Illustration of a person's lower extremeties wearing a pair of bloody socks

Crime and Punishment

by Fyodor Dostoevsky

Start Free Trial

Crime and Punishment Analysis

  • Nihilism is a philosophy that rejects all of society's moral principles as meaningless. Raskolnikov commits murder to test if he can break society's rules with impunity. In the end, the novel rejects nihilism, and Raskolnikov is punished.
  • Crime and Punishment is a study of the psychological effects of crime on the perpetrator. Raskolnikov discovers that justice is not the same thing as punishment, which can be enacted independently of the law. Raskolnikov's greatest punishment is guilt, which torments him.
  • The novel employs Christian symbolism in its discussion of morality. The crucifix is interpreted variously as a symbol of suffering and redemption.


Download PDF PDF Page Citation Cite Share Link Share

Crime and Punishment is a fairly traditional nineteenth-century novel is some ways. The plot starts with the main character whose intentions are made clear. Then, antecedent information is supplied, so that the reader may understand how things came to be as they are. The main difference between this approach and that of dozens of Victorian novels is that the latter usually place the antecedent information first. But, the effect is the same, and the plot strands are laid out clearly, with the Dunya/Luzhin/Svidrigaylov subplot worked in smoothly and credibly. Also, the use of the "Epilogue" to bring the plot to a clear and satisfying (at least morally) conclusion is not an uncommon device—one may be reminded of the final chapters of many Dickens novels.

The setting is also presented clearly and traditionally, although there is a heavy emphasis on darkness and fog and nocturnal activities. Dostoevsky tends to employ urban settings; and, his use of St. Petersburg is accurate and realistic: there are the relevant streets; there are the Neva River and the bridges. The indoor scenes are usually marked by disorder and gloom (and even, as in the case of Svidrigaylov's hotel room, horror; the mouse running over him in the ugly chamber is revolting), creating an appropriately negative tone for the book.

The real innovation is in point of view. As a number of commentators have noted, both Joyce and Proust (and others like them) owe much to Dostoevsky for his introduction of what is nearly a stream-of-consciousness point of view. While the thought of some of the other characters is revealed, the salient emphasis is on the thoughts and emotions of Raskolnikov. Indeed, these are the chief modes of characterization. What he does reveals little of his real personality; what he thinks and feels display a great deal.

One of the principal conflicts in the novel takes place within Raskolnikov himself. He continually argues with himself, doubts himself, and changes his mind. On the very second page, he is seen in the throes of uncertainty: '"Good Lord!' he thought to himself [this phrase appears repeatedly], with a strange smile,' here I am thinking of doing such a thing [the murder] and at the same time I am in a jitter over such a trivial matter.'" The interior monologue proceeds for a long paragraph and presages a series of such internal analyses.

Another aspect of Raskolnikov's nature, his insecurity, is displayed by his habit of asking himself what amount to rhetorical questions whenever he is under a strain. Near the close of Part Four, after a trying interview with Porfiry, Raskolnikov begins by asking himself, "How far, however, was he in danger?" For most of the rest of the page he puts fourteen queries to himself, all of them showing how uncertain he is of his position and, indeed, of his character. With this device, Dostoevsky may well be said to have directed the novel in an important new direction: inward.

Places Discussed

Download PDF PDF Page Citation Cite Share Link Share

*St. Petersburg

*St. Petersburg. Capital of Imperial Russia. Deep within the glittering outer facade of St. Petersburg’s state buildings, elegant promenades, and gilded mansions is a central core of filth, stench, poverty, despair, and depravity. The outside order is mere cover for the horror and disorder within. Dostoevski lived in St. Petersburg for twenty-eight years, moving during this period into twenty different apartments. Minute details about places where Dostoevski lived appear in Crime and Punishment to provide descriptive realism along with significant symbolism. On the micro level, the scenes of Dostoevski’s novel unfold in the vicinity of the apartment he...

(This entire section contains 910 words.)

