russian Messenger in twelve monthly installments during 1866.[1] It was later published in a single volume. It is the second of Dostoevsky's full-length novels following his return from 5 years of exile in Siberia. Crime and Punishment is considered the first great novel of his "mature" period of writing.[2]

Crime and Punishment
1956 Random House printing of Crime and Punishment, translated by Constance Garnett
AuthorFyodor Dostoevsky
Original titleПреступленіе и наказаніе
GenrePhilosophical novel
psychological fiction
PublisherThe Russian Messenger (series)
Publication date
1866; separate edition 1867
891.73/3 20
LC ClassPG3326 .P7 1993

Crime and Punishment focuses on the mental anguish and moral dilemmas of Rodion Raskolnikov, an impoverished ex-student in Saint Petersburg who formulates a plan to kill an unscrupulous pawnbroker for her money. Before the killing, Raskolnikov believes that with the money he could liberate himself from poverty and go on to perform great deeds; but afterwards he finds himself racked with confusion, paranoia, and disgust for what he has done. His moral justifications disintegrate completely as he struggles with guilt and horror, and confronts the real world consequences of his deed.



Dostoevsky conceived the idea of Crime and Punishment, prompted by the case of Pierre François Lacenaire, in the summer of 1865. He had been working on another project at the time entitled The Drunkards, which was to deal with "the present question of drunkenness ... [in] all its ramifications, especially the picture of a family and the bringing up of children in these circumstances, etc., etc." This theme, centering on the story of the Marmeladov family, became ancillary to the story of Raskolnikov and his crime.[3]

At the time Dostoevsky owed large sums of money to creditors, and was trying to help the family of his brother Mikhail, who had died in early 1864. After appeals elsewhere failed, Dostoevsky turned as a last resort to the publisher Mikhail Katkov, and sought an advance on a proposed contribution.[4] He offered his story or novella (at the time he was not thinking of a novel[5]) for publication in Katkov's monthly journal The Russian Messenger—a prestigious publication of its kind, and the outlet for both Ivan Turgenev and Leo Tolstoy. Dostoevsky, having carried on quite bruising polemics with Katkov in the early 1860s, had never published anything in its pages before. In a letter to Katkov written in September 1865, Dostoevsky explained to him that the work was to be about a young man who yields to "certain strange, 'unfinished' ideas, yet floating in the air".[6] He planned to explore the moral and psychological dangers of the ideology of "radicalism", and felt that the project would appeal to the conservative Katkov.[7] In letters written in November 1865 an important conceptual change occurred: the "story" has become a "novel". From then on, Crime and Punishment is referred to as a novel.[8]

Dostoevsky was under great pressure to finish Crime and Punishment on time, as he was simultaneously contracted to finish The Gambler for another publisher, Stellovsky, who had imposed extremely harsh conditions. Anna Snitkina, a stenographer who soon became his second wife, was a great help for Dostoevsky during this difficult task.[9] The first part of Crime and Punishment appeared in the January 1866 issue of The Russian Messenger, and the last one was published in December 1866.[10]

At the end of November much had been written and was ready; I burned it all; I can confess that now. I didn't like it myself. A new form, a new plan excited me, and I started all over again.

— Dostoevsky's letter to his friend Alexander Wrangel in February 1866[11]

In the complete edition of Dostoevsky's writings published in the Soviet Union, the editors reassembled and printed the notebooks that the writer kept while working on Crime and Punishment, in a sequence roughly corresponding to the various stages of composition. Because of these labors, there is now a fragmentary working draft of the story, or novella, as initially conceived, as well as two other versions of the text. These have been distinguished as the Wiesbaden edition, the Petersburg edition, and the final plan, involving the shift from a first-person narrator to the indigenous variety of third-person form invented by Dostoevsky.[12] The Wiesbaden edition concentrates entirely on the moral and psychological reactions of the narrator after the murder. It coincides roughly with the story that Dostoevsky described in his letter to Katkov and, written in the form of a diary or journal, corresponds to what eventually became part II.[13]

I wrote [this chapter] with genuine inspiration, but perhaps it is no good; but for them the question is not its literary worth, they are worried about its morality. Here I was in the right—nothing was against morality, and even quite the contrary, but they saw otherwise and, what's more, saw traces of nihilism ... I took it back, and this revision of a large chapter cost me at least three new chapters of work, judging by the effort and the weariness; but I corrected it and gave it back.

— Dostoevsky's letter to A.P. Milyukov[14]

Why Dostoevsky abandoned his initial version remains a matter of speculation. According to Joseph Frank, "one possibility is that his protagonist began to develop beyond the boundaries in which he had first been conceived".[15] The notebooks indicate that Dostoevsky became aware of the emergence of new aspects of Raskolnikov's character as the plot developed, and he structured the novel in conformity with this "metamorphosis".[16] The final version of Crime and Punishment came into being only when, in November 1865, Dostoevsky decided to recast his novel in the third person. This shift was the culmination of a long struggle, present through all the early stages of composition.[17] Once having decided, Dostoevsky began to rewrite from scratch, and was able to easily integrate sections of the early manuscript into the final text. Frank says that he did not, as he told Wrangel, burn everything he had written earlier.[18]

The final draft went smoothly, except for a clash with the editors of The Russian Messenger, about which very little is known. Since the manuscript Dostoevsky turned in to Katkov was lost, it is unclear to what the editors had objected in the original.


