Crime and Punishment

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Crime and Punishment
Original Title: Преступленіе и наказаніе
Written by: Fyodor Dostoevsky
Central Theme: What You Are in the Dark
Synopsis: A moody student commits murder to prove himself an Ubermensch, and experiments such a guilt he discovers that he has a conscience after all.
First published: 1867
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"What can I tell you? I've known Rodion for a year and a half: sullen, gloomy, arrogant, proud; recently (and maybe much earlier) insecure and hypochondriac. Magnanimous and kind. Doesn't like voicing his feelings, and would rather do something cruel than speak his heart out in words. At times, however, he's not hypochondriac at all, but just inhumanly cold and callous, as if there really were two opposite characters in him, changing places with each other."


Perhaps the most famous novel written by Russian author Fyodor Dostoevsky. Originally in Russian under the title Prestuplenie i nakazanie (Преступление и наказание)

A moody university student named Raskolnikov murders an old moneylender who has been exploiting her clients, but accidentally also kills the woman's innocent, feeble-minded half-sister after she wanders in on the murder scene. He struggles with the ramifications of his actions before finally deciding to confess near the end of the novel. While ruminating over his crime, he deals with visiting family, a nosy friend who falls in love with his engaged sister, an implacable police detective who plays mindgames with him, the all-too-obvious faults in his own Ubermensch theories, and his budding relationship with a prostitute and her poor family.

Translated into English many times.

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Tropes used in Crime and Punishment include:

