Thursday, July 19, 2012

Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky

Crime and Punishment focuses on the mental anguish and moral dilemmas of Rodion Romanovich Raskolnikov, an impoverished ex-student in St. Petersburg who formulates and executes a plan to kill an unscrupulous pawnbroker for her money. Raskolnikov argues that with the pawnbroker's money he can perform good deeds to counterbalance the crime, while ridding the world of a worthless parasite. He also commits this murder to test his own hypothesis that some people are naturally capable of, and even have the right to, do such things. Several times throughout the novel, Raskolnikov justifies his actions by connecting himself mentally with Napoleon Bonaparte, believing that murder is permissible in pursuit of a higher purpose, only to find out he "... is not a Napoleon."

My take: 2 looks
While I read this book, I kept thinking, "This is just a very verbose retelling of Edgar Allen Poe's short story A Tell-Tale Heart".

That may be a bit simplistic, but at the heart, they are the same. Both men commit murder for the stupidest of reasons, albeit different. Both men are crazed and even more so afterward, becoming paranoid. Both men break at the end and confess. The difference is, Poe was able to tell his version in a compelling short story while Dostoevsky must have been paid by the word.

I found a few things irritating and hindered the flow, but perhaps that was the intention. The most glaring, cumbersome and repetitive was the mood swings of the main character, Raskolnikov. I would think that if it were a literary tool, his swings would have been more pronounced later in the story, as his situation progressed. However, he was bipolar from the beginning with no apparent trigger.

Another odd recurring action was men falling in love with Dunya, Raskolnikov's sister. Three men over the course of the novel fell for her. She was either very beautiful, which I didn't perceive, or they were in desperate times.

Why this book is such a studied classic is beyond me. Even as verbose as it is, it is well-written (if I can say that about a translation) and not beyond reading. However, I didn't enjoy the read and found that I finished it out of a sense of responsibility. I hold fast to my thought that Poe's short story is much more worth the time and analysis. To do the same thing in a fraction of the words, and 23 years earlier than Dostoevsky gets my attention.

Read if you have to, but I cannot recommend it.

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