Study Guide

Crime and Punishment

by Fyodor Dostoevsky

Crime and Punishment Characters

Characters Discussed (Great Characters in Literature)

Rodion Romanovitch Raskolnikov

Rodion Romanovitch Raskolnikov (ROH-dyon roh-MAH-noh-vihch ras-KOL-nih-kov), called Rodya, a psychologically complex young law student who murders not for wealth but as an experiment, to see if he is one of those who can circumvent society’s restrictions. Impoverished and weakened by illness and hunger, he decides to rid society of a worthless person in order to preserve his genius for posterity, to relieve his devoted mother and sister from compromising themselves, and to prove that he is above conscience. He kills Alonya Ivanovna, a miserly old crone, and her sister. Later, in his loss of illusions, of peace of mind, and of the wealth he sought, he learns through suffering. Important changes result from acceptance of his inward punishment. His humanitarian instincts are brought out; his deep love of family and friends is revealed, and his belief that life must be lived is renewed. The study of his psychoses from the time he conceives his mad theory to his attempt at expiation in Siberia provides a masterly characterization of a tormented mind and shattered body.

Pulcheria Alexandrovna

Pulcheria Alexandrovna (pewl-CHEH-ryah ah-lehk-SAHN-drov-nah), his long-suffering mother, whose faith in her son sustains her but whose mind gives way under the strain of his deed and guilt. A handsome, middle-aged woman of distinction, a widow who has supported her family and urged her son to make his way in life, Pulcheria is a study of motherhood thwarted, a woman tortured by her inability to fathom her favorite’s depravity.

Avdotya Romanovna

Avdotya Romanovna (ahv-DOT-yah roh-MAH-nov-nah), called Dounia (DEW-nyah), her daughter and the younger sister who has aided in her mother’s effort to make something of her brother through working and skimping. A mirror of her mother’s fortitude and faith, Dounia is the beautiful, impoverished, clear-sighted savior of her family.

Dmitri Prokofitch Razumihin

Dmitri Prokofitch Razumihin (DMIH-tree proh-KOH-fihch rah-zew-MEE-hihn), Raskolnikov’s devoted friend. Enamored of Dounia, he is the savior of the family honor. Like Dounia, he has all the normal responses of a generous nature and works unceasingly to discover and repair the tragic situation of his friend. Affianced to the beautiful Dounia, he founds a publishing company to aid the hapless girl, mother, and brother. He is one of the few characters with a sense of humor; his good deeds lighten a psychologically gloomy and depth-insighted plot.

Piotr Petrovitch Luzhin

Piotr Petrovitch Luzhin (pyohtr peh-TROH-vihch LEW-zhihn), a minor government official betrothed to Dounia, a man filled with a sense of his own importance. Raskolnikov objects to his suit. Dounia herself loses interest in him after she meets Razumihin, whom she later marries.

Sofya Semyonovna Marmeladov

Sofya Semyonovna Marmeladov (soh-FYAH seh-MYOH-nov-nah mahr-meh-LAH-dov), called Sonia, the daughter of a drunken clerk and stepdaughter of the high-strung Katerina Ivanovna. It is her father who brings the luckless prostitute to Rodya’s attention and whose funeral the unstable student finances. From gratitude, the benevolent though soiled child of the streets comforts the murderer and supports him in his transgressions so that he finally will confess. Forced to support her father, her stepmother, and their three children, she remains unsullied, and her spirit transcends these morbid conditions. With great depth of character and faith, Sonia follows the criminal to Siberia, where she inspires the entire prison colony with her devotion and goodness.

Marmeladov

Marmeladov, an impoverished ex-clerk and drunkard, Sonia’s father. He is killed when struck by a carriage. Raskolnikov, who witnesses the accident, gives Marmeladov’s wife some money to help pay for his friend’s funeral expenses.

Katerina Ivanovna

Katerina Ivanovna (kah-teh-RIH-nah ee-VAH-nov-nah), Marmeladov’s wife, slowly dying of tuberculosis. She collapses in the street and dies a short time later.

Arkady Ivanovitch Svidrigailov

Arkady Ivanovitch Svidrigailov (ahr-KAH-dee ee-VAH-noh-vihch svih-drih-GAY-lov), the sensualist in whose house Dounia had been a governess. He is both the would-be seducer and savior of Dounia, and through her of Sonia’s orphaned half sisters and brother, when he gives her money as atonement for his conduct. A complicated character, sometimes considered, with Raskolnikov, one of the alter egos of the writer, he is obsessed by guilt and driven by libido.

Porfiry Petrovitch

Porfiry Petrovitch (pohr-FIH-ree peh-TROH-vihch), a brilliant detective more interested in the rehabilitation than the prosecution of the murderer. Somewhat disturbed and neurotic himself, Porfiry seconds Sonia’s influence and causes Raskolnikov to confess his crime and thus begin his redemption.

Alonya Ivanovna

Alonya Ivanovna (ah-LOH-nyah ee-VAH-nov-nah), a miserly old pawnbroker and usurer murdered by Raskolnikov.

Lizaveta Ivanovna

Lizaveta Ivanovna (lee-zah-VYEH-tah), a seller of old clothes and Alonya Ivanovna’s sister, also killed by Raskolnikov.

Crime and Punishment Characters

In his discussion of "flat" characters (those with only one dimension, who are always seen from one angle) and "round" characters (those who...

(The entire section is 1193 words.)

Crime and Punishment Character Analysis

Rodion Romanovich Raskolnikov

The central character of Crime and Punishment. He is a poverty-stricken twenty-three-year-old. Described as an "ex-student," Rodion...

(The entire section is 363 words.)

Arkady Ivanovich Svidrigailov

A mysterious wealthy landowner, Svidrigailov is a shadowy, highly ambiguous character. He does not appear directly until the last third of...

(The entire section is 337 words.)

Other Characters

Pulkheria Aleksandrovna
Raskolnikov's mother. A widow, she is forty-three years old, but her face "still retains traces of her former...

(The entire section is 1643 words.)