Often, in the course of studying a novel, the reader comes to realize
that much of the author himself is present in the work. His or her ideas,
morals, beliefs, and traits are molded to fit the forms of characters. In
Fydor Dostoyevsky's Crime and Punishment, these ideas took human form,
and can be described as "an idea always having a skin around it, a human
personality." Dostoyevsky's character, Sofia (Sonia) Marmelodov, is a true
example of this. Sonia represented the human propensity for suffering, and the
ability of one to remain pure while being surrounded by filth and degradation.
She truly showed how strong and great the human spirit can ultimately be.
Throughout tremendous poverty, separation and ultimately the death of her
family, Sonia was able to overcome adversity, with her faith in God and herself
still intact. All of these ideas in addition to other character attributes grew
together and resulted in the creation of the literary life of Sonia Marmelodov.
Sonia Marmelodov was first introduced to Rodia Raskolnikov, the
protagonist of the novel, by her father, Semion Marmelodov, after the two men
had met in a bar. Semion believed that Rodia would immediately recognize the
magnanimity of Sonia's personality, and felt that they would get along well.
Sonia had given herself up to the streets, and was now living by the "yellow
ticket" so her family could have a steady sense of income. Her family meant the
world to her, and she would do anything to support them. She gave her last
rubles to her alcoholic father so that he could buy a flask of alcohol (instead of
buying food for his starving family, or getting a decent set of clothing so he
could get a job), she gave her brand new dress collars to her stepmother who
has no use for them at all, and was an unshakable foundation for Raskolnikov
through his problematic road to redemption. Sonia never asked for an
explanation or a reason as to why she should offer herself and her possessions
up so readily; knowing that someone was in need of them was enough. Sonia
kept herself above the filth that surrounded her by helping others and never
asking a favor in return. The idea of placing others before ones self is truly
dominant in the character of Sonia Marmelodov, and Dostoyevsky himself made
it a priority to stress this. Sonia functioned as a foil to Raskolnikov; she
complemented his imperfections so that they fit together extremely well. Where
he was self-indulgent, her selflessness was exceedingly obvious.
An act of supreme suffering that directly correlated to this was Sonia's
forced separation from her family. Sonia wanted nothing more than to be
surrounded by the family that adored her and called her, "their salvation."
Raskolnikov wanted nothing more than to get away from his family, who were
worried about his well being and safety. Since she made her living by selling
herself, she was not allowed to be in close contact with those of "acceptable
stature." Instead, Sonia lived in true squalor, in the smallest room of the filthy
house of a man who stuttered. The only contact she had with her family was
through stealthy night visits where she had to disguise her appearance and
remain quiet, so no one would report her family, and get them thrown out of
Upon entrance to her home, Raskolnikov, was aghast at the terrible state
that this frail beauty resided in. This supreme sacrifice of her free will shows
that Sonia is ready and willing to suffer, and accept the burden that was placed
on her slim shoulders. She believed that if she was good and did not complain,
God would be exceedingly generous to her in the afterlife. This was the rope
that Sonia clung too, the only thing that was able to help her through the awful
days and the...
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