See This Study Guide Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this study guide. You'll also get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access

was renting at the time. On the macro level, St. Petersburg is symptomatic of the split in the Russian psyche between the cold Western rationalism and capitalistic materialism of the new Russia and the traditional Muscovite values of the old Russia. Like the city itself, the major character Raskolnikov (whose name means “split” or “schism”) must struggle to discover his identity in a battle between cold rationalism, which leads him to double murder, and his Russian soul, which seeks repentance and resurrection. As a student, Dostoevski himself fell into Western-style radicalism and was sentenced to death in 1849 by the repressive regime of Czar Nicholas I. After being placed before a firing squad in St. Petersburg, Dostoevski was pardoned and his sentence commuted to eight years in Siberia. Back in St. Petersburg, Dostoevski remained aware of a continuing inner struggle. As he says inCrime and Punishment, St. Petersburg has “gloomy and queer influences on the soul of man.”


*Haymarket. District filled with vendor stalls, peasant stalls, bars, hotels, and brothels that developed in St. Petersburg during the last quarter of the eighteenth century. It was filled with alleys and crammed with all sorts of people from the lower classes. It was bordered by slums (where Raskolnikov, Sonya, and the pawnbroker live), yet it was only one-half mile from St. Petersburg’s fashionable Nevskii Prospect. All types of people pass through the Haymarket; it is here that an accidental encounter with the pawnbroker’s half-sister (Lizaveta) convinces Raskolnikov that the time is right to murder the pawnbroker. Here, too, he bows down to kiss the ground (a sign of connectedness to mother earth and traditional values) and then goes to the police to confess that he is a murderer.

Stolyarny Lane

Stolyarny Lane. Street located near the Haymarket on which the main character, Raskolnikov, lives. The poverty-stricken former university student has a single shabby room with low ceilings, in an almost cavelike dwelling. Here, on a dilapidated couch-bed in his tiny, windowless room, Raskolnikov falls under the influence of the sinister plot to kill the pawnbroker and steal her ill-gotten gains. Although his room is a world unto itself, Raskolnikov always keeps the door unlocked, providing the opportunity for others to enter and for him to exit into the wider, ominous world of St. Petersburg.

*Sadovaya Street

*Sadovaya Street. Street not far from Raskolnikov’s building on which the pawnbroker Alonya Ivanovna and her half-sister, Lizaveta Ivanovna, live in the fourth-floor apartment. Their two rooms are kept clean due to the efforts of Lizaveta, who works as a virtual slave. Raskolnikov visits three times before murdering the pawnbroker and Lizaveta, who unexpectedly walks into the apartment shortly after the pawnbroker’s axe murder. A fortuitous set of circumstances allows Raskolnikov to leave the apartment unnoticed. Later, he returns to the apartment to relive the event.

Sonya’s room

Sonya’s room. Home of the prostitute Sonya Marmeladov, in a three-story house on the Ekaterinsky Canal. The room has many windows that let in light and overlook the canal, although the walls are yellowed, and the room is nearly barren. It is here that Raskolnikov tells Sonya about the murders, unaware that Svidrigaylov, an unscrupulous suitor of his sister, is in an adjoining room, listening to his confession through the door.

*Neva River

*Neva River. Major river of St. Petersburg which also boasts a tributary, the Little Neva. Bridges and water in general play an important symbolic role in Crime and Punishment. The Neva is the courier of rebirth but also of death. It brings discord but also calmness. Thus Raskolnikov thinks of throwing what he has stolen from the pawnbroker into the Neva but chooses instead to bury it under a stone. He throws the last of his money into the Neva as a symbol of his rejection of materialism. It is on Tuchkov Bridge, over the Little Neva, that Raskolnikov enters a mood of tranquillity and decides not to kill the pawnbroker. (The decision changes, however, when he enters Haymarket Square.) For evil characters such as Svidrigaylov, the river brings coldness and depression. After an excursion on Tuchkov Bridge, Svidrigaylov decides to kill himself.


