Fyodor Dostoevski: Crime and Punishment
Summary by Michael McGoodwin, prepared 1997

Acknowledgement: This work has been summarized using the Dell edition.  Quotations are for the most part taken from that work, as are paraphrases of its commentary.   

Overall Impression: This is a deeply moving work, with fascinating characters and unforgettable depictions of a brain fever (resulting from committing a horrible murder), the relentless pursuit of the criminal by a clever investigator, and the redeeming power of love.


Rodion Romanovitch Raskolnikov is a wretchedly poor, isolated, and self-absorbed nihilistic former student in St. Petersburg. He pawns his watch to Alyona Ivanovna. He meets the poor drunkard Marmeladov, married to Katerina Ivanovna with daughter Sofya (Sonia) M., who is forced by circumstances into prostitution. 

His gets a letter fr. his mother Pulcheria, who informs him that his own sister Dounia (Avdotya Romanovna) is being married off to the lawyer Pyotr Petrovitch Luzhin after repulsing the unseemly advances from the married Arkady Ivanovich Svidrigailov and being ejected by his wife Marfa. Rodion plots to kill the pawnbroker ostensibly for money to help his relations and does so with an axe while in a feverish state, also being forced to kill her sister Lizaveta

Rodion is summoned to the police over a money matter and appears extremely ill. His close friend Dmitri Prokofitch Razumihin later finds him in a delirium. His mother sends him some money from Afanasy Vahrushin, but Rodion turns it down. Dr. Zossimov describes the murder. Luzhin, his mothers fiancee, shows up to meet Rodion, but Rodion repulses him. Rodion nearly confesses the murder to the police clerk Zametov. 

Marmeladov is killed by a carriage while drunk and Rodion provides his scarce funds to pay for the funeral. Rodion's mother and sister arrive and he announces his opposition to the marriage. Porfiry Petrovich, head detective, arrives to question Rodion about the murder because he was on the pawnboker's list. He recounts an article on crime written by Rodion describing a theory of the "extraordinary man", who has the right to overstep normal obstacles to achieve his ends. A mysterious man accuses him of the murder (?planted by Porfiry). Svidrigailov arrives also pursuing his sister after his wife's death under uncertain circumstances (he poisoned her) and offers money to Rodion His deceased wife has left Dounia money in her will. The family spurn Luzhin, who vows to crush Rodion 

Rodion plans to leave town and Razumihin suspects him. He visits Sonia, who is holy despite her degradation, and bows down to her and kisses her foot. She speaks of her friendship with Lizaveta. He says he will tell her who killed Lizaveta -- Svidrigailov overhears this. Porfiry further interrogates him. Nikolay makes a false confession to the murder and the mysterious accuser, a tanner, takes back his accusation. At the dinner after Marmeladov's funeral, Luzhin falsely accuses Sonya of the theft of 100 roubles, to further discredit Rodion in the eyes of his mother and sister, but she is defended by Lebeziatnikov. 

Rodion confesses the murder to Sonia ("I wanted to become a Napoleon"), who professes her love for him nonetheless and encourages him to give himself up and expiate his guilt. Svidrigailov overhears this confession and, after Sonia's mother dies, helps her family and offers to Rodion to help his mother, still wanting Dounia even if by blackmail. Porfiry confronts Rodion and applies psychology after accusing him of the murder. Rodion threatens to kill Svidrigailov. Svid. lures Dounia to his rooms and tells her of Rodion's confession to Sonya, tries to force himself on her, but she shoots at him. He releases her, gives money to Sonya and to his 15 y/o alternate betrothed (arranged previously by Mme. Resslich), and shoots himself. Rodion bids goodbye to his mother and sister, and says to them he will confess, and same later to Sonia, who gives him a cross. He goes to the town square and bows down, kissing the earth, then confesses to the police. 

He gets 8 years in Siberia and Sonia follows him there. Dounia marries Razumihin. His mother dies of brain fever. Rodion feels Sonia's deep love, and her suffering, as she visits him after an illness, and knows he will need to show her infinite love. He finds the New Testament-- much suffering lies ahead.