Crime and Punishment (Преступление и наказание) is a novel by Russian author Fyodor Dostoevsky that was first published in the literary journal The Russian Messenger in twelve monthly installments in 1866, and was later published in a single volume. It is the second of Dostoevsky's full-length novels after he returned from his exile in Siberia, and the first great novel of his mature period.
Crime and Punishment focuses on the mental anguish and moral dilemmas of Rodion Romanovich Raskolnikov, an impoverished St. Petersburg ex-student who formulates and executes a plan to kill a hated, unscrupulous pawnbroker seemingly for her money, thereby solving his financial problems and at the same time, he argues, ridding the world of an evil worthless parasite. Raskolnikov also strives to be an extraordinary being, similar to Napoleon, believing that murder is permissible in pursuit of a higher purpose.
Dostoevsky offered his story or novella (at the time Dostoevsky was not thinking of a novel) to the publisher Mikhail Katkov. His monthly journal, The Russian Messenger, was a prestigious publications of its kind, and the outlet for both Ivan Turgenev and Leo Tolstoy, but Dostoevsky, having carried on quite bruising polemics with Katkov in early 1860s, had never published anything in its pages. Dostoevsky turned as a last resort to Katkov, and asked for an advance on a proposed contribution after all other appeals elsewhere failed. In a letter to Katkov written in September 1865, Dostoevsky explained to him that the work was to be about a young man who yields to "certain strange, 'unfinished' ideas, floating in the air"; he had thus embarked on his plan to explore the moral and psychological dangers of the "radical" ideology. In letters written in November 1865 an important conceptual change occurred: the "story" has become a "novel", and from here on all references to Crime and Punishment are to a novel.
Dostoevsky had to race against time, in order to finish on time both The Gambler and Crime and Punishment. Anna Snitkina, a stenographer who would soon become his second wife, was a great help for Dostoevsky during this difficult task. The first part of Crime and Punishment appeared in the January 1866 issue of The Russian Messenger, and the last one was published in December 1866.
|“||At the end of November much had been written and was ready; I burned it all; I can confess that now. I didn't like it myself. A new form, a new plan excited me, and I started all over again.||”|
|— Dostoevsky's letter to his friend Alexander Wrangel in February 1886|
|“||I wrote [this chapter] with genuine inspiration, but perhaps it is no good; but for them the question is not its literary worth, they are worried about its morality. Here I was in the right—nothing was against morality, and even quite the contrary, but they saw otherwise and, what's mores, saw traces of nihilism ... I took it back, and this revision of a large chapter cost me at least three new chapters of work, judging by the effort and the weariness; but I corrected it and gave it back.||”|
|— Dostoevsky's letter to A.P. Milyukov|
The writing of the final draft of the novel went smoothly and steadily except for a clash with the editors of The Russian Messenger, about which very little is known. Since the manuscript Dostoevsky turned in to Katkov has been lost, it is unclear what exactly the editors had objected to in the original. In 1889, the editors of the journal commented that "it was not easy for him [Dostoevsky] to give up his intentionally exaggerated idealization of Sonya as a woman who carried self-sacrifice to the point of sacrificing her body". It seems that Dostoevsky had initially given Sonya a much more affirmative role in the scene, in which she reads the Gospel story of the raising of Lazarus to Raskolnikov.
Crime and Punishment has often been likened to a modern detective story or criminal adventure thriller. In fact, the novel is focused on the solution of an enigma: the mystery of Raskolnikov's motivation to kill. Dostoevsky thus internalizes and psychologizes the usual quest for the murderer in the detective story plot, and transfers this quest to the character himself; it is Raskolnikov here who searches for his own motivation. The plot thus provides for a suspense that is similar to the conventional search for the criminal.
