Character Development in Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky Essay

Character Development in Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky Essay

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In his novel Crime and Punishment Fyodor Dostoevsky uses Raskolnikov as a vessel for several different philosophies that were particularly prominent at the time in order to obliquely express his opinions concerning those schools of thought. Raskolnikov begins his journey in Crime and Punishment with a nihilistic worldview and eventually transitions to a more optimistic one strongly resembling Christian existentialism, the philosophy Dostoevsky preferred, although it could be argued that it is not a complete conversion. Nonetheless, by the end of his journey Raskolnikov has undergone a fundamental shift in character. This transformation is due in large part to the influence other characters have on him, particularly Sonia. Raskolnikov’s relationship with Sonia plays a significant role in furthering his character development and shaping the philosophical themes of the novel.
One of the most profound and obvious changes in Raskolnikov’s character can be seen in the newfound appreciation for other people and human relationships he discovers at the end of the novel. When the reader is first introduced to Raskolnikov, Dostoevsky quickly makes it apparent that he has little to no regard for others, writing on the very first page that Raskolnikov was “so completely absorbed in himself, and isolated from his fellows that he dreaded meeting, not only his landlady, but anyone at all” (1). Indeed, in Raskolnikov’s mind, “to be forced to listen to [the landlady’s] trivial, irrelevant gossip […] and to rack his brains for excuses, to prevaricate, to lie” is the most loathsome thing imaginable (1). His disdain toward other people is so great that the mere thought of interacting with anyone for any length of time repulses him. On some occasions...

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...l […] his passing from one world into another” (542). Without Raskolnikov’s relationship with Sonia it would have been impossible for him to become this new man, to convert to Christian existentialism and find happiness and meaning in life.
It is apparent that the love between Sonia and Raskolnikov plays a crucial role in Crime and Punishment, pushing Raskolnikov in a direction he otherwise would not have gone. Dostoevsky uses their relationship as a tool to develop the philosophical themes in the novel and prompt profound changes in Raskolnikov’s character. Through their love, Dostoevsky demonstrates the importance of human relationships in finding and maintaining happiness. He also seeks to condemn nihilism and disprove the idea that one cannot make one’s own meaning in life by having Raskolnikov adopt Christian existentialism and find his purpose through Sonia.

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