Character Analysis Sonya Semyonova Marmeladov


Sonya functions in the novel as one aspect of Raskolnikov's character and also as the "passive redemptive" figure. She is the meek and self-submissive figure. Her function is to help redeem Raskolnikov, but her redemptive role is a passive one. This means that she does little in an active way to make Raskolnikov confess or change his way. Rather, she is simply available whenever Raskolnikov needs her. The question arises as to how can she be redemptive: She is redemptive because through her suffering she becomes for Raskolnikov the symbol of all the suffering humanity, that is, all the suffering of mankind is represented in her own suffering. And through her compassionate nature and ability to love, she touches deeply one side of Raskolnikov's character. Her life is one of simple expedience for existence.

No one is less fit for a life of prostitution than is Sonya, but this was the only way in which she could help support her family. She became a prostitute but feels intensely the degradation and shame of her profession. But in spite of this profession, she has never lost touch with God. Her simple faith in God is part of her strength. She attends church as much as possible, has masses said for Lizaveta Ivanovna, and has the basic faith in the goodness of Divine Providence. She also refuses to answer questions put to her by Raskolnikov (that is, who is to live or die) by saying "how can I know God's will?" She could never assert her own will to the degree that the will of Divine Providence would be put into question.