“Crime and Punishment”

Poverty leads to criminal activities through indignity and stigmatization of the poor in the society. A hungry man is an angry man. Most of the crimes committed in the world are a result of poverty. For criminals, crime is just a means justifying an end. Most of the people living in poverty are humiliated as they try to survive. Most people that cannot provide the basic needs feel undignified and embarrassed. These people often have low self-esteem because they feel intimidated. This feeling can make them develop anger with fellow humans and even God. If an individual can get his next meal easier through theft than begging in the streets, he would rather do it than face the humiliation of begging.    

In the novel, Raskolnikov lives below poverty level because of unemployment. He is buried deep in debt, and his land lady is threatening to evict him. To make matters worse, he has not eaten for some days. We see him sell his father’s silver watch to a pawnbroker. The pawnbroker takes advantage of his desperation and buys the item at an extremely low price and below its market value. Rodion gets frustrated, and this leads him to a tavern where he reduces his stress with a drink. He formulates a way to kill the pawnbroker and get her money to improve his life.

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Other characters in the book opt to join prostitution in order to provide basic needs to their families. Specifically, the characters that live in extreme poverty are depicted with emphasis on how rich men take advantage of their anguish. For example, Avdotya Romanovna (Dounia), who worked for a rich old, married man, is fired because of her refusal to have an affair with him. The same person attempts to rape her later in the book.


Generally, poverty can be termed as a lack of certain possessions or wealth. In this context, the basic needs poor people cannot afford are clean and fresh water, health, nutrition, education, healthcare, clothing, education, and shelter. In estimate, about 1.7 billion people live below the poverty line.

Different organizations have given different definitions of poverty. United Nations (UN) has defined poverty as the denial of opportunity and choices. This can be explained further as a violation of human dignity. This means   lack of adequate capacity to participate in society development issues. In addition to this, poverty refers to having inadequate capacity to acquire food, clothes, education, and health. It means insecurity, hopelessness and powerlessness.   The definition above describes the existence of an individual living in poverty. If all these things are not accessible, a person can easily devise methods of survival. Scavenging and petty crime often seem like easier options of obtaining a meal for the next day.

The World Bank defines poverty as pronounced deprivation in well-being. Poverty has many dimensions, and it comprises low income, inability to obtain  goods and services that are necessary for survival, and inability to access quality health services. Poverty is also associated with lack of voice, inadequate physical security, as well as insufficient opportunity and capacity to improve living standards.

The definition discussed above provides enough ground to claim that poverty is also about people’s inability of living in a dignified way. Poverty is not just living without money, food, water, shelter, peace, democracy, education, etc. It is a state that affects the poor people’s dignity. When a man has to beg in the streets, lining up to receive basic commodities like tissue paper, he is certainly made to experience some sort of indignity. His deprivation immensely infuriates him, and this may push a person to committing crimes. Some poor people believe that committing crimes will give them basic commodities they need, though in an undignified way. It is also worth mentioning that human dignity requires self-sufficiency, respect and equal treatment from the society.


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