Crime and Punishment


Character names
Russian and romanization
First name, nickname Patronymic Family name
Родиóн Rodión Ромáнович Románovich Раскóльников Raskólnikov
Авдо́тья Avdótya Рома́новна Románovna Раско́льникова Raskólnikova
Пульхери́я Pulkhería Алексáндровна Aleksándrovna
Семён Semyón Заха́рович Zakhárovich Мармела́дов Marmeládov
Со́фья, Со́ня, Со́нечка Sófya, Sónya, Sónechka Семёновна Semyónovna Мармела́дова Marmeládova
Катери́на Katerína Ива́новна Ivánovna
Дми́трий Dmítriy Проко́фьич Prokofyich Разуми́хин Razumíkhin
Праско́вья Praskóvya Па́вловна Pávlovna Зарницына Zarnitsyna
Арка́дий Arkádiy Ива́нович Ivánovich Свидрига́йлов Svidrigáylov
Ма́рфа Márfa Петро́вна Petróvna Свидрига́йлова Svidrigáylovna
Пётр Pyótr Петро́вич Petróvich Лужин Lúzhyn
Андре́й Andréy Семёнович Semyónovich Лебезя́тников Lebezyátnikov
Порфирий Porfiriy Петрович Petróvich
Лизаве́та Lizavéta Ива́новна Ivánovna
Алёна Alyóna
An acute accent marks the stressed syllable.

In Crime and Punishment, Dostoyevsky 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.[21] 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".[22]

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 compulsive 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.

Sofia Semyonovna Marmeladova, variously called Sonia (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 even innocent despite the fact that she is compelled into prostitution to help her family. She also, as Raskolnikov discerns, shares the same feelings of shame and alienation as he does and becomes the first person to whom Raskolnikov confesses his crime, and 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, and in some interpretations, even considered a Christ-like figure. She is forced to prostitute herself to provide for her family, leading some critics to make comparisons with Mary Magdalene.

Avdotya Romanovna Raskolnikova – Raskolnikov's dominant and sympathetic sister, called Dunya, Dounia 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 has a habit of pacing across the room while thinking. She is followed to Saint Petersburg by the disturbed Svidrigailov, 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 relatively clueless, 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.

Dmitri Prokofich Razumikhin – Raskolnikov's loyal friend. In terms of Razumikhin's contribution to Dostoyevsky's anti-radical thematics, he is intended to represent something of a reconciliation of the pervasive thematic conflict between faith and reason. The fact that his name means "reason" shows Dostoyevsky's desire to employ this faculty as a foundational basis for his Christian faith in God.

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.
  • 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 to 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, Svidrigaïlov is suspected of multiple acts of murder, and overhears Raskolnikov's confessions to Sonya. With this knowledge he torments both Dunya and Raskolnikov but does not inform the police. When Dunya tells him she could never love him (after attempting to shoot him) he lets her go and commits suicide. Despite his apparent malevolence, Svidrigaïlov is similar to Raskolnikov in regard to his random acts of charity. He fronts the money for the Marmeladov children to enter an orphanage (after both their parents die), gives Sonya five percent bank notes totalling three thousand rubles, and leaves the rest of his money to his juvenile fiancée. There is an interesting fact: Svidrigaïlov has blue eyes; blue color in Russian culture symbolizes purity, kindness, and innocence, implying that Svidrigaïlov is a good person beneath his philandering exterior. (It is noteworthy that Sonya also has blue eyes.)
  • 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, and beats her children mercilessly, 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 Raskolnikov's money to hold a funeral. She later succumbs to her illness. The character is partially based on Polina Suslova.[23]
  • Semyon Zakharovich Marmeladov – Hopeless drunk who indulges in his own suffering, and father of Sonya. Marmeladov could be seen as a Russian equivalent of the character of Micawber in Charles Dickens' novel, David Copperfield.
  • Pyotr Petrovich Luzhin – A well-off lawyer who is engaged to Raskolnikov's sister Dunya in the beginning of the novel. His motives for the marriage are rather despicable, as he states more or less that he chose her since she will be completely beholden to him financially.
  • Andrey Semyenovich Lebezyatnikov – Luzhin's utopian socialist and feminist roommate who witnesses his attempt to frame Sonya and subsequently exposes him
  • 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 "Gunpowder" Petrovich (Илья Петрович) – A police official and Fomich's assistant
  • Alexander Grigorievich Zamyotov (Александр Григорьевич Заметов) – Head clerk at the police station and friend to Razumikhin. Raskolnikov arouses Zamyotov's suspicions by explaining how he, Raskolnikov, would have committed various crimes, although Zamyotov later apologizes, believing, much to Raskolnikov's amusement, that it was all a farce to expose how ridiculous the suspicions were.
  • Nikolai Dementiev (Николай Дементьев) – A self-sacrificial painter and sectarian who admits to the murder, since his 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.
Pyotr Petrovich Luzhin luzha a puddle
Dmitri Prokofich Razumikhin razum rationality, mind, intelligence
Alexander Grigorievich Zamyotov zametit to notice, to realize
Andrey Semyenovich Lebezyatnikov lebezit to fawn on somebody, to cringe
Semyon Zakharovich Marmeladov marmelad marmalade/jam
Arkady Ivanovich Svidrigailov 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"

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