Joyce Carol Oates has described it as "Dostoevsky's most confused and violent novel, and his most satisfactorily 'tragic' work. Demons is an allegory of the potentially catastrophic consequences of the political and moral nihilism that were becoming prevalent in Russia in the s. A fictional town descends into chaos as it becomes the focal point of an attempted revolution, orchestrated by master conspirator Pyotr Verkhovensky. The mysterious aristocratic figure of Nikolai Stavrogin—Verkhovensky's counterpart in the moral sphere—dominates the book, exercising an extraordinary influence over the hearts and minds of almost all the other characters.
The idealistic, western-influenced generation of the s, epitomized in the character of Stepan Verkhovensky who is both Pyotr Verkhovensky's father and Nikolai Stavrogin's childhood teacher , are presented as the unconscious progenitors and helpless accomplices of the 'demonic' forces that take possession of the town. There are three English translations: The Possessed , The Devils , and Demons.
Constance Garnett 's translation popularized the novel and gained it notoriety as The Possessed , but this title has been disputed by later translators. In a letter to his friend Apollon Maykov , Dostoevsky alludes to the episode of the Exorcism of the Gerasene demoniac in the Gospel of Luke as the inspiration for the title: These are drowned or will be drowned, and the healed man, from whom the devils have departed, sits at the feet of Jesus. In late s Russia there was an unusual level of political unrest caused by student groups influenced by liberal, socialist and revolutionary ideas imported from Europe.
In , Dostoevsky conceived the idea of a 'pamphlet novel' directed against the radicals. He focused on the group organized by young agitator Sergey Nechayev , particularly their murder of a former comrade—Ivan Ivanov—at the Petrovskaya Agricultural Academy in Moscow. Dostoevsky had first heard of Ivanov from his brother-in-law, who was a student at the academy, and had been much interested in his rejection of radicalism and exhortation of the Russian Orthodox Church and the House of Romanov as the true custodians of Russia's destiny.
He was horrified to hear of Ivanov's murder by the Nechayevists, and vowed to write a political novel about what he called "the most important problem of our time. The political polemic and parts of the philosophical novel were merged into a single larger scale project, which became Demons. Although a merciless satirical attack on various forms of radical thought and action, Demons does not bear much resemblance to the typical anti-nihilist novels of the era as found in the work of Nikolai Leskov for example , which tended to present the nihilists as deceitful and utterly selfish villains in an essentially black and white moral world.
In re-imagining Nechayev's orchestration of the murder, Dostoevsky was attempting to "depict those diverse and multifarious motives by which even the purest of hearts and the most innocent of people can be drawn in to committing such a monstrous offence. Dostoevsky was an active participant in a secret revolutionary society formed from among the members of the Petrashevsky Circle. The cell's founder and leader, the aristocrat Nikolay Speshnev , is thought by many commentators to be the principal inspiration for the character of Stavrogin. The narrative is written in the first person by a minor character, Anton Lavrentyevich G—v, who is a close friend and confidant of Stepan Verkhovensky.
Young, educated, upright and sensible, Anton Lavrentyevich is a local civil servant who has decided to write a chronicle of the strange events that have recently occurred in his town. Despite being a secondary character, he has a surprisingly intimate knowledge of all the characters and events, such that the narrative often seems to metamorphose into that of the omniscient third person.
According to Joseph Frank , this choice of narrative perspective enables Dostoevsky "to portray his main figures against a background of rumor, opinion and scandal-mongering that serves somewhat the function of a Greek chorus in relation to the central action. The narrator's voice is intelligent, frequently ironic and psychologically perceptive, but it is only periodically the dominant voice, and often seems to disappear altogether.
Much of the narrative unfolds dialogically, implied and explicated through the interactions of the characters, the internal dialogue of a single character, or through a combination of the two, rather than through the narrator's story-telling or description. The authorial style is what Mikhail Bakhtin called polyphonic , with the cast of individual characters being a multiplicity of "voice-ideas", restlessly asserting and defining themselves in relation to each other, through which the plot becomes apparent.
The narrator in this sense is present merely as an agent for recording the synchronisation of multiple autonomous narratives, with his own voice weaving in and out of the contrapuntal texture. The novel is in three parts. There are two epigraphs, the first from Pushkin's poem Demons and the second from Luke 8: After an almost illustrious but prematurely curtailed academic career Stepan Trofimovich Verkhovensky is residing with the wealthy landowner Varvara Petrovna Stavrogina at her estate, Skvoreshniki, in a provincial Russian town.
Originally employed as a tutor to Stavrogina's son Nikolai Vsevolodovich, Stepan Trofimovich has been there for almost twenty years in an intimate but platonic relationship with his noble patroness. Stepan Trofimovich also has a son from a previous marriage but he has grown up elsewhere without his father's involvement.
A troubled Varvara Petrovna has just returned from Switzerland where she has been visiting Nikolai Vsevolodovich. She berates Stepan Trofimovich for his financial irresponsibility, but her main preoccupation is an "intrigue" she encountered in Switzerland concerning her son and his relations with Liza Tushina - the beautiful daughter of her friend Praskovya. Praskovya and Liza arrive at the town, without Nikolai Vsevolodovich who has gone to Petersburg.
Varvara Petrovna suddenly conceives the idea of forming an engagement between Stepan Trofimovich and Dasha. Though dismayed, Stepan Trofimovich accedes to her proposal, which happens to resolve a delicate financial issue for him. Matters are further complicated by the arrival of a mysterious "crippled woman", Marya Lebyadkina, to whom Nikolai Vsevolodovich is also rumoured to be connected, although no-one seems to know exactly how.
A hint is given when Varvara Petrovna asks the mentally disturbed Marya, who has approached her outside church, if she is Lebyadkina and she replies that she is not. Varvara Petrovna takes Marya and Liza who has insisted on coming with them back to Skvoreshniki. Praskovya arrives, accompanied by her nephew Mavriky Nikolaevich, demanding to know why her daughter has been dragged in to Varvara Petrovna's "scandal". Varvara Petrovna questions Dasha about a large sum of money that Nikolai Vsevolodovich supposedly sent through her to Marya's brother, but in spite of her straightforward answers matters don't become any clearer.
