Hidden Sense of the Symbol of Water in 'Crime and Punishment'

In Crime and Punishment, one of the symbola that the author uses - is water. The characters that turn away from redemption also turn away from its symbol, water. On the other hand, those who want to be redeemed are truly moved by it. Water holds the terror of death for Svidrigaylov, who confirms his corruption, by thinking, 'Never in my life could I stand water, not even on a landscape painting.' Water, instead of being a necessity of life, becomes a hateful menace for him, during the last hours of his life. 

Svidrigaylov's hate for water is truly imprudent, in fact, he feels cold at even the thought of the river Neva. This makes it extremely ironic that he chooses a cold, stormy evening as the night in which he commits suicide. As he looks for a suitable place to shoot himself and walking towards the little Neva, a 'thick milky mist' covers the city. For Svidrigaylov, water is '...instead of being a positive force...the appropriate setting for the taking of his own life'. 

Raskolnikov, on the other hand, seemed to be attracted to water as he was later drawn to confession and redemption. Even before the murder, he has a daydream in which he is in Egypt, drinking '...water from a stream which flowed babbling beside him, clear and cool, running marvelously bright and blue over the colored stones...'. This shows that Raskolnikov is feeling the need for redemption, even before he commits the wrongdoing. After the murder, Raskolnikov is tortured with a dream in which, the head police clerk, Ilya Petrovich, is beating his landlady. This dream symbolizes his fear of being caught. As soon as he wakes up, he asks Nastasya for a drink. She comes back with a white mug filled with water. The presence of water immediately after his intuition of being caught signifies his desperate need for redemption. Raskolnikov later contemplates killing himself by drowning after watching a woman attempt to drown herself in the river Neva. He then decides that '...it's disgusting...water...no good'. By refusing the water, this indicates that he doesn’t agree with the idea for redemption and may not be ready to confess. In the final chapter of the novel, Raskolnikov is working at the riverbank, and he sees the nomads across the river, wishing for their freedom. In this case, water symbolizes freedom and when Sonya later visits him, his heart holds 'endless springs of life' for her. Water now has a different meaning for Raskolnikov because he has received redemption. 

To conclude, water as a symbol in Dostoyevsky's great novel “Crime and Punishment” had a quite different meanings to Raskolnikov and Svidrigaylov. For the first one water - is a place of recognition and atonement. On the other hand, for Svidrigaylov it is something terrifying. 

07 July 2022
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