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I am a huge fan of Fyodor Dostoevsky's 'The Brothers Karamazov' and so I decided to read some more of the author's work. This novel 'Crime and Punishment' is regarded as a classic Russian novel which is highly respected by literary scholars as well as lovers of literature the world over. It was initially published as a serial type story in a Russian journal publication in 1866 but is still as readable now as it was then.
The story involves a young man called Rodion (or Rodya) Raskolnikov who at the beginning of the novel seems to be quite restless and at a loose end. He has temporarily abandoned his university studies to do nothing but gloat in his lodgings where he can no longer afford to pay his rent. He has reached a stage where he does not eat, where he can not accept friendship and can not bear the stress of having a mother and sister who are looking to him as their future hope of financial security. It is in this state that Raskolnikov undertakes a horrific crime with some vague imagining of gaining some kind of profit or power from the act. After the deed is done the rest of the novel focuses on the state of mind of the protagonist as he struggles to live with what he has done whilst all the while the police forces try and close in on their criminal suspect.
Dostoevsky is an amazing writer and he is brilliant at creating characters with a lot of depth to them whom you can completely understand. Raskolnikov behaves like a moody, dark, depressive fellow but his actions always seem justified by his state of mind, which Dostoevsky relates with perfection and genius. Despite the hero of the novel being a violent criminal it is impossible not to feel for him since his motivations for the crime and his despair and confusion afterwards is explained so well. I found myself wanting him to be redeemed throughout the novel. Before I read this novel I imagined the hero would be an unlikeable fool since he was going to be involved in crime. Raskolnikov though is a clever young man who was studying law before his life started to unravel. His thoughts are delineated throughout the novel and are emotional, interesting and intelligent. His thoughts address the most important issues of human existence and dwell on matters of the body, mind and soul.
There is a great deal of conflict in the protagonist's feelings regarding certain issues in life and when he questions human morals and his own motivations then we as a reader are also challenged and awakened. I found some parts of the novel painful to read as it was so provocative and really resonated with me concerning my own psycological battles. The author does an amazing job at getting inside the mind of a human being who can rationalise his every behaviour and explain every thought yet at the same time express equally valid but dichotomous views and reasonings for his actions.
Whilst the story is totally enagaging to the point where I did not want to put the book down I would warn new readers that it's not a particularly lighthearted story (as you might have guessed). There are a lot of intense dramatic moments followed by more intense dramatic moments, a lot of angst and wringing of hands, murder, prostitution, poverty, death, fighting, philosophy and tragedy. However, there are important spiritual lessons to be learned from reading this book and I'd say this novel embodies all that I love about literature.
I have the Wordsworth Classic Edition of the novel which includes an introduction and some useful notes and even a map (which is not entirely necessary). There is also an interesting and educational glossary of terms in the back of the book. I have noticed that my Wordsworth copy contains many simple printing errors though which really annoys me. There is though a helpful page outlining the character names as it can be difficult to remember how the Russian system of naming works - the characters often have three different names.
I would not say I enjoyed this as much as The Brothers Karamazov because I feel there is a deeper sense of tragedy in this story which I found difficult to cope with (it feels almost claustrophobic at times) but I am glad I read it and will keep the novel to read again in the future. Highly recommended.
Crime and punishment is a novel by Russian author Fyodor Dostoyevsky in 1866, the book is solely set in St. Petersburg which at the time was the Russian capital. The book tells the tale of impoverished former student Rodion Romanovich Raskolnikov, Raskolnikov decides on a plan to kill a local moneylender, take her money and re-start his studies. He plans the act out to the final detail including where to get the axe, determining a time when the old woman would be on her own and slowly gains her trust by pawning small valuable trinkets. The old woman lives on the fourth floor of an apartment block and he manages to get to her flat unobserved, he gives the woman a box wrapped up with paper and when her back is turned kills her with an axe. So far so good for Raskolnikov but then the old womans younger pretty sister walks in and he has to kill her too, he is then nearly trapped in the flat but makes his escape. The twin killings are amongst the most famous scenes in literature and the words seem to explode out of the pages such is there vibrancy and freshness. Raskolnikov's crimes are so heinous and so rapid that the reader is left in no doubt that he feels fully justified in killing the old woman but not her sister.