Marya's brother, the drunkard Captain Lebyadkin, comes looking for his sister and confuses Varvara Petrovna even further with semi-deranged rantings about some sort of dishonour that must remain unspoken. At this point the butler announces that Nikolai Vsevolodovich has arrived.
To everyone's surprise, however, a complete stranger walks in and immediately begins to dominate the conversation. As he is talking, Nikolai Stavrogin quietly enters. Varvara Petrovna stops him imperiously and, indicating Marya, demands to know if she is his lawful wife. He looks at his mother impassively, says nothing, kisses her hand, and unhurriedly approaches Marya. She agrees and they leave.
In the din that breaks out after their departure, the strongest voice is that of Pyotr Stepanovich, and he manages to persuade Varvara Petrovna to listen to his explanation for what has occurred. According to him, Nikolai Vsevolodovich became acquainted with the Lebyadkins when he was living a life of "mockery" in Petersburg five years earlier. The downtrodden, crippled and half mad Marya had fallen hopelessly in love with him and he had responded by treating her "like a marquise". Varvara Petrovna is elated and almost triumphant to hear that her son's actions had a noble foundation rather than a shameful one.
Under interrogation from Pyotr Stepanovich, Captain Lebyadkin reluctantly confirms the truth of the whole story. He departs in disgrace as Nikolai Vsevolodovich returns from escorting Marya home. Nikolai Vsevolodovich addresses himself to Dasha with congratulations on her impending marriage, of which, he says, he was expressly informed. As if on cue, Pyotr Stepanovich says that he too has received a long letter from his father about an impending marriage, but that one cannot make sense of it - something about having to get married because of "another man's sins", and pleading to be "saved".
An enraged Varvara Petrovna tells Stepan Trofimovich to leave her house and never come back. In the uproar that follows no-one notices Shatov, who has not said a word the entire time, walking across the room to stand directly in front of Nikolai Vsevolodovich. He looks him in the eye for a long time without saying anything, then suddenly hits him in the face with all his might.
Stavrogin staggers, recovers himself, and seizes Shatov; but he immediately takes his hands away, and stands motionless, calmly returning Shatov's gaze. It is Shatov who lowers his eyes, and leaves, apparently crushed. Liza screams and collapses on the floor in a faint. News of the events at Skvoreshniki spreads through society surprisingly rapidly. The main participants seclude themselves, with the exception of Pyotr Stepanovich who actively insinuates himself into the social life of the town. After eight days, he calls on Stavrogin and the true nature of their relations begins to become apparent.
There was not, as some suspect, an explicit understanding between them. Rather Pyotr Stepanovich is trying to involve Stavrogin in some radical political plans of his own, and is avidly seeking to be of use to him. Stavrogin, while he seems to accept Pyotr Stepanovich acting on his behalf, is largely unresponsive to these overtures and continues to pursue his own agenda. That night Stavrogin leaves Skvoreshniki in secret and makes his way on foot to Fillipov's house, where Shatov lives. The primary object of his visit is to consult his friend Kirillov, who also lives at the house.
Stavrogin has received an extraordinarily insulting letter from Artemy Gaganov, the son of a respected landowner—Pavel Gaganov—whose nose he pulled as a joke some years earlier, and has been left with no choice but to challenge him to a duel. He asks Kirillov to be his second and to make the arrangements. They then discuss philosophical issues arising out of Kirillov's firm intention to commit suicide in the near future. Stavrogin proceeds to Shatov, and once again the background to the events at Skvoreshniki begins to reveal itself.
Shatov had guessed the secret behind Stavrogin's connection to Marya they are in fact married and had struck him out of anger at his "fall". In the past Stavrogin had inspired Shatov with exhortations of the Russian Christ, but this marriage and other actions have provoked a complete disillusionment, which Shatov now angrily expresses. Stavrogin defends himself calmly and rationally, but not entirely convincingly. He also warns Shatov, who is a former member but now bitter enemy of Pyotr Verkhovensky's revolutionary society, that Verkhovensky might be planning to murder him.
Stavrogin continues on foot to a distant part of town where he intends to call at the new residence of the Lebyadkins. On the way he encounters Fedka, an escaped convict, who has been waiting for him at the bridge. Pyotr Stepanovich has informed Fedka that Stavrogin may have need of his services in relation to the Lebyadkins, but Stavrogin emphatically rejects this.
He tells Fedka that he won't give him a penny and that if he meets him again he will tie him up and take him to the police. At the Lebyadkins' he informs the Captain, to the Captain's horror, that in the near future he will be making a public announcement of the marriage and that there will be no more money.
He goes in to Marya, but something about him frightens her and she becomes mistrustful. His proposal that she come to live with him in Switzerland is met with scorn. She accuses him of being an imposter who has come to kill her with his knife, and demands to know what he has done with her "Prince". Stavrogin becomes angry, pushes her violently, and leaves, to Marya's frenzied curse. In a fury, he barely notices when Fedka pops up again, reiterating his requests for assistance.
Stavrogin seizes him, slams him against a wall and begins to tie him up. However, he stops almost immediately and continues on his way, with Fedka following. Eventually Stavrogin bursts into laughter: The duel takes place the following afternoon, but no-one is killed. To Gaganov's intense anger, Stavrogin appears to deliberately miss, as if to trivialize the duel and insult his opponent, although he says it is because he doesn't want to kill anyone any more. He returns to Skvoreshniki where he encounters Dasha who, as now becomes apparent, is in the role of a confidant and "nurse" in relation to him.
He tells her about the duel and the encounter with Fedka, admitting to giving Fedka money that could be interpreted as a down payment to kill his wife. He asks her, in an ironic tone, whether she will still come to him even if he chooses to take Fedka up on his offer. Horrified, Dasha does not answer. Pyotr Stepanovich meanwhile is very active in society, forming relationships and cultivating conditions that he thinks will help his political aims. By flattery, surrounding her with a retinue and encouraging her exaggerated liberal ambition, he acquires a power over her and over the tone of her salon.