*Siberia. Vast, desolate region of eastern Russia. After confessing his crime, Raskolnikov is sentenced to eight years imprisonment in Siberia. The faithful Sonya follows him into this frozen wasteland. Yet the prison, on the bank of a river, is the place of rebirth and salvation for Raskolnikov, where he discovers love and traditional Russian values. His apartment in St. Petersburg was more a prison than his cell in the wide-open spaces of Siberia. While here, he patiently looks forward to his future life with Sonya. Dostoevsky himself spent eight years in Siberia, four in a prison camp and four in military service, after which his life and beliefs took dramatic new shape.

Historical Context

Download PDF PDF Page Citation Cite Share Link Share

Dostoyevsky's Russia: Social and Political Background For most modern Americans, the Russia of Dostoyevsky's time is almost incomprehensible. Sir Winston Churchill's comment in 1939 that Russia "is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma" can apply equally to the Russia of the 1860s when Dostoyevsky wrote Crime and Punishment. In the most simple terms, much of Russia's historical difference from the West has to do with the fact that for centuries it was cut off from Western Europe. The Reformation, the Renaissance, and the Enlightenment that helped transform the countries of Western Europe from feudalism to modern nations with well-educated citizens and important cultural institutions barely touched Russia. Moreover, large-scale foreign invasions (from the Mongols in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries to the Nazi armies in the early 1940s) periodically devastated the country. As a result, Russia has historically been suspicious of other nations. Also, early in its national history, Russia developed a tradition of government that centralized immense power in the hands of an emperor—the tsar—and a handful of his advisors. (The Russian title "tsar" derives from the Latin word "Caesar.") In the mid-1500s, Tsar Ivan IV (known as Ivan the Terrible) established what for more than the next four hundred years became the model for Russian government, alternating short-lived periods of ineffectual reform with periods of severe repression.

Relatively "liberal" rulers such as Tsar Peter the Great (reigned 1682-1725) and Tsarina Catherine the Great (who was actually German; reigned 1762-96) pursued a policy of "westernization." They attempted to import modern technology and manners from Western Europe. At the same time, however, they held tightly onto absolute power and ruthlessly suppressed any challenge to the established political order.

During the period when Dostoyevsky was receiving his education and then establishing his literary career—the 1830s into the 1860s—Russia was stirred by intense intellectual debate. The small class of the educated people recognized that major changes were needed if the huge but backward country was to address its social problems and find its way successfully in the world. One general approach to change was proposed by certain intellectuals collectively known as Westernizers. The Westernizers were influenced by German philosophy and by social ideas that developed in Western Europe during the Industrial Revolution. They were also influenced by contemporary European revolutionary movements. The Westernizers were not united in their goals or methods. There were various factions. Some favored gradual democratic reforms, while others called for revolution to replace the tsarist government with a socialist regime. Among the leading Westernizers was Vissarion Belinsky (1811-48), the most famous Russian literary critic of his day. Belinsky praised Dostoyevsky's first book, Poor Folk (1846), and declared that Dostoyevsky was the literary successor of Gogol.

Another group of thinkers, known as the Slavophiles, proposed an entirely different approach to Russia's problems. Broadly speaking, the Slavophiles felt that Western ideals of rationalism and modernization were dangerous and alien to Russia. Rather than relying on a program of legislation and material improvement, the Slavophiles argued that Russia could only fulfill its destiny when Russians returned to their native spiritual values. Although they disagreed with the Westernizers, the Slavophiles were also opposed to the existing Russian government. By Western standards, the Slavophiles could be considered romantic and reactionary, but they made an important contribution to the debate over the future of Russia.

As a young man, Dostoyevsky was influenced by the Westernizers. In the mid-1840s he joined the so-called Petrashevsky Circle, a small group that met weekly to discuss socialist ideas. The group demanded political reforms and generally opposed the government of Tsar Nicholas I. In the spring of 1849 the members were arrested. Twenty-one of them, including Dostoyevsky, were sentenced to death but were pardoned at the last minute. During his subsequent imprisonment in Siberia, Dostoyevsky underwent a profound spiritual and political change. He renounced political radicalism and came to believe that Russia's hope lay in Slavic idealism. His travels in Western Europe in the 1860s and 1870s reinforced his distaste for modern industrial society. In the great novels of his mature period, including Crime and Punishment, Dostoyevsky expresses his sympathy with the Slavophiles and attacks the Westernizers and radicals. Raskolnikov reflects the viewpoint of the radical Nihilists (from the Latin word for "nothing"), who rejected all the traditional conventions of society.

