Book Report of the Novel ‘Crime and Punishment’

Table of Content

The story of Crime and Punishment takes place in St. Petersburg, Russia’s capital, and centers around a murder. Unlike usual detective stories, the identity of the murderer is disclosed from the beginning. Nevertheless, instead of concentrating on the details of the offense, Dostoyevsky explores the killer’s mindset. Raskolnikov intends to murder an elderly woman and steal her possessions. After their encounter, he experiences great anguish and seeks comfort at a tavern.

There, Raskolnikov encounters a drunk man named Marmeladov, who shares the story of how his daughter Sonya turned to prostitution in order to support their family. Raskolnikov assists Marmeladov in getting home, and is deeply moved by the distressing sight of poverty that he witnesses there. After leaving them some money, Raskolnikov returns to his cramped room. The following day, he receives a letter from his mother, informing him that his sister, Dunya, is going to marry a man named Luzhin. Raskolnikov realizes that his mother and sister are relying on Luzhin for financial assistance following the wedding.

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According to him, Dunya is giving up everything for him, similar to how Sonya turned to prostitution. He criticizes himself for being inactive. Shortly after, he falls asleep and has a dream of witnessing a peasant mercilessly killing a weary horse. Upon waking up, he openly expresses his intention to use an axe to murder the pawnbroker. Discovering that the pawnbroker’s sister will be out of their apartment the following evening, he understands that the perfect opportunity to carry out his plan has presented itself. However, the murder does not go as planned.

Lizaveta, the pawnbroker’s sister, is unexpectedly killed by Raskolnikov. He finds only a few valuable items and almost gets caught by two clients of the pawnbroker. After they leave momentarily, Raskolnikov manages to sneak out unnoticed. In the following days, he experiences a mix of clarity and confusion as he struggles between confessing his crime and evading arrest. He starts playing a game of cat-and-mouse with Porfiry Petrovich, an examining magistrate who is investigating the murder.

Porfiry has come across an article written by Raskolnikov, wherein Raskolnikov discusses a theory suggesting that certain individuals may have the authority to commit crimes if they believe it is necessary for achieving specific objectives. Raskolnikov proceeds to elucidate his theory to Porfiry, commencing with the concept that the world can be classified into two groups—the masses and the elite. The first group, referred to as the material, typically possess a cautious and conventional nature, living in compliance and finding contentment in it. According to Raskolnikov, they should abide by societal norms as it is their predetermined fate, and there is no inherent degradation in doing so.

The second group comprises individuals who are law-breakers and transgressors, or have a predisposition towards it, based on their abilities. These people have diverse and subjective objectives; in numerous instances, they aim to dismantle the existing state of affairs to establish something superior. Nevertheless, if it becomes essential for any of them to trample upon corpses or shed blood in pursuit of their goals, they can ethically rationalize such actions, but only to the extent that aligns with the importance of their ideas.

It is in that sense only, their right to commit crime. Proud, aloof, and scornful of humanity, at the beginning of the novel Raskolnikov has become fixated on the notion that he is a “superman” and is therefore exempt from the laws that govern ordinary individuals. He has not only written an essay but also attempts to validate this theory by murdering an old pawnbroker, whom he deems worthless. However, the murder goes awfully wrong: he unintentionally kills the old woman’s innocent sister (Lizaveta), who stumbles upon the crime scene. Thus, ironically, the crime fails to prove Raskolnikov’s superior indifference.

Raskolnikov’s guilt torments him, causing him to behave unpredictably and worry about others detecting his guilt. The novel primarily focuses on Raskolnikov’s irrational mental state and the peculiar behavior that stems from it. There are moments where he almost brags about potentially being involved in the crime and dares others to prove his guilt. He insults his friend Razumihkin, deliberately offending both his mother and sister. Despite this, he also displays actions that reveal a moral compass still exists within him. For example, he defends his sister against her manipulative fiancé Luzhin while providing financial support to Katerina Ivanovna, the widow of Marmeladov.

The main character experiences terror when encountering Svidrigailov and is drawn to Sonya Marmeladova, who remains morally pure despite her challenging circumstances. Eventually, he confesses his wrongdoing to her and begins a path towards redemption. In 17th-century Russia, the term Raskol was utilized to represent a division within the Russian Orthodox Church. Dostoyevsky’s Russian readers would have recognized the importance of Raskolnikov’s name, symbolizing inner conflicts within his persona and his defiance against God.

Dostoyevsky has crafted an enthralling and relatable character named Raskolnikov. Within the novel Crime and Punishment, the theme of a troubled conscience is explored. The author presents punishment as a result of guilt rather than mere physical deeds. Guilt is portrayed as the acknowledgment of one’s misdeeds and the sense of disconnection from both society and God. Right from the beginning of the narrative, Raskolnikov experiences this isolation. To assert his supremacy over societal laws, he resorts to committing murder.