He and his group of co-conspirators exploit their new-found legitimacy to generate an atmosphere of frivolity and cynicism in society. They indulge in tasteless escapades, clandestinely distribute revolutionary propaganda, and agitate workers at the local Spigulin factory.
They are particularly active in promoting Julia Mikhaylovna's 'Literary Gala' to raise money for poor governesses, and it becomes a much anticipated event for the whole town. The Governor, Andrey Antonovich, is deeply troubled by Pyotr Stepanovich's success with his wife and casual disregard for his authority, but is painfully incapable of doing anything about it. Unable to cope with the strange events and mounting pressures, he begins to show signs of acute mental disturbance.
Pyotr Stepanovich adopts a similarly destabilizing approach toward his father, driving Stepan Trofimovich into a frenzy by relentlessly ridiculing him and further undermining his disintegrating relationship with Varvara Petrovna.
Pyotr Stepanovich visits Kirillov to remind him of an "agreement" he made to commit suicide at a time convenient to the revolutionary society. He invites Kirillov, and subsequently Shatov, to a meeting of the local branch of the society to be held later that day. Stavrogin, however, seems to be in a good mood and he willingly accompanies Pyotr Stepanovich to the meeting. Present are a wide variety of idealists, disaffected types and pseudo-intellectuals, most notably the philosopher Shigalyev who attempts to expound his theory on the historically necessary totalitarian social organization of the future.
The conversation is inane and directionless until Pyotr Stepanovich takes control and seeks to establish whether there is a real commitment to the cause of violent revolution. He claims that this matter can be resolved by asking a simple question of each individual: As everyone else is hurrying to assert that they would of course not inform, Shatov gets up and leaves, followed by Stavrogin and Kirillov. Pyotr Stepanovich abandons the meeting and rushes after Stavrogin. Meeting them at Kirillov's place, where Fedka is also present, Verkhovensky demands to know whether Stavrogin will be providing the funds to deal with the Lebyadkins.
He has acquired proof, in the form of a letter sent to Von Lembke, that the Captain is contemplating betraying them all. Stavrogin refuses, tells him he won't give him Shatov either, and departs. Verkhovensky tries to stop him, but Stavrogin throws him to the ground and continues on his way.
Verkhovensky rushes after him again and, to Stavrogin's astonishment, suddenly transforms into a raving madman. He launches into an incoherent monologue, alternately passionately persuasive and grovelingly submissive, desperately pleading with Stavrogin to join his cause. The speech amounts to a declaration of love, reaching a climax with the exclamation "Stavrogin, you're beautiful! Verkhovensky's cause, it turns out, has nothing to do with socialism, but is purely about destroying the old order and seizing power, with Stavrogin, the iron-willed leader, at the helm.
Stavrogin remains cold, but does not actually say no, and Pyotr Stepanovich persists with his schemes. Social disquiet escalates as the day of the literary gala approaches. The Governor's assistant, under the false impression that Stepan Trofimovich is the source of the problem, orders a raid on his residence. Deeply shocked, Stepan Trofimovich goes to the Governor to complain.
He arrives as a large group of workers from the Spigulin factory are staging a protest about work and pay conditions. Already in a precarious state of mind, Andrey Antonovich responds to both problems in a somewhat demented authoritarian fashion. Julia Mikhaylovna and her retinue, among whom are Varvara Petrovna and Liza, return from a visit to Skvoreshniki and the Governor is further humiliated by a public snubbing from his wife. As Julia Mikhaylovna engages charmingly with Stepan Trofimovich and the 'great writer' Karmazinov, who are to read at the Gala tomorrow, Pyotr Stepanovich enters.
Seeing him, Andrey Antonovich begins to show signs of derangement. But attention is immediately diverted to a new drama: Stavrogin has entered the room, and he is accosted by Liza. In a loud voice she complains of harassment from a certain Captain Lebyadkin, who describes himself as Stavrogin's relation, the brother of his wife. Varvara Petrovna is horrified, but Stavrogin simply smiles and walks out.
Most of the town has subscribed and all the influential people are present for the reading, with the exception of the Stavrogins. Julia Mikhaylovna, who has somehow managed to reconcile Andrey Antonovich, is at the summit of her ambition. But things go wrong from the beginning.
Pyotr Stepanovich's associates Lyamshin and Liputin take advantage of their role as stewards to alter proceedings in a provocative way, and allow a lot of low types in without paying. The reading starts with the unscheduled appearance on stage of a hopelessly drunk Captain Lebyadkin, apparently for the purpose of reading some of his poetry. Realizing the Captain is too drunk, Liputin takes it upon himself to read the poem, which is a witless and insulting piece about the hard lot of governesses.
He is quickly followed by the literary genius Karmazinov who is reading a farewell to his public entitled " Merci ". For over an hour the great writer plods through an aimless stream of self-absorbed fantasy, sending the audience into a state of complete stupefaction. The torture only comes to an end when an exhausted listener inadvertently cries out "Lord, what rubbish! He plunges headlong into a passionate exhortation of his own aesthetic ideals, becoming increasingly shrill as he reacts to the derision emanating from the audience.
He ends by cursing them and storming off. Pandemonium breaks out as an unexpected third reader, a 'professor' from Petersburg, immediately takes the stage in his place. Apparently delighted by the disorder, the new orator launches into a frenzied tirade against Russia, shouting with all his might and gesticulating with his fist. He is eventually dragged off stage by six officials, but he somehow manages to escape and returns to briefly continue his harangue before being dragged off again.
Supporters in the audience rush to his aid as a schoolgirl takes the stage seeking to rouse oppressed students everywhere to protest. In the aftermath, Pyotr Stepanovich who was mysteriously absent from the reading seeks to persuade a traumatized Julia Mikhaylovna that it wasn't as bad as she thinks and that it is essential for her to attend the ball.
