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Themes

As novelist and critic A.N. Wilson says, "[Fyodor Dostoevsky's] views on religion are notoriously hard to pin down with confidence" (source). Hearing this is bit of a relief, isn't it? Some version of Russian Orthodoxy is practiced by many of the characters we meet in Crime and Punishment, and like many novels and films in the Gothic tradition (think The Exorcist), Christian imagery, ideas, and symbols are deployed for variety of purposes, some of them scary. All in all, religion and religious ideas are often contradictory and paradoxical in Crime and Punishment. We think that's part of the point Dostoevsky is trying to make – religion is an elusive force, which means something different to everybody.

Questions About Religion

  1. When asked, Raskolnikov tells Porfiry he "literally" believes in God, and in the story of Lazarus, yet he thinks Sonia is a religious fanatic. What's up with that? Does Porfiry's question reveal anything about his religious beliefs? If so, what? Do we get any other information about Porfiry's religious beliefs?
  2. How does the idea of being a martyr factor into the novel's explorations of religion?
  3. Does Raskolnikov "get religion" in the novel? When he falls to his knees, twice, on his way to turn himself in, is he having a religious experience?
  4. What is Marmeladov's religious viewpoint?
  5. Are Katerina's comments to the minister when Marmeladov dies sacrilegious? Do they ring true?

Chew on This

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

By not pressuring Raskolnikov to share her religious beliefs when he's in prison, Sonia acknowledges that religion is a personal choice.

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