In his novel, Crime and Punishment, Dosoevski instills different parts of Raskolnikov’s character within the other characters in the story. One of the most interesting mirrors presented by Dostoevski is that of Raskolnikov’s sister, Avdotya Romanovna. She is brought into the novel eloquently by Dostoevski’s subtle building of her character and our expectations of her before finally introducing her which furthers our understanding of her as a multi-layer complex character. She represents both the good and evil qualities of her brother, their effects in a female form. She blends Raskolnikov’s divided personality with the idealistic 18th century Russian view of female morality, neatly permiting Dostoevski to explore another psychological profile and use to it help define his hero, as well as examine other aspects of morality and free will. Dostoevski also contrasts Dounia with the other morally astute female character in the novel, Sonia, in order to further accentuate her feminine integrity and the theme of salvation through suffering.
Dounia’s intial introduction is through her mother’s descprition of her in a letter to her son. Dounia is shown as “clever,” with “a strong will,” yet also “a resolute, sensible, patient and generous girl,” while still owning, “a passionate heart,” and loving Raskolnikov “beyond everything, more than herself.” Her respectable refusal of Svidrigailov in her mother’s correspondence also shows that she is an educated woman with good manners and a reasonable head. She has a propensity to suffer, shown by her engagement in order to aid her brother financially and hopefully secure him a job with her future husband’s firm. Her zealous desire to help her brother is further shown in her thoughts, “Dounia is thinking of nothing else now. She has been in a sort of fever the last few days, and has already made a regular plan for your becoming in the end an associate and even a partner in Pytor Petrovich’s firm.” This is quite strange for a girl who has just become engaged; to be more preoccupied with her brother’s future than her own. This introduction readies the reader for an intelligent, virtuous girl, yet still quite a flat character. In the letter, Raskolnikov’s mother comes across as emotional and frivolous, and we are also more than aware of a mother’s tainted view of her children.
Then, Raskolnikov’s rebuttal to this letter shows, through his admirable opinion and thoughts of her, that Advotya is even more than her mother described. It is especially poignant because, by now, we have bonded with Raskolnikov, and are willing to trust his perception of other characters. Dounia becomes sly, as Raskolnikov accuses her of deceiving him and acting without his approval to something we suspect she knew he would object (39). Furthermore she is passionate and strong, and would rather, “be a nigger on a plantation or a Lett with a German master than degrade her soul, and her moral dignity,” and “for herself, for her comfort, to save her life she would not sell herself, but for someone else she is doing it! For one she loves, for one she adores, she will sell herself!” The reader’s curiosity of Dounia is piqued through the continual praises of her in her brother’s exclamated speech. Dostoevski has prepared and excited us to meet this exceptional character.
Finally, almost two hundred pages later, Dounia arrives. Dostoevski deliberately enlongates the time before he reveals Avdotya Romanovna. When finally she is introduced, she is a surprise for the reader, because there had been no mention of her since the letter and until the appearance of Luzhin, and, after Luzhin makes his appearance, the reader is thoroughly distracted narratively by the death of Marmeladov, throwing monkey wrenches into the story’s progression. This prolongation allows time for the reader’s interpretation of Avdotya to muddle without becoming erased, thereby leaving the reader with an open mind expectantly waiting. This nearly clean slate created by Dostoevski to gives us a renewed, unhindered opinion of Avdotya. She is shown matching wits with Luzhin, defending herself and her family, revealing her cool-headed treatment of uncomfortable situations. She stands up for herself and repeatedly refutes Luzhin’s ultimatums with her own, subtly implying her lack of interest until finally, she states it clearly so the thick-headed Luzhin will understand. She says, “What insolence! I don’t want to you come back again.” She even verbally spars with her brother, defending her decisions logically, showing her intelligence, self-esteem, and pride. She goes so far as to scolds his treatment of their mother, questioning, “Brother, what are you doing to mother?” with eyes, “flashing with indignation.” Also portrayed, through her courteous treatment of Sonia and Razumhin in awkward situations, is her ability to recognize good in others and propensity to do the right thing. This portrayal does not conflict with our previous conception, but strengthens Avdotya’s character and finally gives her the depth of reality, instead of another character’s perception of her.
Oddly enough, Dounia is one of the few main characters whose inner thoughts are not openly revealed by Dosoevski. He even uses the opinion of others to depict her, first through Pulcheria Alexsandrovna’s letter, then Raskolnikov’s thoughts, and finally, Razumihin’s perception of her physical appearance. After these preludes he describes her almost entirely through action. Her smiles, nods and indignant lip quiverings suggest her feelings and allow us to draw our own conclusions. We are not told her opinion of Svidrigailov nor Luzhin; however, her treatment of them permits adequate assumption. Both are discarded from Dounia’s affections because of their narrow views of the world and questionable moral discrepancies. This blankness helps Dostoevski paint Avdotya believably with all her hidden depth and also apply her brother’s character attributes to her.
Avdotya Romanovna Roskolnikov is the female version of her brother. She is sensitive and caring, yet proud and egotistical. She is has a quick, independent mind, a strong resolve, and a true heart, yet also a dark side. The only main difference between her and her brother is her moral fortitude. Dostoevski even further matches her character to Raskolnikov’s by infrequently mentioning their similar physical appearance, and, using Razumihin as his mouthpiece says, “Do you know, Avdotya Romanovna, that you are exactly like your brother, in everything, indeed!"
