on January 17, 2010
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)
on April 17, 2004
When a book has a visceral effect on the reader, the author must be doing something right. My father complained of actually feeling sick while reading this, and I had a similiar reaction. There is a pervasive darkness here which is little to do with Raskalnikov's crime and punishment and everything to do with the grime and general despair of St. Petersburg. You can almost breath the coal dust in the air; physical and moral squalor taint everything. Even the supposedly good characters live in a state of degredation, and poverty is everwhere. Given this, the pure moral which Dostoevsky seems to try to draw out of it seems a bit ridiculous, and is the main flaw of the book in my eyes. He tries in the last stretch to uplift, but he's shown us too much squalor to make it believable. This book is a bit of a chore to read, I found, given its length and unremitting tone, and while it's clearly the work of a master author, I don't reccomend it unconditonally.
on January 9, 2003
This was the 2nd book by Dostoevsky that I've read, well, kind of. About a year ago I started reading The Idiot, but I found that pretty boring and didn't even finish it, but it was a very different case with Crime and Punishment. This book tells the story of a man named Raskolinov who decides to kill an old pawnbroker, justifying his actions by reasoning that the death of this miserable old woman will be better for society. Anyway, it's pretty interesting seeing how the main character behaves throughout the book. Besides the main character, there is an interesting supporting cast such as his friend, his mother and sister, and a family he helps which includes a prostitute he befriends. There are subplots concerning these characters which are interesting and in other novels these subplots would maybe be distracting and bog the novel down, but I think they're pretty interesting in Crime and Punishment and if it weren't for them, the book would be a lot shorter. Also, Dostoevsky does a good job bringing life to every character. I found it pretty easy to distinguish each character and I had a vivid image of what they're like. In reading this book, it wouldn't hurt to know something about Russian ideas and such in the 19th century, but I certainly wouldn't say it's necessary. Reading the novel, despite Raskolinov's plot of murder, I found that I couldn't help liking the character and wanting things to work out for him. For the most part, he seemed like an educated and caring man. I think this novel provides an interesting look into the way in which one's conscience can practically drive a person mad, as it often does with the main character. Although the character is about Russian people in Russia, I don't think that made the story any less interesting as the theme of the novel had much more to do with human nature and little to do with the fact that the characters are Russian. I think most people will find characters and feelings in this book that they can relate to. Overall, I think this book is worth the read. I'm glad I read it and I think it's a pretty good book.
on April 1, 2004
Crime and Punishment is an interesting novel in which the psyche of a murderer is explored. The beginning of the book is a seesaw inside the murderer's, Raskolnikov, head, between whether or not to commit the crime. The supposed insanity of this leads Raskolnikov to the house where he kills the woman. After the murder, the guilt of the crime is eating at Raskolnikov and even makes him sick. Amongst all of this Raskolnikov has deal with his sister's engagement to a man he does not feel she should marry. The agony of his problems ends with his decisions at the end of the book.
This book at times is very slow, but is probably purposely written that way to show what Raskolnikov is going through. The time that is dwelt on a decision making process may bore the reader and may require a break. It strays away from the murder and gets a little into love and other everyday problems. Like most Russian novels there are numerous names that may confuse the reader. There are so many characters that some seem like they do not even need to be mentioned but everyone plays a role in this book. In order to keep track of everything that is going on pay close attention to names or the book may not make complete sense.
When it gets to the more interesting parts of the story the book shows its true colors. The reader then understands why he or she just read thirty pages of basically nothing but words. It becomes intensively descriptive, so much that it may be disturbing to some. But the descriptions and the boring parts play into the author's efforts to truly illustrate the mental process of a murderer. Raskolnikov's mind is thoroughly explored and the author seems to have the skill of putting the reader into his shoes. All in all the book gets really slow at times, but the good parts of book out weigh this and make it a pretty good book.
on December 10, 2003
You can debate the philosophical and spiritual implications of this book until the cows come home, but that leaves you with a tendency to neglect the amazing entertainment value of this exquisite novel.
It manages to have the deep and powerful sweep of Dickens or Hugo, but without ever becoming dull or slowing its pace in the slightest. The dialogue is witty, sharp, emotionally powerful and very revealing of the characters' personality, and the characters...oh, the characters!
You have the unequalled honest, warm charm and amazing wit of Razumikhin. You've got the fascinating loathsome Peter Luzhin, and that devious, pervasive, terrifying embodiment of retribution Porfiry Petrovich. You've got Luzhin's hilarious communist roommate, whose name is absurdly long and complex even by Russian standards, and the tragic alcoholic clerk Marmeladov. You've got poor, tragic, half-crazed Svidrigailov (my single favorite character in the entire book), the deep, pious, passionate prostitute Sonia...and of course, Raskolnikov himself, the quintessential human being. He's a bit comparable of Hugo's Valjean, except more flawed and far more realistic.
