Crime and Punishment: A Review by Paria Jahanbakhsh

CrimePunishment_2014PenguinCover.jpgI’ve come to the inevitable conclusion that Russian big ’uns may just be where it’s at. “It” being general awesomeness that combines with thought-provoking philosophy, history and readability that makes this novel one of the most enjoyable ones I’ve read in a long while. But of course, there’s a catch. Fyodor Dostoyevsky is not exactly known for his lightness of context. Paragraphs go on for pages, internal monologues get mixed with dialogues and the slightest change in atmosphere can cause drastic change of behavior in his clearly mentally challenged characters. But I found this one much easier to read. The plot was considerably better-structured and the monologues were nothing compared to Dostoyevsky’s other works.

Published in 1866, this novel follows the life of Raskolnikov , the murderer of a pawn shop owner. Being an inexplicably well-detailed character, so much so that I feel as if I’ve known him my entire life, Raskolnikov is most definitely a dual character. One second he could be confident to the point of arrogance and self-delusion, the next he is anxious and so self-unsure it’s almost pathetic. One minute he makes friendly small talk with random drunks at the bar and the next he refuses to nod in response to his best friend. Having such a changeable character as a protagonist would have been convenient if it weren’t for his chaotic manner that makes me more than certain of the fact that writing about him could be nothing short of exhausting.

Albeit, it is these chaotic actions that divide the plot into three different threads that later intertwine with one another rather artistically. One is the story of Raskolnikov’s family, more specifically his sister, Dunya, and her rash decision to marry Luzhin, a middle-to-upper class man who is more than ready to take advantage of Dunya’s vulnerability and her family’s lack of wealth. Raskolnikov becomes aware of his intentions the second he finds out how Luzhin came about meeting his family. The second is the story of Marmeladov, a drunk, rogue, good-for-nothing man he happens to meet at a bar, and his daughter, Sonia, who was forced to prostitution. It is through Sonia’s faith that Raskolnikov manages to find redemption. Moreover, there is a Dickensian police inspector named Porfiry Petrovitch, playing a clever game of cat-and-mouse with someone he suspects to be our very own murderer. Dostoyevsky has the tendency to portrait the Russian law to be clever and implacable.

Overall, this all-time Russian classic is not one you want to miss. It may be quite tedious at first. The names tend to confuse the reader, which is one of the most common complaints people normally have when reading Russian novels. Some of the dialogue may seem irrelevant to the plot. But getting through all that is a small price to pay for reading one of the best psychological, philosophical and criminal novels of all time.

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