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What does the ghost of Martha represents for Svidrigilov in Crime and Punishment? 

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holland | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted March 10, 2008 at 12:04 PM via web

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What does the ghost of Martha represents for Svidrigilov in Crime and Punishment? 

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texas | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted March 25, 2008 at 4:26 AM (Answer #1)

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Svidrigaïlov went on, looking at him deliberately. “But what do you say to this argument (help me with it): ghosts are, as it were, shreds and fragments of other worlds, the beginning of them. A man in health has, of course, no reason to see them, because he is above all a man of this earth and is bound for the sake of completeness and order to live only in this life. But as soon as one is ill, as soon as the normal earthly order of the organism is broken, one begins to realise the possibility of another world; and the more seriously ill one is, the closer becomes one’s contact with that other world, so that as soon as the man dies he steps straight into that world. I thought of that long ago. If you believe in a future life, you could believe in that, too.”

“I don’t believe in a future life,” said Raskolnikov.

Svidrigaïlov sat lost in thought.

 It sounds to me that He is in reverence of the ghosts.... But that could be wrong I took this straight out of the book hope I helped!

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted September 20, 2013 at 5:56 AM (Answer #2)

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Svidrigalov is deliberately presented in a very ambiguous way. Both Raskolnikov and the reader is never quite able to work out what his motives are and what really drives him. In his passion for Dunya, for example, he makes a fool of himself and explains to Raskolnikov that he is a slave to his passions and therefore to be pitied. However, the reference he makes to the ghost of his dead wife appearing to him seems to suggest that he is somewhat mentally unstable, and this is something Raskolnikov himself acknowledges when he tells Svidrigalov that he is sick and that he should go and see a doctor. When considering the importance of these ghostly vistations from Martha, it is vital to consider what Svidrigalov himself says about ghosts and what they signify:

...ghosts are, as it were, shreds and fragments of other worlds, the beginning of them. A man in health has, of course, no reason to see them, because he is above all a man of this earth and is bound for the sake of completeness and order to live only in this life. But as soon as one is ill, as soon as the normal earthly order of the organism is broken, one begins to realise the possibility of another world; and the more seriously ill one is, the closer becomes one's contact with that other world, so that as soon as the man dies he steps straight into that world.

To Svidrigalov himself, therefore, the apparition of his wife that he sees is not important in itself, and he is clearly not frightened of it from the way he talks about how he had a conversation with his dead wife's ghost. Rather, the importance of these ghostly visitations lies in what they reveal about Svidrigalov himself as a character. Svidrigalov acknowledges that his ability to see his wife's ghost makes him "ill," and points towards some kind of mental imbalance or sickness. This, in turn, indicates that he, in many ways like Raskolnikov, is a dysfunctional figure in society. 

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