Crime and Punishment, a Paper Full of Fail

So, about 5 years ago now, I was in AP English. I was a junior, and I nearly failed. I definitely failed the test. And while this did scar me for my writing/literary mind for a while…well…I still really like reading and writing and not analyzing at a collegiate level honestly I’m okay with that.


I will point out, that I did work very hard in that class. And when I’d get bad grade after bad grade after bad grade everyone everyone, was telling me to ask questions. “Ask questions! She loves when you ask questions!” (She being our teacher).

Well here is the problem with that logic…I thought I understood. I did, I really thought I knew what was going on and that I was getting it and doing good…until I got my grade. To this day, I still think my thoughts on these books was pretty profound and right up where they needed to be. So, as I went through and attempt to clear the clutter from my computer, I found this, and decided to share.

But, let me stress that this is NOT not not by any means an authority on the book. Do not use this as justification of your own points, your own…whatteever. Just take it, and use it as an…idea board. And if nothing else, a “what not to do!”


Dostoyevsky’s famous book Crime and Punishment features multiple dreams, including a dream the character Svidrigailov experiences. Throughout the novel Svidrigailov is described as a depraved soul much like the main character Raskolnikov. Svidrigailov’s dream uses a mouse, a garden and cottage, the dead body of a fourteen year old, and a child to carry the point Dostoyevsky is making with him. Dostoyevsky uses Svidrigailov’s dream in Crime and Punishment as a representation of Svidrigailov’s mind and his growth from a static character to a dynamic character, each aspect of the dream expresses another part to Svidrigailov that gives him more depth and turns him into a dynamic character.

Before Svidrigailov is entirely asleep the first part of his dream occurs: A mouse runs over his leg and brings him to “consciousness”. The rodent is a parallel to Svidrigailov, and his disgust for the creature is ironic in the self hating implied in it. The self hate implies that there is more to Svidrigailov than just his depravity. The fact that Svidrigailov cannot catch the mouse and that both he and the reader are under the impression that he is still awake and through that shows the confusion that Svidrigailov is suffering.

The second part of Svidrigailov’s dream is the description of the summer day garden and cottage. The garden represents Svidrigailov’s desires; the bright and serene setting expresses a life and goodness that Svidrigailov yearns subconsciously. Also, the Eden like quality of the garden could symbolize redemption and Svidrigailov’s wish for it. His reluctance to leaving shows the subconscious want for salvation.

“A fine sumptuous country cottage in the English taste overgrown with fragrant flowers, with flower beds going round the house; the porch, wreathed in climbers, was surrounded with beds of roses. A light, cool staircase, carpeted with rugs, was decorated with rare plants in china pots. He noticed particularly in the windows nosegays of tender, white, thick long stalks. He was reluctant to move away from them…” (436)

Svidrigailov’s desires go against the normal pattern of his thinking, and therefore add another level of depth to Svidrigailov.

The third part of Svidrigailov’s dream is the suicide victim on the second story of the cottage. Through Svidrigailov’s subconscious guilt about the girl the rumor of him sexually abusing a girl who then later killed herself is confirmed. “Svidrigailov knew that girl; there was no holy image; no burning candle beside the coffin; no sound of prayers: the girl had drowned herself.” (437).Here is where Svidrigailov is forced to realize the depth of his depravity. Yet on the flip side there is a hinted regret through his description of her: “…her loose fair hair was wet; there was a wreath of roses on her head. The stern and already rigid profile of her face looked as though chiseled of marble too, and the smile on her pale lips was full of an immense unchildish misery and sorrowful appeal.” (437). His subconscious forcing this on him and his beginning to accept it show his transformation from a static character as he was represented before to a dynamic character as he is after the final part of his dream.

The final part of his dream is the final step in his growth. The child that Svidrigailov discovers invokes at first feelings of compassion and he seeks to help her, showing the underlying goodness in him that is not shown in very many other sections of the novel. The innocence of the child could be considered as Svidrigailov’s possible redemption but as he cares for her she transforms into a French Harlot, becoming deprived like Svidrigailov. “There was something infinitely hideous and shocking in that laugh, in those eyes, in such nastiness in the face of a child.” (439). This is when Svidrigailov reaches the height of his growth, realizing that it is not just him that is affected by his depravity, but that others are suffering from it as well.

Through Crime and Punishment Svidrigailov is represented as a static character until the point in the novel that he has his dream. The dream features multiple parts that give Svidrigailov the factors in being a round character. The mouse hinting at the self loathing and inner struggle is the first step, the garden and the desires that represents is the second, the guilt finding its way out in the girl’s coffin is the third, and the little girl is the final step in the process. All these individual pieces build together to give Svidrigailov a roundness that he was previously lacking.


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