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Old July 4th, 2011, 08:38 AM   #11

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Apologies in advance but.......I much preferred The Idiot
The Idiot is one of my favorite comedies, right after Don Quixote.

It was Crime and Punishment that led me too the world of Russian Literature .
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Old July 5th, 2011, 07:25 PM   #12

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The book of Dostoyevsky was a haunting novel about a man whose dreams of becoming an audacious Napoelon based on his radical and justifiable theory to escape poverty from the 19th century Russia. A fascinating story for the mind, a genre for justification of crime and one of the best books ever published.
Hi Blacksmith, this is an excellent summation reflecting pretty much my own feelings on this unforgettable tale - fascinating, gripping, & horrific, it is all these things and more. Why he views himself as a Napoleonic type figure is clearly one of the central pivots of the story and it is around this axis which revolve a moral dilemna whose satisfactory resolution alone can only lead to that redemption that we find in the novel's final pages.

To recap on this idea's first appearance; it was first spelt out in his published article which Porfiry has uncovered as evidence during the investigation. In it, Raskolnikov claims there are instances where certain crimes are admissable, if not in actual law, then by a sort of evolutionary law. According to his theory 'higher types' are permitted to commit the most revolting crimes (in distinction to the ordinary mass of mankind) if the net benefit of that action were to increase the greater good. He views Napoleon as exemplary in this regard (though he never expands fully on this justification) and it is this idea that forms the nucleus, or gives impetus rather, to his eventual plans to murder the old pawnbroker. This act will be justifiable according to this 'higher morality' as it's outcome will deprive the world of a useless and cruel old woman who seemingly exploits all around her while providing the murderer (Raskolnikov) with her 3,000 roubles in savings from which he can launch his career; his crushing poverty otherwise forcing him out of university and into a humdrum occupation where his great talents (in his own estimation of course) will be wasted.

So, this is the idea which he has fixated on and increasingly consumes all his attention to the detriment of all else - he abandons his paid teaching positions, drops out of his classes and sunders all contact with the few friends that he has in university, effectively shutting himself out of all society.

Zosimov, the doctor friend of Razumikhin takes a curious interest in many of Raskolnikov's habits during and after his delirium and develops suspicions that his strange behaviour may be related somehow to the recent murders. It is an interesting theme to look at - was Raskalnikov insane when he carried out the deed? Zosimov himself used the word 'monomania' to describe his condition to Dounya and his mother though he could make no speculation on what precisely those ideas were which had exerted such a grip on his thoughts. What is the relationship betwen his own crushing pervasive poverty and this imputed insanity (if indeed we can call it that)? Is Dostoevsky's critique more levelled at the social conditions found in St. Peterburg or at Raskolnikov's weaknesss of mind and character that would allow him to rationalise and justify a crime of this nature?

It seems to me all of the characters are presented with their own unique set of dilemnas and some (such as Sonya or Katerina) appear to be living lives infinitely more oppressed than Raskolnikov yet their responses to these circumstances never reach the extremes that his do. Most of the characters are oppressed by some fateful cosh or other hammering at them incessantly - yet they differ from Raskolnikov in the choices they take to deal with them - or do they? Is Sveritigailov an aristocratic version of Raskolnikov - did he in fact poison his wife in order to secure his own wished for future with Dounya? Why for instance doesn't the pitiful drunkard Malemedov choose a radical course of action (such as murder and thievery) to extricate himself and his family from their appalling poverty? In truth there are so many themes intertwined here - of the variability of human nature, of disposition, of religious faith, of moral codes, questions concerning the very ordering of society (Luzhin's roommate; the Fourierist who wishes to establish a commune in St. Petersburg) - it is difficult to know where to begin.
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Old July 6th, 2011, 01:56 AM   #13

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I have to agree with you, Gile na Gile that the story is very hard to follow but it's complexity beg me to read more about it.