By the time Dostoyevsky wrote Crime and Punishment Tsar Alexander II (reigned 1855-81) was in the midst of a significant reform policy. In 1861 the Tsar signed a proclamation that freed millions of Russian serfs (peasants who lived and worked in conditions similar to slavery). This was followed by reforms of local government, the courts, and the military. (The police inspector Porfiry Petrovich refers to these reforms.) However, these reforms failed to resolve the major problems in Russia and helped to create new problems. Again, the immense social problems facing Russia at the time—widespread poverty, ignorance, and social agitation—form the background to Crime and Punishment.

Crime and Punishment in a Literary Context In the words of historian Nicholas Riasanovsky, "Literature constituted the chief glory of Russian culture in the first half of the nineteenth century." Like most educated Russians of his time, Dostoyevsky knew and revered the work of the great Russian poets Alexander Pushkin (1799-1837) and Mikhail Lermontov (1814-1841). In his verse novel Eugene Onegin (written 1822-31), Pushkin cast a clear light on Russian society and its problems. Dostoyevsky was also familiar with the work of the novelist Nikolai Gogol (1809-1852), the most important Russian novelist before Dostoyevsky himself. Gogol was a master both of realism and of the fantastic. In his masterpiece Dead Souls (1842), Gogol examined the state of Russia with deep psychological understanding. Significantly, certain elements in Crime and Punishment can also be traced to two non-Russian writers whose work Dostoyevsky knew and admired, the French novelist Victor Hugo (author of Les Miserables) and the English novelist Charles Dickens (author of David Copperfield, which Dostoyevsky read while in prison). Indeed, Dostoyevsky frequently mentioned Dickens in his letters and notebooks. In Crime and Punishment, Dostoyevsky shares Dickens' s concern with contemporary urban life, poverty, crime, and the sufferings of children and the innocent.

Among Dostoyevsky's Russian contemporaries, two other major novelists stand out. Ivan Turgenev (1818-83) sided with the Westernizers and lived in Western Europe for much of his life; however, his subjects are thoroughly Russian. In his best known novel, Fathers and Sons (1862), he examines the relations between the older Russian democratic reformers and the younger, more radical generation. He also coined the term nihilist. Count Leo Tolstoy (1828-1910) is often placed as Dostoyevsky's equal, though he was very different. His epic novel, War and Peace (1863-69) began to appear in installments around the same time as Crime and Punishment. In his later years, Tolstoy developed a unique philosophy of nonviolence that has been compared to the philosophy of Mohandas K. Gandhi. Interestingly, both Dostoyevsky and Tolstoy knew and respected Turgenev although both disagreed with him, but Dostoyevsky and Tolstoy never met.

Ideas for Group Discussions

Download PDF PDF Page Citation Cite Share Link Share

Study of the penal code of Russia during the later nineteenth century will help to explain the moral dilemmas, Raskolnikov considers. The behavior of the police in Crime and Punishment strikes some readers as peculiar. For instance, does it seem odd that Porfiry accuses Raskolnikov and then jokes with him and releases him (the young man is never taken into custody until he confesses), with only the suggestion that he will be arrested in a few days? Porfiry knows that Raskolnikov committed the crime, but he cannot prove it—indeed, it seems likely that he never could have proved it, if Raskolnikov had not confessed.

Also, a reading of Notes from the Underground would be helpful, to determine if what has been called Dostoevsky's "philosophy of life" (although he always denied having one) is in any way consistently carried through both of these works. Further, a study of Dostoevsky's life might reveal autobiographical elements in Crime and Punishment, special attention should be paid to the author's attitude towards women, as in the cases of his wives and his mistress Polina Suslova—does this attitude find reflection in Raskolnikov's dealings with his family and with Sonia?

