Rodion Raskolnikov

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Rodion Romanovich Raskolnikov (Russian: Родиóн Ромáнович Раскóльников; IPA: [rəˈdʲɪˈon rɐˈmanəvʲɪtɕ rɐˈskolʲnʲɪkəf]) is the fictional protagonist of Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky. The name Raskolnikov derives from the Russian raskolnik meaning "schismatic" (traditionally referring to a member of the Old Believer movement). The name "Rodion" comes from Greek and indicates an inhabitant of Rhodes.

Raskolnikov is a young ex-law student living in extreme poverty in Saint Petersburg. He lives in a tiny garret which he rents, although due to a lack of funds has been avoiding payment for quite some time. He sleeps on a couch using old clothes as a pillow, and due to lack of money eats very rarely. He is handsome and intelligent, though generally disliked by fellow students. He is devoted to his sister (Avdotya Romanovna Raskolnikova) and his mother (Pulkheria Alexandrovna Raskolnikova).


In Crime and Punishment, Raskolnikov murders a pawnbroker, Alyona Ivanovna, with an axe, intending to use her money for good causes. He justifies his actions by referring to a theory he has developed of the "great man". Raskolnikov believes that people are divided into the "ordinary" and the "extraordinary": the ordinary are the common rabble, the extraordinary (notably Napoleon) do not have to follow the moral codes that apply to ordinary people since they are meant to be great men. An extraordinary man would not need to think twice about his actions. At the novel's opening, Raskolnikov has been contemplating this theory for months, only speaking of it to his (now deceased) fiancée. However, he is revealed to have written an article expounding his theory in an academic journal, insisting on anonymity through the use of his initials in its byline. Raskolnikov believes himself to be a "great man" and is thus, in his view, "allowed" to commit murder. However, his plan goes wrong; before he is able to make his escape from the pawnbroker Alyona Ivanovna's flat, her meek-tempered half-sister (Lizaveta Ivanovna) arrives and stumbles across the body. Raskolnikov, in a panic, murders the pawnbroker's sister as well, a crime which he consistently contemplates very little in comparison to his musings on the initial murder. The fact of the murders themselves does not particularly torment him; what torments him is the fact that he has not "transgressed", and that he was not able to be the "great man" he had theorized about.

Raskolnikov finds a small purse on Alyona Ivanovna's body, which he hides under a rock outside without checking its contents. His grand failure is that he lacks the conviction he believed to accompany greatness and continues his decline into madness. After confessing to the destitute, pious prostitute Sofya Semyonovna Marmeladova, she guides him towards admitting to the crime, and he confesses to Ilya Petrovich, a police lieutenant with an explosive temper (the book implies the policeman suspected him from the start). Raskolnikov is sentenced to exile in Siberia, accompanied by Sofya Semyonovna, where he begins his mental and spiritual rehabilitation.


In film, Raskolnikov was portrayed for the first time by Gregori Chmara in the silent adaptation Raskolnikov, directed by Robert Wiene (1923). He was portrayed by Peter Lorre in Josef von Sternberg's Hollywood film version (1935), by John Hurt in 1979 in the BBC mini-series, by Patrick Dempsey (1998 television movie), and by John Simm (2002), Crispin Glover (2002) and Ilya Kremnov (2005).[citation needed] The character of Michel in Robert Bresson's Pickpocket (1959) is based on Raskolnikov. Paul Schrader, who wrote Taxi Driver (1976), was in turn inspired by Bresson's Michel character to create Travis Bickle, Robert De Niro's antihero.[1]

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