Rodion Romanovich Raskolnikov, a former law student, lives in extreme poverty in a tiny, rented room in Saint Petersburg. Isolated and antisocial, he has abandoned all attempts to support himself, and is brooding obsessively on a scheme he has devised to murder and rob an elderly pawn-broker, Alyona Ivanovna. On the pretext of pawning a watch, he visits her apartment to consider the idea's viability, but he remains unable to commit himself. Later in a tavern he makes the acquaintance of Semyon Zakharovich Marmeladov, a drunkard who recently squandered his family's little wealth. Marmeladov tells him about his teenage daughter, Sonya, who has chosen to become a prostitute in order to support the family. The next day Raskolnikov receives a letter from his mother in which she speaks of their coming visit to Saint Petersburg, and describes the problems of his sister Dunya, who has been working as a governess, with her ill-intentioned employer, Svidrigaïlov. To escape her vulnerable position, and with hopes of helping her brother, Dunya has chosen to marry a wealthy suitor, Pyotr Petrovich Luzhin, but it is obvious from details in the letter that Luzhin is also seeking to exploit her helpless position. Raskolnikov is inwardly enraged at Dunya's sacrifice, feeling it is the same as what Sonya felt compelled to do. He is determined to prevent the marriage, and his thoughts return inexorably to his idea. A series of internal and external events seem to combine to compel him toward the resolution to enact it.

In a state of extreme tension and uncertainty, Raskolnikov steals an axe, conceals it, and makes his way once more to Alyona Ivanovna's apartment. Despite her mistrust, he manages to gain access by pretending he has something to pawn. As Alyona Ivanovna tries to unwrap the decoy 'pledge', he attacks her with the axe and kills her. He also kills her half-sister, Lizaveta, who happens to stumble upon the scene of the crime. Shaken by his actions, Raskolnikov manages to steal only a handful of items and a small purse, leaving much of the pawn-broker's wealth untouched. He flees and, due to sheer good fortune, manages to escape the building and return to his room undetected.

After the bungled murder, Raskolnikov falls into a feverish state and begins to worry obsessively over the murder. He hides the stolen items and purse under a rock, and tries desperately to clean his clothing of any blood or evidence. He falls into a fever later that day, though not before calling briefly on his old friend Razumikhin. As the fever comes and goes in the following days, Raskolnikov behaves as though he wishes to betray himself. He shows strange reactions to whoever mentions the murder of the pawn-broker, which is now known about and talked of in the city. In his delirium, Raskolnikov wanders Saint Petersburg, drawing more and more attention to himself and his relation to the crime. In one of his walks through the city, he sees Marmeladov, who has been struck mortally by a carriage in the streets. Raskolnikov rushes to help and succeeds in conveying the stricken man back to his family's apartment. Calling out for Sonya to forgive him, Marmeladov dies in his daughter's arms. Raskolnikov gives his last twenty five roubles (from money that had been sent him by his mother) to Marmeladov's consumptive wife, Katerina Ivanovna, saying it is the repayment of a debt to his friend.

In the meantime, Raskolnikov's mother, Pulkheria Alexandrovna, and his sister, Avdotya Romanovna (Dunya), have arrived in the city. Dunya had been working as a governess for the Svidrigaïlov family until this point, but was forced out of the position by the head of the family, Arkady Ivanovich Svidrigaïlov. Svidrigaïlov, a married man, was attracted to Dunya's physical beauty and her feminine qualities, and offered her riches and elopement. Mortified, Dunya fled the Svidrigaïlov family and lost her source of income, only to meet Pyotr Petrovich Luzhin, a man of modest income and rank. Luzhin proposes to marry Dunya, thereby securing her and her mother's financial safety, provided she accept him quickly and without question. It is for these very reasons that the two of them come to Saint Petersburg, both to meet Luzhin there and to obtain Raskolnikov's approval. Luzhin, however, calls on Raskolnikov while he is in a delirious state and presents himself as a foolish, self-righteous, and presumptuous man. Raskolnikov dismisses him immediately as a potential husband for his sister, and realizes that she only accepted him to help her family.

Razumikhin introduces Raskolnikov to the detective Porfiry, who begins to suspect him of the murder purely on psychological grounds. At the same time, a chaste relationship develops between Raskolnikov and Sonya. Sonya, though a prostitute, is full of Christian virtue and is only driven into the profession by her family's poverty. Meanwhile, Razumikhin and Raskolnikov manage to keep Dunya from continuing her relationship with Luzhin, whose true character is exposed to be conniving and base. At this point, Svidrigaïlov appears on the scene, having come from the province to Petersburg, almost solely to seek out Dunya. He reveals that his wife, Marfa Petrovna, is dead, and that he is willing to pay Dunya a vast sum of money in exchange for nothing. She, upon hearing the news, refuses flat out, suspecting him of treachery.