So ends the crime but what about the punishment?
The killings occur relatively early in the book, within the first quarter and the rest of the novel is an examnation of the nature of man. Raskolnikov moves through the book as the central character vacilitating from pride in killing the old woman to horror in the destruction of her sister, his plans slowly unravel and he has to go to more and more extreme mental gymnastics to justify his actions. The slide into dementia and dependancy on the acceptance of his actions by others is heavily examined, in no way does the author justify the actions of his main character indeed he seems to want to make the actions increasingly repugnant.
There are other elements to the novel, there is the exploration of the justified good, the thought that actions are worthy despite the means, something Jack Bauer might identify with. Raskolnikov explores the Napoleon complex of great men doing actions which lead to great change but require unpleasant or noxious actions. The segregation of the populace into those worthy and those expendable is also explored.
The novel is interesting on several layers, it was written in 1866 but shows some of the tensions which will ultimatly lead to the Russian revolution. The repression of the underclass, the inequalities in society and the rigid class structure are all present in this novel.
The book is a strange one in many ways because it is very word dense and relies heavily on conversations between characters, many of the chapters are simply conversations between Raskolnikov and the people he meets. He slowly descends into chaos, along the way he meets drunkards, whores, widows and policemen, all of which he talks with and tries to justifies his actions. There is a precision in his words and language, there is a sense of the author giving precise details about everything to keep the reader slightly on edge. He tells us the time and date often through the novel, what people are wearing, eating, drinking, all to give us the feeling that Raskolnikov has a compulsive personality. The people we meet and the voices in the novels all have equal footing, none are given priority or emphasis giving a feeling of meeting 19th century Russia on every level. Here is a book which gives equal weight to the words of a prostitute or a drunk, to the police high commissioner.
I first tried to read this novel when I was a teenager, and managed just past the killings and got no further but always wanted to find out what happened to the murderer. The sheer weight of words and the change in tone from the excitement and tension of the killings to the exploration of the human psyche under extreme duress was a hard one to follow. So this time twenty years or so later I thought I'd stick with the book whatever so bought it and made sure I had nothing else I wanted to read to distract me and managed to get through the 50 pages or so after the deaths and stuck with the book until the end. I was glad I did because it examines the many faceted characters of a multiple murderer, a trainee psychopath, a definite sociopath and the problems within Russian society. In the end, the book ends and we are told what happens to all the major characters, as you can guess nothing good.
A brilliant novel and I've not been scared off from further books by Dostoevsky or even that other great 19th century Russian epic by Tolstoy War and Peace if I've got a spare six months.
Crime and Punishment is one of the two original crime books (the other being The Brothers Karamazov, also by Dostoyevsky), which have been copied by crime writers ever since. The style of Crime and Punishment is knowing from the start 'who done it'. The reader then follows the story of how the murderer ended up being discovered and ultimately punished. Of course the difference between Crime and Punishment and all those Ruth Rendal books is that Crime and Punishment is a masterpiece. This book completely captivated me from the start and I struggle to identify with people who gave up after a few pages because it was too heavy. I would suggest to anyone starting this book that they give it a chance especially when they get stuck on those tongue twisting Russian names (you soon get them). Dostoyevsky's manner and his cutting observations take you deep into the disturbed mind of the main character and anti-hero, Raskolnikov, and keeps you hooked to the end of the book. So what?s the plot? In brief, it is about an impoverished student, Raskolnikov, who murders not one but two people in an attempt to get some cash. We follow his increasingly twisted mind, occasionally interrupted with sanity, as he tries to justify the murders to himself. The police then get onto his trail and we watch as Raskolnikov tries his utmost to avoid his inevitable punishment. A couple of people I know said they got lost in the plot and put this down primarily to infrequent reading. So my word of advice is once you have started don't lapse or you may never finish. Please, please, please read this book. You will be better off for doing so.
