Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky Term Paper

Excerpt from Term Paper :

Razumikhin Serves as Raskolonikov's Foil In Fyodor Dostoyevsky's Crime And Punishment; However, There Are Other Foils Present In The Book

Differences between seeing life

Raskolinokov's view

Razmumikhin's view

How each man describes each other

Similarities between Razumihin and Raskolonikov

Differences between treatment of friendship

Differences in the symbolism of the names

Other foils to Raskolonikov


Raskolonikov's conscience and intellect

All other characters

Razumikhin and Raskolonikov

Razumikhin serves as Raskolonikov's foil in Fyodor Dostoyevsky's Crime and Punishment; however there are other foils present in the book. In many ways the Razumikhin and Raskolonikov's characters are similar, for instance in their social and financial statuses; nevertheless, their personalities and ideals are quite different. Razumikhin is not Raskolonikov's only foil. There are several foils, including Sonia and Svidrigailov. To push the definition of a literary foil, Raskolonikov's split personality also serves as a foil to each other. The purpose of the paper is to look at Raskolonikov's foils with an emphasis on a comparison of Raskolonikov and Razumikhin.

One of the themes of the book is the conflict between two philosophical approaches or mindsets as to how to go about seeing life and how to rationalize situations in order to justify actions. Raskolonikov's approach to life is to diminish the worth of other people in order to lift himself to a higher level, at least in his mind. This is the classic psychological reaction of a lack of self-confidence or self-esteem. Raskolonikov has this perspective on life and those around him. He is an intelligent student who has to win at everything, no matter what the cost because he is convinced that he is better than everyone else. Not winning causes Raskolonikov stress, as seen in scenes where he thinks that his crime has been discovered and faints or gets sick. The thought of not winning causes him anger and motivates him to push himself harder order to maintain the high level that he has set for himself. Raskolonikov's approaches to life also puts him in a state of constant stress, which in turn, causes him to be sloppy, dream perturbing dreams and have what Razumikhin describes as a double personality.

By comparison, Raskolonikov's friend, Razumikhin, does not live with this stress. In part I, chapter four, and again in part II, chapter 3, Raskolonikov describes his friend as good-humored, candid, extremely tall, thin, black haired and always badly shaven. Supposedly, Razumikhin has great physical strength. The hint that Dostoyevsky gives that Razumikhin is Raskolonikov's foil is that "no failure distressed him" (Dostoyevsky 50). He is a man that does not harp on his poverty and extremely clever or resourceful, always managing to find money when he needed it. If he did run short of money, as one winter when he did not light the stove, he found a positive aspect to the problem. In this case, he noted that sleep came better in the cold. Throughout the novel, it is Razumikhin who keeps a clear perspective on life and its complications. He understands the negative effects that can come from theorizing in a way that is contrary to societal norms and human consciousness. Readers can see this in his reactions to Raskolonikov's crime. For example, in the scene where Razumikhin "understands" what Raskolonikov has done. It is "awful [and] hideous" (Dostoyevsky 292). Razumikhin then attempts to alleviate the sufferings of Raskolonikov's sister and mother by reassuring them of Raskolonikov's return and steps in as the family's caretaker. These traits are in direct contrast to the nervous, often irrational character of Raskolonikov.

Raskolonikov has many things in common with Razumikhin. Both men are young, intelligent university students, both men live in poverty and have had to give up many things because of poverty. Though there are many instances when Raskolonikov shows apathy toward his mother and sister, there are times when he shows a subtler side, as when he shows compassion for them after reading his mother's letter in part I, chapter 3. Raskolonikov loves his family and his fascination with his sister does not wane, despite circumstances. In part IV chapter 3, readers see that Raskolonikov trusts Razumikhin and perhaps sees something in himself in his friend and decides that he has found a suitable substitute for him. He implores Razumikhin, "leave me, but don't leave them" (Dostoyevsky 292). Raskolonikov's assessment of his friend turns out to be correct. He is a man of character, integrity and loyalty and does rise to the occasion. Though Raskolonikov seems to have seen something of himself in his friend, it is ironic that If it had been the other way around, Raskolonikov's dual personality and inability to make concrete decisions or reign in his psyche would not have allowed him to react the same way. Looking at the relationship of the characters in this way, emphasizes Razumikhin role as Raskolonikov's foil.

