Crime and Punishment
Crime and Punishment
by Fyodor Dostoevsky
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Crime and Punishment Theme of Love

Since violence and criminality dominate much of Fyodor Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment, we often have to peel back layers of text to get to the love. Most of the novel's "romantic" relationships are loaded with cruelty, power plays, confusion, and miscommunications. It can seem as if love and kindness are winking shyly at us between the lines, terrified to venture into the harsh world of vice and victimization Crime and Punishment shows us. But love is worth looking for in Dostoevsky's masterpiece, where even incredibly perverse characters are capable of loving acts and moments of kindness, and redemption is never completely out of the question.

Questions About Love

  1. How would you describe the relationships of Raskolnikov and Sonia, Razumihin and Dounia, and Marmeladov and Katerina in terms of love?
  2. Why does Raskolnikov say that Polenka, Sonia's stepsister, wouldn't care if he were a murderer?
  3. Who is the most loving character in the novel? Why do you think so?
  4. Does Raskolnikov love humanity? If so, what does he do or say that makes you think so? If not, what shows you?
  5. In Pulcheria's letter to Raskolnikov, she uses the word "love" over and over again. What does her use of the word love say about her? How does Raskolnikov react to her use of the word "love" (see Part I, Chapter Four)?
  6. Does Svidrigaïlov ever act lovingly? If so, when? If not, why are his seemingly good acts not loving?
  7. Is Razumihin loving towards Raskolnikov? If so, how and when? If not, what makes you say "no"?
  8. What about Porfiry? Does he love Raskolnikov?
  9. Does Svidrigaïlov love Sonia? How do you know?
  10. Raskolnikov seems to have "changed" due to Sonia's love. Could Svidrigaïlov have changed if Dounia had agreed to be with him? Why or why not?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

Porfiry Petrovitch loves Raskolnikov, and that's why he doesn't arrest him.

Sonia's love for Katerina and Marmeladov is actually destructive for her.

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