‘Crime and Punishment’ is about the power of belief (2023)

Isaiah Dwyer, Staff Writer
December 5, 2017

(Video) Why should you read “Crime and Punishment”? - Alex Gendler

Fyodor Dostoevsky is one of the world’s most influential writers to date. He was born in the early nineteenth century, and acclaimed quite a bit of literary success towards the end of his life. Dostoevsky’s writings are popular because of their gruesome and, often times, brutal depictions of the human condition; some of his most notable works include “The Brother’s Karamazov”, “The Idiot”, and most famously, and most-likely familiar, “Crime and Punishment”.

(Video) Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky | Summary & Analysis

“Crime and Punishment” was published in the 1860s and tells the story of a thoughtful and intelligent college student, Raskolnikov, otherwise known as Rodia, living in St. Petersburg during late nineteenth-century Russia. Rodia is extremely poor, he can’t pay for school and ends up dropping out, he can’t pay his rent, and to top it off, his sister is marrying someone she really doesn’t want to in order to feed her family. Now, the thing about Raskolnikov, is that he’s an extremely smart, and capable individual, he’s trying to find some kind of solution for the complete mess that his life is in, and it just so happens that there’s one particular mean and nasty business woman in St. Petersburg, who nobody really likes. She takes complete advantage of economic distress, and she happens to have cash literally spilling out of her drawers.

Raskolnikov decides to kill this woman because, “What right does she have to prey off of the suffering of others?” There are a hundred other things that money could be used for, it could be distributed according to everybody’s needs, and it could take care of all Raskolnikov’s troubles, therefore, the benefits outweigh the crime. But, in the process of executing his plan, Raskolnikov ends up committing another murder, an innocent bystander.

Obviously, that’s some intense subject matter, but the genius of “Crime and Punishment”, comes from Fyodor Dostoevsky’s amazingly accurate psychological depiction of Raskolnikov’s motives, and the consequences he endures.

(Video) Crime & Punishment: Key Terms (c1000-Present) | Crime & Punishment | GCSE History Revision

Raskolnikov is given every reason he could possibly need to commit the crime, and he’s also completely convinced that some people are born extraordinary, and that those people are capable of crossing over certain moral boundaries, that regular people, just wouldn’t be able to consider; think Napoleon or Julius Caesar. As intelligent, and capable, as Raskolnikov is, he’s also very arrogant, and narcissistic, so he doesn’t quite understand nearly as much as he thinks.

After Raskolnikov commits his murders, Dostoevsky uses the next 300 pages to outline Raskolnikov’s descent into madness, and psychological deterioration. Raskolnikov, pretty much immediately, starts regretting his decision and feeling guilt. He starts to have nightmares, he becomes ill, and worst of all, he becomes alienated from all the people that he knows.

Raskolnikov encounters a pretty serious crisis of belief. He’s completely torn between his extraordinary ambitions, and his unrelenting-repressed guilt. His entire structure of belief has been undermined, and is now without purpose, and meaning. Raskolnikov refuses to accept that he isn’t extraordinary, but he knows that any extraordinary person wouldn’t doubt their extraordinariness, and he digs himself deeper into delusions and paranoia. In the end, Raskolnikov accepts his transgressions, turns himself in, and spiritually atones for his crimes in prison.

(Video) Should You Be Forgiven: Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment

“Crime and Punishment” is ultimately about the power of belief. If there’s anything to learn from this book, it’s that human beings are capable of rationalizing anything they need to.

Normal people don’t try and rationalize murder, but that’s not the point Dostoevsky is making, it’s not that obvious. It’s extremely important to recognize how our beliefs are formed, and how much we, ourselves, inform those beliefs, based on our own personalities. Raskolnikov is someone who had a lot of trouble relating to people and was just trying to find a way out of his own sufferings. It’s no surprise he felt his talents were being wasted, or that he thought he was better than others, but it’s also no surprise that he psychologically crumbled when those beliefs were tested.


What is the message behind Crime and Punishment? ›

Crime and Punishment is a novel symbolic of the drawbacks that society can have on individuals, specifically those who are at a disadvantage as a result of their class or mental state. When Dostoevsky penned this novel, the time was 1866.

How to answer Crime and Punishment questions? ›

Outline key words, define the dates and give a couple of facts about the period. Make a judgement on the question. Do not 'sit on the fence'. You MUST either agree or disagree and explain fully.

Who has the power to define crimes and punishments? ›

What Is the "Define and Punish" Clause? Article I, Section 8, Clause 10 of the United States Constitution: [The Congress shall have Power . . . ] To define and punish Piracies and Felonies committed on the high Seas, and Offences against the Law of Nations; . . .

