Note: The question concerns a somewhat touchy topic - prostitution. I am not a native English speaker, therefore, I cannot be sure which terms are suitable for a discussion. I am using words of the same root as the words in my native language (Russian) which are considered not to be derogatory and the words I have come across in the Bible. Unfortunately, I might have not written everything down right. I am sorry in advance in case I misused some terms - I would be more than willing to correct myself.

One of my favourite characters in classical Russian literature is Sonya Marmeladova of "Crime and Punishment" by Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoevsky.

At school, while studying the book I have always been told that Sonya was interesting to Raskolnikov as she did not abide by the rules of the Lord, just like himself. Thus, it was their mutual effort to make up for their sins during hard labour. Indeed, if we turn to the Old Testament, we would stumble upon (for instance) Hosea 4:11:

Harlotry, wine, and new wine enslave the heart. - NKJV.

Yet, truth be told, I have always reckoned this perception to be quite idle and mechanic. No one argues that Sonya was forced into sinful labour but (from my point of view) there is way more to this character rather than just a simple prostitute. In fact, Sonya appears to be more Christian than many other characters, who did not break any Commandments directly. To back this up I usually turn to the 4th chapter of the 5th part, where Sonya exclaims:

But I can’t know the Divine Providence...(Original: Да ведь я Божьего промысла знать не могу...).

This occurs to me to be a direct link towards the New Testament, Romans 11:33, to be more precise:

Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out! - NKJV.

I fail to believe that Dostoevsky did not mean to hint at Sonya's righteousness. Yet, I might be wrong.

Therefore, I wonder whether there are any sources where Dostoevsky expressed his own feelings towards the character and/or prostitution itself. Has anyone come across anything like that? Besides, are my arguments plausible in general?

  • It has been a while, so my memories are fuzzy: Sonya was for me always described as a good person forced by poverty to take a morally questionable actions, arguably similarly to Raskolnikov. I don't think that Dostoevsky ever attempted to condemn her, for me it was always about being a victim of the circumstances.
    – Yasskier
    Commented Jun 9, 2020 at 22:30
  • Sonya Marmeladova is definitely religious and specifically Christian. In English translations, this is a crucial point to understand the novel. Raskolnikov toys with ideas of being beyond societal and religious judgments. He abandons his ideas of being beyond Good and Evil at novel's end. Presumably, Sonya will end her prostitution. Commented Jun 9, 2020 at 23:32
  • What the commentators above have stated is absolutely true - one may go on and on describing the Christian essence of Sonya's character, yet that is not exactly my question. I am saying that there exists a contrary point of view and I wonder whether it is anyhow backed up by F. M. Dostoevsky's own words (or vice versa - disproved by them). Commented Jun 10, 2020 at 7:08


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