Crime and Punishment: a True Confidante

A confidant is someone who is there for a protagonist when they are most vulnerable, someone who helps raise them up and works to help them succeed, someone who the lead character trusts. Simply put, a confidant is someone they can confide in. In Crime and Punishment, the protagonist Raskolnikov is adrift in his own head, torn between his theory of the extraordinary man, accompanied by his desire to be that man, and the compassion and faith he so often sees as weakness—something to be looked down on and viewed as inferior.

In a desperate attempt to cross the line and shed his “ordinary” role, he murders Alyona and her innocent and helpless sister Lizaveta, and this departure from the morals of society widens the rift between his heart and his head. His feelings of superiority and his efforts to suppress the guilt lying just beneath the surface leave him stranded and isolated. Despite Raskolnikov’s efforts to pull away from humanity, his only friend, Razumikhin, keeps him fiercely tethered to reality.

Throughout the entirety of Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment, Raskolnikov’s confidant and benefactor takes the form of his old university friend Razumikhin, a man who’s unrequited altruism and steadfast presence sees Raskolnikov through his darkest moments and times of need. Razumikhin is a confidant who possesses depth and insight, carrying and supporting Raskolnikov on his path to redemption. He represents a meeting of Raskolnikovs two sides, a version of Raskolnikov that is whole and good. Representing reason, Dmitri Prokofich Razumikhin’s selfless actions and loyalty towards Raskolnikov save the conflicted man on numerous occasions.

He is a true confidant in that he does not hesitate to offer what he can to Raskolnikov— a job, new clothing, and unwavering support—but still remains unafraid to question him when he is acting unreasonable or foolish. A stereotypical confidant is someone that the protagonist can confide in, but Dostoevsky’s version is different. Throughout the story, Raskolnikov refuses to confide in anyone, trapped in his own head and fiercely independent until he meets Sonya and is “resurrected”. He does, however, lay all his trust in Razumikhin, and in this way Razumikhin becomes Raskolnikov’s confidant.

Razumikhin is a steadying and logical force, a patch of calm in Raskolnikov’s tumultuous storm of emotions. After Raskolnikov has committed the crime, he is ill and in bed for days before seeking outside help. He found where Razumikhin lived and went to see him, but after entering the room quickly stumbled out, claiming he needed help from “nobody”. Despite the rude and dismissive way that Raskolnikov speaks to him, Razumikhin makes many inquiries until he finds where Raskolnikov is living. After this, he takes the money that is sent to Raskolnikov and goes out, buying for him all the clothing items he needs.

He charms Raskolnikov’s landlady into tearing up the promissory note that documented Raskolnikov’s great debt. Even after Raskolnikov protests and demands that he not bother him, Razumikhin goes out of him way to assist him while he is in his sickly and much-weakened state. He says to Raskolnikov that he has to “make a human being out of you, after all” (129), and when Raskolnikov waves him away with a “later”, Razumikhin insists. “No, no, brother Rodya, don’t resist. Later will be too late; besides, I wont be able to sleep all night, because I bought it without any measurements at all, on a guess”.

Razumikhin personally gained nothing from his actions. He did not need to go out into the crowded streets of St. Petersburg and shop for Raskolnikov’s wardrobe, or flirt with the landlady, a woman he obviously has no real interest in, but he does. All of these unappreciated acts of kindness were performed out of the goodness of his heart, and because he wishes the best for his friend. Razumikhin’s devotion shows itself again when he is speaking with Porfiry, the detective, as well as Zamiotov.

It becomes increasingly more obvious that the two men suspect Raskolnikov of the crime, but Razumikhin refuses to believe anything so bad of his friend. Raskolnikov has said many confusing things, as well as acted suspiciously on numerous occasions, but Razumikhin does not once suspect him, even though the guilty man grows anxious and fidgety whenever the crime is brought up, shows far too much knowledge for simply being an innocent bystander, and his moods, as well as health, are sporadic at best— all signs of a criminal according to the Extraordinary Man Theory.