1. Does Raskolnikov's eight-year sentence seem light, in view of the bloody crimes that he committed? Since the trial is only summarized near the close of the book, the reasons offered for the clemency may appear too sketchy.

2. Is, as has been suggested, Svidrigaylov really a more "interesting" character than Raskolnikov? In what ways might this claim be supported?

3. Which of the two major female characters, Sonia or Dunya, appears to be the more admirable? Do they both respond appropriately to the problems that they face?

4. What, if anything, does the Dunya/ Luzhin/Svidrigaylov subplot add to the novel? Could it have been omitted without changing the plot or themes?

5. How cogent do Raskolnikov's arguments in defense of his actions seem? Is there any value in them at all? What implications for society do they contain?

6. This novel is sometimes categorized as a work of "psychological realism." Does the behavior of all the characters appear to follow realistic patterns? Are the aberrant acts adequately "explained" in the text?

7. Which of the many scenes, both of action and of verbal confrontation, is the most striking and well developed? Is Dostoevsky better at depicting action or at creating relevant and effective dialogue?

8. Does Raskolnikov's conversion at the end seem too good to be true? Should Dostoevsky have made the novel even longer by causing the change to develop more gradually? Can one believe that the future for Raskolnikov and Sonia will be as bright as is implied?

9. Are the various settings, especially the interior ones, described with enough detail? Does one gain an adequately clear picture of each one? If not, what could have been done to improve the image?

10. Dostoevsky is known for the essentially gloomy tone and atmosphere of his principal novels. Does the sense of gloom and despair really strike the reader? Is it overdone? Is it appropriate for the plot and themes of the novel?

Social Concerns

Download PDF PDF Page Citation Cite Share Link Share

As the title suggests, the principal social emphasis in Crime and Punishment is on crime, both as a social phenomenon and as a personal action. Also, social class appears importantly, especially the problems created by abject poverty, as does the matter of the abuse of power.

Fyodor Dostoevsky was fascinated by the impulses that cause people to commit crimes (an interest that was intensified by his imprisonment with countless hardened criminals in Siberia) and the resulting emotional and psychological effects of the act. His protagonist, Rodion Raskolnikov, has already made up his mind to kill the old female pawnbroker, whose life he considers worthless, when the novel opens. The brutal murder is done with an ax, which he also uses on the pawnbroker's stepsister, who comes upon him by accident.

The whole question of what really constitutes guilt in such a case is explored chiefly from the standpoint of the murderer himself. Raskolnikov reviews to himself the reasons (which could be seen as only rationalizations) for the act's being justifiable. Perhaps the most important one is his "Napoleonic" theory: Some people, usually men, are above the usual morals and laws of society and may thus act in "illegal" ways, with valid cause. He thinks of the "great" men of history who have done lofty deeds while killing off large numbers of human beings- —they are regarded as heroes. He also "reasons" that the world would be better off without the greedy old pawnbroker, since she "squeezes" the poor and makes money from human suffering. The remorse that finally comes over Raskolnikov, late in the plot, bears little relationship to any thoughts about the good of society; the main focus here is on the individual. However, one key force that helps to bring about his epiphany at the close is his wretched sense of isolation from society.

The matters of social class and of poverty are intertwined in Crime and Punishment Raskolnikov kills the old woman and then robs her, with what he claims to believe is the goal of gaining enough money to help his sister and mother. He would also like to go back to the university, where he was a student for some years (it often surprises readers to learn that this grim and intense man is only twenty-three years old). The poverty into which he has fallen grinds down his spirit, and he believes that the murder/robbery is acceptable because of his high intentions to use the money well. Ironically, he never uses it at all, hiding the loot in an empty lot and never regaining it.