As Raskolnikov and Porfiry continue to meet, Raskolnikov's motives for the crime become exposed. Porfiry becomes increasingly certain of the man's guilt, but has no concrete evidence or witnesses with which to back up this suspicion. Furthermore, another man admits to committing the crime under questioning and arrest. However, Raskolnikov's nerves continue to wear thinner, and he is constantly struggling with the idea of confessing, though he knows that he can never be truly convicted. He turns to Sonya for support and confesses his crime to her. By coincidence, Svidrigaïlov has taken up residence in a room next to Sonya's and overhears the entire confession. When the two men meet face to face, Svidrigaïlov acknowledges this fact, and suggests that he may use it against him, should he need to. Svidrigaïlov also speaks of his own past, and Raskolnikov grows to suspect that the rumors about his having committed several murders are true. In a later conversation with Dunya, Svidrigaïlov denies that he had a hand in the death of his wife.

Raskolnikov is at this point completely torn; he is urged by Sonya to confess, and Svidrigaïlov's testimony could potentially convict him. Furthermore, Porfiry confronts Raskolnikov with his suspicions and assures him that confession would substantially lighten his sentence. Meanwhile, Svidrigaïlov attempts to seduce Dunya, but when he realizes that she will never love him, he lets her go. He then spends a night in confusion and in the morning shoots himself. This same morning, Raskolnikov goes again to Sonya, who again urges him to confess and to clear his conscience. He makes his way to the police station, where he is met by the news of Svidrigaïlov's suicide. He hesitates a moment, thinking again that he might get away with a perfect crime, but is persuaded by Sonya to confess.

The epilogue tells of how Raskolnikov is sentenced to eight years of penal servitude in Siberia, where Sonya follows him. Dunya and Razumikhin marry and are left in a happy position by the end of the novel, while Pulkheria, Raskolnikov's mother, falls ill and dies, unable to cope with her son's situation. Raskolnikov himself struggles in Siberia. It is only after some time in prison that his redemption and moral regeneration begin under Sonya's loving influence.


Character names
and romanization
First name, nickname Patronymic Family name
Со́фья, Со́ня, Со́нечка
Sófya, Sónya, Sónechka
Вразуми́хин, Разуми́хин
Vrazumíkhin, Razumíkhin



An acute accent marks the stressed syllable.

In Crime and Punishment, Dostoevsky fuses the personality of his main character, Rodion Romanovich Raskolnikov, with his new anti-radical ideological themes. The main plot involves a murder as the result of "ideological intoxication," and depicts all the disastrous moral and psychical consequences that result from the murder. Raskolnikov's psychology is placed at the center, and carefully interwoven with the ideas behind his transgression; every other feature of the novel illuminates the agonizing dilemma in which Raskolnikov is caught.[19] From another point of view, the novel's plot is another variation of a conventional nineteenth-century theme: an innocent young provincial comes to seek his fortune in the capital, where he succumbs to corruption, and loses all traces of his former freshness and purity. However, as Gary Rosenshield points out, "Raskolnikov succumbs not to the temptations of high society as Honoré de Balzac's Rastignac or Stendhal's Julien Sorel, but to those of rationalistic Petersburg".[20]

Raskolnikov (Rodion) is the protagonist, and the novel focuses primarily on his perspective. A 23-year-old man and former student, now destitute, Raskolnikov is described in the novel as "exceptionally handsome, above the average in height, slim, well built, with beautiful dark eyes and dark brown hair." Perhaps the most striking feature of Raskolnikov, however, is his dual personality. On the one hand, he is cold, apathetic, and antisocial; on the other, he can be surprisingly warm and compassionate. He commits murder as well as acts of impulsive charity. His chaotic interaction with the external world and his nihilistic worldview might be seen as causes of his social alienation or consequences of it.

Despite its title, the novel does not so much deal with the crime and its formal punishment, as with Raskolnikov's internal struggle (the book shows that his punishment results more from his conscience than from the law). Believing society would be better for it, Raskolnikov commits murder with the idea that he possessed enough intellectual and emotional fortitude to deal with the ramifications, [based on his paper/thesis, "On Crime", that he is a Napoleon], but his sense of guilt soon overwhelms him to the point of psychological and somatic illness. It is only in the epilogue that he realizes his formal punishment, having decided to confess and end his alienation from society.

Sofya Semyonovna Marmeladova, variously called Sonya and Sonechka, is the daughter of a drunkard named Semyon Zakharovich Marmeladov, whom Raskolnikov meets in a tavern at the beginning of the novel. She is often characterized as self-sacrificial, shy, and innocent, despite being forced into prostitution to help her family. Raskolnikov discerns in her the same feelings of shame and alienation that he experiences, and she becomes the first person to whom he confesses his crime. Sensing his deep unhappiness, she supports him, even though she was friends with one of the victims (Lizaveta). Throughout the novel, Sonya is an important source of moral strength and rehabilitation for Raskolnikov.

Avdotya Romanovna Raskolnikova – Raskolnikov's dominant and sympathetic sister, called Dunya or Dunechka for short. She initially plans to marry the wealthy, yet smug and self-possessed, Luzhin, to free the family from financial destitution. She is followed to Saint Petersburg by the disturbed Svidrigaïlov, who seeks to win her back through blackmail. She rejects both men in favour of Raskolnikov's loyal friend, Razumikhin.

