I just finished Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment, and I loved it (of course).

I would like to bring into analysis the role of Lizaveta, the pawnbroker's half sister who is accidentally killed by Raskolnikov. More specifically I'd like to understand in a better way how this episode (the killing of an innocent person) really influenced the rest of the book. In fact, it seems to me (but I may be wrong) that what started as a potentially huge plot twist, later became less central or crucial to the book message. Let's put it like this: what would have happened if Raskolnikov only killed the evil pawnbroker and got away with it? One may say that all his immediate, post-murder, anxieties and second thoughts would have been much less severe and debilitating! He also felt empathetic towards the poor Lizaveta, almost enslaved by her sister. So my (wrong?) guess is that his hypothetical perfect crime would change the story quite a bit. Raskolnikov is indeed convinced (up to his typical overthinking) until the very end of the book (Siberia chapters) that killing the pawnbroker was not a bad thing at all. But here's the thing I don't get. In the book, especially the second part, it's more about the crime in itself, not much about the poor dead innocent. It feels to me that Lizaveta's death could have been used much more than it actually was, to work towards and to explain Raskolnikov's redemption.. for instance. But again it's not perceived to me as a very important fact in the end: Raskolnikov turns himself in because of his murder, it seems that with or without Lizaveta's death he would have done so anyway.

What do you think? Am I misinterpreting something? Or is this really the point of the book, that killing is wrong anyway?

Thank you!

  • 1
    I wonder whether it has anything to do with the fact that the novel was originally published in instalments, so Dostoyevsky changed his plans for that character while writing and publishing the individual instalments.
    – Tsundoku
    Jul 18, 2019 at 20:56

1 Answer 1


I've searched for some material in Russian on the topic and haven't found much. The only book by a serious critic, I found, is by Vadim Kozhinov. He writes that in early editions of the novel Lizaveta was pregnant, but later Dostoevsky removed this information. Kozhinov supposes that may be Lizaveta's murder could have been initial Dostoevsky's idea, that he changed later. Speaking about the role of Lizaveta in the final edition, Kozhinov writes the murder of Lizaveta is manifestation of the novel's fate theme, and more importantly, the fact that Rodion (and the reader) doesn't pay much attention to Lizaveta's death underlines the importance of the pawnbroker's death and Raskolnikov's theory. If it doesn't make much sense to you, you are not alone here.

Of course there are plenty of other interpretations: the murder of Lizaveta is the murder of Sonya, the murder of Lizaveta is the murder of his sister (Sonya accepted Lizaveta's cross, becoming sisters with her, and Raskolnikov accepted the cross before going to Siberia), the murder of Lizaveta is the murder of Jesus Christ, event that it is metaphorical turning the other cheek. All of these are speculations, of course, that can not be confirmed reliably.

  • "can not be confirmed reliably" - OK, but if there is evidence or a good argument for any of these speculations, that would be interesting to see.
    – Rand al'Thor
    Jul 19, 2019 at 9:27
  • Thank you for the precious answer! This is very interesting!
    – yeahyeah
    Jul 19, 2019 at 11:14

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