How can an examination of the significance of the title of Doestoevsky's Crime and Punishment enlighten us about the book's themes?
As is well known, authors choose their titles very carefully. While, as we read the book, we think the title refers to Raskolnikov’s crimes, robbery and murder, and the physical punishment that the earthly Law has in store for him, we must, as the book comes to its surprise conclusion, re-examine the significance of the title in terms of the soul’s “crime” and the punishment awaiting those who do not seek salvation. In the end, the physical crimes, like the careful description of Raskolnikov’s room, are just part of the mise-en-scene, the setting, atmosphere, condition that allows us, the readers, to see the real struggle in Raskolnikov’s soul, which is what the novel and the title are really about. The student must read to the end and absorb the real thrust of this masterpiece to appreciate the care with which Dostoevsky chose this title.