Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky is a novel that takes a lot of dedication to read because of its length, but I found it to be a satisfying experience. The story isn't like any other I have ever read. The beginning lures you into reading it, and after a while you want to know how the protagonist will change. What I found at first to be confusing were the some of the many different characters that were introduced not only had one name, but had a nickname too, which were used quite often. Constance Garnett did an excellent job in translating; I read the Wordsworth Classics edition of Crime and Punishment
The most interesting part of this novel, I found, was when Raskolnikov, the protagonist, spoke to another about the article he had written some months prior. This argument seemed to be the heart of the novel. "[A]ll men are divided into "ordinary" and "extraordinary". Ordinary men have to live in submission, have no right to transgress the law, because ... they are ordinary. But extraordinary men have a right to commit any crime and to transgress the law in any way, just because they are extraordinary." (221) By reading that, you can imagine what category Raskolnikov wanted to be a part of.
The story commences with Rodion Romanovich Raskolnikov, also called Rodya, sneaking out of the room that he rents, because he is "hopelessly in debt to his landlady..." He used to be a student and he used to give lessons to earn some money, but he found himself out of work, and the only pair of clothes he had became too worn out to get any respectable employment. His mother had not sent him money recently because he had her own expenses to take care of.
Without money, Raskolnikov has been starving himself, and as a result is suffering from delusions and strange thoughts, and becomes easily irritable.
While sitting at a restaurant one day, he overhears a conversation between two men, speaking of a pawnbroker who is so stingy that she buys their items at too low of a price. One man says that he would be doing everyone a favour by killing that old lady, the pawnbroker. But he wouldn't actually do it, he concluded. Raskolnikov, however, was very touched by the conversation of the pawnbroker who he has been going to for money. He starts imagining how he would like to kill her in his mind, and goes about trying to initiate his plans.
How will Raskolnikov's life take a sudden turn as a result of his plans? What punishment must he bear because of his crime?
"[A]n extraordinary man has the right - that is not an official right, but an inner right - to decide in his own conscience to overstep . . . certain obstacles, and only in case it is essential for the practical fulfilment of his idea (sometimes, perhaps, of benefit to the whole of humanity). ... if the discoveries of Kepler and Newton could not have been made known except by sacrificing the lives of one, a dozen, a hundred, or more men, Newton would have had the right, would indeed have been in duty bound . . . to eliminate the dozen or the hundred men for the sake of making discoveries his known to the whole of humanity. But it does not follow that Newton had a right to murder people right and left and to stead every day in the market. ... [L]egislators and leaders of men, such as Lycurgus, Solon, Mahomet, Napoleon, and so on, were all without exception criminals, from the very fact that, making new law, they transgressed the ancient one, handed down from their ancestors and held sacred by the people, and they did not stop short at bloodshed either, if that bloodshed - often of innocent persons fighting bravely in defence of ancient law - were of use of their cause. It's remarkable, in fact, that the majority, indeed, of these benefactors and leaders of humanity were guilty of terrible carnage." (222)