Crime and Punishment Thematic Analysis

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In Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment, the character of Raskolnikov is alienated from society due to his egotistic and twisted self-concept. In his mind, he genuinely believes that his status as "extraordinary" sets him apart from common folk, and grants him the right to commit any crime which satisfies his own personal vision. Part 1 of the novel follows Raskolnikov’s psychological journey from a tense and irritable intellect to a nervous wreck separated entirely from society and plagued by his own guilt and paranoia. During several points of his journey thus far, he appears to be making attempts to connect with those around him, before resolving to withdraw into himself. The lack of human connection and dependence on others for mental stability could likely be a factor which led to Rodion’s distress. He has lost connection with his mother and sister, his wife and daughter, and his few friends. We learn on the first page that Raskolnikov "had plunged so far within himself, into so complete an isolation that he feared meeting not only his landlady but anyone at all."

These examples, however, contrast the underlying desire that he feels for human contact. At the beginning of Chapter 2 in Part 1, Dostoevsky writes that "Something new was taking place within him, and with this went a kind of craving for people." (page 8-9). Raskolnikov finds security in the presence of other people, possibly because it serves as a reminder through his eyes of his own superiority. It is also clear that Raskolnikov has distanced himself from his family, yet "his mother’s letter made him suffer" (page 38), indicating his need for connection with others. Later on in the story, he attempts to help a drunk girl who is being stalked by alerting a police officer. This action shows that Raskolnikov still has a sense of morality and concern from others. This startles him, leading him to take back his concern and telling the officer, "Stop! Why bother? Let it go! Let him have his fun." (page 48).

This isolation and self-destruction which Raskolnikov experiences relate to that of the divided Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. In The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Robert Louis Stevenson discusses the concept of duality which can also be found in Crime and Punishment. Much like Raskolnikov, Dr. Jekyll separates himself from others, secure inside his laboratory, which is the same place where he transforms into the evil and thoughtless Mr. Hyde. This suggests that by physically isolating himself from others, Dr. Jekyll also becomes emotionally and psychologically isolated, leading him to lose any moral compass he may have once possessed. Raskolnikov appears to experience something similar; by refusing to see himself on the same level as others and avoiding human contact whenever possible, he is curling inside himself, away from his morality. The separation which both of these characters possess means that nobody can hold them accountable for their cruel and misguided actions. In both cases also, this solitude would lead to the committing of a terrible crime, in Dr. Jekyll’s case, the murder of Sir Danvers Carew by Mr. Hyde.

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Crime and Punishment Thematic Analysis. (2021, Mar 15). Retrieved November 28, 2023 , from

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