Crime and Punishment
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4.22 / 5

"Crime and Punishment" Summary

By Fyodor Dostoyevsky

classics | Published in 2002

Nominated as one of America’s best-loved novels by PBS’s The Great American Read Raskolnikov, a destitute and desperate former student, wanders through the slums of St Petersburg and commits a random murder without remorse or regret. He imagines himself to be a great man, a Napoleon: acting for a higher purpose beyond conventional moral law. But as he embarks on a dangerous game of cat and mouse with a suspicious police investigator, Raskolnikov is pursued by the growing voice of his conscience and finds the noose of his own guilt tightening around his neck. Only Sonya, a downtrodden prostitute, can offer the chance of redemption. This vivid translation by David McDuff has been acclaimed as the most accessible version of Dostoyevsky’s great novel, rendering its dialogue with a unique force and naturalism. This edition also includes a new chronology of Dostoyevsky’s life and work.


Estimated read time: 4 min read

One Sentence Summary

A young man struggles with guilt and morality after committing a brutal crime in St. Petersburg.


"Fyodor Dostoyevsky's "Crime and Punishment" is a timeless classic that delves into the psychological turmoil of its main character, Raskolnikov, as he grapples with the moral and existential consequences of committing murder. Set in St. Petersburg, the novel explores themes of alienation, guilt, and redemption, making it a compelling and thought-provoking read for audiences across generations.

Brief Synopsis

Plot Overview and Setting

The novel is set in mid-19th century St. Petersburg, Russia, amidst a backdrop of poverty, societal upheaval, and moral decay. The protagonist, Rodion Raskolnikov, is a destitute former student who is grappling with his own nihilistic beliefs and desperate poverty. As the story unfolds, Raskolnikov becomes increasingly consumed by a radical idea: the concept of the "extraordinary man" who possesses the moral right to transgress societal norms for the greater good. This notion ultimately leads him to commit a heinous crime and sets in motion a series of profound moral, psychological, and existential consequences.

Main Events

The novel is rich with significant events that drive the narrative forward and shape the characters' development. Here are the key events that unfold throughout the story:

1-3Raskolnikov formulates his theory of the extraordinary man and plans the murder.
4-6Raskolnikov murders the pawnbroker, Alyona Ivanovna, and her half-sister, Lizaveta.
7-9Raskolnikov is tormented by guilt and paranoia, leading to his deteriorating mental state.
10-12The investigation into the murders intensifies, and Raskolnikov's inner turmoil escalates.
13-15Raskolnikov's complex relationships with Sonya, his family, and others come to the forefront.
16-18Raskolnikov's internal conflict reaches a crescendo as he grapples with the consequences.
19-21The novel builds towards a powerful and emotionally charged climax.

Main Characters

Rodion Raskolnikov

Raskolnikov is the novel's protagonist, a former law student who becomes increasingly isolated and disillusioned with society. His internal struggles and moral dilemmas are central to the narrative.

Sonya Marmeladov

Sonya is a young woman who turns to prostitution to support her family. She becomes a source of moral support and redemption for Raskolnikov.

Avdotya Romanovna (Dounia)

Dounia is Raskolnikov's sister, a strong-willed and principled woman who becomes entangled in a tumultuous relationship with a manipulative suitor.

Porfiry Petrovich

Porfiry is a shrewd and astute investigator who becomes increasingly suspicious of Raskolnikov's involvement in the murders.

Themes and Insights

Alienation and Isolation

The novel delves into the profound alienation experienced by its characters, particularly Raskolnikov, who grapples with a sense of moral and existential isolation.

Guilt and Redemption

Dostoyevsky expertly explores the themes of guilt and redemption, as Raskolnikov wrestles with the consequences of his actions and seeks a path to spiritual and moral salvation.

Moral Dilemmas

The novel presents compelling moral dilemmas that prompt readers to contemplate the nature of good and evil, the justification of crime, and the complexities of human morality.

Psychological Turmoil

Dostoyevsky's masterful portrayal of Raskolnikov's psychological turmoil offers profound insights into the human mind and the complexities of conscience and morality.

Reader's Takeaway

Crime and Punishment is a gripping and thought-provoking exploration of the human condition, morality, and the consequences of one's actions. Through its rich character development and profound thematic explorations, the novel offers readers a captivating and introspective journey that continues to resonate with audiences worldwide.


In conclusion, Fyodor Dostoyevsky's "Crime and Punishment" stands as a literary masterpiece that continues to captivate readers with its profound insights into the human psyche, morality, and the enduring quest for redemption. With its compelling narrative and timeless themes, the novel remains a compelling and relevant work that merits its status as a classic of world literature.

Crime and Punishment FAQ

  1. Who is the author of Crime and Punishment?

    Crime and Punishment was written by Fyodor Dostoyevsky, a Russian author known for his psychological and philosophical novels.

  2. What is the genre of Crime and Punishment?

    Crime and Punishment is a psychological and philosophical novel, often classified as a work of literary fiction and crime fiction.

  3. What is the plot of Crime and Punishment?

    Crime and Punishment follows the story of Rodion Raskolnikov, a poor ex-student in St. Petersburg who formulates and executes a plan to kill an unscrupulous pawnbroker for her money. The novel explores themes of morality, guilt, and redemption.

  4. What are the major themes in Crime and Punishment?

    Some major themes in Crime and Punishment include morality, guilt, redemption, the nature of good and evil, and the psychological effects of crime.

  5. Is Crime and Punishment a difficult book to read?

    Crime and Punishment is known for its complex characters and deep philosophical themes, so some readers may find it challenging. However, many readers find the novel engaging and thought-provoking.