Pulkheria Alexandrovna Raskolnikova – Raskolnikov's naïve, hopeful and loving mother. Following Raskolnikov's sentence, she falls ill (mentally and physically) and eventually dies. She hints in her dying stages that she is slightly more aware of her son's fate, which was hidden from her by Dunya and Razumikhin.

Razumikhin (Dmitry Prokofyich) is Raskolnikov's loyal friend and also a former law student. The character is intended to represent something of a reconciliation of the pervasive thematic conflict between faith and reason.

Porfiry Petrovich – The head of the Investigation Department in charge of solving the murders of Lizaveta and Alyona Ivanovna, who, along with Sonya, moves Raskolnikov towards confession. Unlike Sonya, however, Porfiry does this through psychological games. Despite the lack of evidence, he becomes certain Raskolnikov is the murderer following several conversations with him, but gives him the chance to confess voluntarily. He attempts to confuse and provoke the unstable Raskolnikov in an attempt to coerce him to confess.

Arkady Ivanovich Svidrigaïlov – Sensual, depraved, and wealthy former employer and current pursuer of Dunya. He overhears Raskolnikov's confessions to Sonya and uses this knowledge to torment both Dunya and Raskolnikov, but does not inform the police. Despite his apparent malevolence, Svidrigaïlov seems to be capable of generosity and compassion. When Dunya tells him she could never love him (after attempting to shoot him) he lets her go. He tells Sonya that he has made financial arrangements for the Marmeladov children to enter an orphanage (after both their parents die), and gives her three thousand rubles, enabling her to follow Raskolnikov to Siberia. Having left the rest of his money to his juvenile fiancée, he commits suicide.

Other characters of the novel are:

  • Praskovya Pavlovna Zarnitsyna – Raskolnikov's landlady (called Pashenka). Shy and retiring, Praskovya Pavlovna does not figure prominently in the course of events. Raskolnikov had been engaged to her daughter, a sickly girl who had died, and Praskovya Pavlovna had granted him extensive credit on the basis of this engagement and a promissory note for 115 roubles. She had then handed this note to a court councillor named Chebarov, who had claimed the note, causing Raskolnikov to be summoned to the police station the day after his crime.
  • Marfa Petrovna Svidrigaïlova – Arkady Svidrigaïlov's deceased wife, whom he is suspected of having murdered, and who he claims has visited him as a ghost. Her bequest of 3,000 rubles to Dunya allows Dunya to reject Luzhin as a suitor.
  • Katerina Ivanovna Marmeladova – Semyon Marmeladov's consumptive and ill-tempered second wife, stepmother to Sonya. She drives Sonya into prostitution in a fit of rage, but later regrets it. She beats her children, but works ferociously to improve their standard of living. She is obsessed with demonstrating that slum life is far below her station. Following Marmeladov's death, she uses the money Raskolnikov gives her to hold a funeral. She eventually succumbs to her illness.
  • Semyon Zakharovich Marmeladov – Hopeless drunk who indulges in his own suffering, and father of Sonya.
  • Pyotr Petrovich Luzhin – A well-off lawyer who is engaged to Dunya in the beginning of the novel. His motives for the marriage are dubious, as he more or less states that he has sought a woman who will be completely beholden to him. He slanders and falsely accuses Sonya of theft in an attempt to harm Raskolnikov's relations with his family. Luzhin represents immorality, in contrast to Svidrigaïlov's amorality, and Raskolnikov's misguided morality.
  • Andrey Semyonovich Lebezyatnikov – Luzhin's utopian socialist roommate who witnesses his attempt to frame Sonya and subsequently exposes him. He is proven right by Raskolnikov, the only one knowing of Luzhin's motives.
  • Alyona Ivanovna – Suspicious old pawnbroker who hoards money and is merciless to her patrons. She is Raskolnikov's intended target, and he kills her in the beginning of the book.
  • Lizaveta Ivanovna – Alyona's handicapped, innocent and submissive sister. Raskolnikov murders her when she walks in immediately after Raskolnikov had killed Alyona. Lizaveta was a friend of Sonya.
  • Zosimov (Зосимов) – A friend of Razumikhin and a doctor who cared for Raskolnikov.
  • Nastasya Petrovna (Настасья Петровна) – Raskolnikov's landlady's servant who often brings Raskolnikov food and drink.
  • Nikodim Fomich (Никодим Фомич) – The amiable chief of police.
  • Ilya Petrovich (Илья Петрович) – A police official and Fomich's assistant, nicknamed "Gunpowder" for his very bad temper.
  • Alexander Grigorievich Zamyotov (Александр Григорьевич Заметов) – Head clerk at the police station and friend to Razumikhin.
  • Nikolai Dementiev (Николай Дементьев) – A house painter who happens to be nearby at the time of the murder and is initially suspected of the crime. He falsely confesses, since his Old Believer sect holds it to be supremely virtuous to suffer for another person's crime.
  • Polina Mikhailovna Marmeladova (Полина Михайловна Мармеладова) – Ten-year-old adopted daughter of Semyon Zakharovich Marmeladov and younger stepsister to Sonya, sometimes known as Polechka.
Name Word Meaning in Russian
Rodion Romanovich Raskolnikov raskol a schism, or split; "raskolnik" is "one who splits" or "dissenter"; the verb raskalyvat' means "to cleave", "to chop","to crack","to split" or "to break". The former translations clarify the literal meaning of the word. The figurative meaning of the word is "to bring to light", "to make to confess or acknowledge the truth", etc. The word Raskol is meant to evoke the ideas of the splitting of the Russian Orthodox Church under Patriarch Nikon.
Pyotr Petrovich Luzhin luzha a puddle
Dmitry Prokofyich Razumikhin razum rationality, mind, intelligence
Alexander Grigorievich Zamyotov zametit to notice, to realize
Andrey Semyonovich Lebezyatnikov lebezit to fawn on somebody, to cringe
Semyon Zakharovich Marmeladov marmelad marmalade/jam
Arkady Ivanovich Svidrigaïlov Svidrigailo a Lithuanian duke of the fifteenth century (the name given to a character rather by sound, than by meaning)
Porfiry Petrovich Porphyry (perhaps) named after the Neoplatonic philosopher or after the Russian "порфира" ("porphyra") meaning "purple, purple mantle"