What is the last line of Crime and Punishment? ›

They resolved to wait and be patient. They had another seven years to wait, and what terrible suffering and what infinite happiness before them! But he had risen again and he knew it and felt it in all his being, while she—she only lived in his life.

What is Crime and Punishment About summary? ›

Summary. Raskolnikov, a former student, lives in poverty and chaos in St. Petersburg. He decides—through contradictory theories, including utilitarian morality and the belief that extraordinary people have the “right to transgress”—to murder Alyona Ivanovna, an elderly pawnbroker.

What is the most important purpose of punishment? ›

The utilization of punishment is justified in terms of deterrence, retribution, or incapacitation. The deterrence position maintains that if the offender is punished, not only the offender by also those who see his example are deterred from further offenses.

What is the main conflict in Crime and Punishment? ›

The central conflict in Crime and Punishment stems from Raskolnikov's crime of murder and his struggles with his conscience over whether or not he should confess to the police.

What are 3 reasons for punishment? ›

There are five main underlying justifications of criminal punishment considered briefly here: retribution; incapacitation; deterrence; rehabilitation and reparation.

What is the first line of Crime and Punishment? ›

Taken from Fyodor Dostoevsky's 1866 Nihilist literary classic: On an exceptionally hot evening early in July a young man came out of the garret in which he lodged in S. Place and walked slowly, as though in hesitation, towards K. bridge.

What is the power of punishment? ›

Theoretical analysis of unequal power rela- tions suggests that punishment is the most likely power strategy of actors who are disadvantaged members of relations imbalanced on reward power. A structural advantage in punishment power should provide these actors with the potential means to balance power in the relation.

How is crime related to power? ›

Crimes of the powerful are linked to how social power itself is formed and defined, distributed and altered. That is, power crime may actually accrue and accumulate social power, often being foundational to it.

What did Cesare Beccaria believe in? ›

Cesare Beccaria was one of the most important influences upon American attitudes toward criminal justice. Beccaria emphasized individual dignity within the criminal justice system. He stood against the use of torture and capital punishment.

Does Raskolnikov believe in God at the end? ›

“And...and do you believe in God? Excuse my curiosity.” “I do,” repeated Raskolnikov, raising his eyes to Porfiry.” When asked the question point blank by the magistrate Porfiry, Raskolnikov answers that he believes in God.

What is the significance of the ending scene of Crime and Punishment? ›

Crime and Punishment ends with the promise of a new story. The novel's epilogue details how Raskolnikov, after confessing his crime of murdering the old pawnbroker and her sister, is tried in court. Because of his many selfless deeds (such as rescuing orphans), he is given a sentence of eight years in Siberia.

What are the 4 goals of punishment and what do they mean? ›

Four major goals are usually attributed to the sentencing process: retribution, rehabilitation, deterrence, and incapacitation. Retribution refers to just deserts: people who break the law deserve to be punished. The other three goals are utilitarian, emphasizing methods to protect the public.

Why is it important to study Crime and Punishment? ›

Knowing the historical background of crime and punishment and the evolving timeline of criminology allows us to change how we treat our fellow humans. Some people believe that prisons are no longer a good way to deter crime or to rehabilitate prisoners.

What is criminology and crime in your own words? ›

Criminology is the study of crime and criminal behavior, informed by principles of sociology and other non-legal fields, including psychology, economics, statistics, and anthropology. Criminologists examine a variety of related areas, including: Characteristics of people who commit crimes.

What is crime in own word? ›

A crime is a deliberate act that causes physical or psychological harm, damage to or loss of property, and is against the law. There are lots of different types of crime and nearly everyone will experience a crime at some point in their lives.

Which punishment is most effective? ›

Positive punishment can be effective when it immediately follows the unwanted behavior. It works best when applied consistently.
  • Scolding. Being reprimanded or lectured is something many children would like to avoid.
  • Hand slapping or grabbing. ...
  • Writing. ...
  • Chores. ...
  • Rules.
Feb 25, 2020

What is the focus of punishment? ›

' In Beccaria's view, the purpose of punishment is to deter the offender from committing the crime again and to discourage others from ever committing the crime.

What is the motivation for using punishment? ›

To goal of punishment usually is to stop undesirable behaviour. But in fact punishment may also have a facilitative to motivating effect as researchers at the Institute of Psychology of the University of Würzburg have found.

What is the main conflict or problem in the story? ›

Conflict in a story creates and drives the plot forward. External conflict refers to the obstacles a character faces in the external world. Internal conflict refers to a character's internal or emotional obstacles.

