Sunday, February 26, 2012

Sonya and Raskolnikov

Although at times in Crime and Punishment I felt that Sonya and Raskolnikov were an odd pairing, they made sense for each other. We often described Sonya as weak, but I didn't believe that was her whole character. She could be strong and supportive. Raskolnikov also embodied both traits. They had to come together in the novel to change both of their lives for the better.

Sonya was the only person who could help Raskolnikov change. She listened to him as he told her that he murdered, and she didn't even leave him after finding out that he killed her friend, Lizaveta. She followed him to Siberia to show her dedication. Although moving to Siberia for many years seems extreme, it shows Raskolnikov that someone will always be there for him. Just seeing support helps someone recover and change. Additionally, she brought about his gradual conversion, and helped him to become more rational. Her symbolic passing of the cross showed her commitment to Raskolnikov. If Raskolnikov had not had Sonya in his life, he never could have had the strength or rationality to consider religion as an outlet for his sins.

Similarly, Sonya needed Raskolnikov to escape a life of destitution and prostitution. He could support her to get out of the career that she was in. She even made the leap to owning her own sewing business. Granted, her changes were more subtle. She still depended on men to take of her and never became an independent woman. She also ended the book as a major character that we know little about. Her beliefs were strong, she was sometimes weak, and she cared about Raskolnikov were about all that we knew. 

Together, the two were better off than alone. They had to lean heavily on each other to make any changes in either of their lives. They helped each other find their own versions of "truth" and what is good. Even without a strong bond of love, even in a relationship of convenience, these two made sense.

Do you believe that Sonya and Raskolnikov love or could ever love each other?


  1. I have a hard time seeing what Raskolnikov does for Sonya. The only reason she's able to start her own career is because of the money Svidrigailov gave her to follow Raskolnikov to Siberia, not because of anything Raskolnikov's done to help her. Maybe Raskolnikov will change after his religious conversion but all we've seen is him either creepily worshipping her (kissing her feet) or berating her for her life and religious choices. He even tells her she'd be better off killing herself at one point (page 322). Also there's the fact that he's a murderer. And yet she moves across the country for him? I'm not crazy about it.

  2. Katy, I think that even through the Lazarus story Dostoevsky was trying to imply that Raskonikov was looking for a savior and I agree with you when you say that Sonya and Rodion,they need one another. When it comes to love, though, I feel that Dostoevsky doesn't exactly mention how they are attracted to each other. I think the main question here would be what love is, in Dostoevsky's view at least. I believe Sonya is in love with Raskolnikov, maybe, but I don't think he will ever be able to reply to her feelings in the same way.

    Shannon, the way you emphasized the words "he's a murderer" made me wonder: do you not sympathize with him at all? You seem to be very much revolted by Raskolnikov and even by him being saved in the end.

  3. Good points. Shannon, although Raskolnikov is a murderer, I still think that he has redeeming qualities and helped Sonya. It's true that Svidrigailov gave Sonya the means to travel to Siberia, but she had to do it by her own will. The will which could not have existed without Raskolnikov's help. She couldn't have separated from her family without him. Additionally, Raskolnikov challenging Sonya's beliefs was, in my view, helpful. It made her religious convictions stronger. A strength in convictions became more of a strength in her character. Saving Raskolnikov also made her feel worthwhile and increased her self-esteem.

    Iulia, I agree that the love between Raskolnikov and Sonya may not be romantic. I think the love between them manifests itself more as a dependence on each other. I think Dostoevsky's view is that love of people is trivial compared to the love and relationship one has with God. SInce Raskolnikov found God through Sonya, perhaps he is trying to portray that as a more meaningful relationship than romantic relationships, but less so than a relationship with God.

  4. I think my problem with the relationship between Sonya and Raskolnikov is the perpetuated trope of a "hooker with a heart of gold." Sonya is portrayed as a woman completely trusting in men despite her probable sexual abuse. She's a good Christian who just wants love and a better life, but when the opportunity comes to escape the chains of prostitution she chooses instead to exile herself to a meager life in Siberia. I appreciate the role of Marya that we have seen so far in Anna Karenina. While she is still sort of made out to be very pitiful and pure, she is also shy and broken. She is unsure of herself, and Nikolai tells Levin not to call her miss, as she has never been addressed so formally and it makes her nervous. So far Marya is a much more believable former prostitute than Sonya.

  5. The issue that seems to escape the attention in most comments is that Sonya is an object until Raskolnikov enters the picture. It is not what he does or what he says to her, but the fact that she somehow got his attention and that she is observed as a human being. For the first time her shortcomings or her qualities are a subject of conversation or observation. Being noticed, in whatever way, is often important. On the other hand, the alternative of being an aging, obsolete prostitute may not have had much appeal to her either. After all, the sacrifice she made by going to Siberia may not have been a sacrifice at all if it gave her back some dignity.