Thursday 1 August 2013

Crime & Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky

Well, the 'Crime' occurred in the seventh chapter of this large book, leaving the rest of the book - another thirty-two chapters and an epilogue to deal with the 'Punishment.'

Raskolnikov, the main character, believed that some men are extraordinary; they are men of genius and as such are above the law. He believed himself to be in this class of men and when his circumstances became impoverished and his anxiety increased over his mother and sister's circumstances, he planned to kill the miserly old pawnbroker he had been dealing with, considering her to 'be worthless' and that 'the world was better off without her.'                                                                                                                                  
All through the book he tries to justify his crime and he doesn't repent of his actions even when he decides to give himself up, admits that he is the murderer and gets sent off to a Siberian prison.

I kept thinking of what I'd read in The Philosophy of Education by Charlotte Mason,

'From Cain to the latest great offender every criminal act has been justified by reasoned arguments which come of their own accord to the criminal...
reason will put a good face on any matter we propose; and, that we can prove ourselves to be in the right is no justification for there is absolutely no theory we may receive, no action we may contemplate, which our reason will not affirm.'

Raskolnikov had people in his life who loved him, even when his crime was exposed, but his inner struggles kept pushing against their love and isolating him. Ultimately, though, it was love that broke his pride and released him from his inner prison.

'Raskolnikov sat gazing, his thoughts passed into day-dreams, into contemplation; he thought of nothing, but a vague restlessness excited and troubled him. Suddenly he found Sonia beside him; she had come up noiselessly and sat down at his side. It was still quite early; the morning chill was still keen. She wore her poor old burnous and the green shawl; her face still showed signs of illness, it was thinner and paler. She gave him a joyful smile of welcome, but held out her hand with her usual timidity. She was always timid of holding out her hand to him and sometimes did not offer it at all, as though afraid he would repel it. He always took her hand as though with repugnance, always seemed vexed to meet her and was sometimes obstinately silent throughout her visit. Sometimes she trembled before him and went away deeply grieved. But now their hands did not part...

The Blackstone audio version is quite good. It's narrated by Anthony Heald and he does make the character real and psychopathical. I needed to read the book also as keeping the Russian names in my head doesn't work for me unless I can actually see them written.
This is one of those books that deserves at least a second reading.

Crime & Punishment is recommended as supplementary reading in Literature in Ambleside Online Year 11. 'Not for the faint of heart.' It's a raw read which I'd personally leave for a more mature reader. It would be an interesting book for a student studying psychology or criminal law.


Cindy said...

I read that a couple of years ago. It was not my favorite Russian novel but like most of them it sticks with you.

Carol said...

I think the ending was worth ploughing through to.

Joseph said...

I agree about the second reading. I'll probably have to revisit this one day.