Raskolnikov considers himself a member of the gentleman's class. Even after he has committed a bloody murder, he can still feel scorn for those of a lower class: "He had an aversion, a strong aversion, for being among the common people." And, when addressing the humble and kind Sonia Marmeladov, who has become a prostitute in order to support her impecunious family, Raskolnikov explains the scorn that she has encountered thusly: "Well, Sonia . . . . The entire case against you was based on 'your social position and the habits inseparable from it.'" This touch of snobbery marks Raskolnikov as socially aware to an extent that indicates the Russian fixation on a sort of caste system that prevailed in nineteenth-century Asia Minor. In a more pathetic manner, the sad figure of Sonia's often drunken and dissolute father reveals how much social prominence means. He repeatedly claims that he is an aristocrat, and his wife supports the illusion as long as she can. His miserable death only underlines the folly of such pretentiousness.

Poverty also relates to the abuse of power. Raskolnikov hopes to rise in his power over circumstances by stealing money. The poisonous Luzhin, engaged to Raskolnikov's sister, Dunya, virtually by force, attempts to compel the Raskolnikov family (Rodion detests the man) to accept him immediately. He even goes so far as to take revenge on the undefended Sonia by accusing her of stealing money—his essential motive is to harm Raskolnikov, since Luzhin has noticed that the young former student is becoming interested in Sonia (Luzhin is certain that Raskolnikov has spoken against him to Dunya). Thus, he uses lies and the power of his position—he is a well- to-do landowner—to gain his ends and to "punish" his enemies.

However, it is Raskolnikov's attitude toward society that is the essence of the social aspect of the novel. At the end of the second part of Chapter One, he sums up his beliefs about the human race (and, by implication, its institutions): '"Well,' he exclaimed involuntarily, all of a sudden, 'what if I am wrong? What if man isn't really a beast—man in general, I mean, the whole human race, that is; for if he is not, then all the rest is just prejudice, just imagined fears, and there is nothing to stop you from doing anything you like, and that's as it should be!'" The last clause fairly well sets forth the primary concern about society that informs this intense and probing novel.

Compare and Contrast

Download PDF PDF Page Citation Cite Share Link Share

1860s: Russia's government is a monarchy, with a head of state called the "tsar." But even at the time of Crime and Punishment's publication, changes in government were beginning to be seen with Tsar Alexander II's introduuction of reforms in the Russian military, the law courts, and local government.

Today: The Russian Revolution of 1917, which led to decades of oppressive rule under a communist government, has given way to a struggling democracy after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989. President Boris Yeltsin has since introduced economic reforms, though his country's economy is still unstable.

1860s: The Russian novelists Dostoyevsky and Ivan Turgenev spend much of their time travelling abroad. Dostoyevsky eventually returns to Russia, but Turgenev decides to remain an expatriate.

Today: Russian author Alexander Solzhenitsyn, exiled from Russia in the early 1970s because of his opposition to the communist government, has returned to his native country. However, his calls for spiritual rebirth and a return to traditional Russian values have been met with little support.

1860s: Dostoyevsky notes widespread drunkeness is a major problem in Russian society.

Today: Alcoholism remains a serious national problem, affecting at least half of all Russian households, according to one survey. Government attempts to curb drinking face strong resistance from the Russian people.

Literary Precedents

Download PDF PDF Page Citation Cite Share Link Share

It could be said that everything that Dostoevsky wrote was original, but he was indebted to Gogol and a few other earlier writers. Dostoevsky readily admitted the debt, remarking that he and his compeers all came out of the "folds" of Gogol's story "The Overcoat" (also translated as "The Greatcoat"). However, Dostoevsky broke so much new ground that he must be regarded as an original. "While Tolstoy and Turgenev were dealing with "high life" and often country settings, Dostoevsky was focusing on the poor and downtrodden in cities. Also, his attention to crime (especially murder) finds parallels in some of Dickens's works, but these can hardly be called precedents.