In Crime and Punishment Dostoevsky succeeds in fusing the personality of his main character, Rodion Romanovich Raskolnikov (Russian: Родион Романович Раскольников), with his new anti-radical ideological thematics. Drawing on this achievement, the main plot line, which involves the commission of a murder as the result of ideological intoxication, depicts all the disastrous moral and psychic consequences that result for the murderer. Raskolnikov's psychology is placed squarely at the center, and carefully interwoven with the ideas responsible for his transgression; every other feature of the novel illuminates the agonizing dilemma in which Raskolnikov is caught. From another point of view, the novel's plot is another variation of a conventional nineteenth-century theme: an innocent young provincial comes to seek his fortune in the capital, where he succumbs to corruption, and loses all traces of his former freshness and purity. However, as Gary Rosenshield points out, "Raskolnikov succumbs not to the temptations of high society as Honoré de Balzac's Rastignac or Stendhal's Julien Sorel, but to those of rationalistic Petersburg".
After the bungled murder Raskolnikov falls into a feverish state, and often behaves as though he wishes to betray himself, so that the detective Porfiry begins to suspect him purely on psychological grounds. At the same time, a chaste relationship develops between Raskolnikov and Sonia—a prostitute full of Christian virtue driven into prostitution by the habits of her father—and Raskolnikov confesses his crime to her. The confession is overheard by Svidrigaylov, a shadowy figure associated with vile deeds, whose aim is to seduce Raskolnikov's sister, Dunya. Svidrigaylov appears to have a hold over Raskolnikov, but when he unexpectedly commits suicide, Raskolnikov goes to the police himself to confess. He is sentenced to penal servitude in Siberia; Sonia follows him, and the Epilogue holds out hope for Raskolnikov's redemption, and moral regeneration under her influence.
Sofia Semyonovna Marmeladova (Russian: Софья Семёновна Мармеладова), variously called Sonia and Sonechka, is the daughter of a drunk, Semyon Zakharovich Marmeladov, whom Raskolnikov meets in a tavern at the beginning of the novel. She becomes the first person to whom Raskolnikov confesses his crime, and she supports him even though she was friends with one of the victims (Lizaveta). For most of the novel, Sonia serves as the spiritual guide for Raskolnikov. After his confession she follows him to Siberia where she lives in the same town as the prison.
Other characters of the novel are:
Crime and Punishment has a distinct beginning, middle and end. The novel is divided into six parts, with an epilogue. The notion of "intrinsic duality" in Crime and Punishment has been commented upon, with the suggestion that there is a degree of symmetry to the book. Edward Wasiolek who has argued that Dostoevsky was a skilled craftsman, highly conscious of the formal pattern in his art, has likened the structure of Crime & Punishment to a "flattened X", saying:
This compositional balance is achieved by means of the symmetrical distribution of certain key episodes throughout the novel's six parts. The recurrence of these episodes in the two halves of the novel, as David Bethea has argued, is organized according to a mirror-like principle, whereby the "left" half of the novel reflects the "right" half. For her part, Margaret Church discerns a contrapuntal structuring: parts I, III and V deal largely with the main hero's relationship to his family (mother, sister and mother surrogates), while parts II, IV and VI deal with his relationship to the authorities of the state "and to various father figures".
The seventh part of the novel, the Epilogue, has attracted much attention and controversy. Some of Dostoevsky's critics have criticized the novel's final pages as superfluous, anti-climactic, unworthy of the rest of the work, while others have rushed to the defense of the Epilogue, offering various ingenious schemes which conclusively prove its inevitability and necessity. Steven Cassedy argues that Crime and Punishment "is formally two distinct but closely related, things, namely a particular type of tragedy in the classical Greek mold and a Christian resurrection tale". Cassedy concludes that "the logical demands of the tragic model as such are satisfied without the Epilogue in Crime and Punishment ... At the same time, this tragedy contains a Christian component, and the logical demands of this element are met only by the resurrection promised in the Epilogue".