I've read a book, titled "Dostoevsky: The Making of a Novelist" by Ernest J. Simmons which provides us a good insight about the anti-hero, Raskolnikov. He said that Raskolnikov was a tremendous difficult problem because of lack of spirituality in his character. It was because of his total submission to the intellectualism of the west.

In the book, Dostoevsky view realism as being spiritual and fantastic. A quote from the book, Dostoevsky wrote a letter to Strakhov, a philosopher.

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I have my own special view on reality in art: what the majority call almost fantastic and exceptional sometimes signifies for me is the very essence of reality.
Simmons also argues that Dostoevsky's characters at the moment that they rebel against the society, it's constraints and reflection, they are exceptionally making something fantastic in their own and rebellion is real.

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He thought of terrible destructive idea which is the fruit of his rebellion against life and society
Another thing was that Dostoevsky's characters in other novels are intellectual. Raskolnikov was also one, he came from a university but suddenly he stopped because of a aloof theory of crime. This intellectual became introspective that they gave themselves more time in deep reasoning in thoughts alluring them for something bold.

For Raskolnikov, there are only two kinds of people; the ordinary which is described in the novel that has a desire to be controlled. The other people are called, extraordinary. They are described as humans that "transgress the law and seek destruction of the present for the sake of something better."

What the book says was that Raskolnikov wants a right to kill, so he can become an extraordinary. But in some parts, he gives alms to the poor and charity (He helps Catherine while accompanying ill-fated Marmeladov). The book argues that this is always the main theme of Dostoevsky's novels, the split personality or the double.

The ending part was really very much religious than what I've expected. Raskolnikov went to Siberia for redemption. Since there is no evidence why Dostoevsky brought Raskolnikov to live and resurrect him from the dead like the story of Lazarus in the bible (which Sonia read to Raskolnikov upon his request) it is still uncertain. Sonia according to Simmons, was an agent of God and Raskolnikov on their conversation kissed her foot to which he says:

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"I did not bow down to you, I bowed down to all the suffering of humanity,"
which means an acceptance of the saving grace of salvation by suffering, but in his admittance to Siberia, he still refuses to atone his crime and wants to justify it. The symbolism for the resurrection of Lazarus came vividly when he remembers the day when Sonia read the story to him when they were still in St. Petersburg, it means reconciliation.

Svidrigailov, the opposite of Sonia, as I've found was added as a character halfway when Crime and Punishment is still on the publication on Russky Vestnik. So his presence in the book is very significant. He was a path of blood and crime to power, on how he hold Maria Petrovna to marriage and her wealth. Sonia meanwhile, was a path to submission and suffering to salvation according to Simmons.

This alternative end if he follows Svidrigailov can end up in suicide. So to solve his echoing conscience he came to prison, to bring down his 'egoistic' pride and "to solve ambivalence of his nature and achieve the unified purpose that will bring peace to his tortured spirit". His ego and intellectualism became a threat to his own spiritual identity, an important thing for a 19th century Russia. This was seen in his dream in the Epilogue part of the novel, it was a dream that a germ was engulfing Europe and that was the development of reasoning and intellectualism that makes people do something fantastic (but sometimes cruel and bloody).

That sums up what I've read from the book. Alert me if I've violated Simmons' book and respect of copyright but it was a very good write up IMO and I will not furthermore explain Dostoevsky's nihilistic thoughts.

For a link to Ernest J. Simons book, here it is: Dostoevsky The Making Of A Novelist : Ernest J. Simmons : Free Download & Streaming : Internet Archive

Last edited by blacksmit049; July 6th, 2011 at 02:02 AM.
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Old July 7th, 2011, 06:34 AM   #14

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Raskolnikov had a dream while in sleep. His childhood dream about a horse (mare) that was tortured and eventually killed during a people's rage against it. The dream was actually cost a chapter in a book so I think that the dream is very significant to the actual killing. Elizabeth was the mare in the dream (if I remember it correctly, somewhere I've read it.) she was innocent and also a victim from a kill. She was a victim of selfishness of Raskolnikov to escape his poor life. This apparition to Raskolnikov was very haunting at first because the dream came before the plan, but it was enlightening to the reader after he do the murder.

