Major Motifs


Color yellow symbolizes a few different things in Crime and Punishment.  In the first part of the novel, it symbolizes poverty and discustingness.  Some examples are the yellow glass of water that is given to Raskolnikov, and the yellow card that Sonia carries around with her that tells people she is a prostitute.  Later on in the novel, it begins to change to Guilt.  

"since then my daughter Sofya Semyonovna has been forced to take a yellow ticket, and owing to that she is unable to go on living with us." -Pg. 18


Bridges are a major reocuring motif in the novel.  Each brige that Raskolnikov walks over, symbolizes a threshold into a different realm.  This different place, or realm could be as simple as going from one part of town to another, or it could be a change mentally for Raskolnikov.  

"Crossing the bridge, he gazed quietly and calmly at the Neva, at the glowing red sun setting in the glowing sky. In spite of his weakness he was not conscious of fatigue. It was as though an abscess that had been forming for a month past in his heart had suddenly broken.  Freedom, freedom! He was free from that spell, that sorcery, that obsession!" -Pg. 63


The motif of crossroads occurs in the novel many times.  The crossroads symbolize a time in which Raskolnikov has to make a desision or choice that will affect not only him, but the people around him.  They also symbolize a turing point in the plot.  Each time Raskolnikov is standing at the crossroads, some major event in the plot occurs such as his confession, or when he finds Marmeladov laying in the street.

"'Shall I go there or not?' thought Raskolnikov, standing in the middle of the thoroughfare at the cross-roads, and he looked about him, as though expecting from someone a decisive word." -Pg. 176

"Going to America"

The going to America Motif is probably one of the most suddle motifs in the book.  In the novel, Dostoevsky always incorporates 'going to america' with bad things such as Svidrigaylov's suicide.  Going to America symbolizes evil and corruption, and everything bad in Crime and Punishment.  

"When you are asked, you just say he was going, he said, to America. He put the revolver to his right temple... Svidrigaylov pulled the trigger." -Pg. 506