The novel is divided into six parts, with an epilogue. The notion of "intrinsic duality" in Crime and Punishment has been commented upon, with the suggestion that there is a degree of symmetry to the book.[21] Edward Wasiolek who has argued that Dostoevsky was a skilled craftsman, highly conscious of the formal pattern in his art, has likened the structure of Crime and Punishment to a "flattened X", saying:

Parts I-III [of Crime and Punishment] present the predominantly rational and proud Raskolnikov: Parts IV-VI, the emerging "irrational" and humble Raskolnikov. The first half of the novel shows the progressive death of the first ruling principle of his character; the last half, the progressive birth of the new ruling principle. The point of change comes in the very middle of the novel.[22]

This compositional balance is achieved by means of the symmetrical distribution of certain key episodes throughout the novel's six parts. The recurrence of these episodes in the two halves of the novel, as David Bethea has argued, is organized according to a mirror-like principle, whereby the "left" half of the novel reflects the "right" half.[21]

The seventh part of the novel, the Epilogue, has attracted much attention and controversy. Some of Dostoevsky's critics have criticized the novel's final pages as superfluous, anti-climactic, unworthy of the rest of the work,[23] while others have defended it, offering various schemes that they claim prove its inevitability and necessity. Steven Cassedy argues that Crime and Punishment "is formally two distinct but closely related, things, namely a particular type of tragedy in the classical Greek mold and a Christian resurrection tale".[24] Cassedy concludes that "the logical demands of the tragic model as such are satisfied without the Epilogue in Crime and Punishment ... At the same time, this tragedy contains a Christian component, and the logical demands of this element are met only by the resurrection promised in the Epilogue".[25]


Crime and Punishment is written from a third-person omniscient perspective. It is focalized primarily from the point of view of Raskolnikov; however, it does at times switch to the perspective of Svidrigaïlov, Razumikhin, Peter Petrovich, or Dunya. This narrative technique, which fuses the narrator very closely with the consciousness and point of view of the central characters, was original for its period. Frank notes that Dostoevsky's use of time shifts of memory and manipulation of temporal sequence begins to approach the later experiments of Henry James, Joseph Conrad, Virginia Woolf, and James Joyce. A late nineteenth-century reader was, however, accustomed to more orderly and linear types of expository narration. This led to the persistence of the legend that Dostoevsky was an untidy and negligent craftsman, and to observations like the following by Melchior de Vogüé:

A word ... one does not even notice, a small fact that takes up only a line, have their reverberations fifty pages later ... [so that] the continuity becomes unintelligible if one skips a couple of pages.[26]

Dostoevsky uses different speech mannerisms and sentences of different length for different characters. Those who use artificial language—Luzhin, for example—are identified as unattractive people. Mrs. Marmeladov's disintegrating mind is reflected in her language. In the original Russian text, the names of the major characters have something of a double meaning, but in translation the subtlety of the Russian language is predominantly lost due to differences in language structure and culture. For example, the original Russian title ("Преступление и наказание") is not the direct equivalent to the English "Crime and Punishment". "Преступление" (Prestupléniye) is literally translated as 'a stepping across'. The physical image of crime as crossing over a barrier or a boundary is lost in translation, as is the religious implication of transgression.[27]



