“Crime and Punishment” may appear depressing at a first glance, but actually I think Dostoevsky’s view of human nature is rather optimistic here. Among the many subjects tackled by this book, I could see a couple of ideas that seem to pop up repeatedly in different characters’ stories:
1) Everyone can be a master of their own destiny, as long as they have the determination, faith and courage to endure some suffering along the way. (view spoiler)[Sonya the prostitute manages to find a purpose in life just by having faith and persistence; her mother manages to stay alive and take care of her children against all odds, until she personally decides to give up and abandons her belief in God and in herself. Marmeladov loses his job and his life not because of unlucky circumstances, but because of his own weakness. Razumikhin does not have any money, power, or influence, but gets along and successfully helps the people he cares about, because of his persistence and positive outlook. Porfiry solves the crime because of his dedication to his work, even when he has no witnesses or evidence to work with. (hide spoiler)]
2) However, nobody can control another person’s destiny; if they try, they will fail. (view spoiler)[Luzhin tries to trick and manipulate Dunya into marrying and worshipping him; he fails. Svidrigaylov tries to use force to obtain what he wants, and fails. Raskolnikov tries to prove he has the right to decide who lives and who dies, and fails. (hide spoiler)] What’s interesting is that, ultimately, their failure is not caused by some external factor, deus ex machina or whatever. They personally set themselves up for failure – they make mistakes and fail even though they have the intelligence and power to carry out their plans perfectly. It’s as if people are genetically wired to mess up when doing something that they, deep inside, know is wrong.