Study Guide

Crime and Punishment Justice and Judgment

By Fyodor Dostoevsky

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Justice and Judgment

Part 1, Chapter 6

"You are talking and speechifying away, but tell me, would you kill the old woman yourself?"

"Of course not! I was only arguing the justice of it […]."

"But I think, if you would not do it yourself, there's no justice about it […]." (1.6.19-21)

Imagine how Raskolnikov must have felt when he overheard this conversation! He takes it as a call to action, a call to "justice." It seems bizarre to see "kill" and "justice" used together this way. On a larger scale, is that the whole idea behind war? Killing in the name of, among other things, justice?

Part 2, Chapter 1
Rodion Romanovitch Raskolnikov

[Raskolnikov:] "Surely it isn't beginning already! Surely it isn't my punishment coming upon me? It is!" (2.1.17)

This is just after the murder, when Raskolnikov is obsessing over possible evidence of his crime. The phrasing "coming upon me" suggests two interpretations of the passage: 1) that the beginning phase of Raskolnikov's punishment is being meted out by a force of justice, perhaps God and 2) that Raskolnikov is personifying punishment as a force of justice in and of itself.

Part 4, Chapter 2

[…] it rested with him to punish them and there would always be time for that. (4.2.22)

When Luzhin says this in reference to Dounia and her mother, the gig is pretty much up. Our judgment of Luzhin is pretty negative. Luzhin is also one of the novel's most judgmental characters, as our quote demonstrates.

Dounia (Avdotya Romanovna Raskolnikov)

[Dounia:] "Trust me in this matter and, believe me, I shall be capable of judging impartially." (4.2.69)

We believe you, Dounia! She wasn't quite so impartial when judging Svidrigaïlov and it got her in a heap of trouble, but she gives Luzhin every chance to pretend to be a decent guy before she kicks him to the curb.

Part 5, Chapter 3
Pyotr Petrovitch Luzhin

[Luzhin:] "On the contrary, you'll have to answer, gentlemen, for violently obstructing the course of justice." (5.3.70)

Even though Sonia is judged innocent of Luzhin's accusations due to Andrey Semyonovitch's sharp eyes and fearless tongue, there isn't justice for Sonia, and Luzhin doesn't have to suffer for his crime. Nonetheless, it is probably the closest thing to a feel-good moment we get in the novel. It might not give us full-blown justice but perhaps, at least, a hope of justice.

Part 5, Chapter 4
Katerina Ivanovna Marmeladov

"Good God!" [Katerina] cried with flashing eyes, "is there no justice upon earth? Whom should you protect if not us orphans?" (5.4.76)

The novel is obsessed with the lack of justice for children, particularly orphans, as is Raskolnikov. This is a sentiment to which we can all relate. So long as children are suffering in the world, it's hard to think of it as a place where fairness and justice have meaning.

Part 6, Chapter 2

[Porfiry:] "You must fulfill the demands of justice. I know that you don't believe it, but indeed, life will bring you through. You will live it down in time. What you need now is fresh air, fresh air, fresh air!" (6.2.62)

The fresh air in question is the fresh air of hard labor in a Siberian prison camp, which does seem to do Raskolnikov some good. What we find interesting about this passage is that Porfiry is trying to convince Raskolnikov that this process of criminal justice will provide him with personal justicea chance to start a new life.

Part 6, Chapter 4
Marfa Petrovna Svidrigaïlov

[Svidrigaïlov:] "But to judge some people impartially we must renounce certain preconceived opinions and our habitual attitude to the ordinary people about us." (6.4.1)

There is some truth in this, but because it comes from Svidrigaïlov, we shudder. He makes Dounia's "judging impartially" look like kid stuff. LiterallySvidrigaïlov is asking Raskolnikov to "impartially" judge him and his crimes against women, children, and his servant. Somebody better call a defense lawyer quick. We are in deep water.

Part 6, Chapter 8
Ilya Petrovitch

[Ilya:] "Look at these suicides, too, how common they are, you can't fancy!" (6.8.60)

This, of course, is Ilya to Raskolnikov on Svidrigaïlov's suicide. It's also a comment on the constant array of suicidal tendencies in the novel. Suicide is presented as a judgment by an individual of both himself or herself and the society in which he or she lives.

Epilogue, Part 1

It was only in that that he [Raskolnikov] recognised his criminality, only in the fact that he had been unsuccessful and had confessed it. (Epilogue.1.7)

Raskolnikov never explicitly says he regrets his pre-prison actions, though there is plenty of evidence to argue an implied regret. Either way, at this moment Raskolnikov is still dehumanizing Alyona and Lizaveta by stating his failure to bring positive meaning to the murders and that his act of confessing made the murders crimes and thus himself a criminal. He doesn't judge the two women as humans.

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