Avdotya Romanovna, Dunya, is Raskolnikov’s sister and she seems more aware of other people’s needs than her own. This is evident in Raskolnikov’s mother’s letter in which she describes how Sonya accepts a deduction in her salary “principally in order to send you the sixty roubles you needed” (Dostoyevsky 39). In some ways, Raskolnikov is the prodigy of his family. Raskolnikov is now at the capital of the country “studying” to become a lawyer. In the eyes of Dunya and her mother, Raskolnikov is aspiring to become a fatherly figure that can provide money for the both of them. Because of this, Dunya will do whatever she can to keep Raskolnikov on his journey by providing money by any means. That said, she Dunya also agrees to marry Luzhin in the hopes that “he’ll help us to supply you with money” (Dostoyevsky 46). This brings up the idea of whether this is really just a more civilized form of prostitution. It is already evident that Luzhin is not the type of many you would want to marry because he prefers a bride who has no money left. His theory, which he rudely informs Dunya and her mother of, is that). A woman who has no money is therefore required to depend upon her husband for her livelihood. This makes a more devoted wife, in Luzhin’s view. Raskolnikov, after hearing this, becomes worried that Luzhin wishes simply to dominate Dunya by marrying her because in this marriage he will be the “savior” who reaches down to scoop Dunya up from poverty. That Dunya is so willing to jump into this trap reveals how much she cares about Raskolnikov. Dunya is marrying Luzhin for the sole reason of helping Raskolnikov. Dunya is so willing to help those she loves that she would give up her own personal love life and spend the rest of eternity with a man she does not love to help her brother. Overall, she is stronger than a brick wall, allowing her to put her own emotions aside to benefit others.
Sonya Semyonovna Marmeladov, the daughter of Marmeladov, is the toughest mentally in the whole novel. While Sonya is described as nothing more than a scared, helpless girl, she is also loyal and devoted to her family. She is willing to put aside her differences in order to help those she loves the most, her siblings. Sonya is first described as having “a thin, pale and frightened little face” and having been forced into prostitution for the sake of her family by her evil stepmother (Dostoyevsky 221). Readers develop more sympathy for Sonya when Marmeladov confesses that she would not have had to turn to prostitution to bring income to feed and house her family if he could have controlled his drinking habits. Marmeladov reveals that as he lay drunk on his bed he saw Sonya “get up … put on her shawl and leave the apartment” only to return “and put down thirty roubles” (Dostoyevsky 23). Although Marmeladov was able to secure a job offer previously, he admits that he had drunk away the money and gotten fired. The relationship between man and woman has switched in that Sonya is now the provider, the bread winner, while Marmeladov is the one in need of help. When Raskolnikov learns of this he concludes that Sonya is one of the “extraordinary” that he coined in his theory of the superman. He believes that she and he are alike because she has been able to step over the moral line between right and wrong. Thus, he decides that they must “go together, along the same road” (Dostoyevsky 392). Unlike Raskolnikov, however, Sonya is actually one of the “extraordinary” while Raskolnikov is nothing but an imposter pretending to be an “extraordinary”. Raskolnikov does not realize that while Sonya has stepped over the moral line to help others, her family, Raskolnikov has simply killed a woman and nothing came out of the grisly murder. This makes her all the more admirable.
Crime and Punishment stands out from regular novels in that a role reversal has taken place. Although the man is often portrayed as the strongest member of a family, Dostoyevsky has set up his characters so that the women are in fact the strongest members and the men the weakest. Marmeladov frequently reverts to drinking despite his well-intended attempts at sobering and has even lay drunk in his bed while he watched his kids starve and cry from hunger. Raskolnikov, in addition, is mentally unstable and for a period of time requires Nastasya Petrovna to tend to his every need by feeding him and providing him with daily sustenance. To sum it all up, men are in fact the creatures in need of help in Crime and Punishment while women are their guardian angels.