The death of Elizabeth became a significant factor for Raskolnikov's consciousness and state, because he always feels nervous and fear envelops his nature. So what if Elizabeth didn't showed up in Alena's room when the murder is happening, would Raskolnikov not suffer the volition of fear or would Raskolnikov have no fever at all and escape St. Petersburg with the money attain?
Hi Blacksmith , before taking a look at Simmon's book and interpretations I'd like to just go back to what you were saying on Raskolnikov's dream of the mare.

I don't recall any reference in the book to the mare having a particular name and would be interested to know who suggested that it represented 'Elizabeth' or Lizaveta, the half-sister of the old pawnbroker. This interpretation to me would be inconsistent with what had hitherto transpired in the story up to this point and wouldn't in fact make any sense in terms of where Raskolnikov's thoughts at that time lay. Whereas he may have some sympathies with Lizaveta on account of the second hand stories he has heard about her being beaten continually by her sister it would not make any psychological sense if she became the sole focus of his concerns to the extent that he has a particularly vivid dream about her - that she has become the object of all his worries, so to speak. In addition to which he doesn't hesitate to raise the axe down on her head when she has inadvertently stumbled upon the scene of the crime and his motivations for killing the pawnbroker are certainly not to put an end to Lizaveta's suffering at her hands. It is far more likely that the long-suffering mare was intended as a composite image drawn mainly to represent his sister Dounya but including also in it's elements other women of whom he only had up till this point a brief acquaintance.

There are three main scenes which precede the dream; the first is the meeting with Marmeladov in the tavern where he hears how the drunkard's only daughter has been forced to take the yellow card (ie go into prostitution) in order to support the family which he is incapable of doing, the second is the receipt of the long awaited letter from his mother where he learns his sister, who having been dismissed as governess under suspicion of having an affair with her employer Svidrigailov, is subsequently exonerated, and then seemingly rescued from penury by a marriage proposal from the relatively wealthy Luzhin which Raskolnikov immediately realises is an act of self-sacrifice on her part to secure his own (ie her brother's) financial future - and this is what galls him particularly that day; and thirdly there is the strange episode in the park where he defends a witless and dishevelled young girl from the advances of an upper class sexual predator whom he significantly refers to as a "Svidrigailov" - a word which in Russian also has connotations of being 'base' and 'loathsome'.

So here you have in essence the main concerns of Raskolnikov just prior to the fateful dream which appears to lay bare the inner workings of his conscience. As the child in the dream he is helpless to prevent the savage and cruel murder of the innocent mare at the hands of the perverse Milotka. He tugs at his father's coat pleading with him to do something and all the time crying and being tormented by the idea that everyone in the crowd is just standing by and allowing it all to happen, some actuallly laughing and goading the owner on to whip her ever more severely. "It's my property, I can do with her as I wish", Milotka keeps repeating as he encourages ever more people to hop aboard the already full cart which the mare is desperately struggling to heave. Finally, with the horse literally on it's last legs incapable of pulling any more weight he steps out of the carriage and bludgeons it to death with a crowbar - to which the young Raskolnikov bolts forth and begins to pummel Milotka helplessly with his fists until he is dragged away by his father tears streaming from his eyes, his mind devastated by the wanton cruelty witnessed.

