In Crime and Punishment by Dostoyevsky, Raskolnikov’s cultural, physical and geographical surroundings shape psychological or moral traits in him. These aspects of the main character’s life cause him to commit a murder, affect his life until he confesses, and finally convince him to confess.
Raskolnikov lives on the top floor of a building, and this location seems to place him far away from others. This is why before he commits the crime, Raskolnikov does not seem to have much contact with anyone else except Nastasya and his landlady. This detachment from other people causes Raskolnikov to think he is superior to everyone else, and he begins to wonder whether he can get away with murder. To make matters worse, Raskolnikov hears a stranger on the street talking about Alyona Ivanovna, the pawnbroker he wants to kill. The stranger’s negative words convince Raskolnikov that if he does murder the pawnbroker, he will have done a good deed for everyone since no one seems to like her. This isolation and the coincidental encounter with someone else who seems to dislike Alyona Ivanovna build up and convince Raskolnikov that he must commit a murder. Also, Raskolnikov is completely aware of the geographical conditions around him. He has memorized the number of steps he must walk until he reaches Alyona’s house, which symbolizes his confidence in committing a crime that ‘he has the right’ to commit.
His surroundings not only make Raskolnikov commit a murder, but also shape his life significantly afterwards. After the crime, the hero realizes he cannot talk to the people at the police station anymore, which is expressed in the sentence “It was no longer possible for him to address these people in the police station, not only with heartfelt effusions, as he had just done, but in any way at all.” This realization causes Raskolnikov to be even more isolated. In addition to being lonelier, the main character is constantly tormented by Porfiry’s questions, who suspects Raskolnikov is the murderer. The people around him cause Raskolnikov to put pressure on himself andendure isolation and mental torture. Therefore, Raskolnikov’s punishment begins because of his surroundings and shapes the time between the murder and the confession.
Raskolnikov, as he comes closer to confessing, is once again affected by those around him. He is constantly stuck between wanting to confess and realizing he should not because he is proud of what he has done. After Nikolai takes blame for the crime, the first time Raskolnikov considers confessing is to Sonya. When Sonya pities him, however, he once again thinks he had the right to kill, saying “Power is given only to him who dares to stop and take it… one must have the courage to dare” and that he “should be happy now.” Sonya, however, insists that Raskolnikov should confess and reassures him that she will visit often. With these words from Sonya and with his friend Razumikhin helping him realize that he has been causing his family pain, Raskolnikov finally accepts the fact that he has to suffer his real punishment, going to the police station to confess. Therefore, once again, the reader can observe how Raskolnikov’s surroundings affect his moral traits by first separating him from the thought of confessing by letting him assure himself that he should be proud, and then slowly making him realize confessing is the right thing to do.
In summation, Raskolnikov’s surroundings and mostly the people around him affect his moral and psychological traits throughout the novel. The main character is first convinced to commit a murder, then affected thoroughly by those around him, and finally forced to alternate between two contradicting views, which lead to his confession.