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Individuals undergo various activities and aspects of life in an effort to maintain their welfare. These aspects can be either positive or negative, and the notable aspects are sacrifice and suffering, which are significant to a person’s well being. Suffering and sacrifice are linked to a person’s sense of right and wrong. Sacrifice implies giving up imperative things and circumstances in an effort to do the right things. Sacrifice factually means to sell or give something away without gaining anything meaningful. In this study paper, we analyze the theme of suffering and sacrifice in the novel Crime and Punishment. In the book, many characters undergo suffering, while at the same time they give up several things and opportunities for the sake of others. The study paper will explore suffering in the various characters in the book. In addition, it will investigate the theme of sacrifice, which is shown as an obligation through the characters of Sonia, Svidrigailov, and Raskolnikov.
The setting of the novel is in St. Petersburg, Russia at the time when the country undergoes various political, economic and socialchanges. The period is in the mid-1860s and Crime and Punishment features Raskolnikov. Raskolnikov is a former student, who appears in the opening scene dressed in rags. The author shows the reader Raskolnikov’s evil mind as he contemplates of doing something quite awful. In the first scene, it appears as though Raskolnikov has already figured out how to execute the evil plan. The next scene introduces to the reader another character, Alyona, a mean old lady, who stays with her halfsister, Lizaveta. Alyona’s half sister is mentally unstable but at the same a truly understanding person, which is quite the opposite of the sister. At this point, it is clear that Raskolnikov wants to commit murder and the target is Alyona. There is a bar scene, which introduces Marmeladov, a jobless drunk married to Katerina. The couple has three young children from every partner from their previous marriages. One of the children, Sonia works as a prostitute and other people find her defamatory.
Through a letter he receives, we are aware of Raskolnikov’s mother, Pulcheria, and sister Dounia. In the letter, the mother tells Raskolnikov of the sister’s progress in life and her quitting working for Mr.Svidrigailov. On a positive note, Dounia plans to get married to Luzhin, whom Raskolnikov detests. The book Crime and Punishment further explores the lives of these characters and their struggle in efforts to make their lives better. Raskolnikov goes ahead with his murder plans and successfully kills Alyona and the halfsister, who had caught him in the act. He manages to steal Alyona’s properties, which he hides in his house. This action seems to have a negative impact on Raskolnikov’s life and health as he suffers for the better part of the week. The struggle for life continues in the book, which sees the death of Marmeladov; Katerina goes berserk, and Dounia marries her brother’s friend. With much inspiration from Sonia, Raskolnikov confesses to murder and is sentenced to eight years in prison. The novel ends with a majority of the characters moving to Siberia to start again. Raskolnikov finally falls in love with Sonia, whom he had despised for a long time.
On the theme of sacrifice, Raskolnikov sacrifices a better part of his life in order to find rehabilitation. The most notable aspect of sacrifice in the lead character’s life is the murder of Alyona. This is a test to Raskolnikov’s extraordinary man hypothesis. Murdering Alyona was an indication of sacrifice on Raskolnikov’s part to improve the society. Alyona is a mean old woman and the world would be a better place without such people. In Raskolnikov’s explanation to Sonia, defending his reason for killing the old woman, he claims it was the devil, which killed Alyona to do the world a favour. Surprisingly, Raskolnikov claims that in the process he killed himself, which is a sacrificial act. This notion makes him believe in the righteous of killing Alyona because she deserved to leave the world. Another sacrificial role the character plays is disconnecting him from the mother. In the book, the author alerts the reader that Pulcheria stays in a different region from the son. It is during the tale that Pulcheria and the daughter move to St. Petersburg to join Raskolnikov. Raskolnikov moved to St. Petersburg to give his mother peace of mind. This sacrificial act was necessary for Pulcheria because she did not worry much about the son (Dostoyevsky, 1950).
The novel Crime and Punishment has several aspects of suffering, which exhibit themselves repeatedly. Some forms of suffering may not be visible to other characters, but in a clear way, every major and minor character experiences the suffering. Suffering makes the characters make considerable sacrifices in their lives in an effort to overcome the affliction. Marmelodov’s family is the best example of characters, who undergo suffering in the novel. To start with, Marmelodov is a jobless drunk who spends every little dime he has on alcohol. This causes suffering to his family as they even lack food and other basic needs of life. Katerina, Marmelodov’s wife, is ill and has all the responsibilities of taking care of the family. The daughter, Sonia, goes in to prostitution in an effort to help her family financially. Suffering in this family continues up to the death of Marmelodov in a bloody accident, and the wife follows him soon because of her illness. The young children remain orphans and have to beg in the streets to survive.
The opening scene of the novel starts with a poor young man, Raskolnikov, wearing rugged clothes, which is a clear sign of poverty and suffering. The author further explains the reason behind his cut studies, which were financial constraints. Like every character in the tale, Raskolnikov endures poverty, mental, and emotional suffering. This intensifies after his murder act as we see him get sick and tormented for the rest of his part. When other characters in the book know the evil deed of Raskolnikov, they all advice him to suffer through his sins although he does not understand why this should be the case. Before confessing to the crime, Raskolnikov questions the ideology behind his suffering because he considers his actions righteous. Sonia equally undergoes suffering even as she is a young child. Her family has financial problems, and this forces her to join prostitution in an effort to help the siblings. As a young person, she has to be responsible for her siblings after the parents passed away leaving her with no support. Sonia’s suffering is real as Roskolnikov later says that she represents the suffering of all humankind.
Sacrifice and suffering are the main themes that the author revolves around in the novel Crime and Punishment. The characters view their suffering in different aspects and this determines their response to the anguish. For instance, Raskolnikov is in denial about his suffering and considers his actions righteous. On the other hand, characters like Sonia are in acceptance of their suffering, as we see her try to overcome the affliction. It is almost certain that only through anguish will the characters in the book grow and rise above their poor conditions.