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Several morally ambiguous characters played different vital roles in Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky. In fact, most characters illustrated in this twisted novel can be evaluated as possesing “good” and “evil” qualities. Sonia Marmeladov is especially ambiguous and important in this novel. Her contradicting social and moral statuses along with her contrasting roles as a saintly liberator and sinner allowed Sonia to play a crucial role throughout the novel. Not only that but her character further strengthens the theme of religious awakening.
At times Sonia’s character becomes hard to categorize as “good” or “evil” because of her actions. The first descriptions the reader gets of Sonia are from her drunk father, Marmeladov. She has lived her life with little money, poor housing conidtions described as having “every sign of povery” (294). Sonia tries to make an honest living by making linen shirts but “do you suppose that a respectable poor girl can earn much by hard work? Not fifteen farthings a day can she earn”(15).
Not merely enough to support a family along with her drunk father’s habits. So Sonia eventually becomes a prositute in order to to support her family and gains a “yellow ticket” (16) This is what gained Sonia her title as a sinner and which puts her character at question. However, Marmeladov explains to Raskolnikov how Sonia goes to them “mostly after dark, she comforts Katerina Ivanorna and gives her all she can”( 16). This part of Sonia’s character depicts her as a loving daughter willing to sacrifice herself to save her family.
This portrayal in some ways resembles Christ as “He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness. ” He sarcrificed himself as she sacrifies herself. Does that change the fact that she is committing a sin? No of course not and that is exactly where the conflict of her morality takes place. The world sees her in “such an attire”(163)which puts her to shame in her “guady finery” (163) Yet the reader sees a young, timid girl who was pushed to take drastic decisions in her life.
It is Sonia’s actions which are “evil” but her purpose and pure soul make her more saintly than most of the character’s in the novel. Because her character plays this role, it is her who helps Raskolnikov find his religious faith and who leads him to finally come clean later on in the book. Another circumstance where Sonya is morally ambiguous is where she has to decide to either have a relationship with Raskolnikov, or leave him out of the picture when he tells her that it is he who murdered the pawnbroker.
Sonya knows that it is right to help Raskolnikov because he could be lost and go even deeper into his madness. However, Sonya knows that Raskolnikov is a killer and it would be wrong to be associated with somebody who knowingly commits sins as extravagant as murder. Sonya is also aware that Raskolnikov has issues and his madness could drive him to do other things that could lead to even worse consequences. Sonia does tell Raskolnikov that he must turn himself in and confess his sins but she also hugs him and kisses him as to comfort him.
Her odd response is to tell Raskolnikov “I will follow you, I will follow you everywhere…… I’ll follow you to Siberia” (407). As she tries to find a valid excuse as to why he killed those women, she finds that there was no good intentions in his mind, yet she still sticks by Raskolnikov’s side. This response leaves the reader wondering whether Sonia is doing this to help a lost soul and play her role as a saintly liberator or does her love blind her and is she simply not caring that what Raskolnikov committed was murder.
However, even though the last part of the book depicts Sonia as an accomplice to a morally wrong crime, the epilogue illustrates her as a saintly liberator. In Siberia, the image which she carried back in part one and part two of the book are stripped and she is loved by the prisoners in the camp. They even called her “little mother Sofya Semyonovna”(538), and although it is clearly stated that Sonia herself did nothing special to be liked, their preference for her depicts that they sensed her moral “goodness. ” Without direct statement, Sonia herself was the reason why Raskolnikov felt in some way his religious reawakening.
Through her unconditional love, she and her role made this “story of a gradual renewal of a man” (542) happen. Dostoevsky theme of religion was carried on and developed by Sonia’s character through her moral ambiguity. Though her character appears to be immoral in several cases, in the epilogue the reader sees how it all comes together and how Doestoevsky uses Sonya illustrates important social and political issues that were of concern to him, such as the treatment of women, the effects of poverty, the importance of religious faith, and the importance of devotion to family.
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