Characters Discussed (Cyclopedia of Literary Characters, Revised Third Edition)
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 (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 (ahv-DOT-yah roh-
(The entire section is 762 words.)
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