Analysis: What's Up With the Ending?
The ending makes us feel funny. There, we said it. And it's more than just the shock of being out of St. Petersburg and in the natural beauty of Siberia. Maybe it's because most of the physical descriptions of St. Petersburg are pretty gross. Even the natural settings there are polluted. This seems to fit with all the creepy crimes happening on every street corner.
But somehow, the combination of beauty and prison jars us. What's with tacking a fairytale ending onto our gritty crime drama? Stories featuring guys that kill people with axes aren't supposed to end happily ever after – axe murderers aren't supposed to get the girl and the happiness. Right?
Oh, but we forgot about something – religion. Does Raskolnikov actually find religion?
He does seem to find love with Sonia, but the religion is something we aren't so sure about. We don't see Raskolnikov actually open the New Testament, and the narrator doesn't say whether he ever does. There is also the possibility that Raskolnikov has been religious all along. He tells Porfiry he is, and he seems quite serious. Tracing Raskolnikov's religious experiences throughout the novel could make an interesting paper.
Then we get this one line telling us Raskolnikov will suffer, as if the narrator is trying to convince us that it's OK for Raskolnikov to be happy because he earns it by suffering. Do we buy this? In the beginning of the epilogue, we hear that Raskolnikov likes the prison atmosphere. He gets sick because of his mind, and because a bunch of guys tried to kill him, not due to the conditions.
He's got Sonia. Razumihin and Dounia are moving down. Is that suffering?
OK – let's be realistic. Of course there will be suffering. They have to spend the next seven years in the prison system. So, while we do know there will be hard times, we don't know if Raskolnikov found religion – though we think he found love.
It sounds sweet, but what about when the honeymoon wears off? Is Raskolnikov's depression permanently cured? Can the narrator guarantee he won't kill again? Probably not – that's part of the suffering and part of life. Still, we can imagine that he has changed enough to let the sweeter sides of his personality come to the forefront, in a healthy non-repressed kind of way, of course.