  • Above Good and Evil: Raskolnikov initially thinks he is; turns out, not so much.
  • Affably Evil: Svidrigajlov.
  • Anti-Hero (Type V) or Villain Protagonist: Raskolnikov.
  • The Alcoholic: Marmeladov.
  • Alliterative Name: Rodion Romanovich Raskolnikov.
  • Asshole Victim: Raskolnikov specifically chooses to murder Alyona because she's a greedy, unscrupulous, and universally unloved moneylender and he thinks she won't be missed.
  • Bad Dreams: Raskolnikov is haunted by nightmares ranging from unpleasant to genuinely disturbing. Not to mention the nightmares Svidrigailov has right before he commits suicide.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Raskolnikov will have a nice new life, but only after he atones for his crimes by serving his time in Siberia.
  • Break the Haughty: Arguably, Raskolnikov.
  • Bunny Ears Lawyer: Porfiry Petrovitch, anyone?
  • Butt Monkey: Subverted; Lebezyatnikov is introduced as one, but then he actually helps Sonya and Raskolnikov against Luzhin's plan.
  • Byronic Hero: Raskolnikov
  • Character Filibuster
  • Character Tics: Avdotya Romanovna has a habit of pacing up and down the room while thinking.
  • The Chessmaster: Both Raskolnikov and Porfiry.
    • Porfiry much more so. Raskolnikov gets Out-Gambitted in almost every encounter, and Porfiry's one major setback is due to an outside influence neither man could have possibly predicted.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: Named directly by Raskolnikov, in regards to his feverish behavior!
  • Cool Old Guy: Porfiry in many movie adaptations is usually portrayed as such; however, in the book, he is just 35, although he looks older.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Raskolnikov.
  • Despite the Plan
  • Dissonant Serenity: Raskolnikov smiles in several unfitting circumstances, even though it's usually a smug smile to show his disgust.
  • Distant Finale: About a year and a half after the main events of the book.
  • Driven to Suicide: Svidrigajlov, and subverted with Raskolnikov; Everyone thinks that he'll rather kill himself than go to prison and Raskolnikov even goes to the river as an attempt to drown himself, but he doesn't have the courage to do it and eventually realizes, that he'll have to take responsibility for his actions.
  • Even Bad Men Love Their Mamas: Initially played straight and then averted; Villain Protagonist Raskolnikov genuinely adores his mother and sister, but, after the murders, he feels alienated from them and is actually irked by their very presence.
  • Evil Counterpart: Raskolnikov meets two Evil Counterparts: an actual Ubermensch Svidrigajlov and another Nietzsche Wannabe, Smug Snake Luzhin.
  • Fat Bastard: Subverted with Porfiry, played straight with Luzhin.
  • Friendship Moment: Radically subverted; Razumikhin constantly tries to help Raskolnikov, who at first treats him like crap and then decides to use him as a tool against his own antagonist, Porfiry.
  • Heel Realization: The ultimate point of Raskolnikov's Character Development is him realizing that he's nothing more than a criminal, and his good intentions are meaningless.
  • Hooker with a Heart of Gold: An early example in Sonya.
  • I Know You Know I Know
  • Inspector Javert: Porfiry; it's a peculiar version, though, as Raskolnikov has not been Wrongly Accused: he is guilty.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Jerk: Luzhin. Did you wonder why he's do something so out of character as to give Sonia money with no strings attached? It doesn't take long to find out.
  • Karma Houdini: A minor version of this trope is found in Smug Snake Luzhin; he doesn't succeed at marrying Dunya, but, being the despicable asshole he is, he still gets away lightly.
  • Lampshade Hanging: Razumikhin verbal recreation of the vents of the murder is spot on, but Zossimov dismisses it as "melodrama."
  • Manipulative Bastard: Raskolnikov, Svidrigajlov and Porfiry.
  • Meaningful Name: Plenty of them.
  • Near-Rape Experience: Svidrigajlov is about to rape Dunya, but then he changes his mind.
  • Nice Guy: Razumihin
  • Nietzsche Wannabe: A celebrated Ur Example and Unbuilt Trope. Raskolnikov's musings on the "beyond good and evil" superhuman are at least 20 years older than Nietzche's philosophy.
  • Not So Different: Luzhin and Svidrigailov are two despicable and immoral men who are treated by Rodion with complete revulsion. However, it is constantly implied that they follow the same pattern of thought as Raskolnikov, only devoid of all ambiguity and pretense of improving the world by breaking the law.
  • The Noun and the Noun
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: Porfiry pretends to be a buffoon, but he is actually so sharp he occasionally seems to have ESP powers.
  • Once More with Endnotes
  • Princess in Rags: Katerina Ivanovna Marmeladov
  • Redemption Equals Death: Svidrigaylov commits suicide after rediscovering his inner moral compass and understanding that there is a higher purpose in life.
  • Single Mom Stripper: Sonya becomes a prostitute to feed her brothers and sisters.
  • Single Woman Seeks Good Man: Dunya and Razumihkin get married in the epilogue.
  • Smug Smiler: Raskolnikov.
  • Smug Snake: Luzhin
  • Spell My Name with an "S": Due to multiple translations from Russian to English.
  • Starving Student: Raskolnikov was like this.
  • The Stoic: Raskolnikov, most of the time.
  • Surprise Witness: Subverted.
  • Sympathetic Murderer: Raskolnikov.
  • The Perfect Crime: Oh, the irony...
  • The Power of Love: Nihilism and pride fuel most of the actions of the book. This is the only thing that stands in their way. It's enough.
  • Tsarist Russia: The story takes place during the reign of Tsar Alexander III.
  • Tear Jerker: Raskolnikov's dream about a poor old mare getting beaten to death. Which is also mad Squicky.
  • Ubermensch: An Unbuilt Trope at the time it was written. Raskolnikov's main purpose is to become a superior man beyond good and evil; the whole book could be considered a Take That ante litteram to Nietzsche's theories. Raskolnikov himself describes his inspiration, Napoleon Bonaparte, in Ubermenschian terms.
  • The Unfettered: Raskolnikov, initially.
  • Unusual Euphemism: "I'm going to America." (Svidrigailov tells this to everyone before he commits suicide and then repeats it to himself before he performs the act.)
  • Utopia Justifies the Means: Ruthlessly deconstructed. Even though Raskolnikov intends to help the people whom the moneylender has exploited, the unplanned murder of her innocent sister leads him to question his beliefs.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: It is mentioned that Lizaveta is constantly pregnant. No mention is ever given of her children again.
    • Depending on interpretation, there is enough textual evidence to suggest that Lizaveta was also a prostitute, and thus had to terminate her pregnancy.
    • In addition, it's implied that she was mentally retarded in some way, so it's also possible her sister forced her to terminate the pregnancies/give the babies up (although what kind of social provisions there were in Tsarist Russia, I don't know) without her fully understanding what was happening.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: Raskolnikov. Though it's debatable whether he murdered the pawnbroker to use the money altruistically or to help himself or whether he simply wanted to prove that he was an Ubermensch and could get away with it. Considering Raskolnikov and his situation, probably a combination.