If you ever chance upon a “sensational” 21st-century three-names-only account of the history of Russian literature, you’ll be more than likely to see Fyodor M. Dostoyevsky (1821-1881) on the list. He is one of the few great Russian writers who had earned worldwide acclaim and recognition. “Crime and Punishment” (1866) is a powerful novel. If you didn’t read anything by Dostoyevsky earlier, then, perhaps, it is the best book to start with. Even if you seem to have good reasons to dislike Dostoyevsky (like many adorers of Leo Tolstoy and Anton Chekhov do), and, especially, if you are prejudiced against him on the strength of an opinion of some popular writer or literary critic, - mind you! you ought to read the book. R.L. Stevenson wrote in one of his superb essays that to become a reader worth his salt you ought to read books that you are prejudiced against. And in our case, it is a matter of a novel by an unsurpassed genius. When you set about learning a foreign language, your teacher will, at some stage, offer an adapted version of a detective novel written in that language. It is the same with an introduction to a foreign culture. The novel can serve this purpose pretty well. The singularity of Dostoyevsky’s achievement consists in the fact that he has managed to write a philosophical novel centered on a murder story but nevertheless imbued with an unshaken belief in the dignity of man and in his powers of moral rebirth. In my view, in terms of structure only, the novel outranks “Anna Karenina” by L. Tolstoy (1877) (and “The Wapshot Scandal” by John Cheever (1964), for that matter). (And I like these two novels very much!) It would be as easy for anyone to single out (and re-read), say, the Levin story in “Anna Karenina” as to locate bones of a common end number in a domino layout. With Dostoevsky’s novel, it is not so. You’ll have to work flat out
for the structure of his novel is very sophisticated, nearly all of his characters interact, and the author puts them, one by one, in the focus of your attention. Even if you don’t succeed in taking the throbbing knot of a novel into threads (the Marmeladov story, the Doonya story, the Svidrigailov story, the Katerina Ivanovna story, the Sonya story, the pictures of Saint Petersburg, the police story, to say nothing of the Raskolnikov story), you will undoubtedly see that all of these are threads of gold. I read for the first time when I just turned 15 (the novel was “a must” on the Russian literature school curriculum in 1974 – quite rightly so) and re-read it two months ago. I read in the original, and as before, it was one and the same edition: two volumes from an “academic” 17-volume edition I had borrowed from my parents’ domestic library (the second volume contained very useful and very detailed explanatory notes, an account on how and in what circumstances Dostoyevsky wrote his masterpiece, its drafts, revisions, national and international repercussions, etc). What struck me most this time around was that I could not help feeling that the book was written this year (with some indispensable reservations, of course). So, if you care for what’s going on in Russia now, “Crime and Punishment” is the right choice, too.
Crime and Punishment is one of those novels that we all feel we should read but relatively few actually do. It is considered a classic of western literature but maybe despite or because of this, reading it can also seem a daunting prospect.
Raskalnikov a young Russian, a former student at Petersburg University has fallen on bad times, he is desperate and penniless. He is worried about the fate of his widowed mother who lives in the provinces and of his sister a governess in the house of a wealthy landowner who is trying to seduce her. He decided to solve his problems by robbing and killing an old woman moneylender, Aliona Ivanovna. He justifies his actions by arguing that the woman is stupid, greedy and ill, she will be dead soon anyway. He knows she regularly charges exorbitant interest for the money she lends and has ruined the life of her younger sister Lisaveta, who she keeps as an unpaid servant. To his own mind his actions are logical and he argues that once he as taken the money he will be able to secure his mother's future and save his sister from the grip of the lecherous employer. He himself will pay off his debts and then finish his studies and eventually go abroad and devote his life to being a 'honest citizen' doing 'his duty towards humanity' and thus atoning for his crime.
