Crime and Punishment

This classic is just as intense and loaded as the title implies. It is a lengthy read that is neither easy or light. I found myself absorbed some times, but not always. It was difficult to get into at the beginning since Raskolikov is fairly unsympathetic in many ways. He does abhor the idea that a girl sacrificing herself and put herself up for their family such as his sister Dunya and Sonya. It is part of his overwhelming pride, but he really is less irritating to read about when he defends people. He’s quite the complex and peculiar character, both irritating, but you can sometimes understand people’s love and devotion for him. An apt description:

But what can I tell you? I have known Rodion for a year and a half; he is moody, melancholy, proud, and haughty; recently (and perhaps for much longer than I know) he has been morbidly depressed and over-anxious aboud his health. He is kind and generous. He doesn’t like to display his feelings, and would rather seem heartless than talk about them. Sometimes, however, he is not hypochondriacal at all, but simply inhumanly cold and unfeeling. Really, it is as if he had two separate personalities, each dominating him alternately.

Sometimes he is cold and hateful to those who care for him, but at other times through the novel, he is selfless. I do not think it is inconsistent characterization. He is just a very extreme character who is also a bit mad as well. It is human, and he is a very flawed individual if nothing else.

There is more than one disturbing and overwhelming scenes of violence in this novel. Not just the aggressive violence of blood, coercion and murder, but also the potent effects of poverty, ignorance, and conceit. It was harsh at times, but a testament to Dostoyevsky’s writing abilities. Russian Literature is emotional if nothing else. It was a very psychological read of course, and had so many themes about people, society, criminal guilt, paranoia (is it paranoid when it’s justified fear?), evil, and redemption.

It’s possible that the old woman was a mistake, but she’s not what it’s all about, in any case! The old woman was just an illness . . . I wanted to get my stepping over-done as quickly as possible . . . It wasn’t a person but a principle that I killed! I killed the principle, but I didn’t step over it, I remained on this side of it . . . All I was able to do was to kill it. And the way it’s turning out, it seems I didn’t even manage to do that . . . The principle?

Amidst all these fierce psychological and societal themes, there is actually a small, odd but notable love story. The female characters in the book are the strongest and the most tragic. I liked both Sonya and Dunya as characters. Both contrasted the male characters wonderfully; they were both very feminine (in looks, beauty and elegance), but also very strong, resolute, dignified, and proud in a way that the protagonist and the men the novel could not be. Just with Tolstoy in Anna Karenina, there are acute messages about society’s treatment of women presented here by Dostoyevsky.

Overall, I thought it was an intriguing albeit overwhelming read at times. I am eager to read more from the author, but I am adverse to the idea of rereading this book ever again nor would I recommend it to just anyone (if at all). It is so singular in its intensity, themes, and length (well over 600 pages) that I would have to know the personal’s habits very well to say if they could appreciate it (enjoying may be too much to hope for). Most of the novel goes at a slow pace and things seem to drag quite a bit. It sounds like I was disliked the book, but not really, I think it has its own merits however difficult it is to get through. I did get a sense of accomplishment from reading the book, but it really is not worth it if one is not willing or has any idea what the book entails.

The edition I read is from Penguin Classics translated by David McDuff.

3 thoughts on “Crime and Punishment

  • Kristen (bookclubclassics)

    Great review — I loved your line “it was an intriguing albeit overwhelming read at times” — so true! I loved the ideas, and enjoyed thinking about them, but it was a bit of a chore to get through at times. Last week I finished The Bros Karamazov and had a similar experience, but ultimately liked Crime better…

  • Myrthe

    I read Crime and Punishment about ten years ago and I had a LOT of problems finishing it. In fact, Dostoyevsky is the one Russian writer I have a hard time reading. This is based on reading about six of his works, so you can’t accuse me of not trying! 😉

    Maybe I should reread C&P and the Brothers K now that I am ten years older and wiser (haha!). If you want to read more Dostoyevsky, try some of his shorter works. They are still rich in ideas, but somehow easier to read (and I don’t mean just because they are shorter). I liked D’s shorter works a lot better, especially Notes from the Underground.

  • Ramya

    hey.. i just finished reading crime and punishment for the classics challenge as well.. I totally loved the book.. but it was really nice to read your opinion of the book as well… i want to read other dostoevsky books as well now..but as much as i enjoyed C&P, i don’t think i’ll have the patience to go over it once again now that i know what the book is all about.. you can read my review here..


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