Crime and Punishment is written from a third-person omniscient perspective. It is told primarily from the point of view of Raskolnikov; however, it does at times switch to the perspective of Svidrigailov, Razumikhin, Peter Petrovich, or Dunya. This narrative technique, which fuses the narrator very closely with the consciousness and point of view of the central characters of the plot, was original for its period. Franks notes that his identification, through Dostoevsky's use of the time shifts of memory and his manipulation of temporal sequence, begins to approach the later experiments of Henry James, Joseph Conrad, Virginia Woolf, and James Joyce. A late nineteenth-century reader was however accustomed to more orderly and linear types of expository narration. This led to the persistence of the legend that Dostoevsky was an untidy and negligent craftsman, and to critical observations like the following by Melchior de Vogüé:
Dostoevsky uses different speech mannerisms and sentences of different length for different characters. Those who use artificial language—Luzhin, for example—are identified as unattractive people. Mrs. Marmeladov's disintegrating mind is reflected in her language too. In the original Russian text, the names of the major characters have something of a double meaning, but in translation the subtlety of the language is sometimes lost. There is even a play with the Russian word for crime ("prestuplenie"), which is literally translated as a stepping across or a transgression. The physical image of crime as a crossing over a barrier or a boundary is lost in translation. So is the religious implication of transgression, which in English refers to a sin rather than a crime.
|Name||Word||Meaning (in Russian)|
|Rodion Romanovich Raskolnikov||raskol||a schism, or split; "raskolnik" is "one who splits" or "dissenter" (an allusion to Raskolnikov's self-imposed schism from Russian society, as well as his own split personality and constantly changing emotional state)|
|Pyotr Petrovich Luzhin||luzha||a puddle|
|Dmitri Prokofych Razumikhin||razum||reason, intelligence|
|Alexander Grigorievich Zamyotov||zametit||to notice, to realize|
|Andrey Semyenovich Lebezyatnikov||lebezit||to fawn on somebody, to cringe|
|Semyon Zakharovich Marmeladov||marmelad||marmalade/jam|
|Arkady Ivanovich Svidrigailov||Svidrigailo||a Lithuanian duke of the fifteenth century, who died one year before the fall of Constantinople|
In the final pages, Raskolnikov, who at this point is in the prison infirmary, has a feverish dream about a plague of nihilism, that enters Russia and Europe from the east and which spreads senseless dissent (Raskolnikov's name alludes to "raskol", dissent) and fanatic dedication to "new ideas": it finally engulfs all of mankind. Though we don't learn anything about the content of these ideas they clearly disrupt society forever and are seen as exclusively critical assaults on ordinary thinking: it is clear that Dostoevsky was envisaging the new, politically and culturally nihilist ideas which were entering Russian literature and society in this watershed decade, and with which Dostoevsky would be in debate for the rest of his life (cp. Chernyshevsky's What Is to Be Done?, Dobrolyubov's abrasive journalism, Turgenev's Fathers and Sons and Dostoesvsky's own The Possessed). Just like the novel demonstrates and argues Dostoevsky's conviction that "if God doesn't exist (or is not recognized) then anything is permissible" the dream sums up his fear that if men won't check their thinking against the realities of life and nature, and if they are unwilling to listen to reason or authority, then no ideas or cultural institutions will last and only brute barbarism can be the result. Janko Lavrin, who took part in the revolutions of the WWI era, knew Lenin and Trotsky and many others, and later would spend years writing and researching on Dostoevsky and other Russian classics, called this final dream "prophetic in its symbolism".
The above opening sentence of the novel has a symbolic function: Russian critic Vadim K. Kozhinov argues that the reference to the "exceptionally hot evening" establishes not only the suffocating atmosphere of Saint Petersburg in midsummer but also "the infernal ambience of the crime itself". Dostoevsky was among the first to recognize the symbolic possibilities of city life and imagery drawn from the city. I. F. I. Evnin regards Crime and Punishment as the first great Russian novel "in which the climactic moments of the action are played out in dirty taverns, on the street, in the sordid black rooms of the poor".
