I wanted to write about a character that moved me so profoundly in my favorite book that I can’t help but not love this person metaphorically speaking. 

Sonia Marmeladov is a young girl of 18 years old who has to work as a prostitute to provide for her family – her drunkard father, her stepmother, and three children of her stepmother – Katerina Ivánovna. Sonia lives a life full of humiliation and injustice. But at the same time, she is a faithful religious, kind person with a pure soul. She sacrifices her well-being to help her low-income family. Dostoevsky has created her as one of the most positive characters in his book. The way she sees the good in everyone forgives anyone quickly even after they have done her wrong, and her outlook that everyone is good at the end of the day makes me fall in love with her. Sonya’s first appearance in the novel finds her ‘eighteen…pretty, blond, and with remarkable blue eyes.’ 

Despite seeing her for the first time at her father’s apartment, Rodion becomes ’embarrassed’ when she visits him at his apartment shortly after that. Sonya appears equally uncomfortable. She has trouble speaking the words she wants. She wants to thank Raskolnikov for his help and financial support the day before, but she ‘falters and falls silent.’ She seems awkward and unsure what she should do, especially toward ‘the two ladies.’ This situation is the first in which it becomes apparent that Sonya has much in common with Rodion Raskolnikov. Not only do they both repress their feelings for one another, but they show signs of shared suffering.

The first time she comes into her apartment, he cannot gather the words to speak to her but tries anyway not to make her feel uncomfortable. He doesn’t want her to leave and is determined ‘to continue (their) conversation.’ It is the first sign that he might have more than a passing interest in her. And at the end, she is the one who convinces him that he needs to repent for his crimes. She is the only person he trusts completely. He feels comfortable in her presence and believes he can tell her anything without fear of judgment. This proves true when he confesses his crime to her. Sonya is taken aback to hear that the young man, for whom she has deep concern, and love, has committed murder comes as a shock but quickly recovers.

Plus, she hardly ever eats—after feeding her family and paying the rent. She’s constantly making sacrifices, and it seems like everybody wants a piece of her, not that she ever complains.

It was hard enough for men to get educated, let alone impoverished women, as far as school goes in those days. Jobs were scarce, especially for women, and she might well have been exploited in other lines of work as well. Remember, Katerina sent Sonia to the street in the first place because a corrupt client wouldn’t pay her for a sewing job. As soon as she becomes a prostitute, the community looks down on her except for Andrey Semyonovitch. He claims that prostitution is only disgraceful in a corrupt society and, even then, not to him. In a society like the one he and his buddies imagine, prostitution will fill, honorably, the necessary needs of a community. Although Andrey Semyonovitch might love Sonia, he doesn’t ever take advantage of her and wants to help her. He gives her books to read, saves her from Luzhin’s accusations, and helps her care for Katerina. Sonia is also a testimony to human forgiveness and compassion. She sees the good in Raskolnikov as more vital than the bad.

In Siberia, all the prisoners and townspeople love her, a point of the fact that puzzles Raskolnikov. At this time, he can’t see what everybody else sees—which is that Sonia is fantastic. The fact that the community in Siberia values her opens Raskolnikov’s eyes a little. He sees Sonia in a new light and even misses her when she isn’t around. In a sense, he finally forgives her for being a prostitute and accepts her as a human being. He begins to treat her the way she’s treated him all along. Around Raskolnikov, Sonia seems to find a stronger voice and tells him to cool it when he says mean things and won’t let him get by with confusing human beings with lice. She doesn’t do anything he says unless she agrees with it. And, in the end, it looks as though Sonia has come out on top. She gambles on Raskolnikov and wins a new life—with freedom, love, and happiness.

And maybe as a reader, not only do I have a tremendous amount of respect for Sonia but, in a way, also for Raskolnikov. Because, if he can get past everything and truly love a woman for her soul, than her body, what else is there. He is willing to repent for his crimes; in his repenting – he seeks redemption, along with that redemption, he has his love to live for. 

Go at once, this minute, stand at the crossroads, bow down, first kiss the earth which you have defiled and then bow down to all the world and say to all men aloud, ‘I am a murderer!’ Then God will send you life again.