Note: This won’t be a regular occurrence. I’ve just had this review done for a while and I wanted to post it.
Crime and Punishment is one of Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s best-known works. It was published in 1866. He and Leo Tolstoy (War and Peace, Anna Karenina) are considered among the greatest Russian writers.
Genre: Classic, Realistic, Suspense
Crime and Punishment focuses on the mental anguish and moral dilemmas of Rodion Raskolnikov, an impoverished ex-student in St. Petersburg who formulates and executes a plan to kill an unscrupulous pawnbroker for her cash. Raskolnikov argues that with the pawnbroker’s money he can perform good deeds to counterbalance the crime, while ridding the world of a worthless vermin. He also commits this murder to test his own hypothesis that some people are naturally capable of such things, and even have the right to do them. The anguish he suffers arouses the curiosity and suspicion of the people around him as he deals with his sister’s impending marriage, his relationship with a young prostitute, and the police’s investigations.
“I knew it,” he muttered in confusion, “I thought so! That’s the worst of all! Why, a stupid thing like this, the most trivial detail might spoil the whole plan. Yes, my hat is too noticeable…It looks absurd and that makes it noticeable…With my rags I ought to wear a cap, any sort of old pancake, but not this grotesque thing. Nobody wears such a hat, it would be noticed a mile off, it would be remembered…What matters is that people would remember it, and that would give them a clue. For this business one should be as little conspicuous as possible…Trifles, trifles are what matter! Why, it’s just such trifles that always ruin everything….”
“Bah, Zametov! The police office! And why am I sent for to the police office? Where’s the notice? Bah! I am mixing it up; that was then. I looked at my sock then, too, but now…now I have been ill…But what did Zametov come for? Why did Razumihin bring him?” he muttered, helplessly sitting on the sofa again. “What does it mean? Am I still in delirium, or is it real? I believe it is real…Ah, I remember, I must escape! Make haste to escape. Yes, I must, I must escape! Yes…but where? And where are my clothes? I’ve no boots. They’ve taken them away! They’ve hidden them! I understand! Ah, here is my coat—they passed that over! And here is money on the table, thank God! And here’s the I.O.U…I’ll take the money and go and take another lodging. They won’t find me!…Yes, but the address bureau? They’ll find me, Razumihin will find me. Better escape altogether…far away…to America, and let them do their worst! And take the I.O.U…it would be of use there…What else shall I take? They think I am ill! They don’t know that I can walk, ha-ha-ha! I could see by their eyes that they know all about it! If only I could get downstairs! And what if they have set a watch there—policemen! What’s this tea? Ah, and here is beer left, half a bottle, cold!”
“You mean Siberia, Sonia? I must give myself up?” he asked gloomily.
“Suffer and expiate your sin by it, that’s what you must do.”
“No! I am not going to them, Sonia!”
“Nothing in the world is harder than speaking the truth and nothing easier than flattery.”
Recommended Age Range: 14+
What I Liked:
I wasn’t sure I was going to like this book for the first couple of chapters. Then Raskolnikov (hereafter known as Ras) killed the two women, and I started liking it (what does that say about me…?). It was intense, it was humorous at points, it was heart-clenching. The mental trauma that Ras goes through is really brought out through the text. A lot of Ras’s ideas were very similar to those in Alfred Hitchcock’s Rope, which I watched over the summer (of 2012), so there was a good degree of familiarity and recognition on my part as to Ras’s philosophy.
Also, forget about Ras and his problems. By far the most chilling part of the whole book, in my opinion, is contained in this sentence: “Svidrigaïlov pulled the trigger.” Seriously, I read that over about five times; despite how macabre it is, it is probably my favorite line in the whole book (besides Sviddy’s line about flattery and truth that I put in the Quotes above).
Also, happy ending for the win! Whoo!
Random note: I had a pair of goldfish that I named Sonia and Raz. This was before I read this book, but my roommates had (hence, why I eventually read it).
What I Didn’t Like:
This is a book that was written in the nineteenth century, so of course it’s very long and flowery and says in five sentences what could have been said in one. I thought that a lot could have been cut out that would have taken nothing away and would have improved the book as a whole. It was very dry and tedious in some parts, especially the very beginning and the middle.
It can also be pretty confusing telling everyone apart with their multiple Russian names. Sonia is also called Sofia Semyonova, Ras’s sister Dounia is also referred to as Avdotya Romanova, and etc. and etc. I had the hardest time telling Zametov and Zosimov apart because their names were so similar.
Crime and Punishment is on almost every “must-read classic” list and, in my opinion, should be. It is long and tedious in parts, and the characters may take a little time to sort out, but the overall effect of the novel is excellent and the glimpse of the various philosophies and beliefs talked about and described in the book make for a great learning experience and can easily jumpstart any conversation.
Coming Up Next: I have one other classic review which I’ll post eventually. If/when I read other classics, you’ll see them here…eventually. Hate List by Jennifer Brown on Tuesday!