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Hailed as one of the greatest novels ever written in all times, Fyodor Dostoyevsky's Crime and Punishment tells the tale of an ex-law student's meticulous, calculated murder of a pawnbroker woman and his showing no remorse for his atrocious crime. In this particularly vivid translation by David McDuff, the words "morbid" and "rabid fury" appear at least 5 times, respectively throughout the book. Such stylistic choices invariably set the mood. The dark and morbid prose ominously sets the foreboding tone of the novel as though the act of murder is indeed a preordained announcement of fate noted by Raskolnikov from the beginning.

The murder occurred at the very beginning of the book and proceeded which was Raskolnikov's meticulous planning and "rehearsal" of the perfect crime. He would paid a visit to the pawnbroker, made careful notice of the setup of her apartment, listened for the pitch of the notched key she used to unlock the chest, and sewed a piece of cloth inside his waistcoat to hold the axe. Whether the crime was destitute-driven, the origin of his action could be diffuse and was somehow associated with certain morbid sensations. Indeed Raskolnikov subsequently conferred on his theory about the psychological state of a criminal's mind throughout the entire process of committing the crime. In his audacious "ordinary vs. extraordinary" statement, the latter could commit the most atrocious crime to whom law did not apply. To Raskolnikov, the morbid theory justified the act of committing atrocious acts upon morally corrupt individuals (the loutish, loathsome, filthy old moneylender woman per se) for the benefit of society.

The rest (five-sixths) of the book dealt with Raskolnikov's psychological aftermath of his crime-the intermittent moments of remorse, the excruciating physical suffering (seized with fear that he might give away his murder in his delirium), the howling of his own conscience, and the to-confess-or-not-to-confess struggle. Indeed Raskolnikov's own qualms of conscience had given him away-that investigator Porfiry infallibly identified Raskolnikov as the murderer by employing psychological tactics to play with Raskolnikov's mind. Porfiry contemplated that no less cruel was the punishment from one's own conscience. It was the formidable suffering that led Porfiry to purposely send an artisan to the street and randomly accused Raskolnikov of murder, to make him panic. That's why he wouldn't worry about arresting him imminently.


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An interesting notion that kept repeating throughout the novel was redemption. Raskolnikov might have found his redemption through Sonya, a downtrodden prostitute who prayed and read the bible. But Sonya herself was asking for mercy and redemption for her own sin to which Raskolnikov deemed as moral suicide. Sonya's father Marmeladov in his deathbed asked for forgiveness and died in Sonya's arms. Svidrigailov, the landowner in whose home Raskolnikov's sister Dunya was ill-treated, offered to cover the cost of Katerina's (Sonya's stepmother) funeral and endowed each of the children with 1500 rubles to be paid on their maturity. In a sense, Svidrigailov hoped to find redemption of his sin (the killing of his wife and servant) through a good deed.

Not until in Siberia did Raskolnikov truly begin his repentance. One would be mistaken to think Raskolnikov had felt remorse for his crime when he confessed to Sonya. At that point all he did was nothing but recounting the whole murdering event, from the rehearsal, the timing, and the actual murder from which he was emotionally detached. He simply wanted to make the dare and thus never availed himself of the pawnbroker's treasures. It was the Devil who killed her, he claimed. It was the kind of theory; the sort of argument that said a single villainous act was allowable if the central aim was good. Whether he truly found redemption from his depravity and perversity would be left to readers' judgment.

A gloomy, melancholy, and taut air hovered above the entire novel and the language of which could become overwhelming and awkward at times. The plot itself was not so much suspenseful as the most jolting event took place in the beginning. What really gripped my mind were the conflicting emotions of fear, guilt, remorse, and courage. Whenever he was haunted, Raskolnikov would search his memory for some hints he might inadvertently gave away evidence of his crime. You might question how Dostoyevsky could penetrate the mind of a murderer so thoroughly and verbalize those freaky delirious thoughts. Every single character in the novel exerted some sense of agitation which, again, permeated throughout the book. The persistent destitute chased after Sonya's stepmother who already suffered from tuberculosis and hacked up blood. The children starved for days and were forced to perform street dance and begged for money. The inebriated men consumed huge amount of alcohol and paid numerous visits to brothels and indulged in debauchery. The most repugnant of all was Pyotr (Luzhin) who took advantage of women's glooming poverty and wielded the constant reproach over them that he had done a favor, making them forever indebted to him. He would manipulate in hope that Dunya and her mother would fall out with Raskolnikov out of his slanderous remarks. His would slyly slip a 100-rouble note into Sonya's pocket, falsely accused her stealing the money among a ghastly audience, and hopefully made her feel indebted to him.

Crime and Punishment is not an easy book to read. You will be rewarded with a sense of fulfillment that is so promising when you manage to finish.