Reading Crime and Punishment

Mother Culture Selection January 2016

Reading Helps

The ideas below for a close reading build on the principles and practices detailed in my post on High School Humanities. The master aim of literature study should be to read and delight in the story. Keep these reading helps in their rightful place as servant to that master.

Commonplace Book Entries

(Read my series of posts on Commonplace Books here.)  Always read with a pen in hand! Mark possible passages for commonplacing at a future time. Of course, commonplacing favorite passages as you read should be a regular habit. 

Copy passages from the Crime and Punishment that

  • show Roskolnikov’s moral, psychological, and/or spiritual reasoning/justification for the crime
  • show the moral, psychological, and/or spiritual consequences of the crime to Roskolnikov
  • spark your interest, remind you of something else, or bring up questions in your mind
  • delight you – especially figures of speech and eloquent turns of phrase
  • point you to the good, the true, and the beautiful

Reflections As You Read

In addition to the general reading journal options, there are a few specific Reading Journal assignments that may be helpful. This is not meant to be a deep analysis. Use this kind of guided journaling only as a way to enhance enjoyment of the story!

  • List these characters in your Reading Journal, leaving 5 or 6 spaces between each; note your impressions of each: Rodyon Raskolnikov , Semyon Zakharovich Marmeladov, Katarina Ivanovna, Avdotya Romanovna “Dounia,” Porfiry Petrovich, Dmitri Prokofich Razumihin, Sonia, Svidrigailov, Pyotr Petrovich Luzhin
  • Make a list of possible symbols and motifs as you read. [Definitions from the P&P Handbook: A symbol is something in the story that carries another meaning in addition to its literal meaning; may be an object, a setting, a person, or an action; has a similar meaning outside of the story (i.e., a dove is a symbol for peace, the morning is a symbol for a new beginning; may have more than one meaning outside of the story, so must consider story context to understand the symbol). A motif is any element in the story which is repeated noticeably and significantly; may be a word, a phrase, a reference, a situation, or a type of incident or event.]


Write a response to the reading and class discussion. What did you find most interesting (or odd, or convicting… )? Are there any common themes or ideas that you saw in your reading here and other books you have read? Are there any common themes or ideas from your Bible reading or recent sermons you have heard? Always be on the lookout for references to earlier or contemporaneous authors, ideas, and events—the ongoing Great Conversation.

Mother Culture Community

Mother Culture Community is an online fellowship of Christian classical home educators and other reading mothers (and aunts, and sisters, and grandmothers, and daughters), sponsored by The Reading Mother. Our mission is inspire our students in the pursuit of a life well‐read. We believe our own pursuit of a life well‐read is the best place to start.