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.
Money and Poverty Theme Icon

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 money or come into large amounts. Pulcheria and Dunya live in strained circumstances in the provinces; Pulcheria gets by on the dregs of a small pension, bequeathed by Raskolnikov’s father. Marmeladov has almost no money, leaving his wife Katerina and children to manage with next to nothing. Svidrigailov inherits a good deal from his wife after her (suspicious) death. He offers Dunya an enormous amount if she will marry him, but ends up giving away much of his money before killing himself. Luzhin, who wishes to marry Dunya, is a self-made clerk who feels that an impoverished woman makes a more dependable, more devoted wife.

Yet Raskolnikov’s poverty, though it aggravates his mental condition, is not the true cause of the murders, nor does it seem strictly to motivate any of the plots’ marriages or other intrigues. Much of the money in the novel is either given away or inherited—very few male characters (Razumikhin is a notable exception) work for their money, and female characters tend to be forced into degrading circumstances in order to get by. Raskolnikov learns, after his conviction, that the pawnbroker had a good deal less money than he had hoped initially. But he never actively worked to claim this money, and the prosecutors take this as evidence of Raskolnikov’s mental instability. It turns out that the labor camp, for Raskolnikov, actually represents a general betterment of his material circumstances. His rehabilitation will come through a spiritual and ethical rebirth, and not through a monetary windfall. He did not kill for money, and he cannot be reformed by money.

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Money and Poverty Quotes in Crime and Punishment

Below you will find the important quotes in Crime and Punishment related to the theme of Money and Poverty.
Part 1, Chapter 2 Quotes

It is necessary that every man have at least somewhere to go.

Related Characters: Semyon Zakharovich Marmeladov (speaker)
Page Number: 14
Explanation and Analysis:

Marmeladov is a foil for Raskolnikov, in that Marmeladov's life is also falling apart, but he reacts differently. Marmeladov is drunk, and has been sleeping on the banks of the Neva River for nearly the past week - and yet all he wishes to do is to narrate his life with his wife and family to someone, anyone, in the nearby tavern. Raskolnikov, though he does not have a family, is similarly dissolute. But the difference between the two men, older and younger, is that Raskolnikov is not interested in sharing his experiences or narrating them to a friend. Raskonikov's dissolution is instead a thoroughly private matter.

This will have consequences later in the novel, when Raskolnikov attempts to keep his murderous acts a secret. He finds this nearly impossible to do - he has nightmares about his deeds - and realizes, only too late, that Marmeladov's impulse to atone in public for his bad behavior is, in fact, a method by which people can relieve themselves of the burden of their guilt. 


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Part 1, Chapter 3 Quotes

. . . as he explained, a husband ought to owe nothing to his wife, but it is much better if a wife looks upon her husband as a benefactor.

Related Characters: Pulcheria Alexandrovna Raskolnikov (speaker), Avdotya (Dunya) Romanovna Raskolnikov, Pyotr Petrovich Luzhin
Page Number: 36
Explanation and Analysis:

Luzhin, about whom Pulcheria is speaking, seems to be a good, honest man, a government official who announces that he is truly in love with Dunya, Raskolnikov's sister. But this speech he gives, as reported by Pulcheria, is somewhat odd considering the circumstances. He argues that it is better for a husband to marry a wife in a "lower position," because then the wife will literally look up to her husband, rely on him for everything, and be, therefore, much more inclined to work for him and for the good of their family.

This, of course, is at best an upsetting, and at worst a deeply terrifying conception of marriage, as a kind of servitude a woman must provide her husband. But Pulcheria and Dunya recognize that, based on their material circumstances, they have very little say in the matter. Dunya must be married if their family is to be supported, especially with Raskolnikov earning so little money. And Raskolnikov himself feels an unacknowledged guilt at being unable to offer his sister and mother any money to survive. 

Part 1, Chapter 4 Quotes

This marriage will not take place as long as I live, and to the devil with Mr. Luzhin!

