National Read a Book Day; Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment

“It takes something more than intelligence to act intelligently.”

Two years ago, I accidentally picked up and read the wrong book for a school assignment and I still call it my favourite book to this day. The characters that Dostoevsky writes of in Crime and Punishment are so disturbingly real and human that you find yourself drawn to them and scared of them at the same time.

The story follows Rodion Romanovich Raskolnikov, a young, broke, former student in Saint Petersburg who is so desperate for money that he plans to rob and murder a pawnbroker. Before the act, Raskolnikov doesn’t believe that he could genuinely do it and on that basis, he plans it more and more in depth until he’s consumed by the idea and even somewhat giddy at the thought of it. However, immediately after he commits his crime, he begins to face the harshest consequence of all, having to live with himself knowing he is capable of such a deed. 

as far as murderers go, I’d say he’s quite likable

At this point, you might be thinking that this book is some sort of fast paced murder thriller. It is in fact, not so. The pace of this book is incredibly slow, but that only lets you have more time to get to know Raskolnikov on a gruesomely deep level. You get to see exactly how his brain works and why he does the things he does. At the heart of it, it’s a book about isolation, sin, and guilt. 

Part of me was scared with how much I liked and felt connected to Raskolnikov, considering he is a murderer. But, as far as murderers go, I’d say he’s quite likable. He comes off incredibly real, and true to the human experience, as it’s shown that his strengths are the same traits that when twisted, become his weaknesses. He’s highly intelligent but he’s also extremely lonesome. He has a superiority complex, but he’s depressed. Although he does bad things and his internal monologue is often cruel, we play it off with the idea that he’s struggling just like the rest of us. That all this evil in his mind is just a side effect of the human experience. The one thing that tied me closely to him, however, was that both of us overthink everything we do. I’m sure many others share this trait as well, making him such a universally relatable character. 

Without spoiling the book, the ending is a shocker. It is one of my favourite endings of a book because it was not at all what I expected but it was so much better. It was more hopeful than sad and in my opinion it was perfect. It left me satisfied and comfortable that I was able to see myself in his character. 

When I first finished this book, I was left speechless. I went to my bathroom and stared at myself in the mirror for a long time contemplating my own morals and conscience. I know a lot of people who have read this book have said that it’s gloomy and depressing and I can see where they’re coming from. If you were to read this book completely emotionally attached to the protagonist, it is one hell of an emotional roller-coaster, but if you read it and try your best to stay emotionally distant, it’s a fascinating dissection of human nature. 

By Wendy Liu

Image by: manolofranco via Pixabay

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