Here then has to be the real meaning of the dream - his sister has wilfully allowed herself to become the property of Luzhin in order that funds may be released to procure a future for her brother. He is haunted by this ability of hers, which her pride would never allow her to do on her account, to sacrifice her own happiness for his advancement alone and also to placate her mother's wishes that Raskolnikov 'the first born' should be no longer presented with any obstacles to realise his talents. She is in effect selling herself into Luzhin's bondage so that her own family be released from their crushing poverty - she it is who is pulling the heavy load, who is willingly condemning herself to a life of suffering in a loveless marriage for his sake and he can do nothing about it but stand by helplessly like the child in his dream. This same theme was reinforced earlier in the day by his meeting with Marmeladov; it is Sonya this time who is the mare expected to bear the overlarge burden which will eventually and inevitably crush her - this provokes the strongest of responses in Raskolnikov who having left the Ivanovna's apartment calls Marmeledov a Villain thriceover; he, who having had the opportunity once being offered his new job now lapses back into his alcoholism under the assurance that Sonya can still prostitute herself for the family's welfare. This disgusts him beyond measure;

"Three cheers for Sonya! They've hit a rich seam there. And they're making the most of it, my, how they're making the most of it. And now they've grown used to it. They've shed a few tears, and are used to it. Man can get used to anything, the villain!"

Now in the park not long after he has left Marmeladov to the fury of Katherina he encounters the young girl being preyed upon by this "Svridigailov" who evidently reminds him of the vulnerability of his sister's position as governess. He intervenes in this scene in the park calling over a policeman, outlining all it's particulars and even emptying his pockets so a taxi may be called to take her home - it's almost though by assisting her in her distress he is unconsciously assuaging his guilt over his inability to render similar assistance to his own sister. Now we have all the elements that contribute to the powerful current of emotions which are released in the dream - the only way in which he can reverse the fate of the helpless mare, the only way in which he can prevent it being bludgeoned to death (ie to save his sister and mother from the fate which they are preparing for themselves) is for he himself to rapidly attain financial self-sufficiency and the only manner in which he can do that is to carry out the dastardly deed he has previously only half dreamt of.

It is almost as if the entire system of rationalisations which he has committed to paper in the form of his article justifying certain crimes if they are carried out by "Napoleon's" has been erected solely to enable him to carry himself over this threshold - and this is what occasions that "split" which Simmons has been talking of wherein Raskolnikov's instinctive correct moral universe (which is at base Orthodox Christian like Dostoevsky's himself) has been compromised for the sake of an artificial ideology (rationalistic, utilitarian but ultimately nihilistic) which allows him to commit this terrible deed. The new "Western" ideas have enabled him to construct (to him at least) a convincing rationale for a murder which promises to release him from the source of all his torment - his family's willingness to prostitute their own lives for his sake. These "new ideas" have also provided the child in the dream (which at bottom is Raskolnokov's restless and yearning unconscious desire) with a previously unavailable weapon - one with the ability to vanguish the dread mare-killer, his tormentor Milotka.

I also think this is the reason why he has such a strong 'spiritual bond' with Sonya and why he felt it inevitable that it was to her, and her alone that he was to make his confession.
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Old July 9th, 2011, 08:42 AM   #15

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That's a good interpretation Gile.

I will soon contribute another book review by Edward Hallett Carr, Dostoevsky 1821-1881. I'm just finishing it.
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Old July 10th, 2011, 09:26 AM   #16

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In Carr's book, Dostoevsky 1821-1881 the main theme of Crime and Punishment was motivation of the murderer and its reactions on the murderer.

Ego has presented itself on Raskolnikov to commit murder.

Quote:
The essence of Raskolnikov's crime lies in the determination to discover this new "good", a good based on self-assertion instead of self-submission
This statement of Carr was the idea of the romantic movement, a response against the scientific revolution. Maybe Dostoevsky believed more on self-submission (to God) than rationale thinking. His ego of becoming a Napoleon to kill is somewhat disturbing to all rational thinkers.

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Does Raskolnikov fail merely because he is weak? or because of some spiritual essence in mankind which makes it impossible for him to find ultimate satisfaction in the position of the amoral superman.
The statement somehow made me re-think of my philosophy. The question of failure is not an excuse, but the social constraints bounds us to achieve something more like a superman. I am still thinking how is this possible, so I may live this question to another thread or else.

So what are his motives of crime, it is not a benefit for humanity (killing an old pawnbroker doesn't help that) or altruism (from what he heard from an inn) but only his ego. Sometimes Raskolnikov become altruistic, while sometimes apathetic; his character is definitely a double.

