You should have read it by now
The crime in Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment title takes only one of the novel’s six parts (seven, if you count the epilogue). Raskolnikov, a former student in increasingly poor health and debt, goes to a pawnbroker to try to sell his last remaining items. The old woman sneers at his belongings and offers less than expected, but Raskolnikov still takes the money. Back in school, he learned of the extraordinary man theory, that human beings of a superior intellect are able to bend the rules of morality to create their own laws. Raskolnikov, convinced of his intelligence, and arrogant even in poverty, believes himself to be one of these select few. He wonders if he can kill, and picks the old woman as his target.
Raskolnikov uses some of his little money to get a drink, and meets Marmeladov, an alcoholic who wastes his money on alcohol when he needs to support his daughter, second wife, and her two small children. His daughter, Sonya, became a prostitute to support her family. The next morning, Raskolnikov opens a letter from his mother, who will soon visit with his sister. Money is in the letter, and he feels guilty that he cannot support them.
Still determined, he carves a fake wooden necklace, hoping the pawnbroker will mistake it for something of value and that he can kill her while she is distracted. He returns to the pawnbroker’s home and kills her with an ax. As he looks over his crime, the pawnbroker’s sister returns, horrified. Frenzied, he kills her too.
The next morning Raskolnikov feels sick. He is called into the police office because he is behind on his rent, and an officer strikes up a conversation about the gruesome double murder. Raskolnikov faints. Soon, Razumikhin, his best friend from school, takes care of him as the police begin to notice that Raskolnikov cannot bear mention of the murders. He leaves, only to watch Marmeladov, the drunkard, get hit by an ox cart. Marmeladov dies, and Raskolnikov gives the widow and her children the money his mother had just sent him. Leaving, he returns to his apartment to find his mother and sister. Razumikhin introduces himself to the family only to fall for Dunya, Raskolnikov’s sister. He makes no mention of it to her, however. Sonya, Marmeladov’s daughter, visits at that moment and asks Raskolnikov to attend the funeral.
Next, Raskolnikov goes to the police station to see if he is suspected of murder. Porfiry Petrovich, a detective, does suspect Raskolnikov, but holds off on his questions as another man confesses to the crime. Raskolnikov returns to his apartment to sleep, and wakes up to find Svidrigailov, Dunya’s former employer, watching him. Svidrigailov had tried to sleep with Dunya, but stopped when his employee told his wife. When his wife died, she left some money to Dunya. Svidrigailov mentions speaking to his dead wife about Dunya. Raskolnikov realizes Svidrigailov is insane and, disconcerted, ushers him out.
He goes to meet her suitor, but deems the man too proud and unacceptable as a husband for Dunya. Dunya and her mother beg for her to be married. Raskolnikov still refuses, and the fiancé reveals himself to be just as rude as Raskolnikov suspected. Dunya throws him out, and Raskolnikov abruptly leaves. The murder is slowly tearing him apart — his name even comes from a Russian word meaning “schism.” Razumikhin follows him, and without a word between them realizes Raskolnikov is the murderer.
Raskolnikov goes to Sonya’s, where she reads him the story of Lazarus, a man resurrected by Jesus. Raskolnikov wishes to be resurrected, to feel clean instead of empty. He learns the pawnbroker’s sister was Sonya’s friend.
Raskolnikov confesses to Sonya, and she tries to make him go the police. Suddenly, they are alerted that the widow has lost her mind. Insane with grief, she dances in the streets with her two children, begging for money. Finally, she falls down and dies. Svidrigailov appears and offers to pay for both the funeral and the schooling of the children. He also tells Raskolnikov he knows he is the murderer.
Raskolnikov wanders around, running into Porfiry Petrovich again. The detective urges him to confess to the murders, knowing he must have committed them but lacking the evidence.
Svidrigailov follows Dunya to the room where she is staying, trying to seduce her, but she grabs away his gun and tries to kill him. Upset because she does not love him, he returns to the boarding house where he stays, sleeps, and shoots himself the next morning.
Raskolnikov goes to Sonya for support. She gives him one of her crosses, and he reluctantly enters the police station to confess.
In the epilogue, Raskolnikov is serving eight years for the two murders, because the courts realized he was not completely sane. He lives in Siberia, and Sonya moves nearby to see him and become a seamstress. He avoids her, still believing he is an extraordinary man. In the spring, she visits one day and sits in the grass. He weeps at her feet, wrapping his hands in her skirt, and begins to feel again, seeking forgiveness. He begins the path to redemption.
If you decide to read this on your own, find the Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky translation. More modernized, the husband and wife team manages to include all of Dostoyevsky’s original text, unlike Constance Garnett’s translation in the public domain; Garnett excised whole passages she did not want to translate, thereby changing the tone of the novel and making the plot less clear.