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    Themes of Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky

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    Fyodor Dostoevsky’s novel “Crime and Punishment” brings the reader a glimpse into the mind of a criminal, tormented by the guilt of murder. Dostoevsky’s focal point of the novel does not lie within the crime nor the punishment but everything in between. Dostoevsky also vividly depicts the life and conditions of poverty within the confines of St. Petersburg. Dostoevsky uses a unique and descriptive diction which takes the reader’s perspective and puts them in the mind of the murderer – Raskolnikov.

    Raskolnikov “…pulled the axe quite out, swung it with both arms, scarcely conscious of himself, and almost without effort, almost mechanically, brought the blunt side down on her head. ” In this violent and graphic scene of murder, Raskolnikov commits murder upon Alyona Ivanova. The result from the blow of the axe was gruesomely detailed Dostoevsky described “The blood gushed as from an overturned glass, the body fell back. “75 As these graphic violent scenes would contribute to the main theme of the story it also contributed to the theme of poverty.

    Raskolnikov is living in poverty and he sees murder as the only solution to his desperate situation. His second murder involved the pawnbroker’s sister – Lizaveta. Just as violent and gore-filled as his first murder, his second murder delivered death in a single blow; “The axe fell with the sharp edge just on the skull and split at one blow all the top of the head”. 77 These two gruesome murders will play to the main theme: the guilt of the crime. Raskolnikov also feels as if he is a superhuman or better than everyone else.

    His act of murder is due in part to his belief that he is above the law. However, when he discovers that he is not super human nor above the law, he is consumed by guilt and goes about his day haunted by the murders. And his guilt is such a great burden that he is finally relieved and filled joy when he finally admits to his crime and serves his time in prison. Another scene of violence involves love and one man’s desperate chase after an engaged woman. Svidrigailov, whom has fallen for Dounia, the sister of Raskolnikov is a wealthy employer of Dounia.

    His obsession over Dounia is evident in his offer of money to Dounia and Raskolnikov. Svidrigailov also claims Dounia’s fiancée, Luzhin, as unworthy of Dounia and wishes Dounia to cancel the engagement with Luzhin. As Dounia and nearly every character in the novel is profoundly poor, rejecting such a tempting offer from Svidrigailov displays courage from Raskolnikov and Dounia. Poverty also allows Characters such as Dounia and Raskolnikov to commit self sacrifice to do what is moral and right.

    Dounia shows her hatred of Svidrigialov by threatening to shoot him with a revolver as she “…raised the revolver, and deadly pale, gazed at him, measuring the distance and awaiting the first movement on his part. “458 Dostoevsky perfectly describes Dounia to the readers as she is about to shoot Svidrigailov, when her “…lower lip was white and quivering and her big black eyes flashed like fire. “458 Dostoevsky also mentioned the feeling in Svidrigailov’s mind when he saw the revolver pointed at him and he looked at Dounia and thought “He had never seen her so handsome.

    The fire glowing in her eyes at the moment she raised the revolver seemed to kindle him and there was a pang of anguish in his heart. He took a step forward and a shot rang out. “458 When Dounia had shot him he did not panic nor was angered but he casually “…pulled out his handkerchief to wipe the blood, which flowed in a thin stream down his right temple. “458The bullet had just missed its target and had grazed his skin. Confident that Dounia will miss once more, “His eyes flashed and he took two steps forward.

    Dounia shot again: it missed fire. ” Soon after Dounia finally recognized Svidrigailov’s determination and stubbornness as she “saw that he would sooner die than let her go”. 458 She realized this and “Suddenly she flung away the revolver” and Svidrigailov took it as a sign that she had given into him. Svidrigailov “went to Dounia and gently put his arm round her waist. She did not resist, but, trembling like a leaf, looked at him with suppliant eyes. He tired to say something, but his lips moved without being able to utter a sound. 459 When Dounia confessed her disgust for Svidrigailov, he is crushed as there was “…a moment of terrible, dumb struggle in the heart of Svidrigailov. Dounia left Svidrigailov heartbroken and in despair. He took Dounia’s revolver which she had thrown on the floor and proceeded to walk about the streets of St. Petersburg aimlessly. Due to Dounia’s relentless resistance and courage to stand up to Svidrigailov, he commits suicide using her revolver. Dounia’s strength to put her happiness over her economic struggle demonstrates her values of self respect over materialism.

    Her strength was also demonstrated when her fiancée Luzhin insults her family and Dounia ends the engagement to him. Violence in Crime and Punishment is to promote the personalities of the characters and contribute to the main idea of the story: The courage to stand in the face of poverty and the guilt which follows a criminal’s misdeed. “Crime and Punishment” in a way reflects upon today’s society in which the murderer is punished severely but courage above all else is admired.

    In today’s poverty filled streets, crime is not uncommon and today’s serial killers do not have the guilty plagued conscious that Raskolnikov had. Without such guild which makes us all human, one is to wonder whether we are losing our humanity. Dostoevsky’s “Crime and Punishment” has a profound effect on present and future generations as it stresses the importance of family and bonding. Raskolnikov’s confession to his murderers is a self sacrifice, one which will save his soul and conscious. Dostoevsky, portraits Raskolnikov’s punishment as a revival, where he is able to renew his life.

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    Themes of Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky. (2018, Jun 09). Retrieved from

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