Literature / Crime and Punishment

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"What can I tell you? I've known Rodion for a year and a half: sullen, gloomy, arrogant, proud; recently (and maybe much earlier) insecure and hypochondriac. Magnanimous and kind. Doesn't like voicing his feelings, and would rather do something cruel than speak his heart out in words. At times, however, he's not hypochondriac at all, but just inhumanly cold and callous, as if there really were two opposite characters in him, changing places with each other."

Perhaps the most famous novel written by Russian author Fyodor Dostoevsky. Originally in Russian under the title Prestuplenie i nakazanie (Преступлéние и наказáние)

A moody university student named Raskolnikov murders an old moneylender who has been exploiting her clients, but accidentally also kills someone else. He struggles with the ramifications of his actions through the novel. While ruminating over his crime, he deals with visiting family, a nosy friend who falls in love with his engaged sister, an implacable police detective namned Porfiry who who plays mindgames with him, the all-too-obvious faults in his own Übermensch theories, and his budding relationship with a prostitute and her poor family.

Detective Porfiry is a primary inspiration for the title character of the Columbo TV Movie series.

If you came here expecting Crime and Punishment Series, please fix the link.

This book contains examples of:

  • Alliterative Name:
    • Rodion Romanovich Raskolnikov.
    • Porfiry Petrovich.
  • Anti-Villain: Raskolnikov having both a sad background, true social concerns and some good intentions along with his pride and arrogance. Also the whole Out, Damned Spot! that he goes through.
  • Asshole Victim: Raskolnikov specifically chooses to murder Alyona because she's a greedy, unscrupulous, and universally unloved moneylender and he thinks she won't be missed.
  • Badass Pacifist: Dunya, so much. She's known for being able to endure anything, and Svidrigailov says that had she lived in an earlier time she would have been a martyr who would have smiled as she faced death. And then when Svidrigailov corners her and threatens to assault her, she pulls out a gun and notes that it's his wife's, and that she knows he killed her, then misses and decides to drop the gun rather than killing him, telling Svidrigailov that she's never loved him.. Svidrigailov responds by opening the door, and being so shaken by his experience that he kills himself.
  • Bad Dreams: Raskolnikov is haunted by nightmares ranging from unpleasant to genuinely disturbing. Not to mention the nightmares Svidrigailov has right before he kills himself.
  • Boisterous Bruiser: Razumikhin is very friendly and talkative, and is also known for being able to beat up people if he wants to.
  • Big Bad Ensemble: From Raskolnikov's perspective, it's an ensemble between Luzhin, Porfiry and Svidrigajlov. Raskolnikov himself isn't exactly a beacon of morality, mind you.
    • Porfiry is truly a Hero Antagonist, while with Luzhin and Svidrigailov its a case of Evil Versus Evil where both men (especially Svidrigailov) represent for Raskolnikov a darker version of what he could possibly become, if he completely abandoned any morals.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Lebezyatnikov bursting in just when Luzhin is accusing Sonya of stealing 100 rubles and explains what really happened.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Raskolnikov will have a nice new life, but only after he atones for his crimes by serving his time in Siberia.
  • Beauty Equals Goodness: The author at one point interjects to say that Pulcheria Alexandrrovna looks younger than her age because of being a moral person, and that this is the only way people look beautiful into their forties. Unless you're Luzhin or Svidrigailov, apparently.
  • Brutal Honesty: Razumikhin, as shown in the page quote. Raskolnikov's mother and sister are surprised at how unbiased he is given that he's Raskolnikov's friend.
  • Butt Monkey: Subverted; Lebezyatnikov is introduced as one, but then he actually helps Sonya and Raskolnikov against Luzhin's plan.
  • The Casanova: Svidrigailov claims to be able to attract any woman to him.
  • Character Filibuster: Raskolnikov often makes long speeches expressing his viewpoints about morality.
  • Character Tics: Avdotya Romanovna has a habit of pacing up and down the room while thinking.
  • The Chessmaster: Porfiry. Raskolnikov gets Out-Gambitted in almost every encounter, and Porfiry's one major setback is due to an outside influence neither man could have possibly predicted.
