Crime and Punishment
Crime and Punishment is very interested in the idea of "judgment" – judgment of self, of others, judgment of and by society, and judgment of and by religion. The novel asks us to judge not only the characters, but also the characters' judgments of each other. The prize that we and the characters seek as we travel through this maze of judgment and judging is "justice," or, in plain language, "fairness." Whether or not that prize is realized within or at the end of the novel is a question you might want to ask as you read.
Questions About Justice and Judgment
- How does Raskolnikov judge himself at different times in the novel?
- How does Raskolnikov judge Svidrigaïlov? His mother? His sister? Sonia?
- If you were the judge, how would you sentence Raskolnikov? Svidrigaïlov? Luzhin? Any character you think is guilty of a crime?
- Porfiry suggests that Raskolnikov voluntarily turning himself over the police is an important aspect of the process of justice. Do you agree with him? Why?
- Who is the most "just" or "fair" character? Why do you think so?
- Does Pulcheria judge herself when she learns of Raskolnikov's crime? How do you know? Does her knowledge of his crime change her personality?
- How does Sonia judge Raskolnikov? Svidrigaïlov? Herself? Her father? Katerina?
Chew on This
Because Raskolnikov learns how to become a non-violent member of society while in prison, Crime and Punishment argues that prison is an important element of social justice.
The characters who stand by Raskolnikov even after his crime is known demonstrate that love and friendship can work together with judgment to help bring justice.