Crime and Punishment – Fyodor Dostoyevsky

 

Foreword: I decided to tackle this book next because I wanted to explore a classic which can be either hated or loved. I guess what I found interesting when reading this is that I could honestly see both sides to that argument, even though I really loved it.

Rating: 7.5/10

Review:

I was seriously considering pushing the rating up higher but when I really thought about this book, I decided against it. In my opinion, I have a few reasons for it both being that high and being that low (which for a really popular and famous classic is actually quite low).

Crime and Punishment is about a young student in Russia called Raskolnikov. After observing his poverty and his intelligence, Raskolnikov commits a murder in order to increase his wealth. However, the aftermath of the crime is the main feature, as Raskolnikov slowly succumbs to the guilt and the hounding of the police as they try to find the guilty party. Sonya, a prostitute within St Petersburg, offers him a chance of redemption from his deeds as Raskolnikov desperately tries to hide and forget his deed.

Interestingly enough, I don’t agree with my own review. I included this statement, “offers him a chance of redemption,” because it is a main feature of nearly every summary of the book. However, I don’t believe Sonya offered him that at all. I don’t think he was redeemed for his deeds by her, nor that his own choice offered that end as well. *SPOILER* I honestly do not think him changed, but merely accepting of what he did and willing to serve the punishment. Redemption, at least in my eyes, comes from a heart-filled wish to do good, which he doesn’t seem to display.

Crime and Punishment is a magnificent book. It represents the best of Russian literature and philosophy, while still managing to create an exciting focus on Roskolnikov. I found it inspiring as while following the misdeeds of this young student, it was also offering an insight into the misery and negativity that such a course of action can take, which served as a good moral picture of what is clearly right and wrong.

Many of the supporting characters enriched the book as well, such as Razumikhin, whose positive nature and willingness to believe in the good of Roskolnikov makes an interesting contrast to the main characters negativity. Sonya is also an interesting character as she is both weak and strong in her personal fortitude. You can see by her conversations and the way that she is described that her lifestyle pains her, however, her pride and continual pressing of what’s right to Roskolnikov seems to strengthen her as a main contributor to the storyline. The quote below shows the characters interactions with each and the nail-biting suspense that can sometimes build up:

“It was dark in the corridor, they were standing near the lamp. For a minute they were looking at one another in silence. Razumikhin remembered that minute all his life. Raskolnikov’s burning and intent eyes grew more penetrating every moment, piercing into his soul, into his consciousness. Suddenly Razumikhin started. Something strange, as it were passed between them… Some idea, some hint as it were, slipped, something awful, hideous, and suddenly understood on both sides… Razumikhin turned pale.”

Personally, what I found the best about this book was they way that it… changed… me. I mean that in the most literal sense. Before having read Crime and Punishment, I had actually never read a crime book before. I had yet to venture onto Sir Arthur Conan Doyle or Agatha Christie. So reading this was really exciting because for the first time, it really tested my moral beliefs about what is good and bad. I see Roskolnikov’s deeds as being negative, however, he justifies himself well and in a way I had never really thought of. Did not Napoleon and Hannibal and all those great adventurers kill to raise their empires? To see someone have such a moral dilemma with killing one person, while men like those above were responsible for the death of thousands, tested my theories on romantic war stories and the right to take away life. I can still remember sitting on the bus, sweating and shaking as I read about a near capture. Not many books can provoke a reaction like that!

However, I also understand that most people really, really, really do not like this book. As it is classic Russian literature, which tends to include philosophies in its storyline, there are some parts which are really difficult to get through. If you aren’t that interested in the characters or plots, just getting through the many conversations and disjointed thoughts of Roskolnikov can be a real trial. At one point, I even felt myself getting a bit tired of the heavy paragraphs and confusing Russian names which change constantly from nickname to full length. Even the summary states that it, “…has been acclaimed as the most accessible version of Dostoyevsky’s great novel…,” which just shows how notoriously difficult of a book it is for most readers.

For that reason, I haven’t given it the best score for a classic as, while I really enjoyed, I can see that it is difficult to get through and heavy in its philosophical symbolism.