The book is one of the very best I've ever been exposed to. For those of you afraid of getting into so heavy and powerful a novel, let me tell you that for something this deep and rewarding, it is an amazingly easy and gripping read. Don't be afraid...just get the book. You won't be disappointed.
on August 22, 2003
Truly one of the greatest stories ever told, Fyodor Dostoyevsky's Crime and Punishment is a testament to the flaws of human nature. Crime and Punishment follows one of the most accurately human characters I have ever read of, Rodion Raskolnikov, through his trials and tribulations after committing a murder. Nearly everything about this novel is intriguing and the book has very few flaws.
Rodion Raskolnikov is a character I can absolutely relate to. His character is so natural, so real, more so than characters in the books I read. Raskolnikov commits his murder in hopes of becoming something greater, which is a flaw that he may never overcome. His reasoning in the murder is flawed and his hopes for the future are flawed as well. In his desire to become a more powerful human, such as his hero Napoleon, he damns himself to the wretched wasteland of Siberia. He never repents for killing the old woman, who is agreeably a shady character. Raskolnikov does fear he went to far in killing the kindly, yet gullible, Lizeveta, whom he never meant to attack. The emotions described in the story by all of the characters, but especially Raskolnikov, are all feelings I myself have felt. His desire for forgiveness, understanding, vindication, and power are genuine human emotions. His desire to share his pain with another, while at the same time trying to not cause anyone close to him pain, causes him to fall deeper into insanity and sickness. In the end, Raskolnikov realizes that he could never be a Napoleon, but a rather ordinary man.
The only fault of this book, in my eyes, is the long-winded thought processes of the characters. Perhaps it is only the translation, but the book goes into the deepest details in explaining the most trivial actions. It is not boring, per say, but it does make the book move much more slowly. Also, possibly again due to the translation, people seem to stare at each other for quite a while. I do not profess to have a great knowledge of nineteenth century Russia, but I find it hard to believe people would just stare at each other for four, five, and ten minutes at a time without speaking, then go on as if it never happened.
The psychology in this book is also very captivating. The paranoia experienced by Raskolnikov at the hands of Porfiry Petrovich, Razumihin knowing his friend so well, yet never realizing the truth until much later on in the book, Svidrigailov's apparent monomania over Avdotya Raskolnikov, and the unexpected psychological attack on Zametov by Raskolnikov are only a few of the great instances where thought, rather than action, tell the story.
Crime and Punishment, overall, is one of the best literary classics I have ever read. The characters are some of the easiest to relate to and the experiences they are forced to encounter force the reader to reflect on human nature and the flaws therein.
on July 12, 2003
This book is a masterpiece of fiction, and like other masterpieces, misunderstood.
Dostoyevsky leads us on a trip into the utter dangers of independent reason, of intellectualism run amok. The main character, Raskolnikov, sickly and self-absorbed, works out the end results of a seemingly innocous theory. We see that false theories are only innocuous to those who dismiss their power.
Raskolnikov, not so much a criminal as a victim,labors under the delusion that he is working for the good of mankind, when in fact it is for petty selfishness that the crime is committed. But we do not realize this until the end of the book, and neither does he - through the silent faith of the child prostitute, Sonia.
Dostoyevsky has enormouse faith in the simple people of the earth, the drunkards, the prostitutes, the paesants, the sinners, and it is their dumb faith that saves the literati from themselves.
Any person disenchanted with Christianity and its modern interpreters will thrill at the link Dostoyevsky forges between the basic Christian view of the world and the spiritual realities of life that so move us, that so permeate all we do.
These basic forces for love, life, and truth are what finally redeem Raskolnikov through the person of Sonia, the Christ figure, the person who is in fact an instrument of love and basic world loving reality: she, in the end, is the defense of Christian truth over against the unbelievers, of feeling over mind games.