Raskalnikov carries out the brutal crime but events don't quite go as planned and he begins to regret aspects of what he did. Although he is not a suspect in the crime his increasing feelings of guilt lead him to confess his crime to Sonia, a young prostitute he has befriended. She being devoutly religious despite her occupation tries to help him through his torment. Eventually Raskalnikov crosses paths with the man investigating the murder Porfiry Petrovich. A psychological battle of wills begins between the wily Porfiry and the increasingly disturbed Raskalnikov, and through this the author manages to examine the nature of
crime, guilt and redemption.
As a young man Dostoyevski had been in the Russian army but soon left to devote himself to writing. In 1848 he wrote a story 'The Honest Thief' which touched upon some of the themes he was later to develop in Crime and Punishment. After some initial success with writing he was arrested for sedition, for reading out an open letter to a gathering of young Radicals. This crime lead to a death sentence by firing squad, which was only repealed at the last moment. He was sent to prison in Siberia where he spent four years. In his time there the nature of the psychological aspects of crime, guilt and punishment became paramount in his mind and on his release in 1859 he felt that he had now enough experience to write a story dealing with these themes.
Dostoyevski eventually wrote Crime and Punishment in 1865. At this time he was in debt like his central character Raskalnikov. A journal he had recently started 'The Epoch', failed after being closed down by the authorities for apparently supporting the cause of Polish rebels. Dostoyevki's older brother and business manager had also recently died adding to his financial problems. In desperation he signed a contract with a notorious and disreputable publisher handing over all the rights to his published work and agreeing to deliver a new manuscript within a year. Failing to do this would result in the publisher acquiring all rights to any so far unpublished works as well. Dotoyevski was also a compulsive gambler and he soon lost all the money he had received from his publisher thus further adding to his problems. He found himself living in a small hotel room with mounting debts, again not unlike Raskalnikov. It was at this time that he began writing Crime and Punishment. At first he saw the novel as a confession told in the fist person by Raskalnikov. This style he found to be limiting in the telling of the story so he produced a second draft
which incorporated elements of another story he had been writing 'The Drunkards' which introduces the characters of Sonia and her father Marmeladov. The story was at first serialized in the 'Russian Messenger' before being published as the shorter novel we know today.
Crime and punishment can be viewed from many disparate viewpoints. On one level it is a psychological crime drama. The reader is a witness to a brutal crime, we know who the perpetrator is and as the story unfolds we are drawn deeper into his mind. We glimpse the complexity of feelings that his actions have aroused. To give the narrative more interest it includes the character of Porfiry Petrovich, an early form of the classic detective of later fiction. Porfiry possesses great intellect but doesn't reveal this at once. At first he comes across as an amiable character of little consequence that Raskalnikov doesn't consider his equal but as the psychological contest begins we see that Porfiry Petrovich has always had the upper hand.
The character of Porfiry Petrovich might remind modern readers of another fictional detective Columbo! In fact the TV detective was originally based on the 'Crime and Punishment' character.
As a dramatic crime story this novel is an excellent read but Dostoyevski was also writing a much deeper novel addressing the nature of crime and redemption. In doing this he made specific points about the society in which he lived.
In the original draft of 'The Honest Thief' the narrator states 'A criminal as a rule never possesses much willpower, nor can he be said to be always in his right mind. That is why the shameful thought in his mind is quickly converted into a wicked deed. But no sooner has the crime been committed than repentance begins to gnaw at his heart like a serpent, and the man will die not because of the crime he committed, but because he has destroyed what is best in
him and what still entitles him to be called a human being.'
This can be said to encapsulate the essential theme of the story. Initially Raskalnikov subscribes to the 'nihilist' values very much in vogue amongst radicals in Russia at the time. Nihilism denied all traditional values and moral truths; thus violence could be justified as an end to a means. Raskalnikov also believes a that society is made up of 'ordinary' people that are bound by laws and morals and 'extraordinary' people who by their very nature are above the law. He sees himself as one of the extraordinary elite that has the right even to resort to murder in order to further their own existence. In Raskalnikov's mind the death of the old woman is both logical and necessary.
