In Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s novel Crime and Punishment, the Marmeladov family has a great influence on the main character, Raskolnikov, and his actions. Marmeladov serves as a connection between his family and Raskolnikov, while Katerina Ivanovna helps to show Raskolnikov’s duality, and Sonia becomes a key figure in Raskolnikov’s forgiveness.

Marmeladov is included in the novel for the chief purpose of establishing a bond between his family and Raskolnikov. Marmeladov’s colorful account of his family’s life introduces the family’s predicament to Raskolnikov, revealing their suffering. This makes him take a personal interest in the family, which allows Raskolnikov to later become more involved with Katerina and Sonia. Thus, Marmeladov is the crucial link between Raskolnikov and the part of his future that lies with the Marmeladov family.

Katerina is the second part of Raskolnikov’s relationship with her family, the part that brings out two completely different sides of Raskolnikov: his generous, caring side, and his other, more selfish side. This is first shown when Raskolnikov unobtrusively leaves money for them, thinking that he will help out this poor family a little; but he quickly changes his mind when he realizes his action, thinking, “What a stupid thing I’ve done” (21). His first impulse is always to be a kind, generous soul, but as soon as he devotes more time to thinking about whatever it is with which he is concerned, Raskolnikov thinks only of himself.

This is also seen slightly when Raskolnikov interacts with Sonia, but she factors more into forgiveness. After Raskolnikov leaves Marmeladov’s flat at his death, he promises to return soon; as he has just given them money, it seems unlikely that he has any reason to return except to see Sonia. His initial interest in Sonia is evidenced through his conversation with Polenka, where also he already seems to see the need to be forgiven, asking Polenka to pray for him. Furthermore, there is no explanation for Raskolnikov’s sudden light-heartedness at this point, even after noticing the blood on his person, except that he now has some idea of salvation through Sonia. Raskolnikov, who witnessed Sonia’s forgiving character, sees that he must confess to Sonia, that he must be given her forgiveness. Before encountering the injured Marmeladov, Raskolnikov has thought several times about confessing to the police; after he first sees Sonia, Raskolnikov knows that he must definitely confess to Sonia, as she is the only person whose forgiveness Raskolnikov wants.

Raskolnikov has a different relationship with each of the Marmeladov family members, but each one contributes or shows something essential to his character. Therefore, the Marmeladovs are indispensable characters in this novel, strengthening the more moral side of Raskolnikov’s character by making him think more about other people and by offering him the forgiveness he needs.

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