Crime and Punishment

by: Fyodor Dostoevsky

Poverty

Quotes Poverty
He was crushed by poverty, but the anxieties of his position had of late ceased to weigh upon him.

The narrator describes the powerful effect poverty plays on Raskolnikov. Poverty stands as a major theme in the novel, and serves as the driving factor for Raskolnikov’s crime, despite Raskolnikov claiming otherwise. Raskolnikov lives totally preoccupied with his social class and the way others perceive him. Living in such squalid quarters torments him psychologically, mostly because of his pride—Raskolnikov feels tortured to think others consider him inferior.

Am I to get married simply for the sake of the furniture?

Luzhin reflects on his own priorities after lamenting the loss of the money he deposited on furniture. Luzhin feels completely humiliated after the incident with Dunia and Raskolnikov. Dunia rejected him and they will not be married after all. Materialistic, narrow-minded, and obsessed with money, Luzhin’s character would have been a common type in nineteenth-century Russia. Luzhin’s questioning if he should go through with the marriage to avoid losing his deposits arises from both his bitterness and cynicism.

Even as it is, she was quite right: she was suffering and that was her asset, so to speak, her capital which she had a perfect right to dispose of.

Lebezyatnikov expresses his opinion of Sonia’s decision to sell her body. Lebezyatnikov, Luzhin’s roommate, represents a superficial mouthpiece of the nihilistic philosophies new to Russia at the time. His understanding and expression of the ideas lack the sophistication of Raskolnikov’s, but Lebezyatnikov does offer a view of Sonia’s prostitution based soundly on nihilism and utilitarianism. While some characters see Sonia’s prostitution as immoral and a blight on Sonia’s character, Lebezyatnikov sees her choice as the lesser of two evils. In Lebezyatnikov’s eyes, Sonia found a practical way out of poverty.

“But has Katerina Ivanovna been able to manage with such a small amount of money? Does she even intend to have a funeral lunch?” Raskolnikov asked, persistently keeping up the conversation.

Raskolnikov wonders what arrangements Katerina made regarding her husband’s funeral. Katerina can’t afford the funeral, yet she goes through with having one anyway. She orders a funeral lunch and a coffin. Katerina, a woman who constantly asserts aristocratic heritage, exemplifies the fatal flaw of pride. As a result of the funeral costs, she and her young children now find themselves on the street. Many of the characters in the novel have a similar difficulty navigating poverty and securing well-being amid the shifting values of their time.

I will put those two little ones and Polenka into some good orphanage, and I will settle fifteen hundred rubles to be paid to each on coming of age, so that Sofia Semionovna need not worry about them.

For many of the characters in the novel, poverty proves to be an endless cycle—a trap they struggle to escape. Sonia felt driven to prostitution by poverty, and in some ways, Raskolnikov felt driven to murder. Notably, this offer made by the villain Svidrigailov offers the Marmeladov’s a chance to break the cycle. He’s offering considerable resources to help the family get back on their feet. Poverty and morality go hand in hand throughout the novel, weaving a complex web of right and wrong.