Books | Cheat's guide to Crime and Punishment

In honour of Penguin’s re-release of the Russian classic, we give the low down on Dostoyevsky’s magnum opus . Existentialism and axe murders. Need we say more?


Rodion Raskolnikov -A destitute former student, handsome but morally depraved. At times kind, but always a touch insane.

Sofya Marmeladov – Raskolnikov’s love. Sonya is a deeply Christian prostitute who financially supports her family.

Avdotya Raskolnikov (Dunya) – Raskolnikov’s loving and attractive sister.

Dmitri Razumikhin – Raskolnikov’s friend and opposite. A poor ex-student, he responds to his poverty by working hard.

Alyona Ivanovna – An old, withered pawnbroker whom Raskolnikov despises for cheating the poor out of their money and enslaving her own sister. Murdered by Raskolnikov at the novel’s climax.


Raskolnikov stumbles through life lost in his ramblings and with crime constantly on his mind. Upon hearing
that the burdens of the poor would be much eased by the death of a pawnbroker his obsession grows to murder. Most of the novel focuses on Raskolnikov’s struggle to deal with the aftermath, as a police investigator pursues him in a tense game of cat and mouse and he sinks further into madness

– Self-reflexive novel; For Raskolnikov, life is a text to be understood and a text that has already been written.

– Good old fashioned Russian student nihilism. If there is one thing to know about Russia in the late 1800s it’s that ni- hilism was rife in the younger generation.

– Seeing yourself as superior doesn’t end well. Especially if you’re struggling to accept your own shortcomings and take it out on the few people who care.

Anastasia Kennedy 

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