Contrary to Raskolonikov, Razumikhin is a true friend. In the beginning portions of the novel, Dostoyevsky narrates an episode when Raskolonikov saw Razumikhin on the street after not having seen him for four months. The incident, though subtle, illustrates how the differences in their friendship. Raskolonikov sees Razumikhin and ignores him, walking to the other side of the street in order to avoid him. Dostoyevsky lets the reader know that Razumikhin does see Raskolonikov. Razumikhin does not acknowledge his friend either. However, his motives for doing so are not the same. Razumikhin respects his friend and does not want to annoy him (Dostoyevsky 50). This brief encounter lends insight on two fronts. First, as mentioned before, Razumikhin does not want to annoy Raskolonikov, though he may have wanted to talk with him, this shows respect. Second, it shows that Razumikhin does not do things for self-serving reasons. On the other hand, the scene shows just the opposite of Raskolonikov. In avoiding his friend, he shows egotism. He was not concerned enough to find out how much progress Razumikhin had made in saving enough money to go to back to the university. Apparently, the timing of the meeting was not good for Raskolonikov to speak to his friend, or he harbored resentment for Razumikhin positive traits, which Dostoyevsky outlined in the same paragraph.

The idea of friendship and how the two related to it differently is carried out throughout the book. Raskolonikov does pursue the friendship in a self-serving way. When he finds himself in trouble, he feels the need to visit Razumikhin, but when Razumikhin helps him, such as when he gives him the papers to translate, Raskolonikov treats Razumikhin with disdain (Dostoyevsky 106-108).

Readers of the original Russian text of Crime and Punishment would recognize the symbolism of the names that Dostoyevsky gives his characters. Raskolonikov, Luzhin, Svidriga lov, Zametov, Marmeladov and Razumikhin all have symbolic meanings in their names. The meanings of the names of Razumikhin and Raskolonikov further solidifies the differences between the two men and reiterates the idea that one character's traits offsets the other's. The word Raskol'nik in Russian means schismatic. Schism is defined in the American Heritage Dictionary as: a separation or division into factions, the formal breach of union within a Christian church or disunion or discord. The word Razum in Russian is translated reason or intelligence (Beyer). The two words do not have the opposite denotations, but when applied to humans they have opposing connotations.

There are other foils to Raskolonikov in Crime and Punishment. One is Sonia. She is the practical, religious soul who makes Raskolonikov realize that he is not the extraordinary man that he thinks he is. What Raskolonikov lacks in spirituality, Sonia makes up for it. Also, in looking at the characters it becomes obvious that Sonia and Raskolonikov are direct opposites internally and externally. Internally, Raskolonikov is irrational, his mind goes from one thing to the other. He questions himself. He reverts. In other words, he confuses himself. Sonia, on the other hand, is firm in her beliefs and in her mind. She knows, without a doubt, that the only way to alleviate the guilt of a misdeed is to pay the price -- to take the punishment -- and she does not veer from her beliefs. Her beliefs are strongly based on Christian principles.

As a paradox, the outward appearances and activities of both characters are in conflict with each other. Despite Sonia's convictions and beliefs, she gives herself to prostitution -- an act that is completely out of line with her inner self. Raskolonikov demonstrates the same paradox, except in the opposite. His outward appearance is one that is haughty, clever and determined, three outward traits that are in conflict with his true inner self.

In the story, Svidrigailov becomes a foil to Raskolonikov. Svidrigailov does good, such as giving away money, rescuing people. Malcolm V Jones reminds readers that the motives for doing abstract humanitarian impulses that adhere to the Napoleon theory -- acts associated with an intuitive sympathy for a neighbor, whereas Svidrigailov's motives are a generalized sympathy for abstract humanity (77).. Svidrigailov does not appear…

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