Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment Book Review

An idea possesses Raskolnikov. He believes there are supermen, Newton’s and Napoleon’s, who transcend ordinary men and women, who can act without moral constraint to judge evil and levy punishment, and to determine whether he belongs to this superior race, he kills the greedy and usurious pawn-broker. But unlike Napoleon in Austerlitz he doesn't execute his plan coldly and tactically. Rather, he nauseatingly dreams his way into a double murder, the pawnbroker’s sister having returned because he tarried. And, the sight of blood terrifies him to the extend his hands could not stop trembling. He discovers that he isn't upright or courageous, that he could not transcend the law, and that he is just a louse, a member of the inferior class. 

Crime and Punishment showcases Raskolnikov’s contradictory actions and emotions and reveals a split psyche fighting for wholeness. He despises others but dreams about saving the world. After reading his mother’s letter about his sister’s misfortune, he sheds tears but also sneers. He gives the little he has to help the Marmeladovs but then regrets helping them. He kills the pawnbroker to prove an idea but takes her money and valuables. He avoids the head detective Porfiry’s questions in the first interview but in the second falls upon the man. The psychological tensions grasp the reader and move the story forward.

Raskolnikov’s punishment begins not in Siberia after the verdict, but immediately after killing the pawnbroker, his irritability, nervousness, suspicion, delusion, and mania tormenting an already fragile psyche, not allowing him to eat, drink, sleep, work or socialize, and pressing him to hide in his coffin-like apartment trying to curl up under his blanket, feverish and delusional and escape from reality. His conscience torments and implicates him even before the law does so. Only through Sonya’s help and guidance could he find strength to confess his crime.

This novel’s conclusion reveals that Dostoyevsky rejected any social system that tries to replace the jagged path of life with linear reason and save people from their predicament. Although his moral heavy-handedness in Raskolnikov’s repentance and redemption seemed to scar the artistry of the mental battle, Crime and Punishment is psychological novel at its best.

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