He also lets her know that the town is ringing with the news of another scandal: Despite the disaster of the reading, the ball goes ahead that evening, with Julia Mikhaylovna and Andrey Antonovich in attendance. I suffer with the psychopath, and take his side, even when I disagree with him. He creates characters with major flaws, and very different positions, and he gives all of them their space, their say, their moment on stage.
He lets a drunkard, the comical character of Marmeladov, who pushes his wife to insanity and his daughter to prostitution, revel in the pleasure of suffering, sounding almost like a philosopher when he cherishes his idea that god will honour the self-sacrifice of the women he has destroyed, and that the same god will indiscriminately have mercy on himself as well, for being so willing to suffer especially the pulling of hair does a great deal of good, according to Marmeladov, comical effect included! Dostoyevsky lets women sacrifice themselves in the name of charity and religion. Needless to say, I have strong opinions about that, and apart from the unspeakable suffering imposed on them in their lifetime, I do not approve of any religious dogma that justifies self-sacrifice as a virtue - in our time of terrorist violence, it seems an almost obscene attitude.
And he does it so convincingly that the reader feels the urge to argue with the characters. I found myself saying: And as an anachronistic side note, in these times of newspeakish, American-style greatness, we need to ask ourselves if that is anything to strive for at all. The hypnotic power that a charismatic personality exerts over other people. The physical power that men exert over women and children.
The mental power that educated people exert over simple minds. The financial power that wealthy people exert over hungry, poor, miserable people. The religious power that dogma exerts over people to accept injustice in the hope of scoring high with god in the afterlife. The linguistic power that eloquence exerts to dominate an entire environment with propaganda.
The individual power to say no. Two characters, both women, refuse to play the cards they are dealt. Dounia Romanovna and Katerina Ivanovna - you are my true heroes in this endlessly deep masterpiece of a novel! Dounia - holding the revolver, ready to kill the man who has lured her into a corner and tries to blackmail her into a sexual relationship!
The most powerful scene of all. I shiver while reading. As will power goes, hers is brilliant. No man owns that woman. Thank you for that scene, Dostoyevsky! And she manages NOT to kill, thus showing her spoiled, attention-seeking, impulsive and arrogant brother who is mentally superior despite physical weakness. Katerina - committing an act of insanity while slowly dying of consumption, and leaving her three children orphans! Instead of hiding herself and suffering in secret, she takes to the streets, forces her misery upon the world, and makes it official.
She has all the right in the world to dance, sing and make noise to point to the insanity of society, which creates a platform for a life like hers. And her refusal to receive the greedy priest on her deathbed is simply divine: I could go on in infinity, but I will break off here, just like Dostoyevsky breaks off in medias res, hinting at the untold sequel - the marriage between Raskolnikov and Sonia!
Oh, dear, what an emotional roller coaster that must be - it is quite enough to allude to it in an epilogue to make me smile. The brooding murderer and the saintly whore, joined together in holy suffering. Brilliant, even as a vague idea. Standing, shaking, roaring ovations! View all 58 comments. Who else could keep me up and awake night after night, even though I promise myself every morning to go to bed at a decent hour? Who else can create such authentic human emotions that I feel I'm experiencing all of them myself? Who else would make me subject my kids to dinners of grilled cheese sandwiches, scrambled eggs, or frozen waffles just to spend more time with you?
There is no one else. View all 19 comments. Nov 11, Jim Fonseca rated it it was amazing Shelves: I think this book is fascinating because of all the topic it covers. Like the OJ trial, it is about many important interconnected things and those things remain important today, even though this book was originally published in Sure, it has a lot about crime and punishment. But also insanity and temporary insanity, the latter a legal plea that could be entered in Russia of the mid's. It's about guilt and conscience, long before Freud. In fact, this book was written at a time when psychological theories were coming into vogue.
It's about false confessions. It's about poverty and social class and people who rise above their class and people who fall from the class they were born into. It's about the wild dreams and the follies of youth.
There is also mention of many social theories that were in vogue at that time, so, for example, if you want to, you can click on Wikipedia to find out about "Fourier's system" and his phalansteres. There is attempted rape, blackmail, child labor, child prostitution, child marriage and child molestation. There is discussion of marrying for money.
There are ethnic tensions between Russians and the Germans of St. Should you give to charity or should you give to change the conditions that caused the poverty? Like me, you may have thought that was a modern idea, but here it is, laid out in There's a lot about alcoholism. Stir in a cat-and-mouse detective and a bit of Christian redemption.
No wonder this is a classic. View all 32 comments. My killing a loathsome, harmful louse, a filthy old moneylender woman who brought no good to anyone, to murder whom would pardon forty sins, who sucked the lifeblood of the poor, and you call that a crime? After revisiting Crime and Punishment I am utterly troubled.
In my opinion, to write a review of one of Fyodor Dostoyevsky 's great masterpieces is a troublesome undertaking. To write a decent one, even harder. So here are just a few toughts, backed by Dostoyevsky's own words so that I don't blunder it all. Ah, such fascinating despair. I had a period in my life when I went deep into Dostoevsky. Perhaps because his books made me contemplate about being human. This is a remarkable study in emotions, intense and anguished. This confusion became more and more intense.
As he went down the stairs, he even stopped short, two or three times, as though suddenly struck by some thought. When he was in the street he cried out, "Oh, God, how loathsome it all is! No, it's nonsense, it's rubbish! What filthy things my heart is capable of. Yes, filthy above all, disgusting, loathsome, loathsome! The feeling of intense repulsion, which had begun to oppress and torture his heart while he was on his way to the old woman, had by now reached such a pitch and had taken such a definite form that he did not know what to do with himself to escape from his wretchedness.
That I resented his mother when he did and I loved her when he did? That I felt Raskolnikov's anxiety, and tried to tell him to turn back when he was climbing the steps to the old woman's apartment? But up he went. And that it anguished me because I new, as any reader would, what was bound to happen?
