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 admits, later, to not understanding why he has killed. The remainder of the novel charts Raskolnikov’s interactions with friends, family, and police representatives. His friend Razumikhin, sister Dunya, and mother Pulcheria suspect Raskolnikov’s guilt only after many days; others, like Porfiry Petrovich, the investigator, and Zamyotov, a law clerk, take early note of Raskolnikov’s strange behavior and obsession with the murders.
It is revealed that, as a law student, Raskolnikov has written a magazine article claiming that “extraordinary” individuals might “overstep” the law—commit crimes—in order to create new laws and a new social order. He cites Napoleon and Muhammad as great “oversteppers.” Raskolnikov comes to recognize that, although he has acted believing himself to be an extraordinary individual, his remorse and subsequent mental instability prove he is ordinary after all. This, more than anything, convinces him to confess his guilt to the authorities. He is sentenced to eight years’ hard labor in Siberia, where Sonya joins him.
Other characters, too, have brushes with criminality and immorality. Sonya lives as a prostitute, and her father Marmeladov is a terrible drunk who cannot maintain a job. His wife Katerina beats her children, and Svidrigailov, who attempted to seduce Dunya in the provinces, continues with his womanizing in Petersburg, and is rumored to have poisoned his wife Marfa after an argument. Svidrigailov later commits suicide. Thus, even as Raskolnikov attempts his moral rehabilitation in Siberia, Petersburg remains a city of crime and temptation.
Criminality, Morality, and Guilt ThemeTracker
Criminality, Morality, and Guilt Quotes in Crime and Punishment
Details, details above all! . . . It’s these details that ruin everything always . . .
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.
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?
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!
"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?"
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.
. . . 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.
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.
I’m wicked, I see that . . . but why do they love me so, when I’m unworthy of it!
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 . . . .