Svidrigailov is one of the most enigmatic characters in Crime and Punishment. Dostoevsky leaves little doubt as to Svidrigailov’s status as a villain. But all of Svidrigailov’s crimes, except for his attempted rape of Dunya, are behind him. We witness Svidrigailov perform goods deeds, such as giving money to the family of his fiancée, to Katerina Ivanovna and her children, and to Dunya. Although he is a violent and sneaky individual, Svidrigailov possesses the ability to accept that he cannot force reality to conform to his deepest desires. In this regard, he functions as a foil to Raskolnikov, who can accept only partially the breakdown of his presumed “superman” identity. Further, whereas Raskolnikov believes unflinchingly in the utilitarian rationale for Alyona Ivanovna’s murder, Svidrigailov doesn’t try to contest the death of his romantic vision when Dunya rejects him. Although the painful realization that he will never have the love of someone as honest, kind, intelligent, and beautiful as she is compels him to commit suicide, he is one of the few characters in the novel to die with dignity.
More characters from Crime and Punishment
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