Yes, his is not the kind of personality that I usually sympathize with. However, I could begin to understand him and his despair. Yes, Dostoyevsky created a very real character and I believed him enough to mentally immerse myself with his creation while submersed in his book. And this kept me turning the pages up to the last one. Granted, granted that there is no flaw in all that reasoning, that all that I have concluded this last month is clear as day, true as arithmetic…. Anyway I couldn't bring myself to it!
I couldn't do it, I couldn't do it! Why, why then am I still …? He identified himself with those history figures. And that gave him the right to commit the crime. How could he explain the murder? I understand he just required a belief to explain it to himself. He was no Napoleon; he was not fighting in a war. And he knew it. What he needed was a moral argument that pushed him up the steps and lifted his arms in the final act. I went into it like a wise man, and that was just my destruction. And you mustn't suppose that I didn't know, for instance, that if I began to question myself whether I had the right to gain power—I certainly hadn't the right—or that if I asked myself whether a human being is a louse it proved that it wasn't so for me, though it might be for a man who would go straight to his goal without asking questions.
I had to endure all the agony of that battle of ideas, Sonia, and I longed to throw it off: I wanted to murder without casuistry, to murder for my own sake, for myself alone! I didn't want to lie about it even to myself. I simply did it; I did the murder for myself, for myself alone, and whether I became a benefactor to others, or spent my life like a spider, catching men in my web and sucking the life out of men, I couldn't have cared at that moment.
It was not so much the money I wanted, but something else. Perhaps I should never have committed a murder again. I wanted to find out something else; it was something else led me on. I wanted to find out then and quickly whether I was a louse like everybody else or a man. Yes, the women in the story turn out almost consistently to be the stronger characters, the source of redemption. What about the patetic Marmeledov; the the self-centered Luzhin; the drunken philanderer Svidrigailov? They are all fascinating in their own right, and important to the story.
A much more crucial issue: Where is God, religion? For that I would have to go back to his Russia, to his time and his life. Nevertheless, all that will have to wait for a possible follow-up-review, today all my effort was on Raskolnikov and how I felt reading Crime and Punishment. An outstanding classic about the human essence, about our darkest and deepest impulses. The unequivocal voice of each character, the sharp study of society, the movements of Raskolnikov, of the extreme reduction of hate to the redemption of love.
Ultimately it reveals that our own inner consciousness can stand a far greater punishment than any legal system can. View all 50 comments. Here's another review as I go! I suppose I just can't let go of Dostoyevsky's squalid, bleak, complicated, and spiritually vexing world, so despite having just finished The Brothers Karamazov, I find myself plunging headlong into Crime and Punishment, a book I last read 20 years ago.
I'm reading the new Oliver Ready translation, and it's wonderful so far. I can well imagine how shocking this book must have been at the time. It depicts a world where everyone is either taking advantage of someone el Here's another review as I go! It depicts a world where everyone is either taking advantage of someone else or being taken advantage of, where most of the characters are engaged in a mean, petty, and morally bankrupt struggle for survival.
Ironically, it's Raskolnikov himself who comes closest to espousing some idealistic notion of virtue among all the squalor, when he criticizes his sister for being engaged to someone she doesn't love, all for the sake of the man's money, with its potential to lift their family out of poverty. What's interesting about his passion is the deep moralism that accompanies it--his sense of the world's injustice, as when he rushes to save Marmeladov, a drunkard who was trampled by a horse, and brings the man to his family and feels sorry for them all as he comforts them and gives them money.
You get the sense here of a man who deeply feels all the depravity and injustice of the world, one who can hardly stand it, and yet he's the murderer and perhaps the most depraved one of all. Raskolnikov is also quite suspicious of "phonies," to use a Holden Caulfield term, as when he confronts his sister's fiance.
Here's another complication in this fascinating character. Is he the most "honest" character in the book? In a way he is, but of course he's hiding the biggest secret. He constantly struggles against his own duplicity and is often on the verge of blurting out his crime. He even does at one point, yet his listener thinks it's a joke, and he plays along, but you can see how the act of dissimulation itself is so painful to him.
But of course this is all complicated by Raskolnikov's avowed athiesm, which he makes clear to Sonya when she says that God would never let their mother die and leave those young children as defenseless and homeless orphans, and Raskolnikov responds, "almost with a sort of malicious glee," by asking: What a tragic and pathetic scene when, homeless, she drags her young children to the streetcorner, dresses them up like performers, and demands they sing and dance for coins, all the while they're crying and she's yelling and coughing up blood.
Raskolnikov's premonitions come true, when he turns to Sonya afterwards and wonders what will happen to the children now. He rationalizes that if Napoleon, in order to fulfill his destiny, had to knock off a few lowly people, wouldn't he be justified in doing so? Passages like this presage all sorts of 20th century horrors, and it's fascinating to see them here, spoken by this most complicated character. Svidrigailov tries to use his knowledge to confront Raskolnikov's sister and get her in his power, claiming he'll take Raskolnikov away with him to America to save him, if only Avdotya will succumb to him.
In a scene straight out of a pulp novel, she's shocked and pulls out a revolver and shoots at him as he approaches her, only to graze his head. But he realizes she will never love him, and even after she throws the revolver aside, he allows her to escape. The fate of Svidrigailov was for me the one false note in the book--the one point where Dostoyevsky took the easy way out. I wasn't at all convinced he'd use the revolver in the way he did, and I felt the author basically wanted this troublesome character out of the way.
Otherwise, wow, the ending was just brilliant--the drama of whether Raskolnikov would confess or not was drawn out masterfully. Then, in Siberia, we get what were for me some of the saddest and truest lines of the entire book: And perhaps the only reason he'd considered himself a man to whom more was permitted than to others was the very strength of his desires. He becomes, finally, content, because he finally finds love--real deep spiritual love for this woman who'd given up everything to live near his remote penal colony. Love is what finally transforms him and gives him hope that, after seven more years, he'll be able at last to live.
