Crime and Punishment

The Character of Marmeladov in Fyodor Dostoyevsky's Crime and Punishment

Often in literature a minor character that appears only briefly nevertheless has a significant effect on such aspects of a work as theme and the development of other characters. This is especially true in the case of Marmeladov, the alcoholic ex-clerk in Dostoyevsky's Crime and Punishment. A dominant theme of the novel is that of moral redemption through suffering. Raskolnikov, who commits a heinous crime because he believes himself to be above morality, is beset with fear and guilt about his actions. Although he pays no heed at the time, in the beginning of the novel Raskolnikov is exposed by Marmeladov to the concept of divine forgiveness. In the course of the novel Raskolnikov must come to the realization his feelings of guilt will only be relieved when he confesses his sins and finds faith in God.

It is significant that Marmeladov is introduced in the very beginning of the novel. In this way Dostoyevsky sets the scene for Raskolnikov's eventual spiritual awakening. When Raskolnikov enters the bar he has just been setting into motion his plot to kill the old pawnbroker. Thus, their first meetings, Marmeladov serves as Raskolnikov's conscience, proclaiming in florid language that God will forgive all the old...

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