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.
Money and Poverty ThemeTracker
Money and Poverty Quotes in Crime and Punishment
It is necessary that every man have at least somewhere to go.
. . . 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.
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?
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!