The principal theme of “Crime and Punishment” relates to an ideologically driven murder.
The main character is a student, called Rodion Raskolniov, who was forced to drop out of the university due to financial problems. Dostoevsky effectively uses a charactonym with Rodion. The surname "Raskolnikov" comes from the russian word "raskol", meaning "disruption".
Dostoevsky refers to the idea of complete freedom as created by Nietzsche and communicates it through the character of Raskolnikov. Raskolnikov believes that there are two kinds of people in the world. The first kind are those who are entirely free to do everything they want without any limits, including moral limits. These people are called "napoleons" named after Napoleon or "the ones who have rights". The second kind of people are called "trembling creatures", or "poor creatures" - they are people who are afraid of everything and can't afford to feel free. Of course, translation of these categories are very literal.
Raskolnikov decided to kill one very old and rich woman to check if he is a "napoleon" and "has rights", or if he is a "poor creature". When he killed her and her sister, he began to feel guilty and finally went to the police. He found out that he was a "poor creature" following his theory.
Dostoevsky wanted to show that the idea of complete freedom from all moral limits can lead us to do horrible things, and that the act of murder separates the person who committed it from the world and humanity. The act of murder destroys the murderer’s soul and devotes him to deep desolation and loneliness. However, Raskolnikov received support from one girl, Sonya Marmeladova. She had to sell herself in order to earn a living for her ill mother, her alcoholic father and little brothers and sisters. Sonya is one of the most pure characters in the novel and she followed Rodion when he went to a forced labor camp.
Through Sonya’s help and her reading of the New Testament to him, Rodion began to accept his guilt and regret, and eventually change his view on himself.
Rodion Raskolnikov is the first example of a murderer-philosopher created by Dostoevsky. Another is Nikolay Stavrogin from "The Possessed". Instead of coming to terms with his actions like Raskolnikov, Stavrogin committs suicide at the end of the novel, because he couldn't stand the abyss of moral responsibility which brought him complete freedom. Albert Camus wrote a lot about Stavrogin in his book "The Rebel". These two characters are telling illustrations of the consequence of unrestricted human intentions.
Also Dostoevsky explores the theme of unconscious strong impulses or human passions. This can be found in every novel of his.
He wasn't a religious writer, and in his real life he was a man of great passion too; he had an urge for gambling, for example. But despite all of this, his novels always had some kind of deep honest message. We can see it through the creation of characters like Prince Myshkin or Sonya Marmeladova, or Alexey Karamazov, which he describes and creates with great love and care.
It seems to me that the theme of "little person", which is one of the leading themes for Dostoevsky too, shows us how much the writer cared for people. When I read his works, I always feel like I'm talking to someone who knows me very well and accepts me with all of my flaws and passions. I believe him to be a very sympathetic person.
And what do you think about Dostoevsky? Have you ever read some of his novels?