This story was written and takes place in 1866 fifty years before the Russian Revolution and during the American Civil War in the ugly slums of St. Petersburg. Anyway, in my eyes the author already fears a failed revolution. He mentions for instance the rejection of religion and he uncovers the play of the secret police
Rodion Romanovitch Raskolnikov: The main character of the story. He conceives a theory that he is an extraordinary man and can neglect all laws. He kills a woman to prove this and spends the whole book rationalizing the theory.
Porfiry Petrovitch: The uncle of Razumihin A seasoned and clever police inspector who suspects Raskolnikov and guesses his motive, also the head of the investigation
Sonia (Sofya Semyonovna) Marmeladov: Marmeladov’s eldest daughter who is forced into prostitution to support the family. She eventually falls in love with Raskolnikov
Arkady Ivanovitch Svidrigailov: Former employer of Raskolnikov’s sister, Dounia. He is an evil, evil man.
The story is essentially a human insight and an in depth character study. Despite a cruel environment and exciting investigations Raskolnikovs complex character stands on trial. In addition two major events mark a turning point in Raskolnikovs character – first his murder and secondly at the end the win of his conscience over his superior theory.
The “Crime and Punishment” is both a powerful psychological study, a fascinating detective thriller and a terrifying murder mystery. Here Raskolnikov, a poor dropout student living in the slums of St. Petersburg, murders an old woman and finally falls into a mental prison of persecution, physical madness and terror – his punishment.
How the main characters and perhaps the setting contribute to revealing and establishing the theme
A young Russian student, Raskolnikov, believes himself to be an extraordinary man–one who has the ‘right’ to commit and crime. In order to prove his stupid theory correct, Raskolnikov ‘needs’ to murder the old pawnbroker and her innocent sister. Immediately following the crime, the guilt strikes and poor Raskolnikov becomes ill. Upon recovery, he finds an old school acquaintance, Razumihin, who might be the only non-male-jerk of the whole story. Meanwhile, Raskolnikov is visited by Luzhin, who is engaged to Raskolnikov’s sister Dounia. Luzhin, being the male chauvanist pig that he is, is merely marrying Dounia to prove his manly nature and ability to dominate the female species.
As soon as Raskolnikov can walk he takes a little stroll to the police station where he practically confesses to the whole murder. Later, he witnesses the death of the old drunk husband, Marmeladov, who spent the entire family savings on vodka and whiskey only to get run over by a horse. Raskolnikov graciously delivers the dead body to his wife and starving children and for some odd reason, leaves all his money to the family. Raskolnikov returns home to find his sister and mother there who have come to prepare for the wedding. Raskolnikov denounces Luzhin and forbids the marriage. To top it off, Svidrigailov, Dounia’s former employee comes to town who had also previously tried to seduce Dounia, and Raskolnikov, being the big brother that he is, violently detests the man for this.
Porfiry, the police inspector, is interviewing people about the murder. Raskolnikov goes to the station thinking that he is a suspect and once again practically confesses to the murder. Since this time, Raskolnikov met Sonia Marmeladov, daughter of the drunk, and has taken a liking to her. He feels great sympathy toward her since she had been drawn into prostitution to make money for the family. Raskolnikov feels a closeness to her and promises to tell her who the murderer is.
Raskolnikov again meets with Porfiry. He then goes to Sonia and confesses to her. Unfortunately, Svidrigailov overhears the confession and uses this information to try to get Sonia to sleep with him. She refuses and he later commits suicide.
Raskolnikov finally confesses the murder to the police after talking to Sonia and is sentenced to eight joyous years in Siberia. Thinking that it will be a great vacation spot, Sonia joins him there to rebuild his life.