What is the main conflict of the story? ›

A central conflict and climax refers to a story's inciting incident, its central conflict that advances the plot's points, and how the story's climax is resolved. Here, the central conflict is defined as when a main character's strongest desire is met by an equally strong internal or external obstacle.

What are the 2 main theories of punishment? ›

Kinds and Theories of Punishment: Deterrent Theory, Preventive Theory.

What is the real meaning of punishment? ›

punishment, the infliction of some kind of pain or loss upon a person for a misdeed (i.e., the transgression of a law or command). Punishment may take forms ranging from capital punishment, flogging, forced labour, and mutilation of the body to imprisonment and fines.

What are the 5 aims of punishment? ›

There are five general aims or functions or justifications of punishment:
  • DETERRENCE. There is a belief that punishment for crime can deter people from offending. ...

What are 2 problems with punishment? ›

PUNISHMENT OFTEN FAILS TO STOP, AND CAN EVEN INCREASE THE OCCURRENCE OF, THE UNDESIRED RESPONSE. attention to the offender, punishing may serve more as a reward than as a punishment. 2.

What was the famous quote for punishment? ›

Punishment is justice for the unjust. There is no greater glory than love, nor any greater punishment than jealousy.

Which one is the first explanation of criminal behavior? ›

Among the earliest psychological theories of crime were those based on the work of Sigmund Freud (1856–1939). Freud argued that human nature includes a great reservoir of instinctual drives (the “id”) that demand gratification.

Does the punishment fit the crime quote? ›

' The increase of punishment should be in proportion to the increase of crime. In other words, to quote a famous Latin quote, 'Culpae poenae par esto. ' Let the punishment fit the crime. The more a nation neglects this basic principle of justice, the more injustice will reign in that nation.

Who has the power to punish? ›

(1) The Court of a Chief Judicial Magistrate may pass any sentence authorised by law except a sentence of death or of imprisonment for life or of imprisonment for a term exceeding seven years.

What is the power to punish or recommend punishment? ›

Coercive power is the opposite of reward power, and it is used by managers to punish subordinates for not meeting performance expectations or to deter subordinates from making decisions that will negatively affect the organization.

What is the purpose of punishment essay? ›

The aim of punishment is also to warn people from crime committing under the fear of being punished and it might be reached through the well-developed criminal justice system, one of the main aim of which is to ensure that every wrongdoer will be punished for the criminal acts. There are two kinds of deterrence.

What is meant by crimes of the powerful? ›

White-collar crime. Any criminal offence committed by a person of relatively high status or who holds relatively high levels of trust where the offence is made possible by their legitimate employment. Examples include: fraud, embezzlement, tax violations, workplace theft.

Why are crimes of the powerful ignored? ›

The crimes committed by the powerful are hard to detect and responsibilities are difficult to apportion, also because often such crimes are the result of negligence rather than injurious intentions. We are faced, therefore, with malice propense, rather than with culpa.

What are examples of abuse of power? ›

Abuse of power examples:
  • Constantly reminding an employee that they can be fired or replaced.
  • Humiliating an employee in front of his colleagues.
  • Forcing an employee to work overtime multiple times a week without additional pay.
  • Boss mistreating employees when he/she is in a bad mood.

What did Beccaria and Bentham believe? ›

Bentham and Beccaria believed that the main way that the criminal justice system—a central part of the law—contributes to the happiness of the members of society is by reducing the amount of crime. Criminal acts, they believed, tend to cause harm and thus reduce the amount of happiness in society.

Who is the father of classical criminology and what did he believe? ›

The father of classical criminology is generally considered to be Cesare Bonesana, Marchese di Beccaria. Dei Delitti e della Pene (On Crimes and Punishment) (1764): This book is an impassioned plea to humanize and rationalize the law and to make punishment more just and reasonable.

What did Beccaria believe about human nature? ›

Proposing a vision of society in which the social contract served to protect “the greatest happiness divided between the greater number” and which was based upon a hedonistic calculation of human nature, Beccaria concluded that individuals had the equal right to pursue pleasure and that government was obliged to ...

What is Raskolnikov's final dream? ›

Raskolnikov dreams of a disease which sweeps the nation, killing all but a few, chosen individuals. The microbes causing the disease attack using intelligence and will. People stricken become furious and are driven insane; they also become completely convinced that they are right, while everyone else is wrong.

What are Raskolnikov's beliefs? ›

Raskolnikov, a former student, lives in poverty and chaos in St. Petersburg. He decides—through contradictory theories, including utilitarian morality and the belief that extraordinary people have the “right to transgress”—to murder Alyona Ivanovna, an elderly pawnbroker.

