Book Review: Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky | SPOILER REVIEW

Picture this: you’ve been instantaneously transported into 19th century Russia, in the slums of St. Petersburg.

2 comments

Picture this: you’ve been instantaneously transported into 19th century Russia, in the slums of St. Petersburg. It’s gloomy, probably really cold, and everyone has at least three different names people refer to them by that all sound extremely similar. There you meet a guy named Raskolnikov (or Rodion, or Rodion Romanovitch, or just Rodya) who is absolutely insane and will probably begin raving to you about how he just axe murdered somebody, because he is desperate for someone to notice he did it but also at once does not want to get caught.

About the Book

Title: Crime and Punishment

Author: Fyodor Dostoevsky

Published: 1866

Series: (standalone)

Genre: classics, drama, psychological thriller

My Rating: 4 stars

The Premise

Synopsis (from Goodreads) (truncated):

Raskolnikov, a destitute and desperate former student, wanders through the slums of St Petersburg and commits a random murder without remorse or regret. He imagines himself to be a great man, a Napoleon: acting for a higher purpose beyond conventional moral law. But as he embarks on a dangerous game of cat and mouse with a suspicious police investigator, Raskolnikov is pursued by the growing voice of his conscience and finds the noose of his own guilt tightening around his neck. Only Sonya, a downtrodden sex worker, can offer the chance of redemption.

My Thoughts

DO WE LIVE IN A JUST WORLD?

People like to imagine that we live in a world with some innate sense of justice. Our literature features the good guys winning in the end and the bad guys getting their comeuppence. But is our world just, when young girls are forced into prostitution to feed their families while their fathers drink away the money, where children starve and people die under the seemingly indifferent eye of God. Meanwhile bad people live happy lives with no thought to those less fortunate.

Some things are good and bad in different contexts, depending on who commits an act and in what context. Murdering people is fine in the context of war, society has decided. Sometimes it seems like some people get special treatment in the context of morals. What happens when someone starts to think the rules don’t apply to him?

Raskolnikov murders the old woman because she is stingy and unpleasant; he decides she shouldn’t be allowed to keep on living and making the world worse by her existence (harsh, much?) Already clearly unstable, worked up into a frenzy and struck by the perfect window of opportunity, he goes and kills her. Initially he is confident that he is the exception to the general rule and that he will never get caught. But soon he is Raskolnikov is tormented by the repercussions of his actions. It seems like a case of almost instant regret, and in contrast to the cool success he expected, he basically totally loses it after escaping the crime scene. He sees evidence against him everywhere, imagines the police closing in around every corner, and completely forgets what he planned to do with the money anyway.

At once he wants to confess and wants to escape. He is horrified by every hint of suspicion on him, but doesn’t try very hard to dispel these suspicions. Yet he gets away with it all. Do we live in a just world?

THE SIGNIFICANCE OF DREAMS

One thing I also noticed while reading was the frequency with which Dostoevsky uses Raskolnikov’s dreams slash hallucinations to reveal things, whether that be foreshadowing, themes, or the nature of Raskolnikov’s inner turmoil.

Before com,itting the murder, for example, Raskolnikov has a dream in which he is a little kid again, and witnesses some drunk people beating a cart horse to death. In the dream, boy Raskolnikov tries to stop the men but the horse dies anyway, and he wakes up all freaked out. Overall this dream foreshadows the violence that Raskolnikov will soon commit.

Later, after the murder, Raskolnikov has a hallucination/dream about the police beating his landlady, betraying his intense paranoia.

Then there’s finally the dream talked about at the end of the novel, during the epilogue.

He dreamt that the whole world was condemned to a terrible new strange plague that had come to Europe from the depths of Asia… never had men considered themselves so intellectual and so completely in possession of the truth as these suffers, never had they considered their decisions, their scientific conclusions, their moral convictions so infallible.

SONIA (THE FOIL)


Finally the entirely situation with Sonia was interesting to me because she was such a foil to Raskolnikov. She keeps faith in life and God despite the circumstances of her life. This causes Raskolnikov to hate her but also become drawn to her.

Then there’s also Svidrigalov, who gives up and kills himself after Dounia said she will never love him (tries to rape girl, she doesn’t like him, Svidrigalov: *surprised pickachu face*) reflecting the temptation Raskolnikov has after he realizes that his grand plan has resolutely failed. But he wants to kill himself not because he feels guilty about the murder, but because he is angry that he got caught and could not carry out his full plan. He realizes he is not actually this superhuman figure in possession of a superior morality and resolve. But does he feel guilty deep down? Or is it merely the reactions of others like his mother, Dounia and Sonia that project this feeling onto him?

Overall, Crime and Punishment gave me a lot to think about, and I would definitely recommend it.

If you liked this post, consider subscribing to Frappes & Fiction. I post about the books I read (even if they’re not fiction), the books I think YOU should read, and anything else on my mind.

Find me elsewhere:

2 comments on “Book Review: Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky | SPOILER REVIEW”

  1. One of the most well worded reviews of the book I have read. You should also review The Brothers Karamazov as well. Also, I think Letters from the underground as well as many short stories of Dostoyevsky are overlooked masterpieces and you should probably review those as well.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.