Crime and Punishment

Crime and Punishment

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Themes and Colors
Criminality, Morality, and Guilt Theme Icon
Madness and Intoxication Theme Icon
Coincidence and Free Will Theme Icon
Money and Poverty Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Crime and Punishment, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

Criminality, morality, and guilt are central preoccupations of Dostoevsky’s. Raskolnikov commits the great crime of the novel: he robs and murders the pawnbroker and her sister Lizaveta, an innocent bystander. Raskolnikov must come to terms with his feeling, or lack of feeling, of remorse for the act, and his motive is never fully resolved. He argues that the pawnbroker did no good for society and therefore her death is of no consequence; he also…

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What does it mean “to be in one’s right mind”? Raskolnikov is presented, from the beginning, as a character on the brink of mental collapse. He talks to himself in public, lies in bed all day in his small apartment, and barely eats. He walks aimlessly around Petersburg, and he often does not remember where he goes or what he does. Razumikhin, Pulcheria, and Dunya fear for Raskolnikov’s mental state, eroded not only…

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The novel is rife with coincidence. Do events happen “just because,” “by accident”? Or are people beginning to suspect Raskolnikov of the murders? The occurrence and recurrence of events in the text develops a complex argument on the nature of free will, or the extent to which humans determine the course of their lives. Raskolnikov asks himself repeatedly whether he ever consciously chose to kill the two women. And Dostoevsky’s language, with its insistence on…

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Raskolnikov’s financial situation at the start of the novel is dire. He has been forced to suspend his law studies because he cannot afford tuition. He barely eats and lives in a miniscule apartment; his clothes are rags. Yet he cares little for money. When he does receive it he often gives it away: to help a young drunk woman, or, later, to pay Katerina for Marmeladov’s funeral.

Other characters either have significant troubles with…

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Relationships between family members, and the formation of families through marriage, are central to the novel. Raskolnikov has a fraught relationship with his mother and sister, whom he recognizes as having made great sacrifices for his own happiness. He feels repulsed by their charity and tries to break off relations with them. But Raskolnikov nevertheless feels protective of his sister, in whom he confides, and of his mother. Apart from an engagement to his landlord’s…

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