Like Dickens, Dostoevsky published this work in installments (as were almost all of Dickens's novels). Unlike Dickens, in the view of most readers, he did not let this phenomenon, nor his considerable debts (chiefly the result of his addiction to gambling), prevent him from creating a far more fully integrated text than, say, Dickens's The Life and Adventures of Martin Chussleivit (1844), in which the author sends Martin to America in order to bolster the flagging sales of the periodical in which it was appearing. It is true that Crime and Punishment is long and complex; however, most readers recognize it as a masterpiece, especially of its type: the psychological study of an anti-social personality. The several subplots and divergent scenes always serve to enhance the tone and atmosphere, and to assist in the development of interesting characters (Svidrigaylov stands out in particular).

The novel is further noteworthy because of its dramatizing of a rapidly developing nineteenth-century concept: the "superior" person, as developed by Thomas Carlyle in On Heroes, Hero Worship, and the Heroic in History (1841) and "Superman" developed by by Frederick Nietzsche in Beyond Good and Evil (1886). Raskolnikov believed that he was greater than other humans, and he is probably literature's first fully developed anti-hero.


Download PDF PDF Page Citation Cite Share Link Share

The appeal of this story can be estimated by the number and variety of stage and motion picture adaptations. Among these, the most prominent are a Polish stage adaptation by L. Schiller; a 1932 French version by Gaston Baty; and the 1946 adaptation by R. Ackland and L. Irving—this British version starred John Gielgud as Raskolnikov and was performed in the United States. There is also an opera by Prokofiev taken from the novel.

Motion picture versions are numerous. The two English language adaptations of note are the 1935 movie written by S. K. Lauren and Joseph Anthony, and directed by Josef von Sternberg—it starred Peter Lorre and Edward Arnold. Columbia was the producing studio. In 1958, Allied Artists/Sanders Associates produced a treatment written by Walter Newman, directed by Denis Sanders, and starring George Hamilton and Mary Murphy (some critics found an "aimlessness" in this version).

Media Adaptations

Download PDF PDF Page Citation Cite Share Link Share

The earliest film adaptation of Crime and Punishment was produced in France, released in 1935, and remade in 1958. The original title of this French-language black-and-white film was Crime et Chatiment. Written by Marcel Ayme, Pierre Chenal, Christian Stengel, and Wladimir Strijewski (based on Dostoyevsky's book), it was directed by Chenal. It starred Pierre Blanchar, Madeleine Ozeray, Harry Baur, Lucienne Lemarchand, and Marcelle Geniat. Available from Facets Multimedia, Inc.

An American film version of Crime and Punishment was released one week after the French film mentioned above. Adapted from Dostoyevsky's novel by Joseph Anthony and S. K. Lauren, it was directed by Josef von Sternberg. The cast included Peter Lorre, Marian Marsh, Edward Arnold, Tala Birell, Elisabeth Risdon, Robert Allen, Douglas Dumbrille, Gene Lockhart, and Mrs. Patrick Campbell. Available from Columbia Tristar Home Video.

A Swedish film of Crime and Punishment was released in 1948. Adapted by Bertil Malmsberg and Sven Stolpe, it was directed by Hampe Faustman. It starred Faustman, Gann Wallgren, Hugo Bjorne, and Sigurd Wallen. Distributed by Firm Rights.

A Russian-language film of Crime and Punishment was produced in the Soviet Union in 1970. Written and directed by Lev Kulidzhanov, it featured Georgi Taratorkin, Victoria Fyodorova, and Innokenty Smoktunovsky. Distributed by Ingram International Films, Discount Video Tapes, Inc., and Horizon Entertainment.

Bibliography and Further Reading

Download PDF PDF Page Citation Cite Share Link Share

Mikhail Bakhtin, Problems of Dostoevsky''s Poetics, University of Minnesota Press, 1984. Bakhtin's analysis of language and point of view gives particular attention to the way in which voices and perspectives intersect and intermingle in Dostoevsky's novel.

Fyodor Dostoevsky, Crime and Punishment, edited by George Gibian, Norton, 1989. This edition of the novel contains numerous essays and documents that illuminate various aspects of the novel, from its critical reception to its symbolic and literary attributes.

