Book Reviews of Crime and Punishment

Crime and Punishment
Crime and Punishment
Author: Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Sidney Monas (Translator)
ISBN-13: 9780451523358
ISBN-10: 0451523350
Publication Date: 2/1/1968
Pages: 544
  • Currently 3.8/5 Stars.

3.8 stars, based on 13 ratings
Publisher: Signet Classics
Book Type: Paperback
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3 Book Reviews submitted by our Members...sorted by voted most helpful

reviewed Crime and Punishment on + 100 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
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Crime and Punishment is quite possibly the most widely read 19th century Russian novel in the English-speaking world, and while I might say it's a tad overrated (for reasons discussed below), there are many good reasons for its exalted status. In case you're not familiar with the story, it begins with the decision of an impoverished student, Raskolnikov, to rob and kill a pawnbroker, having justified his decision with the argument that her death will do the world more good than harm, both because she cheats her clients and because the money from the robbery will give him the start he needs to become a great man and ultimately benefit humanity. The action of the novel is confined to the day of the murder and a few days following it, during which time, in addition to dealing with a murder investigation led by a clever and intriguing detective who suspects him, Raskolnikov spends time with his mother and sister, who have just come to visit, and with the tragic Marmeladov family, consisting of a drunken father, a consumptive mother, three young children, and an eighteen-year old girl who is forced into prostitution in order to support the family.

Dostoevsky is notoriously good at investigating the psychology of his characters, and from that standpoint his treatment of Raskolnikov is probably the best in all of his work. While, as in many of his works, Dostoevsky includes a meek saint-figure (in this case Sonia, the prostitute mentioned above) through whose Christian love the other characters will hopefully be redeemed, Dostoevsky's most remarkable characters tend to be not the ones he idolizes but rather the "devil's advocates" with whom he disagrees, and Raskolnikov is probably the finest example of that. There are lots of other interesting characters too, and the plot is fairly action-packed with many moving and haunting scenes (Katerina Marmeladov's final descent into consumptive madness especially comes to mind), making the novel a surprisingly quick and enjoyable read considering its length and depth.

Unfortunately, there seems to be a tendency among some readers of the novel to be interested in it exclusively for Raskolnikov's proto-Nietzschean philosophy of the "Extraordinary Man" who, like Napoleon and, or so he believes, Raskolnikov himself, has a duty to overstep the most basic bounds of morality in order to achieve a high end. I say this is unfortunate for a couple of reasons: First, the majority of the action of the novel has nothing directly to do with the idea of the Extraordinary Man, so a reader who is concentrating exclusively on Dostoevsky's treatment of this idea will be missing out on the many other redeeming qualities of the book and will probably find most of the book a bit boring as a result. Second, especially from a modern, post-Nietzschean, point of view, Dostoevsky's treatment of the Extraordinary Man doesn't strike me (especially after a second reading, by which time the novelty had worn off) as being especially interesting philosophy. Granted, given that he was writing in 1866, it does seem somewhat impressive, but I'd have to say Nietzsche advocated the position better than Raskolnikov does, and I'm not sure how much enduring value there really is in this philosophical aspect of the novel. There is, however, immense enduring value in both the characters and the action of Crime and Punishment, and that strikes me as clearly the best reason to read the book. If you read Crime and Punishment in hopes of deriving as much as you can from the work, and not just in order to read arguments about a once-fashionable philosophical idea, I can't imagine that you'll disagree with myself and the vast number of others who regard this as one of the greatest works of world literature.
reviewed Crime and Punishment on + 2 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
This is one of my personal favorites of all-time. Dostoyevsky captures so well the intensity of Raskolnikov's emotions that I felt them myself. It's been a while since I read it, but I think I might have actually started sweating at the most suspenseful parts. :/ If you like classics and can endure a few boring chapters, the rest is well worth it!
reviewed Crime and Punishment on + 4 more book reviews