Raskolnikov's dreams have a symbolic meaning, which suggests a psychological view. The dream of the mare being whipped has been suggested as the fullest single expression of the whole novel,[28] symbolizing gratification and punishment, contemptible motives and contemptible society, depicting the nihilistic destruction of an unfit mare, the gratification therein, and Rodion's disgust and horror, as an example of his conflicted character. Raskolnikov's disgust and horror is central to the theme of his conflicted character, his guilty conscience, his contempt for society, his rationality of himself as an extraordinary man above greater society, holding authority to kill, and his concept of justified murder. His reaction is pivotal, provoking his first taking of life toward the rationalization of himself as above greater society. The dream is later mentioned when Raskolnikov talks to Marmeladov. Marmeladov's daughter, morally chaste and devout Sonya, must earn a living as a prostitute for their impoverished family, the result of his alcoholism. The dream is also a warning, foreshadowing an impending murder and holds several comparisons to his murder of the pawnbroker. The dream occurs after Rodion crosses a bridge leading out of the oppressive heat and dust of Petersburg and into the fresh greenness of the islands. This symbolizes a corresponding mental crossing, suggesting that Raskolnikov is returning to a state of clarity when he has the dream. In it, he returns to the innocence of his childhood and watches as a group of peasants beat an old mare to death. After Raskolnikov awakes, he reflects on it as a “such a hideous dream,” the same term he earlier used to describe his plot to kill the old woman (62).[29] This diction draws a parallel between the two, suggesting that the child represents the part of him that clings to morality and watches horrified as another facet, represented by the peasants, is driven by hardship and isolation to become cold and unfeeling. The constant laughing of the peasants in the face of brutal slaughter reveals the extent to which they have been desensitized by their suffering, which is a reflection of Raskolnikov’s own condition. This interpretation is further supported by fact that the main peasant, Mikolka, feels that he has the right to kill the horse, linking his actions to Raskolnikov’s theory justifying murder for a select group of extraordinary men. The comparison between the cruel slaughter of the old mare and the plan to murder Alyona Ivanovna delineates the brutality of Raskolnikov’s crime, which is often downplayed by his habitual dehumanizing referral to the old woman as simply a “louse.” While awake, Raskolnikov’s view of the old woman is spiteful, defined by his tenacious belief in his extraordinary man theory. However, the dream acts as a conduit for Raskolnikov’s subconscious, and without the constraints of his theory the horrific nature of his crime becomes apparent. Therefore, in order for Raskolnikov to find redemption, he must ultimately renounce his theory. In the final pages, Raskolnikov, who at this point is in the prison infirmary, has a feverish dream about a plague of nihilism, that enters Russia and Europe from the east and which spreads senseless dissent (Raskolnikov's name alludes to "raskol", dissent) and fanatic dedication to "new ideas": it finally engulfs all of mankind. Though we don't learn anything about the content of these ideas they clearly disrupt society forever and are seen as exclusively critical assaults on ordinary thinking: it is clear that Dostoevsky was envisaging the new, politically and culturally nihilist ideas which were entering Russian literature and society in this watershed decade and with which Dostoevsky would be in debate for the rest of his life (cp. Chernyshevsky's What Is to Be Done?, Dobrolyubov's abrasive journalism, Turgenev's Fathers and Sons and Dostoevsky's own The Possessed). Janko Lavrin, who took part in the revolutions of the World War I era, knew Vladimir Lenin and Leon Trotsky and many others, and later would spend years writing about Dostoevsky's novels and other Russian classics, called this final dream "prophetic in its symbolism".


Sonya gives Rodya a cross when he goes to turn himself in, which symbolizes the burden Raskolnikov must bear.[original research?] Sonya, telling him they will bear the cross together and that she is taking part of his burden onto herself, encourages him to confess. Sonya and Lizaveta had exchanged crosses, so originally the cross was Lizaveta's—whom Rodya didn't intend to kill, making it an important symbol of redemption.

The environment of Saint PetersburgEdit

On an exceptionally hot evening early in July a young man came out of the garret in which he lodged in S. Place and walked slowly, as though in hesitation, towards K. bridge.[30]

— Fyodor Dostoevsky, Crime and Punishment (Constance Garnett translation), I, I

The above opening sentence of the novel has a symbolic function: Russian critic Vadim K. Kozhinov argues that the reference to the "exceptionally hot evening" establishes not only the suffocating atmosphere of Saint Petersburg in midsummer but also "the infernal ambience of the crime itself".[31] Dostoevsky was among the first to recognize the symbolic possibilities of city life and imagery drawn from the city. I. F. I. Evnin regards Crime and Punishment as the first great Russian novel "in which the climactic moments of the action are played out in dirty taverns, on the street, in the sordid back rooms of the poor".[32]

Dostoevsky's Petersburg is the city of unrelieved poverty; "magnificence has no place in it, because magnificence is external, formal abstract, cold". Dostoevsky connects the city's problems to Raskolnikov's thoughts and subsequent actions.[33] The crowded streets and squares, the shabby houses and taverns, the noise and stench, all are transformed by Dostoevsky into a rich store of metaphors for states of mind. Donald Fanger asserts that "the real city ... rendered with a striking concreteness, is also a city of the mind in the way that its atmosphere answers Raskolnikov's state and almost symbolizes it. It is crowded, stifling, and parched."[34] The inner turmoil suffered by Raskolnikov can also be perceived as a Shakespearean pathetic fallacy. For example, the great storm in Shakespeare's King Lear reflects the state of the titular character's mind, much like the chaos, disorder and noise of St. Petersburg reflects the state of Raskolnikov's mind.[35]