  • Cloud Cuckoolander: Named directly by Raskolnikov, in regards to his feverish behavior!
  • Cool Old Guy: Porfiry in many movie adaptations is usually portrayed as such; however, in the book he is just 35, although he looks older.
  • Deadly Euphemism: Svidrigailov likes talking about going to America. By which he actually means suicide.]
  • A Death in the Limelight: After being set up for almost the whole book, Svidrigailov finally gets quite a few chapters about him and then commits suicide.
  • Despair Event Horizon: Katerina Ivanovna crosses it when she is driven out of her house after her memorial dinner.
  • Friendship Moment: Radically subverted; Razumikhin constantly tries to help Raskolnikov, who at first treats him like crap and then decides to use him as a tool against his own antagonist, Porfiry.
  • Genius Bruiser: Razumikhin is noted to be a large and strong person who can easily beat someone in a fight, but he's also a student and despite appearing simple-minded is actually quite reasonable and intelligent.
  • Humiliation Conga: Luzhin not only gets chased out of the house and prevented from marrying Dunya but gets pretty humiliated when Lebezyatnikov and Raskolnikov reveal his scheme to frame Sonya.
  • Heel–Faith Turn: Raskolnikov's redemption under the care of Sonya has more than a little to do with her unflinching religious faith.
  • Heel Realization: The ultimate point of Raskolnikov's Character Development is him realizing that he's nothing more than a criminal, and his good intentions are meaningless.
  • Heroic Self-Deprecation: Razumikhin spends a lot of his dialogue calling himself an idiot.
  • Horrible Judge of Character: Raskolnikov sees Razumikhin as this for always finding another explanation for the evidence that he's a murderer. It does turn out that even he suspected Raskolinkov for some time, though.
  • Incorruptible Pure Pureness: Sonya, her profession notwithstanding. Dunya as well.
  • Inspector Javert: Porfiry; it's a peculiar version, though, as Raskolnikov has not been Wrongly Accused: he is guilty.
  • Jerk With A Heart Of Jerk: Luzhin. Did you wonder why he's do something so out of character as to give Sonia money with no strings attached? It doesn't take long to find out.
  • Karma Houdini: A minor version of this trope is found in Smug Snake Luzhin; he doesn't succeed at marrying Dunya, but being the despicable asshole he is he still gets away lightly.
  • Lampshade Hanging: Razumikhin's verbal recreation of the events of the murder is spot on, but Zossimov dismisses it as "melodrama."
  • Loners Are Freaks: Raskolnikov is a loner who hates talking to other people, and he ends up being a murderous Anti-Hero.
  • Martyr Without a Cause: Porfiry muses that this is probably why Nikolai confessed, and Raskolnikov and Dunia are both noted to have this trait by other characters.
  • Meaningful Name: Plenty of them:
    • Raskolnikov is derived from the archaic Russian word "raskolnik", which means "heretic" (usually used when referring to the old believers)-fitting well enough with the character's Well-Intentioned Extremist mindset-but it also literally means "shatterer", and indeed Raskolnikov shatters both the world around him and his own soul.
    • Razumikhin sounds very close (and is related) to the Russian word "razumny", which can mean "intelligent" or "sensible". Lampshaded when Svidrigailov notes that Razumikhin must be a reasonable person since even his name implies it.
    • Lebezyatnikov comes from "lebezit", which means "to fawn, to suck up".
  • Nice Hat: Razumikhin gives Raskolnikov one of these, along with a whole outfit, after he recovers from his sickness, and goes on for a long time about how cheap he got them despite how high-quality they are.
  • Noodle Incident: While reading the newspapers trying to find an article on the pawnbroker's murder, Raskolnikov relays the headlines of several terrible happenings recorded within, one of which involving the Spontaneous Human Combustion of a shopkeeper from alcohol. Nothing more is said on the matter.
  • Not So Different: Luzhin and Svidrigailov are two despicable and immoral men who are treated by Rodion with complete revulsion. However, it is constantly implied that they follow the same pattern of thought as Raskolnikov, only devoid of all ambiguity and pretense of improving the world by breaking the law.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: Porfiry pretends to be a buffoon, but he is actually so sharp he occasionally seems to have ESP.
