Crime and Punishment: Metaphor Analysis
The symbol of the cross is prominent in the novel, and represents the burden of suffering that Raskolnikov, as well as the other virtuous characters in the novel, must bear. This suffering can be seen as sharing the common grief of humanity and giving of oneself to others, and thus furthering life. Characters such as Luzhin, the old pawnbroker and Svidrigailov, who live selfishly and so reject this burden, remain impure, and in Svidrigailov's case especially, spiritually sick and depraved. In fact, Svidrigailov embodies evil, the side of Raskolnikov that rationalizes murder and resists turning himself in. By contrast, Sonia embodies love, the half of Raskolnikov's nature that unhesitatingly gives all he has for a poor man's funeral or risks his life to save two children.
The ax, which Raskolnikov uses to commit the murders, symbolizes the two halves of Raskolnikov's nature. These opposing sides are in conflict throughout the novel and are reflected in his two victims, the old pawnbroker and Lizaveta. He uses the blunt side to murder the old woman and the sharp edge to kill Lizaveta, symbolizing that he has killed himself in the act as well.
The Haymarket, or city square, can be seen as representing the common people or humanity. When he wanders through this area in the throes of his illness, Raskolnikov can blend easily into the crowd, signifying that he is not the extraordinary man of his theories. And when he goes to turn himself in, he obeys Sonia's instructions to go into the square and bow to the earth, asking it for forgiveness. In instructing him to do so, Sonia returns him to humanity and to life. It is interesting to note as well that when Raskolnikov takes Sonia's cross, it is the Cypress one, which he remarks stands for the common people. By committing murder, he has set himself above common morality and now must return.
There is also an apparent tension between reason or intellect and the heart or life. It is cold logic that Raskolnikov employs to justify the murder and give up on trying to save a young girl from a predatory man. By contrast, his heart leads him to act, before thinking, in such instances as Marmeladov's accident or when he secretly leaves money at Katherine's house. At these times, his mind is often perplexed later, wondering why he had done such a thing. After all, self-preservation, not self-sacrifice, is rational.
The theme of the extraordinary versus the ordinary man relies on this sort of calculated logic. As is evidenced symbolically in his dream of the horse that is beaten to death, the killer justifies his right to beat her because she is his property. He is superior because he owns her. However, Raskolnikov, as an unreasoning child, instinctively weeps for the horse's suffering, despite the fact that she is an animal, and of little property value due to her age and feebleness. Yet Raskolnikov's realization that he didn't kill the old hag as much as he had killed himself implies an interconnectedness between human life rather than a hierarchy.
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Crime and Punishment Study GuideChoose to Continue
- Crime and Punishment
- Part1, Chapter 1-Part1, Chapter 2
- Part1, Chapter 3-Part1, Chapter 4
- Part1, Chapter 5-Part1, Chapter 6
- Part1, Chapter 7-Part2, Chapter 1
- Part2, Chapter 2-Part2, Chapter 3
- Part 2, Chapter 4-Part 2, Chapter 6
- Part 2, Chapter 6-Part 2, Chapter 7
- Part 3, Chapter 1-Part 3, Chapter 2
- Part 3, Chapter 3-Part 3, Chapter 4
- Part 3, Chapter 5-Part 3, Chapter 6
- Part 4, Chapter 1-Part 4, Chapter 2
- Part 4, Chapter 3-Part 4, Chapter 4
- Part 4, Chapter 5-Part 6, Chapter 1
- Part 6, Chapter 2-Part 6, Chapter 3
- Part 6, Chapter 4
- Metaphor Analysis
- Theme Analysis
- Top Ten Quotes
- Fyodor Destoeysky