Below you will find three outstanding thesis statements / paper topics on Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky that can be used as essay starters. All five incorporate at least one of the themes found in the text and are broad enough so that it will be easy to find textual support, yet narrow enough to provide a focused clear thesis statement. These thesis statements offer a summary of different elements that could be important in an essay but you are free to add your own analysis and understanding of the plot or themes to them. Using the essay topics below in conjunction with the list of important quotes from Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky, you should have no trouble connecting with the text and writing an excellent essay.
Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #1 Alienation and Separation from Society in Crime and Punishment
The world presented in Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky is quite harsh and there are few examples of people who are either comfortable or provided for. Certainly this is the case with Raskolnikov (also called Rodya or Rodion) and his family. This desolate landscape and setting further emphasizes the theme of desolation, isolation, and alienation. For this essay you could take two directions. First, you could examine the setting itself and describes ways in which it is in itself alienating. For a longer essay, could incorporate ideas about the setting with the ways in which characters as alienated from society. Raskolnikov would be the best example and you could discuss how he is alienated because of his worldview and finds, in his own personal philosophy, that he is superior and others only exist to serve him in some way. There are other directions you could take the theme of alienation and these are but two examples.Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #2 The Role of God and Religion in Crime and Punishment
The function of religion and individual understandings of God is an important theme in the novel, particularly toward the end. Although Raskolnikov is far too arrogant throughout the majority of the novel to come to terms with religion or his conception of God, all around him there are a number of religious messages come at him from Sonia and others. The presence of religion offers readers a unique paradox because on the one hand, this novel is about an essentially godless person who commits an awful and grave sin. For this essay, examine the ways in which this might be a religious parable. Make connections between biblical characters (Cain and Abel, Mary Magdalene, etc) and if you want to be more complex, consider these issues in light of the context of Dostoevsky’s life and religious conversion.
Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #3: The Rationalization of Crime / Character Analysis of Raskolnikov
Part of what makes Raskonikov such an enduring, compelling, and frightening character is the way he is able to coldly rationalize murder and evil. In his mind, when how the woman is “useful to anyone at all” he is suggesting that there are people who do not deserve to live and since his purposes are noble (he is not, after all, murdering her for the sheer joy of crime but in order to help his family and secure a good life for himself late) then his crime is justified. Although the guilt tears him apart, at no point does he ever seem to wonder about if what he did was right or wrong necessarily, but his guilt stems from a more complex set of reasons—not the least of which is the involvement of Sonia. For this essay, examine the many ways in which Raskolnikov is able to rationalize sin and close the essay with your insights on what this means. Code corrupted. Insert fresh copy.
Raskolnikov, an impoverished law student, plans to commit the perfect crime by murdering an old female pawnbroker. He hopes to gain money for himself and others and to demonstrate that he belongs to the portion of mankind not subject to conventional morality. Having studied the careers of men such as Napoleon Bonaparte, he embraces the theory that an elitist few are justified in pursuing their objectives through any means.
No sooner is the murder committed than events begin to call his theory into question. When the pawnbroker’s half sister arrives unexpectedly, Raskolnikov kills her also. In his haste and confusion, he overlooks most of the money and is unable to use the small amount he does take. Following the crime, he rapidly sinks into physical and mental illness.
As the hero experiences intense guilt, other characters influence the course of his expiation. The cunning detective Porfiry discovers the truth early but waits until Raskolnikov is ready to accuse himself. Raskolnikov eventually realizes that he must choose one of two alternatives--confession or suicide.
Characters such as Luzhin and the sensual Svidrigailov defeat themselves by exploiting others for their own selfish ends. Svidrigailov’s suicide demonstrates to Raskolnikov the futility of egoism. Other characters--Raskolnikov’s sister, Dounia, his friend Razumihin, and Sonia, a young prostitute--willingly sacrifice themselves and suffer for others. Aided by Sonia, who grows to love him, Raskolnikov chooses life, confession, and punishment, without, however, achieving true repentance.
An intense psychological account, the narrative presents thoughts and emotions from each character’s point of view. When the character is confused, the reader is also, for no authorial voice intrudes to clarify the situation. Unable to understand his own motives for the crime, the protagonist recognizes that one risks psychic disintegration by sweeping aside traditional morality.
Jackson, Robert Louis, ed. Twentieth Century Interpretations of “Crime and Punishment.” Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1974. Includes an essay by Dostoevski on Crime and Punishment. Offers many theories on Raskolnikov’s personality. Considers the metaphysical point of view in Crime and Punishment.
Johnson, Leslie A. The Experience of Time in “Crime and Punishment.” Columbus, Ohio: Slavica Publishers, 1984. Explains the use of time in the novel as a means for building anxiety and suffering in the characters. Shows how time is manipulated in Crime and Punishment and how the treatment of time in other works by Dostoevski is different.
Jones, Malcolm V. Dostoyevsky: The Novel of Discord. London: Elek Books Limited, 1976. Gives an overview of the complexity and chaos that are to be expected in Dostoevski. Extended selection on Crime and Punishment.
Leatherbarrow, William J. Fedor Dostoevsky. Boston: Twayne, 1981. Includes a biographical sketch of Dostoevski. Commentary on his works, including Crime and Punishment. Bibliography, index.
Miller, Robin Feuer. Critical Essays on Dostoevsky. Boston: G. K. Hall, 1986. Contains an essay by Leo Tolstoy and criticism and commentary on Dostoevski. Indicates how perceptions of Dostoevski have changed over time.