Dostoevsky's letter to Katkov reveals his immediate inspiration, to which he remained faithful even after his original plan evolved into a much more ambitious creation: a desire to counteract what he regarded as nefarious consequences arising from the doctrines of Russian nihilism.[36] In the novel, Dostoevsky pinpointed the dangers of both utilitarianism and rationalism, the main ideas of which inspired the radicals, continuing a fierce criticism he had already started with his Notes from Underground.[37] Dostoevsky utilized the characters, dialogue and narrative in Crime and Punishment to articulate an argument against westernizing ideas. He thus attacked a peculiar Russian blend of French utopian socialism and Benthamite utilitarianism, which had led to what revolutionaries, such as Nikolai Chernyshevsky, called "rational egoism". The radicals refused to recognize themselves in the novel's pages, since Dostoevsky pursued nihilistic ideas to their most extreme consequences. Dimitri Pisarev ridiculed the notion that Raskolnikov's ideas could be identified with those of the radicals of the time. The radicals' aims were altruistic and humanitarian, but they were to be achieved by relying on reason and suppressing the spontaneous outflow of Christian compassion. Chernyshevsky's utilitarian ethic proposed that thought and will in Man were subject to the laws of physical science.[38] Dostoevsky believed that such ideas limited man to a product of physics, chemistry and biology, negating spontaneous emotional responses. In its latest variety, Russian nihilism encouraged the creation of an élite of superior individuals to whom the hopes of the future were to be entrusted.[39]

Raskolnikov exemplifies the potentially disastrous hazards contained in such an ideal. Frank notes that "the moral-psychological traits of his character incorporate this antinomy between instinctive kindness, sympathy, and pity on the one hand and, on the other, a proud and idealistic egoism that has become perverted into a contemptuous disdain for the submissive herd".[40] Raskolnikov's inner conflict in the opening section of the novel results in a utilitarian-altruistic justification for the proposed crime: why not kill a wretched and "useless" old moneylender to alleviate the human misery? Dostoevsky wants to show that this utilitarian style of reasoning had become widespread and commonplace; it was by no means the solitary invention of Raskolnikov's tormented and disordered mind.[41] Such radical and utilitarian ideas act to reinforce the innate egoism of Raskolnikov's character, and help justify his contempt for humanity's lower qualities and ideals. He even becomes fascinated with the majestic image of a Napoleonic personality who, in the interests of a higher social good, believes that he possesses a moral right to kill. Indeed, his "Napoleon-like" plan impels him toward a well-calculated murder, the ultimate conclusion of his self-deception with utilitarianism.[42]

In his depiction of Petersburg, Dostoevsky accentuates the squalor and human wretchedness that pass before Raskolnikov's eyes. He uses Raskolnikov's encounter with Marmeladov to contrast the heartlessness of Raskolnikov's convictions with a Christian approach to poverty and wretchedness.[41] Dostoevsky believes that the moral "freedom" propounded by Raskolnikov is a dreadful freedom "that is contained by no values, because it is before values". In seeking to affirm this "freedom" in himself, Raskolnikov is in perpetual revolt against society, himself, and God.[43] He thinks that he is self-sufficient and self-contained, but at the end "his boundless self-confidence must disappear in the face of what is greater than himself, and his self-fabricated justification must humble itself before the higher justice of God".[44] Dostoevsky calls for the regeneration and renewal of "sick" Russian society through the re-discovery of its national identity, its religion, and its roots.[45]


The first part of Crime and Punishment published in the January and February issues of The Russian Messenger met with public success. Although the remaining parts of the novel had still to be written, an anonymous reviewer wrote that "the novel promises to be one of the most important works of the author of The House of the Dead". In his memoirs, the conservative belletrist Nikolay Strakhov recalled that in Russia Crime and Punishment was the literary sensation of 1866.[46]

The novel soon attracted the criticism of the liberal and radical critics. G.Z. Yeliseyev sprang to the defense of the Russian student corporations, and wondered, "Has there ever been a case of a student committing murder for the sake of robbery?" Pisarev, aware of the novel's artistic value, attempted another approach in 1867: he argued that Raskolnikov was a product of his environment, and explained that the main theme of the work was poverty and its results. He measured the novel's excellence by the accuracy and understanding with which Dostoevsky portrayed the contemporary social reality, and focused on what he regarded as inconsistencies in the novel's plot. Strakhov rejected Pisarev's contention that the theme of environmental determinism was essential to the novel, and pointed out that Dostoevsky's attitude towards his hero was sympathetic: "This is not mockery of the younger generation, neither a reproach nor an accusation—it is a lament over it."[47]

English translationsEdit

The Garnett translation was the dominant translation for more than 80 years after its publication in 1914. Since the 1990s, McDuff and Pevear/Volokhonsky have become its major competitors.[48]


There have been over 25 film adaptations of Crime and Punishment. They include:

When Crime and Punishment came up in their extended interview, Alfred Hitchcock told French director Francois Truffaut that he would never consider filming it. Hitchcock explained that he could make a great film out of a good book, and even (or especially) a mediocre book, but never a great book, because the film would always suffer by comparison.