Why do criminals believe in God? ›

Studies have shown that one of the reasons inmates become involved in religion is to improve their self-concept. Many inmates experience guilt, remorse, and pain as a result of their criminal history and background. Religion helps them to feel better about themselves and thus improve their self-concept in this way.

What is the most important part of the crime scene? ›

Note taking is one of the most important parts of processing the crime scene. It forces investigators to be more observant; when writing things down, people frequently remember details that may otherwise be overlooked. Notes should be complete and thorough, written clearly and legibly.

Did Raskolnikov turn himself in? ›

Raskolnikov turns himself in

But, there's Sonia, sitting there in the courtyard of the police station, full of anguish and pain. We suppose he decides that it would be easier to just get it over with and turn himself in rather than to face Sonia without having confessed.

Why does Raskolnikov confess at the end? ›

Raskolnikov confesses to Sonya because she is so good and inspires Raskolnikov to become a better man. By the novel's end, he sees himself for what he is and Sonya for who she is, a wonderful person who is not defined by what she had to do to survive.

What do we hope to achieve through punishment? ›

Rather than a purpose in itself, punishment may also be considered instrumental in achieving other aims, such as reducing crime through deterrence and rehabilitation.

What is the purpose of punishment in behavioral terms? ›

Punishment involves learning about the relationship between behavior and its adverse consequences. Punishment is fundamental to reinforcement learning, decision-making and choice, and is disrupted in psychiatric disorders such as addiction, depression, and psychopathy.

What are punishment strategies? ›

A strategy used in a repeated game to secure an outcome which is not a Nash equilibrium for a single play of the game.

What is the main idea of crime? ›

One proposed definition is that a crime or offence (or criminal offence) is an act harmful not only to some individual but also to a community, society, or the state ("a public wrong"). Such acts are forbidden and punishable by law.

What does Dostoevsky teach us? ›

Dostoevsky understood that pain and suffering are the prices You and I pay for living. In suffering, you find humility, simplicity, and a deep appreciation for important things. You know and have felt those things; deep belly laughs, love from family, or a partner for instance.

What is the purpose of punishment one purpose is obviously to? ›

Punishment has five recognized purposes: deterrence, incapacitation, rehabilitation, retribution, and restitution.

What is the moral definition of crime? ›

Eventually, courts settled on a definition to include crimes in which a person acts particularly recklessly or in an evil and morally reprehensible manner. Crimes involving moral turpitude are ones that are: Shocking to the conscience. A grave violation of socially-acceptable behavior. Vile or depraved acts.

Why Crime and Punishment is a masterpiece? ›

In addition to its observations about human nature that, like Raskolnikov's “casuistry,” are “keen as a razor,” and in addition to its frighteningly realistic portrayal of individual psychology, Crime and Punishment is frightening for its eerily prophetic portrayal of societal psychology.

Why is true crime important to society? ›

True crime turns the courtroom into a source of entertainment and transforms people's lives into narratives for others to consume. The interest in other people's trauma, whether depicted through documentary footage or by actors, has real-life ramifications.

What is the point of Dostoevsky's story? ›

In Dostoevsky's view, when Jesus turned Satan away three times, he forced humanity to bear the burden of spiritual freedom, of choosing to believe or not to believe, and spiritual freedom is central to Dostoevsky's view of God, man, and faith.

What was Dostoevsky's ideology? ›

Dostoevsky claims to have considered himself a devout Orthodox Christian, but through his writing he shows that there may not be any real way to ultimately recompense the suffering of mankind. By leaving the question unanswered, he emphasizes the fact that suffering is a mystery that may not be cosmically resolved.

Does Dostoevsky believe in free will? ›

11 Dostoevsky believes that rational egoism will fail because free will is excluded from the list of advantages offered in a rational utopia. He contends that, in a highly rational society, our freedom would become dis- torted and irrationality would be the only method to exercise free will.

What is the main purpose of punishment to students? ›

What is the main purpose of punishment to students? It is a form of moral education. The offender is punished so that he will learn that what he did was wrong, and apply this lesson to his life in the future.

What is the most important purpose of criminal law and why? ›

The purpose of the Criminal Justice System... is to deliver justice for all, by convicting and punishing the guilty and helping them to stop offending, while protecting the innocent.

What is the motive behind punishment? ›

One popular justification for punishment is the just deserts rationale: A person deserves punishment proportionate to the moral wrong committed. A competing justification is the deterrence rationale: Punishing an offender reduces the frequency and likelihood of future offenses.

What is the moral justification for punishment? ›

According to the utilitarian moral thinkers punishment can be justified solely by its consequences. That is to say, according to the utilitarian account of punishment 'A ought to be punished' means that A has done an act harmful to people and it needs to be prevented by punishment or the threat of it.


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