Crime and Punishment

By Fyodor Dostoyevsky

This book was my “good for you” read this summer. I try to read at least one major classic every year–it must be the Lit Major in me. I’m glad I read it, but it was tough. I’ve read The Brothers Karamozov as well as various works by Tolstoy and so this was not my first foray into the Russian school.

If you’ve never read the “Russians” then you should know a few things. First of all, there will be many characters (like 50), all with names that are difficult for the American mind to remember. Also, many characters will go by different versions of their name, a cultural phenomena in Russia. And the book will be long. Like, over 700 pages long.

Now, the wonderful thing about Crime and Punishment is its depth. The story follows a very poor student who develops a strong dislike for his pawn-broker and then decides she doesn’t deserve to live. It’s a story an intellectual who seems to be insane. The writer takes us inside the mind of a killer and in fascinating fashion, shows us the effects of guilt on his body, mind, and relationships. The title really does reveal a lot about the story. Sometimes the crime IS the punishment.

It brings up questions about true justice, mercy, and the natural response to intellectual superiority and simple people who offer simple kindness. He also juxtaposes higher education and the school of hard knocks, which begs the questions, are either morally superior?

The themes are rich for discussion, but as presented, the novel does not flow quickly, and neither do the pages turn with ease. It was written in 1866, so I think we have to give him a break here – the language has changed a great deal, plus in the US, we read translations only. The Russian version might be a real barn burner! It took me a full month to read it. Now, I only read at night, when I’m falling asleep, so that was definitely a factor. A riveting book will keep me up at night–this book did not.

This bears repeating: I am glad to have read Crime and Punishment. It was an accomplishment, and it was cool to see the politics of Russia in the 1800s, as well as the Christian themes which rise to the surface as morality, suffering, and redemption are discussed, eluded, and sought after by the main character, Roskolnikov.

In case you decide to climb the mountain and read this behemoth novel, I will let you know that it does end well, though I felt the ending very quick in comparison to the length of all that led up to it. It also left me feeling that I will never consider murder, because the guilt alone might kill me before I even got sent to prison. In short, if you have the time and patience, this book is worthwhile. Also, my 17 year old nephew is plowing through it, so come on – give it a try!

The price is right for sure: $.60 on Amazon! You can snatch it here:

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