Sonya's Purpose

Fyodor Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment is the story of Raskolnikov, a young murderer, struggling to merge and balance his intellectual and caring personalities.   Sonya is the compassionate, charitable aspect of Raskolnikov's character and is the redemptive figure for Raskolnikov's humanity.   The emphasis is that man cannot separate the humane aspect of his life from the intellectual aspect. Whatever man does must be done in terms of the betterment of general humanity.
      Sonya is quiet, timid, and easily embarrassed, but she is also extremely devout and devoted to her family.   Her sacrifice of prostituting herself for the sake of her family is made even more poignant by the fact that it would not be necessary were her father able to control his drinking habit.   Initially scared of the half-delirious Raskolnikov, Sonya, in her infinite capacity for understanding, begins to care deeply for him.   She is not horrified by his crimes, but rather, concerned for his soul and mental well-being and urges him to confess.   Instead of shunning him or informing the police, she simply tells him, “Suffer and atone for your sin . . . that’s what you must do” (399).   Raskolnikov thinks of her, at first, as a fellow transgressor, someone who has stepped over the line between morality and immorality, just as he has. But there is a crucial difference between their transgressions Raskolnikov is unwilling to acknowledge: she sins for the sake of others, whereas he sins for no one but himself.
      When he confesses his heinous crime to her, she weeps in sorrow for him and begs him to save himself by confessing. “Go at once, this minute, stand at the crossroads, bow down, first kiss the earth which you have defiled, and then bow down to all the world and say to all men aloud, 'I am a murderer!' Then God will send you life again” (399).   Dostoevsky's point here is by setting himself apart from society and God, Raskolnikov is destroying his own spirit.   He is not allowing himself...