Type and Structure of Crime and Punishment
Crime and Punishment is a psychological novel that deals with Raskolnikov’s aspirations to
transcend pity, guilt, and the desire for companions. He is mentally tormented due to his intellectual
disgust with his compassionate and submissive nature that suffers for others’ pain. Both of Raskolnikov’s
personalities are personified in the novel.
The embodiment of the cold, intellectual side of Raskolnikov’s character is Svidrigailov, who
cares little of other people’s needs but will do anything to see that his own are met. Svidrigailov can even
beat and kill his wife and feel no remorse (Dostoevsky 282). He keeps to himself mainly and does not have
a want for friends. However, it is seen that Svidrigailov is wrong in his ways when he is rejected by
Dounia and can no longer stand living alone in the shadows of society, and resorts to suicide(511).
Svidrigailov is what Raskolnikov desires to become. In his theory of the ‘extraordinary man,’
there is no room for bothering with others' feelings. And since Raskolnikov despises the idea of being a
‘louse,’ or an ‘ordinary’ person who is ruled by morality, accepting charity from an old woman nauseates
him as soon as he leaves it up to the evil part of his character that dissects every action and compares it to
how “Napoleon (113-14)” would have acted. This section of his personality is responsible for the murders
of Alyona Ivanovna and Lizaveta.
The compassionate humble aspect of Raskolnikov is symbolized in Sonia Semyonovna
Marmeladov. Sonia’s father, Semyon Zakharovitch was a drunkard and could not financially support the
family, thus Sonia shows a great level of compassion and prostitutes herself in order to care for the
Marmeladovs, much like Raskolnikov giving almost all his money to the family (14, 185-86). The
outstanding humanitarianism of Sonia is also illustrated by her reaction to Raskolnikov’s confession.
Instead of turning her back on him, she sympathized and declared that “there is no one...in the whole world
as unhappy as you (411-12).”
Sonia is the redemptive figure in the novel, too, persuading Raskolnikov to confess to the police.
Sonia’s relation to Raskolnikov was rightly paralleled in the novel to that of Jesus raising the dead Lazarus
(325-28). Raskolnikov was separated from society, and through confessing to first Sonia and then the
police, he had nothing to hide and was brought back into the world, even though as a prisoner in a Siberian
labor camp (535). Raskolnikov’s psychological dilemma is solved through Sonia.
Crime and Punishment is the story of Raskolnikov’s dissatisfaction with himself, which is the
cause of all his problems. Sonia, though passivley, helps Raskolnikov find comfort in religion and
morality, which coincide with his natural disposition.