An excellent book. I only gave it four stars because the author's final work, The Brother's Karamazoff, is better. In this final book all that is hinted upon in Crime and Punishment is more obviously expressed.
on May 13, 2003
c&p is first and foremost a pyschological thriller/detective novel. yes, it's also about some ideas that were floating around at the time, but novels aren't about ideas, and if that was all there was to this book we wouldn't be reading it 150 years later. the literary merits of the book are, first, dostoevsky's talent for writing dialogue, and second, his special insight into the neurotic mind, the latter probably because he himself was a deep neurotic. raskolnikov, the main character, is certainly a serious neurotic - the guy belongs in a hospital - but he's not the only crazy character. marmeladov, petty official who falls under the wheels of a carriage, and his wife, katerina ivanovna, are also nutcases. in fact, the scenes with these two characters are off-the-wall hysterical - and i don't mean as in funny, i mean pathetic. d really overdoes it here. these scenes were painful to read. and i can't figure out what his point was except that he enjoys wallowing in this kind of misery. he believes this self-abasement, this suffering is necessary for spritual rebirth. great, if you agree with him; but unbearable if you don't. his so-called great ideas - ie, his political/philosophical satire/polemics - are often tiresome, as, for example, in his satire of the new ideas of the younger generation in the figure of lebyaznikov, luzhin's companion, who's made to espouse some silly ideas about 'free love' and 'open marriages'. dostoevsky's at his best when he sticks to his story. when he goes off on these idealogical tangents, he becomes a russian bore. a pretty good read - if you can overlook the histrionics and polemics.
some more after thoughts. the symbol of moral redemption is sonya. sonya's a woman who's fallen in the face of christ, but through her ardent belief and her suffering she hopes to atone for her sins and still enter the gates of heaven. she is also raskolnikov's savior. like her, he has fallen from grace. sonya alone understands his suffering, and through her devotion she hopes to bring him around to her own understanding.
this is all well and good, but there's a problem here. are we meant to believe that the girl who sold her body to help her family is really as big a sinner as a man who kills a human being as an experiment, just to see if he could do it? is sonya's charity and self-sacrafice really going to be placed side by side with raskolnikov's egoism? d tries when he has raskolnikov say, "you stepped over too". but what the hell did she "step over"? what theoretical point was she trying to prove? none. she was simply trying to save her family. there's no parallel here. sonya is a true saint, raskolnikov a true sinner. the two can never be put side by side, morally speaking. she is infinitely above him. yet dostoevsky tries to do this when he sits the two down to read the bible. this is the weakest part of the book, the salvation rhetoric, the salvation mechanism. two sinners suffering together to atone for their sins which are nothing alike at all. whatever.
stick to the detective novel and you'll be fine. as soon as you stray into the hysteria and polemics and religious rhetoric, you'll be in trouble. like porfiry who's a very sensible man, that is, until he starts to preach to raskolnikov about the benefits of suffering. you know that at this point porfiry isn't really speaking for himself anymore, but that the author has hijacked his character and is mumbling jumbo for him. you can guess how the results look. just stick to detective story and ignore the carnival sideshows.
on April 2, 2003
This is the second book I've read by Dostoyevsky, the other being The Brothers Karamazov, and I must say that both books ultimately come to the same conclusion. Both Alyosha and Raskolnikov give the final words to their stories. True, these two characters are very different from each other with Alyosha representing pure, unfettered faith in God and Raskolnikov giving a voice to the young, intellectially rich but spiritually confused community that was ever growing in power and influence in 19th century Russia.
However, I found it very interesting that both characters come to basically the same conclusion: Life is worthy of praise and intellect can't be counted on to provide all of the answers to existence. Raskolnikov's epiphany in the very end of the story, much like Alyosha's ending monologue mirror the same conclusion that Solomon reaches in the last chapter of the book of Ecclesiastes. Love of life and God are the only things that ultimately matter.
I'm certainly not saying that Raskolnikov became a religious person in the end but he certainly did rise above his dreary, disheartening doctrine of dry intellectual self-rationalization. Is Dostoyevsky stating his agreement with Solomon in these two great works? Just a thought.
For the record, this was a wonderful book. The characters, especially those who are in conflict with Raskolnikov, are tricky, clever and intriguing. I really enjoyed this.
on December 17, 2002
Crime and Punishment was an excellent book and I recommend it for any high school level reader (11th and 12th grade) or higher. It is great literature, but is confusing at some points. If the reader tries to understand the book page by page, it is sometimes hard to put the book down. The book also helps you learn a little about the history of Russia during the 19th century after Napolean and his troops froze to death trying to defeat the Russians.
Rodion Romanovitch Raskolnikoy lives a life of poverty. He seems to be crazy to the reader because he murders two sisters. His reasoning was based on the theory he wrote. Rodion feels uncomfortable whenever the subject of murder is brought up in a conversation. Although he believes his reasoning for killing the two girls was correct, he seems to still be uncomfortable about it showing he is partially innocent.
As the story moves on, tension builds because the reader does not know what will happen next.
This book is great to read if you are a high school level reader or higher. Otherwise, I do not recommend it as it may be difficult to understand most of the time.