The criminal’s sense of alienation from society is strengthened by his crime. Atonement, forgiveness, guilt, and innocence are interconnected themes. Dostoyevsky suggests that punishment is the necessary outcome of committing a crime through the title of his work. However, punishment extends beyond legal judgment and imprisonment. According to Dostoyevsky, the true punishment for the criminal is not found in serving time in prison. Additionally, legal punishment does not offer a definitive resolution to crime. Instead, the criminal’s punishment arises from their own conscience and recognition of their guilt.

However, Raskolnikov must not only accept his guilt but also make amends for his crime and seek forgiveness. In his initial attempt to justify his actions, he offers various explanations to himself, with the “superman” theory being the most prominent. According to this theory, the superman is exempt from the need to atone as he can commit any crime to achieve his goals. Additionally, Raskolnikov rationalizes his crime by claiming that the old pawnbroker is worthless and her death would rid the world of an unpleasant individual.

Driven by poverty, he claims that he wants to use her money to improve his life, but he later realizes that none of these reasons justify his crime. Raskolnikov has various complex reasons for fearing arrest. However, it is evident that without Sonya’s example and urging, he would not be able to seek forgiveness. It is astonishing to him that when he confesses his crime to Sonya, she forgives him instantaneously. She encourages him to kneel before God and publicly confess. Sonya believes that this act of contrition will help him start purifying his soul.

Svidrigailov acknowledges his guilt without seeking forgiveness, unlike Raskolnikov who questions if it is even possible. Svidrigailov tries to partially compensate for his wrongdoings by giving money to Sonya and others, but these actions are also driven by self-interest. Feeling a deep spiritual void, he sees suicide as his only path to redemption. The last chapter of the book centers on Raskolnikov’s life as a convict in Siberia, where he initially feels detached from his fellow prisoners.

During the time of Lent and Easter, Raskolnikov falls ill and has a peculiar dream where a sickness spreads to everyone. This ailment causes each person to believe they alone possess the truth, leading them to commit homicide and ultimately bring about global destruction. After recuperating, Raskolnikov strolls along the riverbank and appreciates the beauty around him. Unexpectedly, Sonya joins him on this walk, causing Raskolnikov to experience an entirely new feeling – love. Both he and Sonya understand that something profound has occurred within his soul.

Love has resurrected him, making him a new individual. Dostoyevsky concludes his novel by suggesting that the account of Raskolnikov’s rebirth could be the center of attention in another tale, but the current narrative has reached its conclusion. The primary motivation behind Raskolnikov’s decision to murder the pawnbroker is actually quite simple. Upon overhearing a student discussing with an officer at a bar the idea of “killing her, taking her money and using it to dedicate oneself to serving humanity and promoting the greater good,” Raskolnikov adopted this notion wholeheartedly.

Raskolnikov’s descent into madness occurred after he murdered the pawn broker and her sister, as he had no one to confide in about his feelings. Whether it was guilt or self-disgust that drove him insane, he eventually developed a desire to be apprehended and willingly turned himself in. “You see… I’ve come to the conclusion that it would be more beneficial for me to choose this path… I will end up in prison…” A similar situation arises when a child simply gives up while attempting to steal a cookie. They realize they are about to be caught and prefer confessing instead of being coerced by someone else.

While living with my uncle and his family years ago, I observed an interesting incident that shed light on a fascinating aspect of human behavior. Back then, my three-year-old cousin heavily relied on a stuffed lamb to help her sleep. However, she regarded me as inferior when we were at her house. In response, I devised a clever plan to secretly take away the lamb and hide it in an unexpected place. Unfortunately, everyone in the household soon discovered that the lamb played a vital role in providing my cousin with the peaceful rest she needed. This realization had a profound impact not only on her but also on all of us.

Consequently, the following week and a half proved difficult for everyone to fall asleep as my cousin continuously cried about her lost “Sleepy Sheepy”. Despite my guilt, I remained resolute and refused to divulge the lamb’s location, even when interrogated by my mother and uncle. Witnessing my cousin’s nightly tears was distressing, yet confessing my involvement seemed even more unbearable at that point.

Raskolnikov initially believed that his intentions were good, but like with extreme plans, they led to chaos. Unfortunately, this aspect of human nature is present in all of us and sometimes manifests itself. Raskolnikov thought he was acting in the best interests of his neighbors, who were also victims of the pawnbroker’s deceit. However, he didn’t fully think about the potential consequences of his actions. Similarly, I believed I was acting in the best interests of my cousin and myself, but I didn’t carefully consider the possible repercussions. But when an individual realizes their decision may not have been optimal, their mental suffering exceeds that which occurs with a simple confession.

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Book Report of the Novel ‘Crime and Punishment’. (2017, Mar 09). Retrieved from

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