Adaptations:

The only one I could really think of was the one featured in the picture below. There is also a kind of AU to the book, which is Crime and Punishment in Suburbia. God awful, don’t even bother going near that trash!

 

Hope you enjoyed the review and let me know what you think. Was I accurate in what I said or did you think of it differently? Thanks!

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7 thoughts on “Crime and Punishment – Fyodor Dostoyevsky

    1. It is a really good book and you should definitely add it to your list :d I find that russian literature is really great for seeing the best and worst of people. I find their philosophy to be really interesting.

  1. Hello there,
    I found your post a most interesting read, especially as I’ve been thinking much about Dostoyevsky myself recently. I was a huge fan of Dostoyevsky when I was a teenager: I read avidly th efour major novels (Crime and Punishment, The Idiot, The Devils, The Brothers Karamazov), plus all the shorter fiction I could get my hands on, and The House of the Dead, which is a fictionalised account of the years Dostoyevsky spent in a Siberian labour camp, etc. I found his works quite electrifying.

    Afterwards, doubts & reservations started to creep in – doubts & reservations that i still entertain. But a few months ago, I read The Brothers Karamazov for the third time, and, for all my doubts and reservations, I was blown away yet again. (I wrote a series of posts on my blog on this strange but extraordinary novel.)

    For me, at the centre of Crime and Punishment is Raskolnikov, and his motives. Why exactly does he commit these hideous murders? We first see him as he is planning it, and instantly, we see a mind very sharply split against itself. On the one hand, he is contemplating murdering an old woman; and yet, at the same time, he is afraid of meeting his landlady. (“Raskolnik”, I’m told, means “split” in Russian.) About the murder, too, he is split; he desires it, and yet the very thought terrifies him. He remembers in a dream of a time when he had seen a drunken peasant brutally beat his horse to death. While dreaming, he sympathises with the horse, but instantly, on waking, he asks himself if he could beat someone to death like that. But why does he want to kill her? the ostensible reason is the money, which, he argues to himself, he could use to good ends. And yet, after the murder, he hides the money away, and barely thinks about it again.

    I think the true motivation is something that even Raskolnikov wouldn’t admit to himself: he is killing for an idea. If God and religion are to be rejected, then mankind has to formulate its own laws, its own morality. And this is what Raskolnikov tries to do: in strictly rational terms, he justifies to himself why murdering this old pawnbroker – this leech, this parasite who lives off the misery of others – can only be a good thing. If this insignificant creature had stood in the way of a Napoleon, say, would he have hesitated? Of course not! So why should she stand in he way of a Raskolnikov? he has to murder her for the strangest of reasons – to prove his own worth to himself. He murders for an idea.

    And yet, the idea terrifies him. Dostoyevsky communicateds with almost unbearable intensity a sense of fever, a sense of terror so febrile and so intense that at times it is difficult to read on. the murder scene itself, or that passage later on where he can’t help returning to the pawnbroker’s flat, have about them all the intensity and fear of a nightmare. I don’tthink I have come across any other writer who could depict such matters with such unforgettable vividness.

    As for Conan Doyle or Ahgatha Christie, whom you mention, I think you’ll find them very different: unlike Dostoyevsky, who wrote with very serious intent, Conan Doyle and Agatha Christie were content writing light entertainment. This doesn’t make them bad writers, of course: indeed, I have long been a huge fan of the Sherlock holmes stories, which read and re-read almost obsessively (I wrote a blog post some time ago). Agatha Christie, I must confess, I find rather bland, but she does have a huge following.

    Enjoy your reading – and I hope to read more of your posts!
    All the best,
    Himadri

    1. Wow, first let me just say, thank you, for your wonderful comment 😀 Since you bring up so many interesting points, I’ll try and tackle them all!

