Crime and Punishment


Character names
Russianand romanization
First name, nickname Patronymic Family name
РодиóнRodión РомáновичRománovich РаскóльниковRaskól'nikov
Авдо́тьяAvdótya Рома́новнаRománovna Раско́льниковаRaskól'nikova
Пульхери́яPulkhería АлексáндровнаAleksándrovna
СемёнSemyón Заха́ровичZakhárovich Мармела́довMarmeládov
Со́фья, Со́ня, Со́нечкаSófya, Sónya, Sónechka СемёновнаSemyónovna Мармела́доваMarmeládova
Катери́наKaterína Ива́новнаIvánovna
Дми́трийDmítriy Проко́фьичProkófyich Вразуми́хин, Разуми́хинVrazumíkhin, Razumíkhin
Праско́вьяPraskóv'ya Па́вловнаPávlovna ЗарницынаZarnitsyna
Арка́дийArkádiy Ива́новичIvánovich Свидрига́йловSvidrigáilov
Ма́рфаMárfa Петро́внаPetróvna Свидрига́йловаSvidrigáilova
ПётрPyótr Петро́вичPetróvich ЛужинLúzhyn
Андре́йAndréy СемёновичSemyónovich Лебезя́тниковLebezyátnikov
Порфи́рийPorfíriy Петро́вичPetróvich
Лизаве́таLizavéta Ива́новнаIvánovna
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 psychological 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]

Major characters

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.

Sonya (Sofya Semyonovna Marmeladova), 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.

Razumíkhin (Dmitry Prokofyich) is Raskolnikov's loyal friend and also a former law student. The character is intended to represent something of a reconciliation between faith and reason (razum, "sense", "intelligence"). He jokes that his name is actually 'Vrazumíkhin' – a name suggesting "to bring someone to their senses".[21] He is upright, strong, resourceful and intelligent, but also somewhat naïve – qualities that are of great importance to Raskolnikov in his desperate situation. He admires Raskolnikov's intelligence and character, refuses to give any credence to others' suspicions, and supports him at all times. He looks after Raskolnikov's family when they come to Petersburg, and falls in love with Dunya.

Dunya (Avdotya Romanovna Raskolnikova) – Raskolnikov's beautiful and strong-willed sister who works as a governess. She initially plans to marry the wealthy but unsavory lawyer Luzhin, thinking it will enable her to ease her family's desperate financial situation and escape her former employer Svidrigailov. Her situation is a factor in Raskolnikov's decision to commit the murder. In Petersburg, she is eventually able to escape the clutches of both Luzhin and Svidrigailov, and later marries Razumikhin.

Luzhin (Pyotr Petrovich) – 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.

Svidrigaïlov (Arkady Ivanovich) – 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, 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.

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 means, seeking to confuse and provoke the volatile Raskolnikov into a voluntary or involuntary confession. He later drops these methods and sincerely urges Raskolnikov to confess for his own good.

Other characters

  • 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.
  • Semyon Zakharovich Marmeladov – Hopeless drunk who Raskolnokov meets while still considering the murder scheme. Raskolnikov is deeply moved by his passionate, almost ecstatic confession of how his abject alcoholism led to the devastation of his life, the destitution of his wife and children, and ultimately to his daughter Sonya being forced into prostitution.
  • 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.
  • 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 cheerful friend of Razumikhin and a doctor who cared for Raskolnikov. He is described as tall and fat with a clean-shaven face and blond hair.[22]
  • Nastasya Petrovna (Настасья Петровна) – Raskolnikov's landlady's cheerful servant who is very caring towards Raskolnikov and often brings him food and drink. She is described as very talkative and efficient.[23][24]
  • Nikodim Fomich (Никодим Фомич) – The amiable chief of police.[25]
  • Ilya Petrovich (Илья Петрович) – A police official and Fomich's assistant, nicknamed "Gunpowder" for his very bad temper.[25]
  • Alexander Grigorievich Zamyotov (Александр Григорьевич Заметов) – Head clerk at the police station and friend to Razumikhin.
  • 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 – Svidrigaïlov's deceased wife, whom he is suspected of having murdered, and who he claims has visited him as a ghost. In Pulkheria Alexandrovna's letter to her son, Marfa Petrovna is said to have vigorously defended Dunya against Svidrigailov, and introduced her to Luzhin. She leaves Dunya 3000 rubles in her will.
  • Nikolai Dementiev (Николай Дементьев), also known as Mikolka – A house painter who happens to be nearby at the time of the murder and is initially suspected of the crime. Driven by memories of the teachings of his Old Believer sect, which holds it to be supremely virtuous to suffer for another person's crime, he falsely confesses to the murders.
  • Polina Mikhailovna Marmeladova (Полина Михайловна Мармеладова) – Ten-year-old adopted daughter of Semyon Zakharovich Marmeladov and younger stepsister to Sonya, sometimes known as Polechka and Polya.
Name Word Meaning in Russian
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.
Luzhin luzha a puddle
Razumikhin razum rationality, mind, intelligence
Zamyotov zametit to notice, to realize
Lebezyatnikov lebezit to fawn on somebody, to cringe
Marmeladov marmelad marmalade/jam
Svidrigaïlov Svidrigailo a Lithuanian duke of the fifteenth century (the name given to a character rather by sound, than by meaning)
Porfiry Porphyry (perhaps) named after the Neoplatonic philosopher or after the Russian "порфира" ("porphyra") meaning "purple, purple mantle"
Sonya Sofya from the Greek meaning "wisdom"

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