Crime & Punishment – Plot

This morning we were given our new brief to design a new book cover for an existing classic novel. I was given Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky written in 1866. To better understand the themes of the book I read numerous reviews and synopsis’s.

The main character, Raskolnikov, is an impoverished student that has a low opinion of himself. He dresses in rags, however he is actually very handsome and desirable. He formulates the theory that the extraordinary men in the world are above the law and they can commit crime providing they have something to offer society. To prove his theory, he cruelly murders an old pawnbroker, and her half sister who happened to come upon him suddenly.

After commiting the crime Raskolnikov became very ill and lies in his room in a semi-conscious state for days. When he recovers, he finds out that his friend Razumihkin is looking for him had been looking for him. Also whilst recovering, he gets a visit from his sisters fiance, who he falls out with and insults due to his domineering nature and nastiness towards Raskolnikov  sister.

After leaving his room, he read the newspapers about the crime he had commited, and met up with a police official and almost confesses the crime. He rambles on and the official becomes suspicious of Raskolnikov. Shortly after, he witnesses another government official stuck by a carriage and about to die. He assists the man and leaves all of his money to his family in guilt for his past crimes.

Raskolnikov hears about the police interviewing all of the people that had done business with the pawnbroker in the past. He goes for the interview and leaves with the suspicion that the police suspect him. He goes to the daughter of the dead man that he helped, and asks her to read him a verse from the bible. He feels great sympathy with the daughter, Sonya. She becomes a universal symbol for Raskolnikov.

Raskolnikov has another interview with the government official, and he tells him he knows who murdered the pawnbroker. He then returns to Sonya and confesses. He then confesses to the police and is sentenced to eight years, however Sonya follows him, and with her help. Raskolnikov begins his recovery.

The main themes in this book are:

  • Allienation from society – pride separates Raskolnikov from society initially. His isolation grows after commiting murders due to the intense guilt he feels.
  • Superman – Initially,Raskolnikov sees himself as above the law, a vigilant who can do what he wants like superman.
  • Nihilism – a philosophical position developed in Russia, know for “negating more”. It rejects family and societal bonds in favor of materialism, or the idea that there is a no mind or soaul outside the physical living world.
  • Poverty – almost every character in the novel is poor and impoverished apart from the police official, Luzhin and Svidrigailov.


The city of St. Petersburg – is represented as dirty, crowded and impoverished. Drunks and homeless people lying across the street in broad daylight, children and women begging for money etc.

The Cross – Is given to Raskolnikov by Sonya before he goes to the police station to confess his crime. The cross is symbolic of self sacrifice from the story from the bible where Jesus sacrificed himself for the good of humanity.



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