Study Guide Lesson 1

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Study Guide for Lesson 1
Describe Raskolnikov's living conditions.
The description of Rodion's room is only five or six feet long, stirs up the feeling of depression and misery. Dostoevsky describes his room in which anyone would experience disturbance, nervousness and anxiety. Undoubtedly, Raskolnikov would have to turn into a depressed and angry individual without any pleasure, hope or optimism if he lives under such conditions. What can environmental factors like this do to one's mind?

When forced to live under such conditions where there is no sight of normality, one such as Raskolnikov may begin to believe that because they are different from most of the society, they are allowed to disobey the law by means of reaching their needs and wants. Describe the different aspects of Raskolnikov's personality. Raskolnikov's name means “divided,” which is appropriate since his fundamental character trait is his alienation from human society. His pride and intellectualism lead him to disdain humanity. Raskolnikov is split between an emotion ego and a logic ego. The conflict between these two sides of his character drives him insane and causes him to sink into apathy until one personality wins out over the other. Describe Marmeladov and his family.

Sitting in the saloon, Marmeladov is ragged and unkempt; he is clearly unhealthy from drinking, and seems restless and distressed. Marmeladov is not respected; but he is not condemned or hated. The reactions he evokes give insight to his character. Marmeladov is desperate his daughter has turned to prostitution to support the family, and his wife is dying of consumption; meanwhile, he pours all the money he can get into alcohol. Is Marmeladov to be pitied or despised?

Dostoyevsky seems to want us to feel disdain for Marmeladov. This is a man who has a wife and children who depend on him at home and yet he sold his wife’s shawl and stockings to buy drinks at the tavern. The author makes a point of telling us that Marmeladov took money from his prostitute daughter so that he could have more to drink. Do you sympathize with Katerina Ivanovna? Why? Why not?

She forces Sonia to turn to prostitution, lives in a fantasy world, is capable of the most violent abuse – which make her claims to noble birth seem somewhat questionable, even if she does have a certificate to prove it – and appears to cause as much distress to her children as their stepfather did. It's understandable, accepting that alcoholism is an illness, and that many of Katerina Ivanovna’s worst excesses are caused by the later stages of tuberculosis but it’s difficult to forgive her faults altogether. Does Katerina Ivanovna's background make her present situation even more tragic? Why? Her background makes it more tragic for Katerina Ivanovna, herself because she had accepted her previous living conditions. However, when looked at overall, she brought herself to her present situation therefore she is fully responsible for her decisions. Is the pawnbroker described in sympathetic or unsympathetic terms? Raskolnikov calls Alyona Ivanovna a “louse” and despises her for cheating the poor out of their money and enslaving her own sister, Lizaveta, which leads to the conclusion that she is described in unsympathetic terms. Is Raskolnikov described as being physically attractive or unattractive? He is physically attractive which may aid his sense of pride, and the environment in which he lives is so distraught that it could be a cause of his mental state. How are the descriptions of the pawnbroker and Raskolnikov ironic? She is old and ugly, he is young and good-looking; she has a firm awareness and business sense and he could be considered delirious and struggling financially; their appearance is similar in the sense that they both dress in rags, however, their reasons for doing so are different: his – poverty; hers – feeling of loneliness and misery. What determines whether the character is likeable or not?

A character is...
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