In Dostoyevsky's Crime and Punishment, there is always this repeating motif of "smiling", a facial practice that Raskolnikov does a lot of.

  • "poisonous smile"

  • "sardonic smile"

  • "ugly, ironic smile"

What is one supposed to make of this? like, what does an ugly ironic smile look like, and what does it signify?

1 Answer 1


The smile is a sarcastic smirk. Raskolnikov is subtly disrespecting those around him because he believes he has fooled them and comes to the conclusion that he is smarter than them, thus they deserve no respect. This is where the smile comes from. He has become arrogant.

  • 2
    Hi and welcome to Literature Stack Exchange. This answer is interesting, but it would be more convincing if supported by evidence. Can you cite episodes from the novel or from critical studies that support the claim that Raskolnikov's smile is intended as a sarcastic smirk? Thanks!
    – verbose
    Feb 14 at 1:48

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