Christianity In Crime And Punishment Essay, Research Paper
While reading Crime and Punishment, by Fyodor Dostoevsky, the notion that it is a novel about Christianity seems absurd at first. Its central story focuses on revenge, murder and punishment – ideals contrary to Christian beliefs. Although the book may appear to be non-Christian, there were many instances where faith, suffering and redemption were present. These occasions show that the underlying theme of Crime and Punishment is one of Christianity. The references to icons, Lazarus, New Jerusalem and the constant presence of suffering prove that the novel has biblical connotation.
In the beginning of the novel, when Raskolnikov goes to the pawnbroker to pawn his father’s watch, Dostoevsky describes Alyona’s apartment. “The furniture, all very old an of yellow wood, consisted of a sofa… In the corner a light was burning before a small icon.” Even from the very first chapter, Dostoevsky made a reference to a Christian image. An ‘icon’ is a picture or representation of a saint or other Christian figures. I believe that the author did this to make it evident right from the start that Crime and Punishment is irrevocably a novel about God. An icon reappears every now and then in the rest of the book to reiterate that God will always be around, watching and guiding over everyone.
Also near the beginning of the story, the man Raskolnikov met at the bar, Marmeledov, declared the first primary Christian message in the novel. Ironic as it was, being that he was drunk, he cried out, “Crucify me oh judge… He is the One… He will forgive my Sonya.” The idea that God could forgive is a very strong belief throughout the novel and this concept is one that is vital to the transformation of Raskolnikov in the later chapters.
Dostoevsky also uses reoccurring symbols to show that the novel is Christian. One of these symbols is the whip. According to the Bible, Jesus Christ was thrashed with a whip many times just before his crucifixion. They did this to him to humiliate and wound him. In Chapter II or Part II, a coach driver “violently lashes” the dazed Raskolnikov, returning from the police station, as he stumbles in the street. Here, the whip is used as a symbol of his humiliation (like Jesus) for his recent crimes. Also, in a dream Raskolnikov has in Chapter 5 Part I, the whip Mikolka uses to flog his horse clearly signifies mindless cruelty and the exercise of unrestrained power – the kind of power those who tortured Jesus had.
Because of the immense guilt Raskolnikov felt for his murders, he decided to speak to Sonya. In Chapter 4 Part IV, they share a discussion. In this conversation, Raskolnikov torments Sonya by doubting the presence of God. He says, “Perhaps God does not exist.” However, his cynicism did not endure long when he sees her suffering, so he falls to the ground and kisses her feet – the classic Christian gesture of humility and adoration. Once again, Dostoevsky revisits God.
Later on in that same conversation, Lizaveta’s New Testament in his Raskolnikov’s hands, and he asks Sonya to find him the story of the raising of Lazarus and to read it aloud. As she reads the story, with its message of hope and salvation, she has a hard time, but keeps on reading it for the sake of Raskolnikov. Lazarus is the brother of Mary and Martha, who were friends with Jesus. When Lazarus died, his sisters mourned for him, but Christ raised him from the dead after four days. This miracle is usually interpreted as a foreshadowing of Christ’s own resurrection. In this novel, I believe that is suggests hope for Raskolnikov and also foreshadows his salvation.
All throughout the novel, suffering was definitely evident in almost all of the characters – especially Raskolnikov. In the Catholic-Christian belief, one must suffer, like Jesus Christ, in order to be allowed in heaven. Suffering is what Jesus did for all mankind, so that is what all mankind must do for him (i.e. ‘fasting’ during Lent). Even though he was not fully aware of it, Raskolnikov was suffering throughout the whole book. His solitude, bitterness, guilt, and stubbornness caused him to suffer anguish and torment from those around him. He was unaware of his suffering because he believed that he was extraordinary and extraordinary people who commit murder cannot feel guilt or suffer from it.
Not only did Raskolnikov suffer, but also did Sonya, Dounia, and Razumihin. Sonya had to suffer and give up her innocence for her family and their welfare. She gave up her freedom and respect just to help them out. Her torment shaped her into a better human being. Dounia also suffered for her family. She worked for someone who abused her and almost married a man whom she did not love just for the welfare of the ones she loved. Lastly, Razumihin was a man who sacrificed his time to take care of a friend (Raskolnikov) and his family. He suffered through mental anguish as he yearned for Dounia’s love although she had been promised to Luzhin. Suffering was present throughout the book and it assisted in showing that the characters were Christian. They tried to obey the whims of the Lord by sacrificing for Him as he had sacrificed for them.
After being sentenced for eight years in Siberia, Raskolnikov had a tremendous time to think in his cell. At first he reacts to prison as expected – sullen, indifferent not interested in anything, not even Sonya’s visits. In fact, he’s even rude to her. The mistrust that seemed to haunt Raskolnikov in the novel follows him in prison, as well. The prisoners hate him for being “godless”. It is his lack of faith that causes him to treat his sentence with indifference and he feels that life is futile.
Having been alienated from practically everybody, Raskolnikov becomes seriously ill – not physically but psychologically. He lost his self-respect and therefore lost the will to live. His illness came during Easter time. Easter is the Christian season of resurrection and rebirth. Like the sickness that struck him at the time of the murder, this one signals an important change in life. When he finds out that Sonya is sick as well, he discovers a new feeling: he is worried about her. A miracle has happened. Raskolnikov cries and kneels before her – another Christian gesture. Instantly, she knows that he loves her and that they will have a future together. “… The dawn of a new future, a perfect resurrection into a new life…” The Lazarus image recurs. Love has raised them from the dead. This love is the love of God that has shown through their suffering. By loving Sonya, I believe Raskolnikov is ready to love God. The seven years that remain on his sentence have a religious significance too, for seven is the number of creation, as well.
In closure, the Christian content in Crime and Punishment is definitely evident and teaches many morals to the reader. The story has a message of faith and enlightens those who do not have any. In reading this novel, I came to realize that “you must accept suffering and redeem yourself by it…” For if you do not, then you will being like Raskolnikov and suffer the punishments for dong the crime.