Analysis Of “Crime and Punishment” by Fyodor Dostoevsky

“Crime and Punishment” by Fyodor Dostoevsky

Plot Summary

The main focus of this story is Rodion Romanovich Raskolnikov who is forced to terminate his studies because of inadequate money to finance his university studies. He lives in a small room under tough conditions in St. Petersburg. Though good-looking and intelligent, the state of poverty can only allow him to dress in rags. Rodion feels he can make the city better by killing Alyona Ivanovna because he feels that her pawning business is evil and retrogressive to the societal development. Unfortunately, he also kills the sister of the pawnbroker (Lizaveta) during the incident.

Overburdened by guilt, Raskolnikov tells Sonya, a confidant who becomes his lover that he is the one who committed the atrocity. Sonya encourages him to go and confess the illegal act to the authorities. Though difficult at first, he finally turns himself in and is deported to Siberia. Sonya visits Raskolnikov in prison in Siberia regularly.

The setting

Written in 1866, the book has a chronological series of events that take place in the present times. There is no clear indication of how the period affects the events or the language used in the story.

The story mostly takes place in St. Petersburg which is a cosmopolis. Different people are involved in a myriad of activities in this city. However, the storyline mainly concentrates on a small Raskolnikov, the friends and the other people to whom poverty is a prevalent phenomenon. The author emphasizes the tribulations of the main character. The tiny size of the room and the squalid conditions where Rodion Romanovich Raskolnikov lives are meant to give a picture of the level of poverty experienced.

The viewpoint of the narrator

The author of this story takes a third-person’s viewpoint to narrate the events in to make it easy for the reader to follow what happens and understand the characters better. As a result, the author can describe all the events that affect the lives of the characters in the story and especially Raskolnikov.

The conflict

Raskolnikov experiences internal conflict on how and when to murder the pawnbroker. He has to convince himself that that is the right thing to do. After committing the crime, Raskolnikov has it difficult to decide whether to report himself to the authorities or not.

The characters

This story has different characters that play different roles and make the story complete. The characters that have a huge impact on the story are described below:

  • Rodion Romanych Raskolnikov
    He is persevering as he can live under very hard conditions in St. Petersburg. His intelligence is also demonstrated by the ability to plan and conceal the crime committed by the authorities in charge of the investigation. Moreover, he also shows a lot of remorse by the fact that he feels guilty about the crime and confesses.
  • Sonya
    She is the daughter of Marmeladov who had to be involved in prostitution to support her family financially which shows that she is hardworking. Though she is involved in the vice, she is very pure at heart and convinces Raskolnikov to confess to his crime of murder. She shows that she is caring by visiting Raskolnikov in prison.
  • Dmitri Prokofych Razumikhin
    Raskolnikov’s friend from the university where they studied together. He is friendly and caring as he takes care of Raskolnikov and his family during hard times. Throughout the story, he does not change.
  • Dunya
    Raskolnikov’s sister and was at one point engaged to Luzhin. She is respectful as she accepts to break-up with Luzhin because of the conflict with her brother. She is virtuous and beautiful.
  • Arkady Ivanovich Svidrigailov
    He had employed Dunya and admired her romantically at some point. Persistent as he follows Dunya to St. Petersburg to try and convince her to fall in love with him
  • Marfa Petrovna Svidrigailov
    A paranoid woman who is Svidrigailov’s wife accuses Dunyaof seducing her husband (Svidrigailov). She is also heartless as she sacks Dunya
  • Katerina Ivanovna Marmeladov
    She is the loving wife of Marmeladov. Her persevering nature enables her to survive the move from one abusive relationship to another with irresponsible husband.


The story handles a wide range of themes. The most prominent on is criminality that is displayed by the murder. There is also justice when Raskolnikov is sentenced for the crime. Suffering and alienation are also handled in the story as highlighted by the hardship that the Marmeladov’s family had to live in. The text also gives an overview of education, love and drug abuse.


There are several instances of symbolism in the text. For example, the St. Petersburg represents the variety of thoughts in the mind of Raskolnikov. Sonia’s life represents a paradox of sorts as she is very religious while she also has a prostitute.