Crime and Punishment

A Yellow Bruise Over His Heart: Symbolism in Crime and Punishment

Fyodor Dostoevsky's novel Crime and Punishment is one of the most memorable and substantial literary works in history. It deals with the psychological, emotional, mental, and physical struggles of several residents of nineteenth-century St. Petersburg. Rodion Romanovich Raskolnikov, on whom the novel is centered, commits a heinous double ax murder in order to justify a theory he has hypothesized, but he later realizes how wrong his actions were and that he must confess and seek redemption for his transgressions. Certain people are also placed into his life-people who are wrestling with different problems, but all share a need to be extricated from their lives of sin. Carefully chosen symbols interwoven throughout the novel reflect and magnify the sin and need for redemption in the lives of Raskolnikov and his acquaintances. Dostoevsky's masterful and generous use of symbolism-most notably with the color yellow, water, and insects-emphasizes the themes of Crime and Punishment and the struggles of its characters.

Numerous references are made to the color yellow, a hue which symbolizes the moral, physical, and mental decay of those in its presence. It is introduced quite early in the work, where it is noted that...

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