Related Characters: Rodion Romanovich Raskolnikov (speaker), Avdotya (Dunya) Romanovna Raskolnikov, Pyotr Petrovich Luzhin
Page Number: 40
Explanation and Analysis:

Here, Raskolnikov makes plain his deep opposition to Dunya's potential marriage to Luzhin. Although Luzhin can provide material security for the family, Raskolnikov believes this security comes at too high a price. He states openly that he feels Dunya would have to give up too much of her independence to a man Raskolnikov feels he barely knows. 

But there are perhaps deeper reasons for Raskolnikov's opposition to Luzhin's marriage to Dunya. For Luzhin is, despite everything, a man "of action," a man "in the world." And Rasknolnikov is barely holding on to his tenuous life as a student, and his squalid top-floor apartment. Indeed, Raskolnikov is barely maintaining his grasp on reality itself. Thus he resents Luzhin for wishing to marry into the family, in part because he worries that Dunya will have to give up too much of her freedom, and in part because he feels implicitly that he should be the man providing for his mother and sister in their time of need. 

Part 2, Chapter 2 Quotes

If indeed this whole thing was done consciously and not foolheadedly . . . then how is it that so far you have not even looked into the purse and do not know what you’ve actually gained?

Related Characters: Rodion Romanovich Raskolnikov (speaker)
Page Number: 110
Explanation and Analysis:

This passage is perhaps the first and most serious indication that Raskolnikov has no idea, really, why he committed the crime he committed—for he has not even inventoried the contents of the purse he took from his neighbor! Of course, Rasknolnikov had his doubts, even before commission of the crime, as to his motivations—he knew there was something beyond money that interested him, perhaps a desire to live life fully, or to "make his mark" on the world. But his total ignorance of the items contained in the purse makes clear to him just how profound this lack of interest is.

Additionally, Raskolnikov's attitude indicates that, for him, the crime itself was a way both of courting fate and of altering it, of making sure that his will was dominant over whatever life had "planned" for him. In this way, then, the contents of the purse do not matter at all—they are incidental to the deeper motivation of the crime, which is an assertion of his will against a world that seems largely indifferent to him. 

Part 4, Chapter 3 Quotes

No, it’s my fault most of all! I was tempted by his money, but I swear, brother—I never imagined he could be such an untrustworthy man!

Related Characters: Avdotya (Dunya) Romanovna Raskolnikov (speaker), Rodion Romanovich Raskolnikov, Marfa Petrovna Svidrigailov
Page Number: 308
Explanation and Analysis:

Dunya is a counterpoint to Raskolnikov in her total dedication to being truthful, and to helping and serving her mother and brother - to doing all she can to make the lives of those around her easier. Dunya worries that she has sullied the family's name by taking up with Luzhin, who, it turns out, has had an eye on her money, and has not really loved her so much as planned to use Dunya to further his own designs. Dunya fears that this has brought shame on her brother and mother, and her anguish here is not so much her own - as might be expected of a lover jilted in this fashion - but is instead anguish for others.

Raskolnikov also worries about those around him, but his worries are those of a paranoid person - devoid of most relation to reality, and achieving their full effect only in his mind - without much reflection in the outside world. Raskolnikov sees others and thinks of himself; Dunya sees something happen to her and thinks of others. 

Part 5, Chapter 4 Quotes

Nonsense! I simply killed—killed for myself, for myself alone . . . and it was not money above all that I wanted when I killed . . . .

Related Characters: Rodion Romanovich Raskolnikov (speaker)
Page Number: 419
Explanation and Analysis:

This is avastly important passage in the novel. For Sonya, loving Raskolnikov as she does, wishes to argue on his behalf that there were mitigating circumstances causing him to kill - that Raskolnikov was hungry, that he was not in right mind and that he therefore did not know what he was doing, that he murdered out of a desperation for money and a deep desire simply to stay alive. But to this, Raskolnikov argues point blank that the truth was nothing of the sort. The young man instead claims that he killed "for himself," out of a sense of fulfilling a destiny that was different from that of the university men around him - that Raskolnikov wanted to live beyond the confines of the life that unfurled before him. Sonya, then, attempts to humanize her love interest, whereas the young man desires only to clear his mind and not to make excuses for the murder, not to point to any mitigating circumstances - but to argue exactly why he killed, even if those reasons make no sense to his companion, and instead stem solely from a personal existential crisis.