"Dostoevsky, Fyodor Mikhailovich," in The Oxford Companion to English Literature, fifth edition, edited by Margaret Drabble, Oxford University Press, 1985, p. 286. Summarizes Dostoyevsky's relationship to English literature, including his travels in England, his admiration of Shakespeare, Dickens, and others, and British reactions to his own works.

Donald Fanger, Dostoevsky and Romantic Realism. A Study of Dostoevsky in Relation to Balzac, Dickens, and Gogol, Harvard University Press, 1965. Fanger explores the relation of Dostoevsky's novel to the literary tradition which preceded it, and he focuses on the treatment of the setting of the novel, the city of St Petersburg.

Joseph Frank, Dostoevsky The Miraculous Years, 1865-71, Princeton University Press, 1995. Frank provides a detailed account of the novel's themes, its genesis, and its relation to the literary and historical events of its day.

Michael Holquist, Dostoevsky and the Novel, Northwestern University Press, 1977. This book discusses the way in which Dostoevsky's novel reflects narrative patterns of the past, including detective tales and wisdom tales.

R. L. Jackson, editor, Twentieth Century Interpretations of Crime and Punishment, Prentice Hall, 1974. This book contains over a dozen insightful essays that are devoted to major themes and patterns in the novel.

Malcom V. Jones, Dostoevsky. The Novel of Discord, Harper & Row, 1976. Jones discusses the underlying theme of psychological and emotional disorder in Crime and Punishment.

Janko Lavrin, Dostoevsky. A Study, Macmillan, 1947. Lavrin discusses Dostoyevsky's technique, including his ability to weave profound psychological and spiritual insights into his complex narratives.

Konstantin Mochulsky, Dostoevsky: His Life and Work, translated by Michael A. Minihan, Princeton University Press, 1967. Mochulsky's biography of Dostoevsky highlights the writer's spiritual quest.

Richard Peace, Dostoyevsky, An Examination of the Major Novels, Cambridge University Press, 1971. Peace focuses on the symbolic division within Raskolnikov's personality and the way in which this division is reflected in the characters surrounding him.

Gary Rosenshield, Crime and Punishment: The Techniques of the Omniscient Author, The Peter De Ridder Press, 1978. This book offers a close analysis of Dostoevsky's manipulation of point of view and narrative perspective in the novel.

George Sterner, Tolstoy or Dostoevsky: An Essay in the Old Criticism, Dutton, 1971. Sterner places Crime and Punishment in the context of Dostoyevsky's lifetime achievement, stressing the novel's moral, dramatic, and psychological dimensions.

Edward Wasiolek, Dostoevsky. The Major Fiction, MIT Press, 1964. Wasiolek's discussion of the novel focuses on its exploration of the central characters and their personalities.


Download PDF PDF Page Citation Cite Share Link Share

Jackson, Robert Louis, ed. Twentieth Century Interpretations of “Crime and Punishment.” Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1974. Includes an essay by Dostoevski on Crime and Punishment. Offers many theories on Raskolnikov’s personality. Considers the metaphysical point of view in Crime and Punishment.

Johnson, Leslie A. The Experience of Time in “Crime and Punishment.” Columbus, Ohio: Slavica Publishers, 1984. Explains the use of time in the novel as a means for building anxiety and suffering in the characters. Shows how time is manipulated in Crime and Punishment and how the treatment of time in other works by Dostoevski is different.

Jones, Malcolm V. Dostoyevsky: The Novel of Discord. London: Elek Books Limited, 1976. Gives an overview of the complexity and chaos that are to be expected in Dostoevski. Extended selection on Crime and Punishment.

Leatherbarrow, William J. Fedor Dostoevsky. Boston: Twayne, 1981. Includes a biographical sketch of Dostoevski. Commentary on his works, including Crime and Punishment. Bibliography, index.

Miller, Robin Feuer. Critical Essays on Dostoevsky. Boston: G. K. Hall, 1986. Contains an essay by Leo Tolstoy and criticism and commentary on Dostoevski. Indicates how perceptions of Dostoevski have changed over time.




Critical Essays