Dostoevsky's Petersburg is the city of unrelieved poverty; "magnificence has no place in it, because magnificence is external, formal abstract, cold". Dostoevsky connects the city's problems to Raskolnikov's thoughts and subsequent actions. The crowded streets and squares, the shabby houses and taverns, the noise and stench, all are transformed by Dostoevsky into a rich store of metaphors for states of mind. Donald Fanger asserts that "the real city [...] rendered with a striking concreteness, is also a city of the mind in the way that its atmosphere answers Raskolnikov's spiritual condition and almost symbolizes it. It is crowded, stifling, and parched.
Dostoevsky's letter to Katkov reveals his immediate inspiration, to which he remained faithful even after his original plan evolved into a much more ambitious creation: a desire to counteract what he regarded as nefarious consequences arising from the doctrines of Russian nihilism. In the novel, Dostoevsky pinpointed the dangers of both utilitarianism and rationalism, the main ideas of which inspired the radicals, continuing a fierce criticism he had already started with his Notes from Underground. A Slavophile religious believer, Dostoevsky utilized the characters, dialogue and narrative in Crime and Punishment to articulate an argument against westernizing ideas in general. He thus attacked a peculiar Russian blend of French utopian socialism and Benthamite utilitarianism, which had led to what radical leaders, such as Nikolai Chernyshevsky, called "rational egoism".
The radicals refused however to recognize themselves in the novel's pages (Dimitri Pisarev ridiculed the notion that Raskolnikov's ideas could be identified with those of the radicals of his time), since Dostoevsky portrayed nihilistic ideas to their most extreme consequences. The aim of these ideas was altruistic and humanitarian, but these aims were to be achieved by relying on reason and suppressing entirely the spontaneous outflaw of Christian pity and compassion. Chernyshevsky's utilitarian ethic proposed that thought and will in man were subject to the laws of physical science. Dostoevsky believed that such ideas limited man to a product of physics, chemistry and biology, negating spontaneous emotional responses. In its latest variety of Bazarovism, Russian nihilism encouraged the creation of an élite of superior individuals to whom the hopes of the future were to be entrusted.
|“||For instance, if I were told, 'love thy neighbor,' what came of it? ... It came to my tearing my coat in half to share with my neighbor and we both were left half naked ... Science now tells us, love yourself before all men, for everything in the world rests on self-interest ... Therefore, in acquiring wealth solely and exclusively for myself, I am acquiring, so to speak, for all, and helping to bring to pass my neighbor's getting a little more than a torn coat; and that not from private, personal liberality, but as a consequence of the general advance.||”|
|— Luzhin's utilitarian ideology as illustrated by Dostoevsky (Crime and Punishment, II, V)|
In his depiction of the Petersburg background, Dostoevsky accentuates the squalor and human wretchedness that pass before Raskolnikov's eyes. He also uses Raskolnikov's encounter with Marmeladov to present both the heartlessness of Raskolnikov's convictions and the alternative set of values to be set against them. Dostoevsky believes that the "freedom" propounded by the aforementioned ideas is a dreadful freedom "that is contained by no values, because it is before values". The product of this "freedom", Raskolnikov, is in perpetual revolt against society, himself, and God. He thinks that he is self-sufficient and self-contained, but at the end "his boundless self-confidence must disappear in the face of what is greater than himself, and his self-fabricated justification must humble itself before the higher justice of God". Dostoevsky calls for the regeneration and renewal of the "sick" Russian society through the re-discovering of their country, their religion, and their roots.
The novel soon attracted the criticism of the liberal and radical critics. G.Z. Yeliseyev sprang to the defense of the Russian student corporations, and wondered, "Has there ever been a case of a student committing murder for the sake of robbery?" Pisarev, aware of the novel's artistic value attempted in 1867 another approach: he argued that Raskolnikov was a product of his environment, and explained that the main theme of the work was poverty and its results. He measured the novel's excellence by the accuracy and understanding with which Dostoevsky portrayed the contemporary social reality, and focused on what he regarded as inconsistencies in the novel's plot. Strakhov rejected Pisarev's contention that the theme of environmental determinism was essential to the novel, and pointed out that Dostoevsky's attitude towards his hero was sympathetic: "This is not mockery of the younger generation, neither a reproach nor an accusation—it is a lament over it.