• Ayesha Dhurue

Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

In praise of humanity’s ability to corrupt its own morality. To reify the archaic battle between social and hedonistic conditioning. The bloodshed of which flows eternally forming pools of sorrow, isolation, and abandonment. Consider Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment as the account of a trembling psychological and cerebral memory. The effect the book has is simply profound; the sentences disquietingly vicious. An account, rather, of a man’s inner morbid, unsympathetic, and dogged monologue. Which leaves behind deeper and darker footsteps on a coarse and soggy surface. Imagine this to be the restitution of time’s most and only horrific quality: memory. I’ve never come across a book this drenched in spilling man’s everlasting and condemnable obsession to reason. The protagonist’s own conscience sheds light on his realization of a flawed, starved, and forgotten rearing. And the readiness to retaliate to insane civic and inherited customs. The crime committed in the book has not only an external reach which points its finger at law and correction. But it also points a finger at one’s internal, contemplative, and torturous world. The book confesses to a crime committed not by an axe but by one's pride and crippling psyche. Reading Crime and Punishment is like wandering the streets of destitution, alone, in trembling anguish, dwelling on the meaning of life, death, the emptiness of temptation; the creature that casts its spell and crawls back in its cave, leaving behind everlasting darkness. The kind that feasts on the meek and strips away strength like ripping a bandage on a wounded victim.

In one sentence, Crime and Punishment is about psychological angst, chaos, and anxiety. The restlessness of one’s conscience when starved of family and societal relationships. You have a protagonist who isn’t ugly, whose actions are not self-indulgent, and whose relations seem remote yet complex. And yet his crime serves its own punishment. The consummation of which is more internal than external. How does a character like that weigh up to his own guilt and misery? Think of this book as an encyclopedic account of such a criminal’s confession. But it’s not the act of committing a crime, and its aftermath, that makes Crime and Punishment such a satisfying read. It’s the motive that runs deep; the nihilism and the alienation. It stands out for its intellectual and psychological heft. Dostoevsky’s obsession with the symbolic christening of good and evil is everywhere in the book. Raskolnikov, Razumikhin, Sonya, Dunya, and Svidrigailov. All these characters are tragic but they are the products of political and cultural unbecoming. The first time I read this book, I perceived the protagonist’s crime as a consequence, a retaliation of a flawed institution. The second time, however, I’m driven to conclude that the crime has nothing to do with justice or imprisonment. The labyrinth of the inner world, the fear and trembling of one’s soul, the eternal consciousness of man. This is what a man judges; driven by virtue of such passions and despairs rather than by religion. The book does nothing to evoke sympathy, disgust, or loathing for its characters. Because to feel anything means to pardon a certain kind of existence. It is to raise a thread of human nature higher than the rest. And to tie the noose around the necks of others, convincing them that monsters exist and that we are saints. When this is revealed to us in the things that we love the most, there is no other edge we jump off from but our sanity.