Despite this, when Porfiry becomes more open and rude about his accusations, Razumikhin spits on the floor and walks out, refusing to hear a bad word against his friend. Though he is loyal to his friend, he is not afraid to question him. When, after Dunya and Pulcheria are celebrating the breaking of Dunya’s engagement with Luhzin, Raskolnikov storms from the room, Dunya cries that he is a “wicked, unfeeling egoist! ” (313). Razumikhin defends him, saying that “he’s not unfeeling, he’s mad. Don’t you see that? If not, you’re unfeeling yourself”.

Despite these words, when Razumikhin catches up with Raskolnikov he questions his judgment, asking “What are you doing? Why? What’s wrong with you?. ” Raskolnikov treats him as a confidant once again when he tells Razumikhin not to leave Dunya and Pulcheria. At this point, “Raskolnikov’s burning and fixed look seemed to grow more intense every moment, penetrating his soul, consciousness… Something strange seemed to pass between them… as if the hint of some idea, something horrible, hideous, flitted by and was suddenly understood on both sides” (315).

Razumikhin understands that Raskolnikov is considering doing something terrible, but he does not try to stop him. He knows that Raskolnikov’s mind is made up. Instead, he returns to Pulcheria and Dunya to ease their minds and offer them comfort. Razumikhin is not only Raskolnikov’s confidant, but is presented by Dostoevsky as a mirror to Raskolnikov; he is the version of Raskolnikov who’s two conflicting sides have united, one who uses his heart and compassion rather than simply his head. The two men’s approach to and philosophies of life are very different.

Raskolnikov raises himself up by putting those around him down, by viewing them as unintelligent, inferior, ordinary. He is a brilliant student, but his view is clouded by his inability to see the value in those around him, and the value in humanity itself. This disconnect from humanity also leads him to feeling sequestered from his faith, and the story of Lazarus that offers him so much hope for resurrection. He is constantly looking for the faults in others, something that stems from his need to be the best—to be more than others in every way—and so goes through life without seeing it’s worth.

The guilt he suffers only exacerbates his feelings of isolation, and from the beginning, even before Sonya comes into the picture, Razumikhin keeps him grounded. He is Raskolnikov’s link to humanity. In contrast, Razumikhin suffers from poverty much like Raskolnikov but handles it much differently. He takes the jobs he can, making the most of the opportunities he is given. Razumikhin is a man who is content with who he is, and so is able to see the good qualities in those around him. This is one of the characteristics that makes him such a strong confidant for Raskolnikov.

In many cases, Dostoevsky uses Razumikhin’s view of Raskolnikov to show readers that Raskolnikov is not simply an unfeeling egoist. Though he is often surly and imperious, haughty and unpredictable, Razumikhin finds a way to look past outside appearances and see the heart in Raskolnikov that is so often repressed. In these ways, Razumikhin acts as a guiding force throughout the book, a rock when Raskolnikov is most weak and wracked with guilt. As well as assisting him when he is vulnerable, Razumikhin sticks with Raskolnikov when he is full of pride, and remains by his side even when he is violently pushed away.

Though he is not confided in, he is completely trusted, and in this way is a true confidant: listening to Raskolnikov and advising him when he needs it, and remaining loyal throughout Raskolnikovs search for redemption. He never rejects his friend, not even after Raskolnikov confesses his guilt. It would have been all too easy for Razumikhin to look down on him once Roskolnikov is marked a murderer, to scorn him and forget him when he is sent to Siberia for seven years of hard labor.

He does not. When one leaves their heart open to the people around them, they can gain a better understanding and love for humanity itself, seeing not just the bad or the good, but both. This true acceptance and the ability to keep an open mind and heart is vital, not just to a successful life, but to a happy one. Dostoevsky creates a man who is conflicted, filled with turmoil and guilt, and then creates his counterpart, a man who can lead Raskolnikov towards ultimate redemption.