Study Guide

Arkady Ivanovitch Svidrigaïlov in Crime and Punishment

By Fyodor Dostoevsky

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Arkady Ivanovitch Svidrigaïlov

Svidrigaïlov is, arguably, the biggest bad guy in the book. How bad? Well, he makes Raskolnikov look like a saint.

That's bad. When literature's most famous axe murderer looks pure and shiny compared to you, you know you're basically a demon. But what does Svidrigaïlov do that's so rotten?

How much time do you have?

He's completely unfaithful to his wife, sleeps with his servants, and even attempts to rape Dounia. Before he kills himself, we learn that he's definitely a child molester and particularly fond of very young girls, one of whom he drove to suicide.

Ew. The idea of Svidrigaïlov makes us want to take a shower with Clorox instead of soap.

And here's the thing: he's not alone. There are lots of mini-Svidrigaïlovs running around St. Petersburg. That's why Raskolnikov calls that sketchy man in the park a "Svidrigaïlov"...and why we want to bring the insult "Svidrigaïlov" into fashion. (Yes, we're lit nerds.)

But before he commits suicide, Svidrigaïlov shows some uncharacteristic acts of kindness. He convinces Sonia to take a big chunk of change to help her and Raskolnikov get along in Siberia. He's also nice to her and actually doesn't take advantage of her (as far as we know). Additionally, he arranges a place for her siblings to stay.

But that's where things get hairy. Would you trust Svidrigaïlov to find a home for your little brothers and sisters? Sonia did approve, so we can only hope the little ones are in safe hands and that he didn't give them to people he knew would hurt them.

The point is, Svidrigaïlov has done a few good deeds...but many more monstrous ones. Does he, like Raskolnikov, have a chance for redemption? Can you make up for the bad things you've done in the past? Does Crime and Punishment imply that there are some crimes that can't be atoned for? Does the novel suggest that child molestation is a worse crime than murder?

Do you think we can ever make "Svidrigaïlov" happen, or is it as doomed as "fetch"?

Arkady Ivanovitch Svidrigaïlov in Crime and Punishment Study Group

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