Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky – A Review

What does it feel like, to suddenly be in the mind of a murderer? Is there any rationality behind committing a crime, let alone the grievous crime of murder?

Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment is a fascinating psychological thriller. It focuses on the mental struggles of Raskolnikov, an impoverished law student at St. Petersburg. From the first page, we are introduced to a disturbed character who finds himself torn between the dictates of good and evil.

A student claims that he would gladly kill an evil woman, and give her money to the poor. Raskolnikov overhears this, and then formulates the plan to murder her. Unfortunately, an inexplicable emotion, halfway between cowardice and self-justification, overwhelms his better judgement.

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Crime and Punishment highly distinguishes itself from the conventional murder novels. Dostoevsky lets the reader in on the murderer’s consciousness. Every thought, word, and action, is guided by some form of reason that only draws you deeper into the book. Into the mind of a criminal who gives philosophical, practical and ethical reasons to commit murder. An atheist who thinks himself something of a Napoleon. A rationalist whose pride separates him from everyday people, including his loved ones.

Dostoevsky also promotes the Utilitarian Theory, where moral decisions are based on the rule of attaining great happiness for the largest number of people. Raskolnikov tries to justify his crime with this theory. But as an oddity in a highly-religious era, his own mind torments him, to the point of delirium. However, Dostoevsky proves that actual punishment for a crime is much better than the mental punishment of trying to escape the clutches of the law.

Crime and Punishment remains one of the best Russian novels of the 19th century. The characters are disturbingly real, well-developed and simply fantastic. No more spoilers –

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