After providing biographical insight into Dostoevsky's life and journey to God in part 1, I will introduce the central character and the key plot elements of Crime and Punishment that parallel Dostoevsky’s own religious experiences and values.
Raskolnikov was brought up in a devout religious family. This is apparent from the start of the novel when he receives a letter from his mother and sister. She worries if her son still says his prayers and “believes in the mercy of our Creator and our Redeemer” (Dostoevsky 41). She continues on to reminisce of a day when he used to “say your [his] prayers at my knee…” (41). Although Raskolnikov has come on hard times and lost his childhood focus on Christ, he still desires the comfort provided through the connection with God. After having a vivid dream of the murder he was planning to commit, he falls to his knees and prays to God, “Lord, Show me my path - I renounce that cursed…dream of mine” (63).
After rationalizing the murder with human methods, he is thrown into a downward spiral of paranoia and regret. Once again he tries to find comfort in prayer, but can only laugh. It was not at the act of praying but at the person who was trying to pray - the person that had just committed two murders. Desperate and broken, he asks the little girl Polenka to “pray sometimes for me, too” (198).
Days after the deed has been committed, regret tears at Raskolnikov’s body and soul. He confronts his mother, but stops short of confessing the murder to her. He simply tells her she can’t follow him where he is going, “No, but kneel down and pray to God for me. Your prayer perhaps will reach him” (510). After his mother blesses him and signs him with the cross “for the first time after all those awful months his heart was softened” (510). Consequently he is torn apart by regret of the murder. True earnest repentance starts to penetrate his once cold heart.
Work CitedDostoevsky, Fyodor. Crime and Punishment, New York: Bantam Books, 2003.