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

You could say that Fyodor Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment is a book about an ex-student turned murderer who wanders around St. Petersburg, Russia trying to save children and young women from bad men and poverty, and who eventually finds love. There are lots beatings going on in the novel, sexual violence, plenty of psychological violence, and a couple of gunshot wounds. Blood, guts, and aggression abound in this tale of bad ideas turned, well, bad. So, prepare yourself, because Dostoevsky doesn't shy away from graphic violence. This, in turn, intensifies our appreciation of the novel's kind and loving moments.

Questions About Violence

  1. The murder scene is really bloody. How did it make you feel? Was it hard to read?
  2. Aside from the scene where Raskolnikov murders the pawnbroker and her sister, where do we see blood in the novel, and how is it used?
  3. Do any of the characters use "psychological" violence on each other? If so, who uses it against whom, and for what purpose (if any)?
  4. Are there examples of "justifiable violence" in the novel? If so, what and why?
  5. If Raskolnikov had only killed Alyona, and not Lizaveta, would this change the way you feel about his crimes? Why or why not?
  6. Katerina is a pretty violent person. She beats her kids, pulls her husband around by his hair, and probably attacked Andrey Semyonovitch Lebeziatnikov. Is she still a sympathetic character?
  7. What are some of the violent acts (physical, sexual, psychological) that Svidrigaïlov commits? Though Marfa is his victim, is she also his accomplice? Why or why not?
  8. Is there a connection between physical illness and violence in the novel? Is so, where do we see it?

Chew on This

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

The worst violence we see in Crime and Punishment is against children.

Through its comparison of Napoleon to an axe-murderer, the novel presents an anti-war message.

Svidrigaïlov commits an act of violence against himself (suicide) to save others from his sexual and physical violence.

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