Avdotya’s appearance also lends itself well to her character. Aside from greatly resembling her brother, she is, “tall, strikingly well-proportioned, strong and self-reliant-the latter quality was apparent in every gesture, though it did not in the least detract from the grace and softness of her movements." She also has dark brown hair and “almost black eyes” and a slightly “haughty expression,” which physically suggest her dark side while her pale skin and face, which wears laughter and smiles extraordinarily well, conflict and show her benevolent side. Dounia’s appearance and movements reveal the conflicting personalities shown in her, paralleling her brother.
Characteristically, she is placed on a moral pedestal by Razumihin, by far the most loyal, trusting and worthy character in the book to this point. When Razumihin compares himself to her, he asks, “What was he, beside such a girl--he, the drunken, noisy braggart of last night?” The contrasting of her personality to an already proven true soul relays to the reader her overwhelmingly good attributes.
She is also paralleled by Sonia, the other leading female in the novel, who represents the power of suffering and faith by saving Raskolnikov and always striving to aid her stepmother and her stepmother’s children. Like Dounia, Sonia’s inner thoughts are not revealed by the narrator, but left to the reader’s discretion, allowing for multiple interpretations of their actions. Obviously an editorial tactic, this may give the reader false views of the character’s goodness, but plays in well to reflect Dostoevski’s ideas of feminine morality and suffering. Both girls are placed in the role of a savior for males who had fallen morally through murder. Sonia is paired with Raskolnikov, and eventually, she helps him confess his murder and repent for his crimes, both directly and indirectly. After telling Sonia about murdering the pawnbroker and her sister, Lizaveta, Raskolnikov is persuaded by Sonia to turn himself in to the police. Indirectly, Svidrigailov, who coincidentally lives in the adjoining flat, overhears Sonia and Rodya’s conversation, and this gives another incentive to Rodya; the possibility of being revealed by Svidrigailov. This event then lead’s to the nearly fatal meeting between Dounia and Svidrigailov. Svidrigailov mirrors Raskolnikov in his propensity to be saved by Dounia, as Raskolnikov was saved by Sonia; however, unlike Sonia, Dounia is unwilling to play this role. She has her brother’s pride matched with her feminine morality, and is unwilling to sacrifice herself to Svidrigailov’s redemption, yet at the same time, like Sonia, she is willing to cast off everything and even sacrifice her goodness to killing Svidrigailov in order to save her brother. This paralleling of Avdotya and Sonia brings out many of the good moral traits in Dounia while more than ever proving Dounia to be her brother’s sister and a female mirror.
The meeting which takes place between Avdotya and Svidrigailov is the next and final major depiction of Dounia and her personality. It shows us a darker side of her, revealing a possibly more tarnished past than we previously suspected and her willingness to do evil to bring about good. This is very similar to one of her brother’s motives for killing the pawnbroker, that from the death of the old lady, many innocent will be saved. She arranges a clandestine meeting with Svidrigailov, concealing herself from her brother, and placing herself in a menacingly suggestive apartment. In her stand off with Svidrigailov, she switches from “Âû,” the Russian* formal form of “you,” to “Òû,” the informal version of “you,” suggesting that they may have been on much more intimate terms when she worked from him, than was previously noted in the letter and conversations. Most of all, she takes a gun with her to the meeting and half-attempts to shoot Svidrigailov with it. A previous deeper relationship is further hinted at by Svidrigailov’s mention of giving Dounia shooting lessons, an activity obviously beyond her governess duties in the Svidrigailov house. The presence of the gun implies premeditated willingness to do evil, even more so when she resolves to shoot Svdrigailov. However, it is not without goodwill that she deigns to undertake this. Without being given an inner monologue by the author the reader feels she is undoubtedly protecting her brother. This is her motivation and justification for being willing to undertake this task, and perhaps even the vindication of Marfa Petrovna’s death. She is also unable to complete it, losing her resolve to her good nature, and misses two shots at nearly point-blank. This differs from her brother, who also premeditated a murder, yet had no sense of guilt or righteous justification at his disposal.
Dounia is saved by her righteousness and willingness to suffer. Her feminine conscience prevents her from being and agent of evil and complies with Dostoevski’s ideals of what is necessary to be good or redeemed. She is remorseful, has a sense of guilt, suffers, and has a religious link. Avdotya also portrays the schism of personality found in Raskolnikov and the 18th century ideal, that women are guides to redemption and perhaps more morally in tune than men. Had Raskolnikov been female, there is little doubt he would have been just like his sister and without the moral deviation in his masculine mind. Avdotya Romanovna, graciously brought into being by Dostoevski’s genius, is a very complex character with hidden depths of personality, and is an integral part of the novel. By mirroring her brother’s character in female form and being contrasted to the other leading female in the novel, her complex character adds another psychological profile to the story, and gives the novel further breadth.
To see the cyrillic, you need to change your internet browser to allow "Cyrillic(Windows)" For internet explorer, simply go->View->encoding->Cyrillic Windows. Pronunciation-wise, the first world sounds like Vwi, and the second like Ti.