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"Raskolnikov" redirects here. For other uses, see Raskolnikov (disambiguation).

Rodion Romanovich Raskolnikov (Russian: Родиóн Ромáнович Раскóльников) is the fictional protagonist of Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky. The name Raskolnikov derives from the Russian raskolnik meaning "schismatic" (traditionally referring to a member of the Old Believer movement). The name "Rodion" comes from Greek, which means a dweller of Rhodes.

Raskolnikov is a young ex-student of law living in extreme poverty in Saint Petersburg. He lives in a tiny garret which he rents, although due to a lack of funds has been avoiding payment for quite some time (he claims the room aggravates his depression). He sleeps on a couch using old clothes as a pillow, and due to lack of money eats very rarely, although the landlady sometimes sends her servant into his room with food. He is frequently referred to as a former student because he doesn't have the money to finish his education. Emotionally, physically (due to lack of food) and financially stressed, his behaviour in public becomes progressively more erratic through the book. Raskolnikov fluctuates between extremes of altruism and apathy. He is described by the narrator as "extremely handsome" and many other characters in the work state that he is very intelligent, though generally disliked by fellow students. He is devoted to his sister (Avdotya Romanovna Raskolnikova) and his mother (Pulkheria Alexandrovna Raskolnikova).

Plot role

In Crime and Punishment, Raskolnikov murders a pawnbroker, Alyona Ivanovna, with an axe he stole from a janitor's woodshed, with the intention of using her money for good causes, based on a theory he had developed of the "great man". Raskolnikov believed that people were divided into the "ordinary" and the "extraordinary": the ordinary are the common rabble, the extraordinary (notably Napoleon) must not follow the moral codes that apply to ordinary people since they are meant to be great men. An extraordinary man would not need to think twice about his actions. Raskolnikov had been contemplating this theory for months, only telling it to his (now deceased) fiancée. (Although earlier, he had written an article along those lines in a journal on the condition that only his initials be used as attribution). Raskolnikov believes himself to be one of these extraordinary men and is thus "allowed" to commit murder. However, his plan goes wrong; before he is able to make his escape from the pawnbroker Alyona Ivanovna's flat, her meek-tempered half-sister (Lizaveta Ivanovna) arrives and stumbles across the body. Raskolnikov, in a panic, murders the pawnbroker's sister as well, a crime which, for some reason, does not weigh on him anywhere near as heavily as the initial murder. The fact of the murders themselves do not particularly torment him; what torments him is the fact that he has not "transgressed", and that he was not able to be the "great man" he had theorized about.

Raskolnikov finds a small purse on Alyona Ivanovna's body, which he hides under a rock outside without checking its contents. His grand failure is that he lacks the conviction he believed to accompany greatness and continues his decline into madness. After confessing to the destitute, pious prostitute Sonia Semyonovna Marmeladova, she guides him towards admitting to the crime, and he confesses to Ilya Petrovich, a police lieutenant with an explosive temper (the book implies the policeman suspected him from the start). Raskolnikov is sentenced to exile in Siberia, accompanied by Sonia, where he begins his mental and spiritual rehabilitation.

In film

In film, he was portrayed for the first time by Grigori Chmara (1923) in the silent adaptation by Robert Wiene, Peter Lorre (1935) in the Hollywood version (Josef von Sternberg) and by John Simm (2002), Crispin Glover (2002) and Ilya Kremnov (2005). The character of Michel in Robert Bresson's Pickpocket (1959) is based on Raskolnikov. Paul Schrader who wrote Taxi Driver (1976) was in turn inspired by Bresson's Michel character to create Travis Bickle, Robert De Niro's antihero. Alfred Hitchcock directs Rope (film) (1948) based on a play by the same name by Patrick Hamilton (writer), in which two students strangle a classmate for reasons much like Raskolnikov's initial motive.

See also

Novels portal

Template:Crime and Punishment

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