      – Even though I adore the author, I actually haven’t ventured too far from Crime and Punishment and House of the Dead. Interestingly enough, I read House of the Dead when I was about 13, forgot about it and then picked it up a year or two ago and nearly laughed myself silly. I really enjoyed it though and the themes and plot definitely interested me. As far as the Brother’s Karamazov goes, I’ve had both my brother and my best friend try to tackle it, both are well read, one is studying law/business, the other english lit and religion, and neither could get past 100 pages. I so admire you for that as I think the heaviness of its text confused them. Granted, we are still quite young, I’ll probably try to tackle it in about 20 years!
      – I did go through nearly all of your posts (and you have such amazing, interesting and compelling thoughts) but I decided not to read the Brother’s post as I’m actually completely unaware of anything in the book. At this point, I’m wanting to surprise myself with its content at some point in my life. Same goes for War and Peace. Granted, my wrist would probably explode if I tried to pick up either of them 😀
      – Gosh, you bring up some excellent points. The fact that his name means split seems to put a lot into perspective. And I definitely agree with your thoughts about his motives. He justifies himself quite well, until he actually commits the murder and never uses the money. I think, at that point, which is surprisingly so early in the book, you get a feel for how torn and strange a man that he is.
      – This is the only thing I disagree with. Well, not disagree.. maybe it’s the wording. I think he really does admit that he kills for an idea. One of the most profound things of the book was how he would continuously talk of Napoleon and how his rise in life, the idea of greatness, could only be achieved through her death. So I think he is very aware of that idea and that secret motive which seems to punish him for most of the book. And at the end of the day, that is why he is so terrified of being caught because not only would it be an admit of defeat but he knows he could never justify his actions to the law as he has himself. In a way, it really shines a light on how selective the law is with who is a murderer and who isn’t.
      – Now that I agree with. I wasn’t lying when I said that the book both mentally and physically changed and challenged me. There is something to be said for shaking when reading a book! 😀
      – Ahaha yes, they are VERY different. I didn’t so much mean to make a comparison in writing or intensity, but merely in genre. I had never, I mean never, read a book about murder before Crime and Punishment so it was really the catalyst to my seeking out of other classics in the same genre. I love Sherlock Holmes but I think the modern movie kind of ruined it a bit for me o_0. Ever since I saw it, I can’t seem to read it anymore. But Agatha is amazing and such a well respected author. She does have her moments but yes, sometimes she is rather bland!

      Thanks for your comment 😀 Great to have a reply from someone so well read!

      1. Hello,
        First of all, may I apologise for all those typos in my previous post: it was rather late at night, I’m afraid, and I’d had a long day!

        I think you’re right in that Raskolnikov is aware – or, at least. partly aware – of his own motives. But his mind is, throughout, in such a state of turmoil, that I doubt he could think about anything with any degree of clarity. I think you are right also in that Raskolnikov isn’t actually redeemed by the end of the novel; however, as the novel ends, we are allowed to see his redemption as a possibility: it is possible that he is capable of being redeemed. But, as Dostoyevsky says in the final sentence, that’s for another novel.

        Crime and Punishment is, I agree, a difficult novel, but I think we should expect any work that deals with serious and complex themes to be difficult.

        Incidentally, the creators of Columbo acknowledged that they had modelled the character of Lieutenant Columbo on Porfiry Petrovich, the police inspector in Crime and Punishment!

      2. haha I didn’t even see any typo’s so no need to apologize! We’re all human and typo’s tend to happen 😀
        You make a great point. It’s hard trying to define his characteristics in the book when he is constantly changing and worrying and rambling in his distress. There’s an interesting bit where he gets sick and lies in bed for days which I’ve always thought seemed to be quite revealing of his thoughts. And I’m glad you picked up on my thoughts about redemption as nearly every summary has it and it kind of ticks me off. Redemption isn’t going to prison so you can be free of guilt, it’s wanting to go to prison so that you can be a better person! And when he enters, you are certainly right that there is a possibility of it occurring, while it actually hasn’t happened!
        It’s a difficult novel so many reasons and I quite enjoy the challenge. The writing, translation, themes, characters, time period and city are all different to modern books so it certainly was a hard classic to first tackle.
        Ahahah that’s so cool! It’s kind of nice to realize that people put so much intelligent thought into their characters!

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