Svidrigailov was an afterthought (as previously mentioned) of Dostoevsky. He was a hedonist, his method was self-assertion and definitely unrestrained self-indulgence. He has taken 20,000 roubles from his wife and been drinking good wine and has women in his apartment. An alternative version of Raskolnikov, if he had escaped his breakdown.

Sonia, the character of extreme of self-submission, and has a doctrine of salvation through suffering (Christ). The way to live is to suffer is the best solution for Dostoevsky who suffered in Russia was an enough experience for him to write this novel. His Petrashevky Circle, Gambling addiction, and other factors have probably contributed in his novels.

Quote:
So Raskolnikov went to Siberia unrepentant still convinced of the rightness of his premises and regretting only his failure to live up to them.
Ego again has taken him even to Siberia, his exile is not yet enough. But in the end if the reader notices that he dreamed a force that rages from Europe. A disease as noted by the author. This means that Dostoevsky doesn't want rationalism to go to Russia, it will just suffer like what Raskolnikov had suffered.

So that's the end of my contribution here, I will focus more on my college first then after that if I have time I'll post again in Historum. Thanks
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Old July 12th, 2011, 02:10 AM   #17
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scottaleger, why are you showing us the book cover of Crime and Punishment? I see you have linked us to the same website elsewhere too. If you have a point to make regarding the discussion please go ahead but merely linking us to some website is tantamount to advertising and is against the rules of the forum. Kindly bear that in mind.

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Old July 14th, 2011, 04:44 AM   #18

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Very boring at first IMO, but the pacing keeps you reading it. I remember the night I've read 6 or more chapters consecutively (climax of the novel) because it was very entertaining and my curiosity keeps me pushing until I've finished the novel.
May I ask as to what Part and Chapter the climax of the novel begins? I have read the first 150 pages, and am so far very disinterested, except for the part about the mare, which I found quite intensely written and described and thus it drew me in.
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Old July 14th, 2011, 07:31 AM   #19

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"Crime and Punishment", a Christian classic, is recommended reading for the "Does God exist" thread frequenters on this forum.

Raskolnikov is a product of the Age of Enlightment, an intellectual guy who believes in logical and rational thinking, despising "religious mumbo-jumbo" of any kind. Following this logic, he decides that killing a disgusting and greedy moneylender (a "human leech") in order to gain the money he desperately needs for a good cause, is a justified, sensible and rational action. After carrying out his plan - committing the murder - he immediately goes to pieces. He is furious and exasperated because he doesn't see where his reasoning went wrong. He still sees the act as utterly justified and sensible. Everything would be just fine, if not for his psyche, which disintegrates and spins out of control. So he blames himself for being a wimp.

Basically this book is about "sin" (the 10 commandments, or more specifically the "Do not kill" one). It illustrates that those are not rules someone imposed on us externally, but an inherent part of our genetic makeup. Sin is "wrong" not because someone said so, but because it simply isn't good for us in the long run.

(sorry for the lengthy narrative - Dostoyevsky is contageous )

It's interesting to read on this thread how people from different parts of the world react to Dostoyevsky. I used to be totally crazy about him when I was younger, nowadays I'm more and more inclined to agree with the Polish/English writer Joseph Conrad, who said Dostoyevsky was "far too Russian" for him. As a Pole, I suppose I've got just enough of what outsiders call "the Slavonic soul" to understand Dostoyevsky, and just enough of the Western mentality to find him increasingly irritating.

(On the other hand I still adore the understated, sceptical Chechov - so perhaps the "Russian" concept is a cliche?)
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Old July 17th, 2011, 07:10 PM   #20

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May I ask as to what Part and Chapter the climax of the novel begins? I have read the first 150 pages, and am so far very disinterested, except for the part about the mare, which I found quite intensely written and described and thus it drew me in.
I feel you on that. But as you drew nearer the end the more it became interesting IMO. So just keep reading.
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