Rodion Romanovich Raskolnikov (“Rodya,”
“Rodka”) is the protagonist of the novel. A former
student, Raskolnikov is now destitute, living in a cramped garret
at the top of an apartment building. The main drama of the novel
centers on his interior conflict, first over whether to kill the
pawnbroker and later over whether to confess and rejoin humanity.
Raskolnikov is ill throughout the novel, overwhelmed by his feelings
of alienation and self-loathing.
in-depth analysis of Rodion Raskolnikov.
Sofya Semyonovna Marmeladov (“Sonya,”
“Sonechka”) is Raskolnikov’s love and
Marmeladov’s daughter. Sonya is forced to prostitute herself to
support herself and the rest of her family. She is meek and easily
embarrassed, but she maintains a strong religious faith. She is
the only person with whom Raskolnikov shares a meaningful relationship.
in-depth analysis of Sonya Marmeladov.
Avdotya Romanovna Raskolnikov (“Dunya,”
“Dunechka”) Raskolnikov’s sister.
Dunya is as intelligent, proud, and good-looking as her brother,
but she is also moral and compassionate. She is decisive and brave,
ending her engagement with Luzhin when he insults her family and
fending off Svidrigailov with gunfire.
in-depth analysis of Dunya Raskolnikov.
Arkady Ivanovich Svidrigailov
Dunya’s depraved former employer. Svidrigailov appears
to believe, almost until the end of the novel, that he can make
Dunya love him. The death of his wife, Marfa Petrovna, has made
him generous, but he is generally a threatening presence to both
Dunya and Raskolnikov.
Dmitri Prokofych Razumikhin
Raskolnikov’s friend. A poor ex-student, he responds
to his poverty not by taking from others but by working even harder.
Razumikhin is Raskolnikov’s foil, illustrating through his kindness and
amicability the extent to which Raskolnikov has alienated himself
from society. To some extent, he even serves as Raskolnikov’s replacement,
stepping in to advise and protect Pulcheria Alexandrovna and Dunya.
His name comes from the Russian word razum
means “reason” or “intelligence.”
Katerina Ivanovna Marmeladov
The consumptive wife of Marmeladov. Katerina Ivanovna’s
serious illness gives her flushed cheeks and a persistent, bloody
cough. She is very proud and repeatedly declares her aristocratic heritage.
The magistrate in charge of investigating the murders.
Porfiry Petrovich has a shrewd understanding of criminal psychology
and is exquisitely aware of Raskolnikov’s mental state at every
step along the way from the crime to the confession. He is Raskolnikov’s primary
antagonist, and, though he appears only occasionally in the novel,
his presence is constantly felt.
Semyon Zakharovich Marmeladov
An alcoholic public official whom Raskolnikov meets
at a tavern. Marmeladov is fully aware that his drinking is ruining
himself and his family, but he is unable to stop. It is unclear
whether his death by falling under the wheels of a carriage was
a drunken accident or intentional.
Pulcheria Alexandrovna Raskolnikov
Raskolnikov’s mother. Pulcheria Alexandrovna is
deeply devoted to her son and willing to sacrifice everything, even
her own and her daughter’s happiness, so that he might be successful.
Even after Raskolnikov has confessed, she is unwilling to admit
to herself that her son is a murderer.
Pyotr Petrovich Luzhin
Dunya’s fiancé. Luzhin is stingy, narrow-minded,
and self-absorbed. His deepest wish is to marry a beautiful, intelligent,
but desperately poor girl like Dunya so that she will be indebted
Andrei Semyonovich Lebezyatnikov
Luzhin’s grudging roommate. Lebezyatnikov is a young
man who is convinced of the rightness of the “new philosophies”
such as nihilism that are currently raging through
St. Petersburg. Although he is self-centered, confused, and immature,
he nonetheless seems to possess
An old, withered pawnbroker whom Raskolnikov kills.
Raskolnikov calls Alyona Ivanovna a “louse” and despises her for
cheating the poor out of their money and enslaving her own sister,
Alyona Ivanovna’s sister. Lizaveta is simple, almost
“idiotic,” and a virtual servant to her sister. Sonya later reveals
to Raskolnikov that she and Lizaveta were friends.
doctor and a friend of Razumikhin. Zossimov is a young, self-congratulating
man who has little insight into his patient’s condition. He suspects that
Raskolnikov is mentally ill.
Nastasya Petrovna (“Nastenka,” “Nastasyushka”)
A servant in the house where Raskolnikov rents his
“closet.” Nastasya brings him tea and food when he requests it and
helps care for him in his illness after the murders.
Ilya Petrovich (“Gunpowder”)
The police official whom Raskolnikov encounters
after committing the murder and to whom he confesses at the end
of the novel. Unlike Porfiry Petrovich, Ilya Petrovich is rather oblivious
and prone to sudden bouts of temper (thus the nickname “Gunpowder”).
Alexander Grigorievich Zamyotov
A junior official in the police station who suspects
that Raskolnikov is the killer of Alyona Ivanovna and Lizaveta.
Nikolai Dementiev (“Mikolka”)
A painter working in an empty apartment next to
Alyona Ivanovna’s on the day of the murders. Suspected of the murders
and held in prison, Nikolai eventually makes a false confession.
Polina Mikhailovna Marmeladov (“Polya,”
daughter of Katerina Ivanovna from her former marriage.