Fyodor Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment is a novel about the psychological exploration of the protagonist, Raskolnikov. Initially, Raskolnikov's conflict is whether or not he should murder the pawnbroker. After the crime is committed, his conflict becomes whether or not he should confess and return to society. These two compelling differences pull Raskolnikov's mind in different directions, which enlightens the novel. .
The characterization of Raskolnikov differs from how he wants to see himself. He considers himself to be a "superman," and this theory has him become alienated from society. However, Raskolnikov's murderous act, and his failure to confess, prove his "superman" theory wrong. He loves Sonia and cares about Razumikhin, his mother, and sister, but because he is caught up in everything else, he is not grateful of their caring and concern. Although Raskolnikov hates Svidrigailov, he has a "connection" with him because they both committed murder. Raskolnikov's vicious ways towards the pawnbroker and her sister, and his caring ways towards Sonia, pulls his character into two different directions.
Symbolism in this novel is a key point. The city where the story takes place, St. Petersburg, is described as being "dirty and crowded," as well as, "cluttered and chaotic." These descriptions represent Raskolnikov psychologically; he can neither escape the city nor his mind. In St. Petersburg, he is angry; when he is sent to prison in Siberia, he becomes a better person as a whole. The cross that Sonia gives Raskolnikov before he goes to the police station to confess is another symbol. In Catholicism, the cross symbolizes Jesus" self-sacrifice for his followers and their sins. In Crime and Punishment, the cross symbolizes Raskolnikov's "sacrifice" to confess to his sins.
Raskolnikov's conflicts shape the novel. His contemplation over whether or not to murder the pawnbroker soon becomes reality that forms another conflict (whether or not to confess).