Development of the Lazarus Story as a Metaphor in Crime and Punishment

June 22, 2022 by Essay Writer

In Crime and Punishment, a novel written by Fyodor Dostoevsky, figurative language, specifically extended metaphors, is used quite frequently. The use of an extended metaphor helps to enrich the text and help with one’s overall understanding of the novel. The major extended metaphor in Crime and Punishment is the use of the Lazarus story and its connection to Sounia and Raskolnikov. This metaphor helps one understand how Sonia is a representation of Jesus and Raskolnikov can be compared to Lazarus, and how characteristics of the story, such as death, hope, and the number four relate to Crime and Punishment.

In the novel written by Dostoevsky, the reader gets almost continuous insight on the character’s thoughts and actions due to the use of stream of consciousness. Raskolnikov, the protagonist, commits a murder and deals with the consequences throughout the novel. Further on in the novel, Raskolnikov meets a woman named Sonia, a prostitute that wishes to escape her way of life. One day, Sonia is asked by Raskolnikov to read the Lazarus story out of the Bible. This request seems odd because Raskolnikov does not seem extremely religious, especially because he murdered not one, but two, people. Located in John 11, verses 38 through 48, the Lazarus story follows Lazarus of Bethany, a follower of Jesus. His sisters, Mary and Martha, rush to inform Jesus of their brother’s illness. Instead of quickly aiding Lazarus, Jesus waits two days before visiting Lazarus. When Jesus finally arrives, Lazarus is dead and has been in his tomb for four days. As expected, the sisters are angry at Jesus for neglecting their brother, but Jesus says he will bring their brother back to life. On line twenty-five of the Holy Bible, New International Version, it says, “Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die.’” After Jesus converses with Martha, he proceeds to resurrect Lazarus. After ordering the others to remove the stone, Jesus says, “Lazarus, come out!” Jesus then said, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.” As one can see, Jesus was capable of resurrecting Lazarus after being dead for four days. This story has an important tie to Crime and Punishment because Raskolnikov sees Sonia as his Jesus. Sonia is an extremely religious person and has an unwavering belief in God. On page two hundred and fifty-five, after Raskolnikov suggests that there is no God, it says, “Sonia’s face suddenly changed; a tremor passed over it. She looked at him with unutterable reproach, tried to say something, but could not speak and broke into bitter, bitter sobs, hiding her face in her hands.” Sonia is a committed believer of God and this shows because she sacrifices herself for her family, just like Jesus did. In addition, she forgives and accepts Raskolnikov while looking to God for forgiveness. Sonia is a selfless character that mirrors Jesus in Raskolnikov’s life. Many things point to and support the claim that Sonia “is” Jesus. As for the other part of the story, it is evident that Raskolnikov is similar to Lazarus. In the novel, one can see Raskolnikov struggling with internal and external factors, such as guilt, isolation, and insanity, in order to support and understand that Raskolnikov died. On page seventy-two, it says, “For the first moment he thought he was going mad. A dreadful chill came over him; but the chill was from the fever that had begun long before in his sleep. Now he was suddenly taken with violent shivering, so that his teeth chattered and all his limbs were shaking.” He may not have physically died, but his soul and mind did as a result of his crime. Through their love and future relationship, Sonia was able to bring Raskolnikov back from such a trying time in his life. Even when he turns himself in, Sonia is right there beside him supporting him and sharing the work of God. Both Raskolnikov’s “dying” and Sonia as a Jesus figure are important concepts of the Lazarus story in Crime and Punishment.

There are many characteristics of the Lazarus story used in the novel. As previously stated, Raskolnikov experiences a type of mental death due to his actions. Raskolnikov, however, is not the only character who experiences it; One can see that Sonia also goes through a “death” experience as she is forced to give up her life and become a prostitute to provide for her family. It is certain that she is dead inside because there is no coming back from such fate. Although she did not die physically, just like Raskolnikov, her life and character did as a result of her lifestyle, She becomes a shell of a person that hopes to find a person that can save her. Sonia believes and wishes that someone or something will save her from poverty so she can quit prostituting and be herself again. This pleading wish is evident in Raskolnikov because of his salvation and wish to start his life over. Through their love and support for one another, Sonia and Raskolnikov are able to have a sense of a new life. They found love in a very unexpected way and it truly benefits both of them. This hope ties in with the Lazarus story because both characters get some sense of salvation at the end of the novel, as Jesus and Lazarus did.

In addition to hope and death, the number four is significant when attempting to understand the connection between Crime and Punishment and the Lazarus story. At one point in the novel, Raskolnikov was unconscious for four continuous days due to him being sick. This correlates to the Lazarus story because Lazarus was dead for four days before Jesus resurrected him, In addition to this, Sonia reads the story to Raskolnikov four days after he committed his crime. It is almost as if the reading of the story was the start of his metaphorical resurrection. In addition, Raskolnikov has four dreams throughout the novel: the dream about the mare, the dream about the police, the dream about the stranger in a long coat, and the dream he remembers having in the prison in Siberia. All of the dreams help to decipher the complexity of Raskolnikov’s character. Finally, the number four is mentioned by other characters, which adds on to the significance. While Sonia is reading the Lazarus story to Raskolnikov, it says on page two hundred and sixty, “She laid emphasis on the word four,” While Sonia may have just been saying it like this to emphasize the power of Jesus, (as he was able to resurrect somebody after four days) it adds on to the significance of the number and its role in Crime and Punishment. The number four may seem insignificant as it is only a minor detail, but it helps to finalize the critical connection between the Lazarus story and Crime and Punishment.

Through the use of extended metaphors, the reader is able to understand how the Lazarus story is parallel to Crime and Punishment. Through critical characteristics, such as death, hope, and the number four, one can see how the two pieces are connected. Using Sonia as Jesus and Raskolnikov as Lazarus helps to fully bring two stories together and help one understand the reasoning and actions of the characters in Crime and Punishment. Without such literary techniques and the use of the Lazarus story, Crime and Punishment would not have as much meaning.


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