Crime and Punishment

Crime and Punishment

Coincidence and Free Will Theme Analysis

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.
Coincidence and Free Will Theme Icon

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 “automatic” or “mechanical” action, makes it appear that Raskolnikov and other characters do not determine their own fates.

Nearly every character in the novel has a brush with coincidence or free will. The murder itself is defined by a coincidence. If there were no painters working on the second floor, Raskolnikov would not have been able to escape via their diversion (the painters get into an unrelated argument just after the murder). Raskolnikov runs into Marmeladov in a tavern, although Raskolnikov rarely drinks or visits bars. Marmeladov is later killed by a wagon while Raskolnikov is out walking. Sonya, Marmeladov’s daughter, later becomes Raskolnikov’s friend and confidante. Svidrigailov, husband to the wealthy Marfa, is Dunya’s employer; Svidrigailov nearly seduces Dunya, blames her for “seducing” him, and has her fired. Svidrigailov later turns up in Petersburg and, sitting behind a wall in his apartment, adjacent to Sonya’s, he overhears Raskolnikov’s admission of guilt.

Coincidence has two purposes in the text. First, paranoiacs tend to spot “coincidence” in chance events and derive causation from them: to Raskolnikov all events seem to point to others noticing his guilt. By placing coincidences throughout the text, Dostoevsky increase the novel’s dramatic pressure and mimics the constriction of Raskolnikov’s mental state. Second, novels themselves are exercises in coincidence and free will. Dostoevsky never provides a single, clear motive for Raskolnikov’s murders, which both makes the murders seem more real—more plausible as mistake-riddled human activities—and resists an easy “moral” at the novel’s end. For Dostoevsky, novels must represent all the messiness of life: its coincidences, false starts, and blind alleys.

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Coincidence and Free Will Quotes in Crime and Punishment

Below you will find the important quotes in Crime and Punishment related to the theme of Coincidence and Free Will.
Part 1, Chapter 1 Quotes

Details, details above all! . . . It’s these details that ruin everything always . . .

Related Characters: Rodion Romanovich Raskolnikov (speaker)
Page Number: 5
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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.

Page Number: 36
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Part 1, Chapter 4 Quotes

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

Page Number: 40
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Part 1, Chapter 5 Quotes

God . . . but can it be, can it be that I will really take an axe and hit her on the head and smash her skull . . . ?

Page Number: 59
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Part 1, Chapter 6 Quotes

If he had ever once managed to analyze and finally decide everything down to the last detail . . . at that point he would most likely have renounced it all as absurd, monstrous, and impossible.

Related Characters: Rodion Romanovich Raskolnikov
Page Number: 69
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Part 1, Chapter 7 Quotes

But a sort of absentmindedness, even something like reverie, began gradually to take possession of him: as if he forgot himself at moments . . . and clung to trifles.

Related Characters: Rodion Romanovich Raskolnikov
Page Number: 80
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Part 2, Chapter 4 Quotes

And if we look straight, in all ways—will there be many good people left? No, in that case I’m sure that I, with all my innards, would be worth about as much as one baked onion!

Related Characters: Dmitri Prokofych Razumikhin (speaker)
Page Number: 133
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Part 2, Chapter 6 Quotes

"And what if it was I who killed the old woman and Lizaveta?"

"But can it be?"

"Admit that you believed it! Right? Am I right?"

Page Number: 165
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Part 2, Chapter 7 Quotes

He finally got it!

Page Number: 178
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Part 3, Chapter 3 Quotes

What I’m driving at . . . is that your complete recovery now depends chiefly on you yourself. . . . I should like to impress upon you that it is necessary to eliminate the original, so to speak, radical causes that influenced the onset of your ill condition.

Related Characters: Dr. Zossimov (speaker), Rodion Romanovich Raskolnikov
Related Symbols: Lazarus
Page Number: 223
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Part 3, Chapter 6 Quotes

. . . only peasants or the most inexperienced novices deny everything outright and all down the line. A man with even a bit of development . . . will certainly try to admit as far as possible all the external and unavoidable facts.

Related Characters: Rodion Romanovich Raskolnikov (speaker)
Page Number: 269
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Part 4, Chapter 2 Quotes

You’ve all been saying that I was mad . . . and just now I imagined that perhaps I really am mad and was only seeing a ghost!

Page Number: 295
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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!

Page Number: 308
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Part 4, Chapter 4 Quotes

Jesus therefore again groaning in himself cometh to the grave . . . . Jesus said, Take ye away the stone. . . . Jesus lifted up his eyes, and said, Father, I thank thee that thou has heard me, . . . and he cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth. And he that was dead came forth.

Related Characters: Sonya Semyonovna Marmeladov (speaker)
Related Symbols: Lazarus
Page Number: 327
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Part 4, Chapter 6 Quotes

One little word, Rodion Romanovich, sir; concerning everything else, it’s as God wills, but all the same we’ll have to ask you a thing or two formally, sir . . . so we’ll be seeing each other right enough, sir.

Related Characters: Porfiry Petrovich (speaker), Rodion Romanovich Raskolnikov
Page Number: 353
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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
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Part 5, Chapter 5 Quotes

Dunya! This Razumikhin, Dmitri Prokofych, is a very good man . . . He is a practical man, hard-working, honest, and capable of deep love . . . .

Page Number: 425
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Part 6, Chapter 1 Quotes

He’s a political conspirator, he is, for sure, for sure!

Page Number: 446
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Part 6, Chapter 2 Quotes

You’d run away, and come back on your own. It’s impossible for you to do without us.

Related Characters: Porfiry Petrovich (speaker), Rodion Romanovich Raskolnikov
Page Number: 461
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Part 6, Chapter 6 Quotes

"Well, never mind, brother. It’s a good place. If they start asking you, just tell them he went to America."

"Oi, dat’s not allowed, it’s de wrong place!"

Related Characters: Arkady Ivanovich Svidrigailov (speaker)
Page Number: 511
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Part 6, Chapter 7 Quotes

I’m wicked, I see that . . . but why do they love me so, when I’m unworthy of it!

Related Symbols: Lazarus
Page Number: 520
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Epilogue, Chapter 2 Quotes

At the beginning of their happiness there were moments when they were both ready to look at those seven years as if they were seven days. He did not even know that a new life would not be given him for nothing, that it still had to be dearly bought, to be paid for with a great future deed . . . .

Related Symbols: Lazarus
Page Number: 551
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