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A bruise on the Heart - Symbolic Image in Crime and Punishment

Fyodor Dostoevsky’s novel Crime and Punishment is 1 of the most memorable and substantial literary functions in history. It deals with the psychological, emotional, mental, and physical struggles of several residents of nineteenth-century St. Petersburg. Rodion Romanovich Raskolnikov, on whom the novel is centered, commits a heinous double ax murder in order to justify a theory he has hypothesized, but he later realizes how wrong his actions had been and that he need to confess and seek redemption for his transgressions. Particular individuals are also placed into his life-folks who are wrestling with different difficulties, but all share a require to be extricated from their lives of sin. Cautiously chosen symbols interwoven all through the novel reflect and magnify the sin and need to have for redemption in the lives of Raskolnikov and his acquaintances. Dostoevsky’s masterful and generous use of symbolism-most notably with the colour yellow, water, and insects-emphasizes the themes of Crime and Punishment and the struggles of its characters.

Quite a few references are created to the color yellow, a hue which symbolizes the moral, physical, and mental decay of these in its presence. It is introduced very early in the operate, exactly where it is noted that “…the yellowish dusty wall-paper peeling off the walls gave it a wretchedly shabby appearance…” (Dostoevsky 23). This setting creates a tone which matches Raskolnikov’s mood that morning-“…bilious, peevish, and irritable” (23). It also hints at the decay that Raskolnikov is currently experiencing. His landlady’s servant, Nastasya, notes this when she brings him some tea and then exclaims that he will waste away if he does not drink it (23). She is, of course, merely addressing a physical variety of decay (at least consciously) nonetheless, Raskolnikov’s deterioration is of a significantly broader scope. It begins even before he decides to commit the murder of Alyona Ivanovna, the disagreeable pawnbroker, and her sister Lizaveta. The murder itself, even so, causes him to fall into a delirium that intensifies his decay, exhibited by his inability to keep composure when summoned to the police station (on the completely unrelated charge that he owes back rent). His tension builds throughout his stay in the police office, and he lastly faints. When he comes to, someone delivers him “a dirty tumbler filled with yellowish water” (Dostoevsky 89). The presence of the colour yellow, once again, signifies the presence of decay and Raskolnikov’s fainting episode shows that he is beginning to drop his grip on sanity.

However, Raskolnikov is not the only character suffering from decay. Semyon Zakharovich Marmeladov, an acquaintance whom Raskolnikov met in a bar, struggles with an alcohol addiction. He tells Raskolnikov that he drinks in order to multiply his sufferings (12), which he, like many other Russians of his day, believes will lead him to salvation. His lack of understanding in how correct salvation is located demonstrates moral decay. Later, when Marmeladov lies dying right after becoming accidentally run over by a horse and carriage, a yellow bruise-left by the horse’s hoof crushing him, types more than his heart. Right here once again is a blatant sign of his moral and spiritual decay. In addition, Marmeladov’s daughter Sonya suffers from the effects of her father’s spiritual decay. His drinking habit has left his family members destitute, and the only manner in which Sonya can provide for her consumptive stepmother and three young stepsiblings is through prostitution. In that time, all prostitutes had to register with the state and carried a yellow card as a form of identification. Sonya’s yellow card represents her physical degradation. Decay also touches Arkady Ivanovich Svidrigaylov, an acquaintance of Raskolnikov’s who engages in a life-style of debauchery and self-indulgence. When he checks into a hotel-the evening just before he commits suicide, unable to bear the reality of his hopeless life any longer-he notices that “the wall-paper was dirty and faded…although its original color (yellow) could nevertheless be guessed at, it was really impossible to make out its pattern” (Dostoevsky 426). The yellow wallpaper surrounding Svidrigaylov mirrors his spiritual death and indeed the physical death that will soon surround him. Dostoevsky also contains many other, more subtle appearances of the colour yellow, which show decay in the lives of more minor characters. Peter Petrovich Luzhin, for instance, is attempting to marry Raskolnikov’s younger sister-basically since he knows that she will be grateful to him for sharing his money with her and her destitute loved ones and will hence serve him hand and foot. In the course of the funeral dinner that Marmeladov’s wife throw in her husband’s honor, Sonya notices that Luzhin is wearing a “…thick, heavy, and very beautiful gold ring with a yellow stone on the middle finger of that [left] hand…” (315). The reality that this symbol of death and decay pervades the novel shows that nearly every character is trapped in some destructive vice.

The characters in Crime and Punishment who refuse redemption also shy away from its symbol, water even so, those who want to be redeemed are fascinated by it.

Water holds the terror of death for the corrupt Svidrigaylov, who confirms his depravity by pondering, ‘Never in my life could I stand water, not even on a landscape painting.’ Water, instead of getting an instrument of life, becomes for him a hateful, avenging menace throughout the last hours of his life (Gibian 529).

