Analysis of ‘Crime and Punishment’ by Fyodor Dostoevsky

Crime and Punishment

Analysis of ‘Crime and Punishment’ by Fyodor Dostoevsky

Crime and Punishment

Analysis of ‘Crime and Punishment’ by Fyodor Dostoevsky – Crime and Punishment is written by Fyodor Dostoevsky, a Russian writer. It was published in a literary journal called The Russian Messenger for twelve months in 1866. Later on it was published as a single volume. Fyodor Dostoevsky was a short story writer, essayist, journalist, novelist and a philosopher. Dostoevsky works delve into human psychology in the troubled spiritual, social and political times of the 19th century. His works consisted of 11 novels, 17 short stories, 3 novellas and many other works.

Literary critics rate him as one of the best psychologist in world literature. He is also considered as an existentialist in literature and his Notes from Underground, a novella is a testimony for it. Crime and Punishment is considered as his matured piece of writing.

Summary – Analysis of ‘Crime and Punishment’ by Fyodor Dostoevsky

Rodion Romanovich Raskolnikov is a law student who could not find himself a job. He is living in  extreme poverty in Saint Petersburg. Raskolnikov does not put any effort to make money too. He is isolated, talks to himself but he looks handsome and intelligent.  The easiest way to make money was to kill someone with wealth and steal the money. He plans to kill the old pawnbroker AlyonaIvanovna. One day in a tavern he meets a man named Marmeladov who also has lost his job and is on a drinking binge. Marmeladov talks about his wife KaterinaIvanovna and his daughter Sonya.

Sonya was forced into prostitution due to poverty. Raskolnikov walks back with Marmeladov and meets the family and the filthy conditions hey lived in. Next day he receives a letter from his mother informing that his sister Dunya was engaged to be married to Luzhin, a government official and that they were all moving to St. Petersburg. Her employer Svidrigailov was lusting after her and they found the proposal from Luzhin an escape from Svidrigailov.

Raskolnikov’s main concern was his poverty and he executes his plan of killing AlyonaIvanovna. Her sister Lizaveta walks in at that time and Raskolnikov kills her too. He manages to escape to his apartment without being caught. But he does not take all her belongings. The very next day he is summoned by the police and he is terrified but he realises it was regarding a case filed by his landlady for not paying up the rent.

Analysis of ‘Crime and Punishment’ by Fyodor Dostoevsky

Raskolnikovis relieved but in the police station the talk is about the murders and he faints arousing suspicion. He returns home and buries the stolen goods under a rock in the courtyard. Razumikhin his friend offers him work but he refuses. Raskolnikov is now worried all the time and gets into depression, sickness. His friend Razumikhinwith the help of a doctor, nurse him back to health.

Meanwhile his mother and sister arrive and he faints on seeing them. Raskolnikov meets Luzhin and is not happy about him and does not want his sister to marry him. Marmeladov is killed in an accident. Sonya comes to Raskolnikov’s house to invite him for the funeral and this embarrasses his family. Svidrigailov comes to St. Petersburg and meets Raskolnikov and offers ten thousand roubles for Dunya and tells his wife Marfa had left three thousand roubles for Dunya in her will. Soon after this he with his friend meets Luzhin in a restaurant but the meeting ends in a wordy duel and Dunya pull out of the marriage.

Raskolnikov also has a fight and leaves the room and his friend follows him. Without any words said his friend confirms his worst fears that Raskolnikov was the one who had murdered the two ladies. Soon Raskolnikov is arrested and jailed. Before that Sonya know the truth and a police officer also let into this secret. So Raskolnikov surrenders. But his history and good behaviour reduces his term and Sonya waits for him. Raskolnikov also realizes that he also loved Sonya and hoped to live a life with her. Dunya marries Razumikhin.

Characters – Analysis of ‘Crime and Punishment’ by Fyodor Dostoevsky

Raskolnikov is the protagonist. He is young, handsome and intelligent. Unfortunately he does not have a will to work. He refuses work offered by his friend. He wants to make some quick money and believes killing someone would be the easiest way. Once it is done, he loses his health and is always fearful of being caught resulting in bouts of mental ill health. There are fainting bouts. Only when he confesses to Sonya and then to the police he is at peace and then he is back to normal. His good behaviour reduces his term and he hopes to lead a normal life once out of the prison.

Sonya is a prostitute but she is responsible for bringing some sanity into the life of Raskolnikov. She is stays by him and even goes to stay near the prison in Siberia. Like Sonya  Razumikhin also stays with Raskolnikov during his troubled times. Razumikhin is his friend and tries to help him out by offering a job. When Razumikhin realises that Raskolnikov was the murderer he advices him to surrender and this helps Raskolnikov in getting a life sentence instead of death sentence.

Dunya is the sister of Raskolnikov and is one who had gone through a lot of suffering at the hands of her employer. Yet she takes the courage to break away from the marriage proposal of Luzhin. There are many other strong characters like Luzhin, Svidrigailov, Marmeladovand KaterinaIvanovna.


Crime and punishment is the central theme of the novel. After committing a crime Raskolnikov is punished almost immediately; the sentence is given by his conscience and he suffers till he confesses to the police. His imprisonment was his second level of punishment. Alienation is another prime theme of the novel. At first Raskolnikov’s pride keeps his away from the society. He is proud and thinks he is superior and he does not relate to anyone. .After the murders he continues to feel isolated but this time it was his guilt. Only Sonya managed to break that wall of isolation.


The plot of Crime and Punishment is mostly set in St. Petersburg. His mother and sister also move to St. Petersburg. Raskolnikov’s punishment takes the setting to the jail in Siberia and Sonya also moves to Siberia.

Critical Reviews

“I found myself reading Crime and Punishment because it’s just one of those books, a vast classic tome that sounds clever when mentioned at parties, and thought that I would at least be able to put it down for a moment. Instead, I was subjected to sleepless nights as I delved more and more into this complex tale.” Ben Khamis

“Dostoevsky does an excellent job of manipulating the reader into caring for the main character and even identifying with him, in spite of his mental instability and the dreadful nature of his crime.” Kevin Thompson

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