    • A more minor example earlier in the book: Razumikhin says he's having trouble translating German, but he turns out he doesn't and was just saying this to give Raskolnikov a job.
  • Oh Crap!: Raskolnikov has this reaction when Porfiry reveals that he wasn't "clearing up a misunderstanding" but instead he knows that Raskolnikov is the murderer.
    • Luzhin also reacts this way when he realizes that he is actually going to lose his chance at marriage.
  • Redemption Equals Death: Svidrigaylov commits suicide after rediscovering his inner moral compass and understanding that there is a higher purpose in life.
  • Sarcastic Confession: When surprised by a policeman in a café, Raskolnikov makes a point to lead him on as much as possible that Raskolnikov would make a great criminal, going so far as telling them nearly exactly how he managed to escape from blame so far. Once he had the policeman in such a creeped-out state, Raskolnikov admits that he did murder the pawnbroker only to laugh in the policeman's face shortly after, causing the confession to sound like a mean spirited joke. For extra measure, Raskolnikov then rubs more evidence that he did actually do it in the policeman's face as he hastily leaves the café.
  • Senior Creep: Alyona Ivanovna, whom Raskolnikov murders because of her greed and unpleasant demeanor toward other people.
  • Single Mom Stripper: Sonya becomes a prostitute to feed her step-siblings.
  • Single Woman Seeks Good Man: Dunya and Razumihkin get married in the epilogue.
  • Strawman Political: Subverted with Lebezyatnikov, who does have rather simplified arguments for "modern thought", but the narrative notes that he's just a person who's not very smart and tends to make any philosophical position sound unreasonable regardless of its actual merit.
  • Straw Nihilist: A celebrated Ur-Example and Unbuilt Trope. Raskolnikov's musings on the "beyond good and evil" superhuman are at least 20 years older than Nietzche's philosophy, and in fact partly inspired him.
  • The Stoic: Raskolnikov, most of the time.
  • The Power of Love: Nihilism and pride fuel most of the actions of the book. This is the only thing that stands in their way. It's enough.
  • Tsarist Russia: The story takes place during the reign of Tsar Alexander III.
  • Übermensch: An Unbuilt Trope at the time it was written. Raskolnikov's main purpose is to become a superior man beyond good and evil; the whole book could be considered a Take That ante litteram to Nietzsche's theories (but ironically, Nietzsche took him as an inspiration). Raskolnikov himself describes his inspiration, Napoleon Bonaparte, in Ubermenschian terms.
  • The Unfettered: Raskolnikov, initially.
    • Subverted quite quickly, though, as his inability to truly become this after the murder makes him his own worst enemy.
  • Unusual Euphemism: (Svidrigailov, speaking to Achilles) "When you are asked, you just say he was going, he said, to America." (Svidrigailov says this before he commits suicide. A sentence after he says the aforementioned, the guy tells him he can't shoot himself in the head here in the street. The next sentence is "Svidrigailov pulled the trigger.")
  • Utopia Justifies the Means: Ruthlessly deconstructed. Even though Raskolnikov intends to help the people whom the moneylender has exploited, the unplanned murder of her innocent sister leads him to question his beliefs.
  • Villain Protagonist: Raskolnikov is a tortured one.
  • Wham Line: "Did I murder the old woman? I murdered myself, not her! I crushed myself once for all, for ever.... But it was the devil that killed that old woman, not I. Enough, enough, Sonia, enough! Let me be!"
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: It is mentioned that Lizaveta is constantly pregnant. No mention is ever given of her children again.
  • What You Are in the Dark: As Porfiry tells Raskolnikov, he doesn't really have evidence to pin the crime on him even if he knows that Rodion is the killer, the possibility that Svidrigailov could potentially blackmail and exploit his sister and his family disappears when Raskolnikov finds out he had committed suicide. He is scott-free and yet it is at this moment that Rodion finally confesses to the crime.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: Raskolnikov. Though it's debatable whether he murdered the pawnbroker to use the money altruistically or to help himself or whether he simply wanted to prove that he was an Übermensch and could get away with it. Considering Raskolnikov and his situation, probably a combination.


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