And so ends this amazing journey--one that will remain with me for a long time, one that I'll ponder and dip back into, one that seems so modern and relevant today. In a way it really does presage the entire 20th century, with its exposition of how dreams of greatness can lead to sordid crimes, how greatness is a form of torment and perhaps even a form of demented thinking. I can't help seeing Raskolnikov as a "wanna-be" Stalin, or Hitler, or Mao, or any of those tragically self-aggrandizing men who see crime as simply a means to an end, who believe they're superior beings and are therefore entitled to use "lesser" people to service their own dreams.
It's a terrifying mentality, and Dostoyevsky knew it well. If only we'd listened to him View all 42 comments. View all 48 comments. Prestupleniye i nakazaniye is a novel by the Russian author Fyodor Dostoevsky. It was first published in the literary journal The Russian Messenger in twelve monthly installments during Later, it was published in a single volume. It is the second of Dostoevsky's full-length novels following his return from 5 years of exile in Sibe It is the second of Dostoevsky's full-length novels following his return from 5 years of exile in Siberia.
View all 5 comments. I basically had to stop drinking for a month in order to read it; my friends no longer call. View all 3 comments. Ah such beautiful pessimism. I find solace in the Russians, they make death seem like a mild disturbance in the beauty of life. Also their difficult is mere codswallop, the only difficult thing about Russian lit is the names. Crime and Punishment is the story of a crime and its eventual punishment.
It's really the story of a crime, followed by more crime, with a sprinkling of just a bit more crime, and then finished off with a tad of punishment. The m Ah such beautiful pessimism. The main character I'm literally too lazy to try to type out his name is a really fascinating character to study. I mean, yeah he's psychologically warped and is a bit "Oh I murdered someone but you should feel sorry for me anyway", however I always seem to find likable traits in even the most monstrous of characters I still to this day stand up for Humbert Humbert.
I just feel that I want to find someone else who's read this and sit down and talk for hours about the main character. To use a Russian motif, he's a matryoshka doll of a character. Like I felt with Emma Bovary in Madame Bovary , Raskolnikov there I actually typed out his name is kind of more interesting than the novel itself. Don't get me wrong, this novel is great and all but I just loved Raskolnikov.
I could harp on about all the themes and plots in this vast novel but I like keeping my Goodreads reviews brief. Basically, I thought this was hella good and I totally need to read more Dostoyevsky. I highly recommend this novel as well, so read it guys! Unless of course you've ever killed a pawnbroker in your life. Then I suggest staying well away from this.
Oct 14, Nayra. View all 13 comments. My star rating is purely subjective and means only what GR says it means: I didn't like it. It didn't mean anything to me, sadly, and I didn't even find it to be an interesting story. I'm not saying it's a terrible book; in fact, I'd be very interested to hear what others think reviews are a bit light for this book here I see. First, I have a confession to make: I got two thirds of the way through and skimmed the rest. Well, worse than that: I flipped through and got the gist, but such is the My star rating is purely subjective and means only what GR says it means: I flipped through and got the gist, but such is the way it's written you can't even skim.
I just really had to put the book to rest, and it made me feel miserable thinking about making myself keep reading it. Reading should never make you miserable , so I did something I rarely ever do, and it nags at me but, well, there you have it. The premise sounds interesting, and I had high hopes it would be one that would suck me in and captivate me. It's not that I had particularly high expectations - I didn't really have any expectations, though I thought it might be heavy on the intellectual side of things - but it was apparent from fairly early on that it wasn't going to be my kind of book.
It's Petersburg and a young student, Raskolnikov, is pawning his only valuables to an old crone, Alyona Ivanovna, who lives in a small apartment with her sister Lizaveta. He hasn't been able to afford to go to uni in several months, and his dress and manner makes him seem even lower class than he is.
In desperation he hatches a plan to murder Alyona and rob her. He carries this out, killing not just her but her simple-minded sister who returns home unexpectedly, and in his fear and haste flees the scene with only some pawned trinkets and a small pouch. His guilt manifests itself in fever and delirium, and he behaves very strangely thereafter.
His friend and fellow student, Razumikhin, puts up with an awful lot and generously gives his time and efforts to help Raskolnikov; his mother, Pulcheria Alexandrovna and his sister, Dunechka, come to town to prepare for Dunya's marriage to an odious man; and Raskolnikov becomes somewhat obsessed with the family of a poor alcoholic who dies early on, in particular his eldest daughter Sonya, who had to become a prostitute in order to make some money for her family.
There's a lot of twoing and froing, a lot of agonising on Raskolnikov's part, and a lot of exclaiming. I wouldn't even have minded but Raskolnikov became such a bore, I didn't even want to slap, I just wanted to ignore him. It comes down mostly to the way it was written, which I didn't care for and which made the book a real slog. I know this is some kind of work of genius, but if that's true, then I just felt stupid. It all seemed pretty obvious to me.
No doubt if I made the effort I could see something special here, but it's like The Red and the Black - other people find the psychological melodrama truly fascinating, but to me, it's just melodrama, which I loathe. There's also no mystery, and not much suspense. There's a somewhat clever police inspector investigating the murder, but the game of cat-and-mouse the blurb enticed me with fell flat pretty quickly, and there was nothing left to hold me. The blurb describes the book as "a preternaturally acute investigation of the forces that impel a man toward sin, suffering and grace.
You can tell I'm really impressed can't you? It reads more like an account of a man going mad and being really self-centred, but after my sorry lack of appreciation for the equally masterful The Red and the Black , is it any surprise that I didn't like this book at all? If you're looking for a good story, this isn't it. View all 69 comments. I wish some books never had to end. This will undoubtedly top my top 5 books of View all 8 comments. Dec 03, Vessey rated it it was amazing Shelves: Truly great men, I think, must feel great sorrow in this world. I dedicate it to my friend Jeffrey.
It was a common painful experience that bought us together and let me get to know the fabulous person behind the written words. Thank you for being "Pain and suffering are always inevitable for a broad consciousness and a deep heart. Thank you for being what you are, Jeffrey! Perhaps you'll hear my name someday. It is a thing universally spoken of, asked for, preached, aspired to, but do we actually know what it means? Can it be defined? Is forgiveness meant to erase the act? If so, then, indeed, nothing could ever be forgiven, because nothing can ever change the past, bring back the time, make you a different person, change the reality of who you are and what you have done.
