Rodion Romanovich Raskolnikov: The novel’s main character. He is a formerz student and is young, handsome and intelligent, with a propensity toward moodiness, deep depressive anxiety and arrogance. It is a combination of these traits, along with his extreme poverty and a certain sickness of spirit, that spawns his obsession with the murder. He is also capable of extreme generosity and compassion, and tends to pity the weak and helpless. This capacity for goodness signals that all is not lost.
Sofia Semianovna Marmeladov (Sonia): Described as young, thin and pale, with an extremely meek disposition. She has become a prostitute in order to earn money for her destitute family. Her character reflects both weakness and strength, for although she is lowly in social stature and appears to be easily abused, she has tremendous moral solidity. She is both victim and force of love, a long-suffering Christ figure.
Avdotia Romanovna (Dunia): Raskolnikov’s sister. She is a figure of strength and morality in the face of harsh circumstances. She is preparing to marry in order to save the family from poverty, a prospect which vexes Raskolnikov greatly. Like the other young women who sacrifice themselves for their families in this novel, she becomes a prostitute of sorts. Rather than being portrayed as immoral, these women are given saintly, even Christ-like, attributes. She shares her brother’s intelligence and good looks, but does not possess his moral weakness. Like Sonia, she is willing to sacrifice herself (in marriage to Luzhin) for her family’s welfare.
Semion Zakharovich Marmeladov : An alcoholic, former government clerk whom Raskolnikov meets in a bar. He is Sonia’s father. His character is pathetic and aware of the futility of his state.
Katherine Ivanovna: Marmeladov’s wife, who is ill with tuberculosis and was formerly an Army officer’s wife. She was born into a higher class and retains her pride along with visions of someday being restored to her previous status. She is also high-strung, emotionally unstable and alternately abusive and tender towards her children and husband.
Razumikhin Dmitri Prokofich: Raskolnikov’s best friend, a good-natured, intelligent and simple man, although beneath this simplicity there were a hidden depth and a dignity. He is portrayed as physically large and powerful, with a natural exuberance and love of life. He loves to drink, tell jokes and philosophize, and is quick to come to the aid of Raskolnikov and his family. He wants to believe the best of Raskolnikov and thus is unable to wholly grasp his friend’s degeneration.
Aliona Ivanovna, the pawnbroker: Raskolnikov’s intended murder victim, she is bitter, suspicious and exploitative. She has a reputation for abusing her stepsister Lizaveta. Raskolnikov singles her out as someone of no worth, and whom he would be doing the world a favor to murder.
Lizaveta: The step-sister of the pawnbroker and Raskolnikov’s second and unplanned murder victim. She is described as tall, awkward, shy and feeble-minded. Her step-sister abuses her and she is in thrall to her, unable to defend herself. Like the old mare in Raskolnikov’s dream, she is pitiful, defenseless and enslaved. Yet at the same time, she is loved by others and has moral and spiritual grounding.
Peter Petrovich Luzhin: As Dunia’s fiancï¿½, he arouses Raskolnikov’s contempt. He is a lawyer in his forties with a good income. He is insufferably vain and fancies the idea of marrying a girl from a poor background so she will be beholden to him and worship him. His outward appearance of success and gentlemanliness contrasts sharply with his inner weakness and moral vacuity.
Porfiry Petrovich: A seasoned and clever police inspector who suspects Raskolnikov and guesses his motive. Described as short, red-faced and rather ridiculous looking, yet again in the novel, appearances are portrayed as deceiving, as he is highly intelligent and has an uncanny ability to read people and solve crimes.
Svidrigailov: A lecherous, middle-aged ladies’ man who falls in love with and attempts to seduce Dunia while she is working for him and his wife Martha Petrovna. He is self-centered and jaded, and feels an affinity with Raskolnikov, who is repulsed by him.