These themes are not new to Dostoyevski, in fact they can be found in earlier Russian works by Pushkin and were later famously developed by Nietzche with his ideas of 'master morality', the 'Superman' and his rejection of Christian morality. Elements of these beliefs can even be said to have influenced 20th century existentialist philosophy. Dostoyevski uses the Raskalnikov character to express these beliefs but only to finally reject them and expose what he saw as their intrinsic flaws.
Dostoyevski rejected western Christianity but was a firm believer in the Russian Orthodox Church as the one true church. He hated socialists and grew to distrust the early radical notions that he briefly in his youth flirted with. Essentially he believed in the healing power of faith and the unbreakable spirit of humanity, both embodied in the character of Sonia.
Dostoyesvki brilliantly manages with 'Crime and Punishment' to constructs and tense drama that is a compelling read while also managing to address various issues that were of concern at the time and still are relevant today. It is an outstanding work of literature and fully deserves its status as a classic.
“Crime and Punishment” needs little introduction. Written by arguably the best and most influential Russian novelist, it is deeply affecting and a book that will make you step back and question what really is a “crime” and what a necessary punishment is. From the outset, the reader is plummeted into a grey world, in which a man called Raskolnikov, stricken with poverty and questionable sanity strives to clear his name after he murders a pawn broker. You will be immersed in Dostoyevsky’s sinister evocation of St. Petersburg and will be taken on a very philosophical journey that questions what determines right and wrong. It is a story of a murder committed on principle, of a killer who wishes, by his actions, to set himself outside and above society, “I wanted to make myself a Napoleon, “ states Raskolnikov, “and that is why I killed her”. It is a story of great physical and psychological tension, pervaded by Dostoyevsky’s powerful writing and moments of wild humour. Dostoyevsky began working on this novel in 1865 when he, himself, was up to his neck in debt. It is clear that Dostoyevsky’s own harrowing experiences mark the novel. He had himself undergone interrogation and trial, and was condemned to death, a sentence commuted at the last moment to penal servitude. In prison he was particularly impressed by one hardened murderer who seemed to have attained a spiritual equilibrium beyond good and evil: yet witnessing the misery of other convicts also engendered in Dostoyevsky a belief in the Christian idea of salvation to suffering. I read this book, though some 550 pages in approximately five days because it was a book in which I was immediately enveloped and one that had such a profound effect on me that I was stunned for days. It is not a hard book to read and you will find yourself just wanting to know the outcome. It is a marvel, definitely his finest work a
nd one that should be cherished every step of the way. It is, of course, one of the most famous novels in world literature. Its influence is widespread, and it has again and again been adapted for the stage and filmed. I am sure you will find this book as thought provoking and emotional as I did so it should definitely go on your reading list this summer.
Crime and punishment is an excellent book. It is about a young student Raskelnikov who has to give up his studies because of insufficient money. He is a lonely dreamer and decides to assassinate an old usurer to save the soul of his sister bound to marry an awful man to help her family to get out of the misery. This woman who takes advantage on weaker people to satisfy her own lust of wealth disgusts him. Raskelnikov tries to get some courage by persuading himself that human atrocity is real and is in a concrete jungle. But most of the time he tries to kill the thought of remorse by reading and using some of Napoleon war actions. One of those that stay in his memory is when Napoleon wiped out unarmed people. Unfortunately despite a perfect plan, nothing goes clockwork. Not only he assassinates the old woman but he also manages to kill her sister. The frustrating part for him is when he discovers her possession is worth nothing. An investigation is undergoing lead by Porphyre, a criminal judge. Raskelnikov is considered as an important key of the crime and as a witness… Porphyre already has suspicion on Raskelnikov who tends to be more nervous. An extreme feeling of guilt pushes him to go and see the judge not to tell his act but to relieve his conscience. But Porphyre is now convinced of his guilt and looks for total confession. In the meantime Raskelnikov meets a young prostitute Sonia. He is totally upset by this poor girl who has to sell her body for the sake of her relatives. He gets extremely close to her and confesses her his horrible crime. She makes him understand he has to go the Police and tell the whole thing. He is convicted to the deportation via Siberia. It is very hard for Raskelnikov to accept his faith and the punishment. He knows he cut himself off from society because of his total alienation. Sonia succeeds in delivering him from his obsession and his