But if there is such thing as forgiveness, what does it mean? Does it mean to believe that the committer is not guilty, that they have done their best under their circumstances? But if there is no crime, then there is no need of forgiveness. Or is this it? To keep an open mind, to understand when and where judgement needs to be bestowed and when and where — withdrawn. Or is it to conceal, to hide your negative feelings toward them and act merely on your positive ones? Or maybe this is it. Along with the accusations to be able to show them some goodness, to remember that they are humans too.
And what about when we have no positive feelings toward them and all we can see is a monster? Would that be forgiveness? And if the wound is healed? Does our overcoming the hurt automatically bestow forgiveness on the committer?
Only a healthy spirit can bear the weight of a large intelligence. It was almost as if he could see through time you know; like a known face reaching out from an unknown, distant pass. Inexperienced in the ways of the aristocracy, Myshkin is deeply impressed by the elegance and good humour of the company, unsuspicious of its superficiality. I highly recommend this novel, and firmly stand by my choice of it as my favorite. Between the years and he served as editor of the monthly periodical Time , which was later suppressed because of an article on the Polish uprising.
And how would they feel? If the pain is gone, does that release us from responsibility? If the victim ceases to be a victim, does the criminal cease to be a criminal? If those whom we have hurt can make peace with what we have done, can we? Which is the harder forgiveness? The one we need to bestow on others or on ourselves? Do we truly believe in forgiveness when we speak of it? Can a wound really be overcome? And I said to him that if we were able to have everything we needed, we would have been able to get over things.
If it is true that we never get over things, then it is because there are always new ones piling on top of the old ones. Also, what happens when there is not enough left of us to be healed? In Fugitive Pieces it is said: And even if an act could be forgiven, no one could bear the responsibility of forgiveness on behalf of the dead. No act of violence is ever resolved. When the one who can forgive can no longer speak, there is only silence.
They don't conceal their feelings and their belief that what he has done is unacceptable, incomprehensible, cruel act. Yet, they do so without assuming lofty position, without anger, without judgement, without coldness, without contempt.
They choose to treat the criminal as an equal, as a victim in need of help, as a loved one. But can a criminal be a victim at the same time? Those are the biggest victims.
Victims of themselves, of their inability to rise above and believe. But is it so easy to determine the nature of a crime? It is usually seen as a harmful to others deed. I believe in gray areas. And this is how Raskolnikov sees himself. It is his personal rebellion against an oppressor. Oppressor who consists of more than an old pawnbroker. To him she is part of a decease that the world is rife with. She is no a single tyrant holding a whole city or nation in her fist, but sometimes the face of evil, the oppression is not just one person, but many.
To him she is part of a society that needs to be brought down in order for new, better breed of people, compassionate, altruistic people, to come and rule. To come and make the important decisions. And he thinks that if he can't defeat the system, he can at least weaken it by destroying one of its members, the harsh, uncaring old woman, and add the acquired from her to the good society, to those in need.
And he also sacrifices an innocent woman in order to protect himself and his plan. And the pawnbroker herself? Or at least not mainly because of that. I think he sees her this way mostly because there is no compassion in her refusal, no understanding. There are those who make hard decisions and hurt other people but are hurting while doing so and are sorry for that they need to do it. This woman shows no compassion, no regret. And it is this most of all that drives him over the edge. I believe it is essential to show compassion toward those we hurt.
Even when we think they deserve it, even when we feel we have no other choice. And kills her sister. He believes that sometimes it is acceptable for an "exceptional" human to sacrifice an "ordinary" one in the name of the greater good. I cannot see him as simply a criminal, or simply a victim. I can neither oppose, nor side with his philosophy. All is quite relevant. I can talk of this situation. Do I see the murder of the two women as justified act?
Raskolnikov has a truly exceptional mind that, unfortunately, proves to be a knife with two blades.
Sofia Simeonovna asks him: His passion, his broad consciousness lead him to both great good and great cruelty. For some reason it just goes both ways. His victims lack the capacity for such a crime, but they also lack the capacity for the good he is capable of. It is marvellous to possess such a wealth of profundity and passion, but only when you have the means to channel them the right way. Sometimes the best of us is the worst in someone else. There are those of us who lack the necessary substance to bear their gifts with dignity, integrity, passion, and therefore their depth, their brilliance is a murder.
They incite them to believes and actions that are far beyond our and their own comprehension. Only a healthy spirit can bear the weight of a large intelligence. I keep asking myself why our human complexity results into violence, sadism, cruelty, and not in beauty, nobleness, desire. It is our birthright and obligation to be more than what nature has bestowed on us. Technically, biologically, we are no more than animals, part of the big chain, but inwardly we are something else. Something exceptional, spectacular, breathtaking. We are strong and beautiful in our intricacy, but cruel and weak in our inability to bear it, to recognize it, to give in to it.
The beauty of the human heart and mind is always dual, deadly and life-giving, poisonous and healing, grand and small. And it is there that lays the biggest mystery. For it is pain and suffering that the most beautiful creations are based on. It is pain that forces us to grow, to develop, it is pain that reveals to us our most amazing qualities, our deepest beauty, our profoundest selves. It is there that lays the irony, the paradox. Our highest cannot exist without our lowest. I think it is rather notable that after having murdered two women and being incarcerated for it, Raskolnikov is actually more at peace with himself than at the beginning.
The pain he goes through changes him. He might have commits his crime only once, but in his mind many times before that. Subconsciously, but still, the thoughts, the feelings that lead to it in the end have been part of him always. And after finally getting to it, he changes. He did not understand that this sense might herald a future break in his life, his future resurrection, his future new vision of life. Yet, in the end he does find peace. A peace he has never known before. Because it is one thing to imagine and think of something.
