Symbols of Crime and Punishment

The symbols of Crime and Punishment

Fyodor Dostoevsky discovers the psychology of a murderer from the moment when the protagonist Rasklanikov decides to kill a greedy pawnbroker Alyona Ivanovna. As the story unfolds, the author uses symbols to convey a deeper meaning of the novel. Let’s examine some of the symbols of Crime and Punishment.

The city

St. Petersburg is one of the symbols. It has been described as noisy, dirty, and crime-ridden. The chaos in the city mirrors the chaos that Raskolnikov feels throughout the novel. Interestingly, the balance doesn’t come until Raskolnikov is sent to Siberia.


The choice of weapon for the murders also reflects the unbearable internal chaos of Raskolnikov. He considers using a knife but decides that he does not want to rely on strength or precision to complete the act. The narrator notes that with each of Raskolnikov’s decisions,

“The more final they were, the more hideous and the more absurd they at once became in his eyes.”

Even Raskolnikov believes that being an ax murderer is ridiculous. It is bulky, messy, and incredibly risky, yet there is a part of Raskolnikov that believes this is the only option.


Several characters have meaningful dreams that symbolize different things. Typically, they represent the surfacing of subconscious feelings that are too terrible for the characters to face consciously. However, they are also used as foreshadowing or to teach the character about somethings.


The cross is a symbol of redemption for sins in the Christian faith. After killing Alyona, Raskolnikov retrieves the ax. When he sees the string around her neck, he tugs at it. He releases it and sees that it is attached to a filled purse.  At this point in the story, Raskolnikov is denying religion and his need for redemption as he believes he is above such things and making the right decision for society. Later, as guilt creeps in, Raskolnikov realizes that he does need redemption and accepts a cross from Sonia before making his confession.

So, the symbols of Crime and Punishment play a pivotal role to discover the psychology of the protagonist.

Click Here: For more notes of the novel Crime and Punishment

SR Sarker
SR Sarker
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