guilt and he finally has a feeling of human solidarity, something he was looking for all his life. However he knows the world doesn’t change, the number of lice remains constant. And the bitter part is he became a louse himself remains constant. It is a book painting the eternal theme of the Russian literature: the opposition between human conception and religious conception. To be honest, it is quite a heavy book but you don’t need to be fully literate to go through it. I am not very keen on literature but I really enjoyed this reading. Dostoievski has a unique and sublime style. It is a simple but eloquent writing. He will put you at your ease as soon as you read the first pages. It is a call of hate towards European or occidental countries as well. Dostoievski puts forward a winning capitalism to a middle class misery. He also points out the issue of alcoholism. However he doesn’t make an analyse of it but simply expose alcoholism and presents the effects on education, children, families, social lives and opens it to the world. It is a tragic novel full of emotional passages, unforeseen meetings, monologs, battle between the judge and the assassin. The most important message Dostoievski tries to send us is probably the opposition between the principal of justice in man and the principal of injustice seen in the world. I mean it is a conflict between the body and the spirit and a question of moral and guilt. Because the feeling of guilt Raskelnikov experiences in the book is powerful and annihilating and will haunt his existence. This feeling tears him and it will make him have hallucinations. Raskelnikov becomes a ghost amongst living people and tends to loose his ideals. I don’t know why but I seemed to have a pretty strong apprehension to read Russian writers. I think I was (and still am) impressed by all the big Russian names. I heard too many times people talking about them and using word
s I could even relate to my native language…but thanks to one of my friends my perception totally changed. This friend was undertaking a Degree in this field and often she was talking to me about her books. I just couldn’t understand a word of what she was saying as her vocabulary is far beyond mine. But she has an extraordinary way of telling things and making you part of the story, which I think is a brilliant sensation and it made me understand most of the books she read. And I started the reading of few books I will try to comment in other opinions if you don’t mind my style. Anyway nothing more to say but I just deeply think you will be amazed by this book. It sounded terrifying to me at first but I am pleased I have read it.
Dostoyevsky was born into Tsarist Russia in 1821. He spent much of his early life as an active socialist agitator, and was a member of the radical 'Petraveshky circle'. This led to his arrest, in 1848, and subsequent spell in the Omsk labour camp for four years. This was a formative period in his life because he changed his ideological perspective to become a strong supporter of the Russian Orthodox Church; traditionally a bastion of the Tsarist regime. Crime and Punishment, his most popular work, was written in 1866, and I thought it would be useful to point out the context in which it was written. Because at this time, Russian writers tended to focus on issues that were either for or against the regime. Dostoyevsky is firmly in the former camp. The story centers around the character of a young student called Raskolnikov living in St Petersburg. He lives in abject poverty and is always struggling to survive, and can only do this through the support of his mother and sister who are back in the provinces somewhere. In fact, they have to give everything they have to Raskolnikov, and this is a source of great pressure on him. When he hears that his sister is going to marry a man for money and not love, he feels desperate and angry. He decides to kill an old woman lender to free himself from poverty, and to help his family. He ruminates for ages over the pros and cons of the murder, and decides that because she is a hated parasite, he would be doing no wrong in killing the old woman. Yet he is still obsessed with self doubt and is morally tormented. He later kills her for the money, and we find the justification for this later when we hear of an article he had written, which stresses that many of the great men in history, have broken the law in order to achieve greatness. Such men are above the law, because they seek to break it, only in order to further humanity. Raskolnikov sees himself to be one such man - he is extremely clever, and feels t
