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Crime and Punishment | Study Guide

Fyodor Dostoevsky

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Crime and Punishment | Character Names


The characters in Crime and Punishment can be named in a variety of ways.

Russian names have three parts: the individual's first name, a patronymic (see below), and the family's last name. For example: Rodion (first name) Romanovitch (patronymic) Raskolnikov (family's last name).

The Russian patronymic is formed using the first name of a person's father and adding either -ovitch ("son of") for males or -ovna ("daughter of") for females. These patronymics are often combined with a person's first name in familiar address ("Katerina Ivanovna" for Katerina Ivanovna Marmeladov).

Some characters are more commonly referred to by their nicknames ("Sonia" for Sofya Semyonovna) or simply by their last names ("Luzhin" for Pyotr Petrovitch Luzhin).

In addition, Dostoevsky gave many important characters names connected to their natures, based on words that Russian readers understood:

  • Raskolnikov is from the Russian raskol meaning "split," or raskolnik, meaning "schismatic" (someone who splits from a group, often a religion). The name both indicates Raskolnikov's tendency to be torn between conflicting ideas and his attempt to break away from religious morality.
  • Sofya is from the Greek sophia, meaning "wisdom," demonstrating that Dostoevsky values Sonia's deep faith and quiet common sense above Raskolnikov's lack of faith and rationalizations.
  • Razumihin is from the Russian razum, meaning "reason" or "good sense." Razumihin's clear head and good sense contrast with Raskolnikov's moodiness and poor judgment.
  • Luzhin is derived from luzha, meaning "puddle" in Russian, representing his low and dirty character.
  • Zametov comes from the Russian zametit, meaning "to notice." The police head clerk is the first person to whom Raskolnikov makes a fumbling attempt to confess.
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