Only when he truly faces his convictions, by actually acting on them, he realizes their true nature. Some I used to know told me they felt his remorse was self-serving. But does the suffering make the remorse more real, worthier? Desperation drives Raskolnikov toward his crime and had he stayed in this abyss of guilt and darkness, maybe he would have gone down the same road eventually.
Yet, he manages to realize the error of his ways and make peace with what he has done, and this saves him and those around him. I have always believed that, when it comes to personal growth, deep reading and writing are the best alternative to pain and suffering. Long live great literature. I would also like to thank my friend Sidharth who really does understand and appreciate the connection between beauty and pain and whose words about it were a part of what inspired me to write this. You are a very wise young man. View all 74 comments.
May 17, Samra Yusuf rated it it was amazing Shelves: Stricken by poverty and dogged to change his doom, Raskolnikov regards the idea of robbing an old pawnbroker on his way back to the closet apartment he resides as paying guest. The subject is very simple. A man conceives the idea of committing a crime; he matures it, commits the deed, and so the punishment starts, the flash back of the scene plays in the screen of his mind, he is tortured by his own self, he wants it to end, considers confessing his crime before the authorities, and yet finds no courage to do that, in the long run goes to police, states his crime and is sent to Siberia.
If it could only be that simple! Raskolnikov is the student of law and a self-acclaimed revolutionary, a nihilist to the boots, intelligent, unprincipled, unscrupulous, reduced to extreme poverty, decides to take matters in his hands for once, for him world is crowded with two kinds of people, the one who act and are named in history, like Napoleon, for whom the smaller crime done to accomplish bigger aims is defensible and even requisite, Raskolnikov strive to be the one. The really great men must, I think, have great sadness on earth. Other plot threads weave the whole picture of Russia of the time, when one with three times a bite of bread was considered lucky, the time when women were either domestic hags or harlots, the time when everyone talked too much, spanned over hundreds of pages the talk of no consequence, the time when Russia had witty officers in police, who used to hunt down criminals like a tiger and yet waited for his surrender, and the time when people killed just to see if their theories were in alignment with reality.
Dostoevsky had witnessed death with his bare eyes, as he faced the firing squad in St. Petersburg and was spared at the last moment, and the way he rips off the layers of human mind, lays us naked before us and the whole world to view, is of no surprise!! View all 51 comments. I have few Dostoevsky fans in my friends list so my opinions here might not go over so well.
I have been wanting to read this classic for a while and I had high expectations, but they were not met. I liked it okay but I found it to be a bit slow and drawn out. Ultimately not a whole lot happens in the story, but it takes pages to get there. In fact, there are probably as many plot points in the 15 page epilogue as in the rest of the book. However, despite this, I can say that parts of the jou I have few Dostoevsky fans in my friends list so my opinions here might not go over so well. However, despite this, I can say that parts of the journey were pretty good.
Every few chapters there would be a high intensity event that would draw me in. In fact, if you graphed this book out with the high points followed by long lulls, it would probably look like an EKG. Also, it was interesting to take in the classic Russian writing. Whether or not it was always super exciting, I did enjoy the feel of the narrative from the classic Russian perspective. In summary, I would not recommend this as highly as some other classics, but if you are hardcore into completing your classic reading list, you can't miss this one. View all 14 comments.
I first read this book in high school and it blew my conceptions of literature away every bit as much as Light in August and One Hundred Years of Solitude. The first use of stream of consciousness, the deep analysis of Raskolnikov's conscience, the extraordinary plot movement and violence, the perfect narrative viewpoint For me the two Dostoyevsky books to read if you are to read any are this one an I first read this book in high school and it blew my conceptions of literature away every bit as much as Light in August and One Hundred Years of Solitude.
For me the two Dostoyevsky books to read if you are to read any are this one and Brothers Karamazov. If not for all the universal themes addressed and the vividly depicted characters, then for the incredible prose and in-depth character analysis. I don't think I will ever fully sound the depths of Crime and Punishment. I have read it in two English translations and one French translation.
I felt Raskolnikov's anxiety. I resented his mother when he did and I loved her when he did. I felt sick at the thought of Luzhin or Svidrigailov getting their hooks in dear Dunya shout out to Dunya! I wanted Porfiry to just accuse him, already! I guess I'm saying that Dostoevsky managed to make a very real character that I believed enough to mentally and physically align myself with while reading.
This is what ultimately kept me turning the Oh, Rasky!!!!!!!! This is what ultimately kept me turning the pages. His personality--at least that suggested in the character's essay On Crime--isn't one that I tend to sympathize with. The scholar who thinks he's a super-human and therefore above or aside from others is someone who I want to punch in the nuts, normally.
A complete lack of humility is not sexy. I liked him, anyway. I think we weren't seeing him at his finest, and the way that Dunya and his mother and that swell chap Razumikhin loved him suggested so. Why was she so good? Why did she love him and follow him to Siberia? How could Sonya be that good? I've known people in pretty distressing situations and tragic despair Was there some sort of Russian virus that lay dormant until stress levels rose?
There must've been because it sent Raskol into delirium where he shouted out murder clues in his sleep, killed Katerina Ivanovna though, to be fair, she was dying, anyway , caused Dunya to betray her brother to her mother while sleeping "She was raving! I would like to read more about him before reading "Notes from Underground. Maybe this makes me a sap, but it was such a relief to know that he could feel, again. The other prisoners hated him less after that, which makes all the sense in the world. View all 12 comments. I do not know how to begin, I am utterly troubled.
In my opinion, to write a review of Dostoyevsky's great masterpiece is a very hard undertaking. A week ago, if you asked me what my favorite novel was, I'd greatly struggle with it. I might give varying answers. It would probably depend on my mood, or the current focu I do not know how to begin, I am utterly troubled. It would probably depend on my mood, or the current focus of my stream of thoughts.
Now, now I have found it! A book, unquestionable enough to be the greatest novel and work of fiction that I have read. As I say this, please bear in mind that I have humbly read very few of the novels I intend to read. Let us say that I'm still a novice of the classical greats. Call me a classical dunce, if you must.