This is my second book of Dostoevsky. The first was the The Brothers Karamazov. It took me quite a few months to finish that novel. Although quite disturbing, the novel was filled with passions in varying degrees shown by most of the characters – the father as well as the sons.
Crime and Punishment, not unlike the previous novel, delves into the human psychology and morality among other things. The central theme is the commitment of a crime and the subsequent guilt one feels. Raskolnikoff, a young ex-student, who falls in an abject state of poverty and self-pity murders an old money-lending woman and her sister (albeit unintentionally) and steals her money out of desperation. Days after the murder, the young man is taken ill – the guilt has taken a toll on him affecting his mind and constitution.
Dostoevsky’s crime is somewhat an unusual one. Raskolnikoff is committing a crime to save himself as well as others from people who he thinks do not deserve (from one reason or another) to live. Raskolnikoff is a smart student who is very keen with his surroundings. From an article he wrote before the crime and from his conversations with different personalities after, he seems to imply that ‘justifiable’ murder is not immoral nor is it a crime. He compares it to a nation going to war with another nation to defend one’s turf and people.
However, as all crimes, there are consequences. In the case of Raskolnikoff, his punishment is also his redemption. Although, I don’t agree with the idea of a ‘justifiable murder’ yet nor can I denounce war when no other alternative is open to defend one’s nation. But I suppose killing one person as oppose to going to war are two different things.
Crime and Punishment is a battle between conscience and freedom. The novel is dark and compelling but a Dostoevsky ending without redemption and salvation at the end is no ending ( at least with the 2 novels I read). Dostoevsky believes that a man who falls into evil can still rise and find redemption from his actions as experienced by Dostoevsky himself.
Reading Dostoevsky is, I find, an interesting and quite an enjoyable experience. Others may cringe just at the thought of Dostoevsky (and believe me I used to cringe, too). They might be put off of all the ‘intellectual’ things Dostoevsky is rambling about but I think Dostoevsky is a genius. He may not be the greatest writer but I’m sure he was writing from his heart.