The novel was adapted for stage by Marilyn Campbell and Curt Columbus.[49] The play was performed at 59E59 St Theater with Writers′ Theatre in 2007 in New York City.[50][51]

The Irish poet, Philip McDonagh, published a stage version of the novel in 2017, which was performed in Ireland and England that year.[52][53]


  1. ^ University of Minnesota – Study notes for Crime and Punishment – (retrieved on 1 May 2006)
  2. ^ Frank (1995), 96
  3. ^ Yousef, About Crime and Punishment
    * Fanger (2006), 17–18
  4. ^ Frank (1994), 168
  5. ^ Frank, 170
    * Peace (2005), 8
    * Simmons (2007), 131
  6. ^ Miller (2007), 58
    * Peace (2008), 8
  7. ^ Frank (1994), 179
  8. ^ Miller (2007), 58–59
  9. ^ Frank (1995), 39
    * Peace (2005), 8
  10. ^ Simmons (2007), 131
  11. ^ Miller (2007), 58
  12. ^ Dostoevsky initially considered four first-person plans: a memoir written by Raskolnikov, his confession recorded eight days after the murder, his diary begun five days after the murder, and a mixed form in which the first half was in the form of a memoir, and the second half in the form of a diary (Rosenshield [1973], 399).
  13. ^ Carabine (2000), x
    * Frank (1994), 170–172
    * Frank (1995), 80
  14. ^ Frank (1994), 185
  15. ^ Frank (1994), 174
  16. ^ Frank (1994), 177
  17. ^ Frank (1994), 179–180, 182
  18. ^ Frank (1994), 170, 179–180, 184
    * Frank(1995), 93
    * Miller (2007), 58–59
  19. ^ Frank (1995), 97
  20. ^ Rosenshield (1978), 76. See also Fanger (2006), 21
  21. ^ a b Davydov (1982), 162–163
  22. ^ "On the Structure of Crime and Punishment, " in: PMLA, March 1959, vol. LXXIV, No. 1, p. 132–133.
  23. ^ Mikhail Bakhtin, for instance, regards the Epilogue as a blemish on the book (Wellek [1980], 33).
  24. ^ Cassedy (1982), 171
  25. ^ Cassedy (1982), 187
  26. ^ Frank (1994), 184
    * Frank (1995), 92–93
  27. ^ Morris (1984), 28
    * Peace (2005), 86
    * Stanton–Hardy (1999), 8
  28. ^ Monas, Sidney, "Afterword: The Dream of the Suffering Horse," from his translation
  29. ^ Dostoyevsky, Fyodor. Crime and punishment. Toronto: Bantam Books, 1987. Print.
  30. ^ Richard Gill points out that "the hump-backed bridges crisscrossing Czar Peter's labyrinthine city are, as found in the novel, likewise to be viewed as metaphorical and highly suitable for marking the stages of the tortuous course of Raskolnikov's internal drama" (Gill [1982], 146).
  31. ^ Gill (1982), 145
  32. ^ Fanger (2006), 24
  33. ^ Lindenmeyr (2006), 37
  34. ^ Fanger (2006), 28
  35. ^ Archived 26 July 2010 at the Wayback Machine.
  36. ^ Frank (1995), 100
  37. ^ Donald Fanger believes that "Crime and Punishment did nothing by continue the polemic, incarnating the tragedy of nihilism in Raskolnikov and caricaturing it in Lebezyatnikov and, partially, in Luzhin" .(Fanger [2006], 21 – see also Frank [1995], 60; Ozick [1997], 114; Sergeyef [1998], 26).
  38. ^ Frank (1995), 100–101
    * Hudspith (2003), 95
  39. ^ Pisarev had sketched the outlines of a new proto-Nietzschean hero (Frank [1995], 100–101; Frank [2002], 11).
  40. ^ Frank (1995), 101
  41. ^ a b Frank (1995), 104
  42. ^ Frank (1995), 107
    * Sergeyef (1998), 26
  43. ^ Wasiolek (2005), 55
  44. ^ Vladimir Solovyov quoted by McDuff (2002), xiii–xiv
    * Peace (2005), 75–76
  45. ^ *McDuff (2002), xxx:"It is the persistent tracing of this theme of a 'Russian sickness' of spiritual origin and its cure throughout the book that justify the author's characterization of it as an 'Orthodox novel'."
    * Wasiolek (2005), 56–57
  46. ^ McDuff, x–xi
  47. ^ Jahn, Dostoevsky's Life and Career
    * McDuff, xi–xii
  48. ^ Raskolnikov Says the Darndest Things
  49. ^ "Crime and Punishment". Dramatic Publishing. Retrieved 9 July 2010.
  50. ^ Simmons, Paulanne. "A CurtainUp Review: Crime and Punishment". CurtainUp: The Internet Theater Magazine of Reviews, Features, Annotated Listings. Retrieved 9 July 2010.
  51. ^ Genzlinger, Neil (9 November 2007). "Dostoyevsky's Homicidal Student, the 90-Minute Version". The New York Times. Retrieved 11 July 2010.
  52. ^ Connacht Tribune, 20 October 2017, accessed 1 November 2018
  53. ^ Hastings Independent, 27 October 2017, accessed 1 November 2018


  • Dostoevsky, Fyodor (1866). Crime and Punishment. Translated in English by Constance Garnett.


External linksEdit