Crime in Absentia, Punishment in Praesentia: Raskol’nikov’s Father

Nina Familiant, University of Wisconsin, Madision

This paper is an attempt to analyze Raskol’nikov’s relationship with a character who, by the time of the novel’s dramatic events, has been dead for many years – Raskol’nikov’s own father, Roman Raskol’nikov (the reader does not know his name until Chapter 4 when Raskol’nikov, in his mind, sarcastically addresses his sister by her full name after learning about Dunia’s decision to marry Luzhin: “You have determined to marry a sensible business man, Avdotia Romanovna”). Despite his physical absence, the father’s presence in the novel is, nevertheless, significant. He is present metonymically, through an “old-fashioned flat silver watch,” Raskol’nikov’s only material memory of his parent that he brings to Alena Ivanovna to pawn. Pseudo-physically, Roman Raskol’nikov appears as a father-figure in Raskol’nikov’s dream where Mikolka kills a horse. And, finally, Raskol’nikov’s father continues to live in the memory of Raskol’nikov’s mother.

In an attempt to reconstruct the life of the Raskol’nikov family when the father was alive and the legacy he left to his son after his death, this paper will analyze Raskol’nikov’s dream in the light of Carl Jung’s theory that the dream is not only an interpretation of the character’s future but also a key to his past.

The dreams of Dostoevsky’s characters are known for their “controlled symbolism,” where each image has “its counterpart within the range of the story or of the experience of the character” (Mortimer, 107). This paper will attempt to solve an equation involving character prototypes reflected in Raskol’nikov’s dream: if Mikolka is the future Raskol’nikov transgressing the laws “of ordinary men,” if the horse is a collective image of the novel’s female characters, victims of different social and moral crimes -- such as the pawnbroker, Raskol’nikov’s mother, Sonia and Dunia -- then who is the father-figure in the dream: is he Raskol’nikov’s real father or a counterpart of someone else in the novel?

Based on the reconstruction of Raskol’nikov’s relationship with his father, this paper, on the one hand, hypothesizes that Raskol’nikov’s childhood experience conditioned his interactions with other characters: for example his taking care of the dying Marmeladov, his gift of money to Katerina Ivanovna and his attendance of Marmeladov’s funeral. Raskol’nikov associated Marmeladov with his own father and Katerina Ivanovna with his own mother. On the other hand, this paper seeks an answer to the question of whether Raskol’nikov’s childhood experience led him to the later violation of legal and moral norms.


Breger, Louis. Dostoevsky: The Author as Psychoanalyst. New York: New York University Press, 1989.
Mortimer, Ruth. “Dostoevsky and the Dream.” Slavic Review. Vol. 32. Number 2, Fall 1972.
Jung, Carl Gustav. Dreams. Translated by R. F. C. Hull. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1974.