Sunday, February 19, 2012


In the past two parts of Crime and Punishment many seemingly unimportant characters that were briefly mentioned in the beginning of the novel reappear in Raskolnikov’s closet. This cycle begins early on in the novel with the arrival of Luzhin, but unlike later characters Luzhin entrance is somewhat expected; Raskolnikov knows that Luzhin is in Saint Petersburg and thus its is not outstanding that he seeks out Raskolnikov. What struck me as most unexpected is the arrival of Svidrigailov at the end of part three. Yes, Svidrigailov was mentioned in the mother’s letter but I would have hardly guessed that he would come to play such a key role. Honestly when he showed up I had no clue who he was and had to flip back to the letter. This reemergence parallels Pushkin’s The Captain’s Daughter when Pytor by chance runs into all of his former acquaintances again.

What seems even more unlikely to me is that, of all of the places in Saint Petersburg, Svidrigailov happens to rent the room adjacent to Sonya’s. Regarding Svidrigailov, one thing that I found interesting is that narrator informs the reader not only that Svidrigailov lives next door to Sonya but also that he eavesdrops on Sonya’s conversations. When Raskolinkov visits Sonya for the first time the narrator notes “Sonya had long been used to considering this room uninhabited. And meanwhile, all that time, Mr. Svidrigailov had been standing by the door in the empty room and stealthily listening” (330). The narrator for a brief period of time becomes omniscient and enlightens the reader with knowledge that Raskolnikov himself does not know. It is only after the ruckus of the memorial meal and street scene when Raskolnikov realizes this eavesdropping.

In my opinion, Dostoevsky toys with the idea of fate and chance to the extreme. In some sense this realistic story seems mythic. The more coincidences occur, the more I am reminded that this book is fiction.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. I see what you mean, Rebekah, but at some point the coincidences one right after another do start to make the reader wonder what the next "unexpected turn" will be. Maybe it's true that coincidences like this really happen this frequently in real life, but because not many *novels* read like a string of unlikely event after unlikely event, I agree with Addie that this stands out to the reader as too strange to be true.

  3. Oh no! I thought I had double posted, so I went to delete one of the posts, but then it ended up deleting both of them? Or maybe there was just one to begin with and I was unobservant. :/

    Anyway, I'll summarize what I said for the benefit of those reading, and say that I disagreed with the last sentence of this post, which contests that the coincidences in Crime and Punishment detract from the story's realism.

    Sorry for the slip-up!

  4. I agree with Addie that Dostoevsky pushes the role of chance and coincidence. It is probably the element of the novel that I have enjoyed the most because of the way it contrasts with the gritty descriptions we hear of Saint Petersburg. The many reappearances of several characters, such as Luzhin and Svidrigailov, heighten the tension of the novel, and Raskolnikov's dwindling control. Similarly, the coincidences, such as finding a new ax and hearing others speak of the old pawnbroker, emphasizes Raskolnikov's inner monologue for me.

  5. I agree with both Sydney and Susanna. The coincidences definitely push the plot forwards and adds to the intrigue of the novel. I'll go on to say that I still stand with my opinion that it detracts from realism. To me, these reappearances seems like lingering elements of the romanticism in earlier Russian novels.

  6. I agree that it's unrealistic too! Considering they live in a CITY, why are all of the characters housed within 3 apartment complexes (Sonya's, Raskolnikov's and Marmeladov's), even though some of them are much richer? It seems like one of the sacrifices Dostoevsky had to make to heighten tension in the novel, like Susanna said. I'd also agree that it makes it seem more romantic, since the presence of so many reappearances reminded me of The Captain's Daughter.

  7. I agree with Jennelle. The hardest thing I found to believe about all the coincidences was that the wealthier characters would be slumming it with Raskolnikov and his lot. If they were all on the same economic level I'd buy it a little more easily, but I feel like Luzhin, for example, could afford better. Svidrigailov probably enjoys hanging out in seedy parts of town.

    1. That last statement made me laugh.

      The again Svidrigailov was only in Petersburg for a couple of days before he went to "America"