Svidrigaylov’s aversion to water is severe and truly excessive, and in fact he feels cold at the mere thought of the river Neva (Gibian 529). It is as a result incredibly ironic that he chooses a cold, stormy evening as the evening in which he will take his life. As he walks, seeking for a appropriate spot to shoot himself (and certainly walking toward the little Neva), a “thick milky mist” covers the city (Dostoevsky 432). For Svidrigaylov, water is “…instead of becoming a constructive force…the appropriate setting for the taking of his personal life” (Gibian 530).

Raskolnikov, in contrast, seemed to be drawn to water==as he was later drawn to confession and redemption. Even ahead of the murder, he has a daydream in which he is in an oasis in Egypt, drinking “…water from a stream which flowed babbling beside him, clear and cool, operating marvelously vibrant and blue more than the colored stones…” (Dostoevsky 58). This shows that Raskolnikov is feeling the want for redemption even just before he commits the transgression (also hinted by his emphatic renunciation of his plans right after a dream in which an old mare was brutally beaten and killed). Following the murder, Raskolnikov is tormented with a dream in which Ilya Petrovich (the head police clerk) is beating his landlady. This dream symbolizes his worry of getting caught-and right away after he awakens, he asks Nastasya for a drink. She returns with a white earthenware mug full of water (99). The presence of water immediately right after his premonition of becoming caught signifies his desperate need to have to confess prior to he is found. Raskolnikov later contemplates suicide by drowning following watching a lady attempt to drown herself in the river Neva nevertheless, he then decides that “…it’s disgusting…water…no good” (145). The fact that he spurns the water at this moment reveals that he also spurns the notion of confession and redemption at this time. The battle is not lost with Raskolnikov, even so (Gibian 530). In the final scene of the novel, Raskolnikov is working at the riverbank where they calcined gypsum (Dostoevsky 462), and he gazes across the river at the nomads, longing for their freedom. In this instance water symbolizes liberation-and when Sonya later visits him, his heart holds “endless springs of life” for her (463). Water is now an unabashedly optimistic symbol for Raskolnikov, because he has sought and received redemption.

The impoverished flats in which a lot of of St. Petersburg’s residents live are often infested with trapped flies, spiders, and other insects-and Dostoevsky utilizes these insects as tiny symbols of the moral and spiritual traps into which Raskolnikov and others have fallen. During his third dream, Raskolnikov attempts to beat Alyona however, alternatively of dying, she just grows smaller and smaller, all the even though laughing at him. Meanwhile, a fly is buzzing plaintively at the window (235). The confined fly is a reflection of Raskolnikov, who is trapped in several approaches. He is ensnared in his Extraordinary Man theory (which stipulates that some “extraordinary men” are born with the appropriate to overstep legal boundaries if it is for the common excellent of mankind) which has failed abysmally-represented by his failure to kill Alyona-and also by his terror at getting caught. Svidrigaylov is an additional character whose perverse actions have trapped him-so a lot so that he envisions the afterlife as only “…one little area, anything like a bath-residence in the country…with spiders in every corner, and that is the entire of eternity” (245). He sees no way to release himself except by suicide-and the morning that he kills himself, he wakes up to see “newly awakened flies clustered on the untouched veal…” (431), an apparent allusion to his personal feelings of entrapment. Raskolnikov later compares himself to a spider as effectively, saying that he “lurked in the corner like a spider” (352) and that “…like a spider, [I] spent the rest of my life catching everyone in my internet and sucking the life-blood out of them…” (Dostoevsky 354). This comparison is ironic, because Svidrigaylov has currently described his “spidery eternity” (Matlaw 608). “Raskolnikov’s use of the spider image, then, indicates once again, and justifies Svidrigaylov’s claim, that ‘there is something in frequent amongst us'” (608). Certainly, both these characters feel trapped in their sinful lives of moral decay. The distinction amongst them, of course, is how they try to extricate themselves-Raskolnikov chooses to confess his sin, and Svidrigaylov chooses to finish his life. By way of the photos of spiders and flies, Dostoevsky links these two characters with each other and shows how they have both been trapped by the choices they have produced.

The numerous objects employed as symbols in Crime and Punishment lead readers to a greater understanding of each the development of the characters and the themes presented throughout the perform. “[Dostoevsky’s] deft use of symbolism provides his novel added energy and effectiveness” (Gibian 543), since it unites various characters and links them with the themes of moral decay, suffering, entrapment in one’s sins, and redemption through confession. These symbols are most critical in that they connect Raskolnikov with other characters that mirror parts of his personality and parts of his psychological struggles. These photos and connections reinforce the numerous characters and themes in the minds of readers, producing Crime and Punishment amongst the most stimulating and unforgettable operates of literature today.


Dostoevsky, Fyodor. Crime and Punishment. Norton’s Vital Edition. Ed. George Gibian. New York: W. W. Norton, 1989.

Gibian, George. “Traditional Symbolism in Crime and Punishment.” Crime and Punishment. Norton’s Crucial Edition. Ed. George Gibian. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1989, 526-543.

Matlaw, Ralph E.. “Recurrent Imagery in Crime and Punishment.” Crime and Punishment. Norton’s Critical Edition. Ed. George Gibian. New York: W. W. Norton & Organization, 1989, 606-609.
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