Anamaria But, 10F
Crime and Punishment is a 19th-century novel written by the Russian author Fyodor Dostoevsky. It was first published in the literary journal The Russian Messenger in twelve monthly instalments during 1866. It was later published in a single volume. It is the second of Dostoevsky's full-length novels following his return from ten years of exile in Siberia.
Fyodor Dostoyevsky was a Russian novelist and short-story writer whose psychological penetration into the darkest recesses of the human heart, together with his unsurpassed moments of illumination, had an immense influence on 20th-century fiction.
The novel follows the moral dilemmas and the mental anguish of an impoverished student from Sankt Petersburg, Rodion Romanovici Raskolnikov, after committing a crime.
“Pain and suffering are always inevitable for a large intelligence and a deep heart. The really great men must, I think, have great sadness on earth.”
I chose to write about this book because it is one of my favourites and the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about it is its nature, that of an emotional rollercoaster. It was dark, deep and beautifully written, because Dostoevsky is a master when it comes to getting into psychological, philosophical and moral details. Despite the pompous description, the novel is not impossible to read, because it has a pretty simple lexicon. As mentioned previously, I truly enjoyed “Crime and Punishment”, and I find it hard to describe in words the impact it had on me and the emotions I experienced while reading it, because there were times when I thought I had been transported to 1860s Russia, experiencing life through everything that was happening to Raskolnikov. Despite the dark atmosphere, I recommend the novel to everyone, because each human being will find themselves more or less in the plot of the book or in the minds of the characters. Oddly, Dostoevsky seems to know all of us (which may be scary in a way).
Raskolnikov lives in abject poverty, sad, selfish and lonely. He thinks he is superior, that he is sort of a Napoleon, an incomprehensible genius, and that great things are waiting for him. He wants to believe that he is already so detached from a society that he is above of and can’t be saved. Therefore, while living in great misery, ashamed of the fact that the sacrifices that his mother and sister make him continue his studies, he decides that it is justified to kill an old woman in order to take her money, believing that she is not a useful person to society in any way. Driven by these thoughts, he is committing the crime (killing the woman's sister as well) while being in something that resembles a psychotic episode.
"Did I murder the old woman? I murdered myself, not her! I crushed myself once for all, forever."
"Your worst sin is that you have destroyed yourself for nothing."
During the course of the book, we are witnessing his process of redemption. Not only does he realize what he did, but he realizes the selfishness he had displayed all this time and that his concepts of life were too self-centred. After all, he is aware that he loves, that he is extremely fond of the few people that were next to him, and that life is worth living. We see that an unscrupulous murderer can have a soul, and we find humanity in the other miserable characters. By murdering Alyona and Lizaveta, Raskolnikov allowed his fear to overcome his humanity, if only for a moment. The bravest thing that Raskolnikov did in the entire book was turn himself in. Turning himself in wasn’t an act of desperation — it was an act of bravery.
It is impossible not to find yourself in the character of Raskolnikov. Even if the novel was written 150 years ago, it tells the story of a man alienated from society. Dostoevsky manages to provide the reader with a very well-rounded portrayal of the complex psychological and mental state of the criminal’s mind, by taking us through his actions, his interactions with other people and his inner monologues and rants during his walks in the streets of St Petersburg.
Everybody can experience the pain and the suffering of Raskolnikov, because after all he is ordinary, like the rest of us. In the beginning, he believes that he is stronger than his emotions, but in the end, he realizes that he cannot control his feelings. In part I of the novel, Dostoevsky describes Raskolnikov as "having been in an overstrained irritable condition, verging on hypochondria", which in medical terms today would be translated as depression and anxiety. Thus, we, modern-day individuals, can relate to a character from such an old book? The answer, obviously, is yes. The book is a classic because it tells stories that are generally available, regardless of the century.
“I used to analyze myself down to the last thread, used to compare myself with others, recalled all the smallest glances, smiles and words of those to whom I’d tried to be frank, interpreted everything in a bad light, laughed viciously at my attempts ‘to be like the rest’ –and suddenly, in the midst of my laughing, I’d give way to sadness, fall into ludicrous despondency and once again start the whole process all over again – in short, I went round and round like a squirrel on a wheel.”
To sum up, this book gave me chills down my spine. If you want to read a story about a criminal who has an existential crisis, I think this novel is the perfect choice.