hat the death of one hated woman in order to achieve greatness is a reasonable sacrifice. However, after he has murdered the old woman, he undergoes what could only be described as severe psychological paralysis. He collapses in his room and sort of fades away. He has a tortured soul, and the arrival of his mum and sister only increases his sense of guilt. Raskolnikov then tries to free himself from his mental anguish, (he hasn't even used the money) and goes back to the scene of the murder. He sort of allows himself to get caught up in the police investigation, and is finally discovered (half willingly) and sent to a prison camp. Here he lives for a number of years, in which his soul is rejuvenated and he feels whole again. Ive missed out plenty of the plot, as I have tried to get to the meaning of the story - crime does not pay. People, no matter how great, have to obey the law or inevitably face the consequences - mental torture and/or imprisonment. It is a strong argument in favour of the rule of law, and therefore, an implicit recognition of the legitimacy of the Tsarist regime. Thus, it could be said to undermine one of the central socialist principles that were being argued at the time - that is fine to break the law in order to make a peoples republic. I actually really enjoyed this novel, even though it must appear quite dry from my description! You should read it with the political message in mind, as it is certainly no intended for light entertainment. Its quite long, 434 pages, but I found it very readable, and it is very easy to get into Raskolnikov's mind set. You end up feeling and understanding his mental anguish about the crime dilemma. However, I also got a bit angry with him! I was actually a bit disappointed in the ending (being a socialist) because I thought Raskolnikov should have stood by his principles and made a better life for himself and his family, with the old woman's money - she was a ho
rrible cow after all! But this is why the novel is so good; you end up engaging in the debate, and I at least appreciated what Dosteyevsky was trying to say. For example, with our laws, it would be entirely applicable today. A classic read, and one I heartily recommend! ISBN 0-14-062180-6 Available in Penguin, in most book stores for a quid.
This book investigating mankinds weaknesses is well written, in the same gripping and informative style as much eastern European literature. It provides a unique and deep insight into the life of a young murderer, Raskolnikoff, looking at issues such as sanity, greed, guilt and redemption. Set in 19th century St. Petersburg, this novel captures the soul of the city through its use of flowing passages and interesting writing style. Raskolnikoff a hard up student struggling to finish his degree becomes morbidly self-obsessed and appears to loose the will to live. Upon receiving a letter from his mother in which he learns his sister is to marry, not out of love but to further his own position he sets out to commit murder. His planning of the murder is meticulous and the act mechanical, he looses the ability to rationalise his actions and is given many chances to turn back. Rashkolnikoff from this point on is consumed with guilt and becomes suspicious of everything – realising that to commit a crime is easy but to escape from its consequences is impossible. For a while afterwards he appears near madness as is shown by his abrupt thought and incoherency, where he often hints to others about his crime. At times, Rashkolnikoff will try to atone for his crimes by giving to others money that he has acquired. On many occasions he also tries to take his own life but concludes that ones desire to live out weighs the advantages of dying. Dostoyevsky writes in a way that makes you sympathise with Raskolnikoff and shows his emotional and mental suffering through soliloquies which although sometimes abrupt, wander in a well-constructed manner.
A powerful story of guilt and repentance. Obsessed by a theory of greatness, impoverished student Raskolnikov decides to test his ideas. Believing that, to be great, he must rise above petty concerns and morality, he plots a crime to test his strength to stand outside the masses. Dostoyevsky describes St Petersburg in the nineteenth century, a city where poverty and desperation abound. Those Raskolnikov encounters are sacrificing their pride and hopes in the struggle to survive, but his ambition is to prove superiority to their weakness and vulnerability. But he is unable to resist the desperate need of one desperate family, and their daughter Sonia sees the guilt he carries from his experimental crime. The redemption offered by the book is about acceptance. Raskolvikov's real punishment is his guilt and deception; his eventual confession and sentence to a prison camp are a kind of penance. Dostoyevsky shows humane tormented characters who must seek their own answers to the world.
From this book's opening pages, Dostoyevsky attaches us unreservedly to his hero, creating an intimacy that is claustrophobic, full of tension, and as haunting and relentless as a love affair. The novel is concerned with the psychology of a crime and the processes of guilt.