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FREE Barron's Booknotes-Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky-Free
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EPILOGUE, CHAPTER 1

When Raskolnikov confessed, he did a thorough job of it. He described the murder in such precise detail that the judges couldn't figure out why he was lying about not having counted the money. They couldn't believe he hadn't. But when they finally believed him, they concluded, ironically, that it proved the killer was temporarily mentally deranged. It seems that, just like today, temporary insanity was the "latest fashionable theory" about crime back then. This reminds us that some issues relating to crime haven't changed much in the last hundred years.

Raskolnikov does tell one big lie: he insists that he is sincerely remorseful, and that he committed the murder because he was desperately poor and needed the money to get on with his career. He also calls himself a coward and says that he has an unstable nature.

Dostoevsky doesn't explain this behavior, but leaves it to you to figure out. One thing you should remember is that he has mixed reasons for deciding to confess. All along, too, the idea that he is punishing himself has been a strong possibility. Perhaps publicly calling himself a coward satisfies a psychological need.

NOTE:

The third-person narrator tells this part of the story very straight- forwardly. He offers no insight into what Raskolnikov is thinking; he simply reports the facts. While in one way the trial is a crucially important part of the novel, it is also the least provocative. In Dostoevsky's view an impersonal system is making partially knowledgeable decisions. Here, at least, he is more critical of the system than of the killer.


Raskolnikov gets off with a relatively light sentence-eight years in Siberia. Many factors influence the court's decision: Raskolnikov's poverty, his mental instability, his confession. Porfiry's silence is important, too, for the court never knows that there was any suspicion against Raskolnikov. And his past is full of those strange, contradictory acts of goodness you saw, for example, in his treatment of the Marmeladovs.

His mother becomes ill almost immediately and dies, unable to cope with the uncertainty of her son's fate; Dunya and Razumikhin marry, and Sonia follows Raskolnikov to Siberia. Dostoevsky ties off all the loose ends.

If you imagined that any great change had taken place in Raskolnikov, you're in for a disappointment. He reacts to prison as you might have expected the "old" Raskolnikov to-he's sullen, indifferent, not interested in anything, not even Sonia's visits; in fact, he's rude to her. Finally, having alienated practically everybody except the long-suffering Sonia, he becomes seriously ill.

NOTE:

There are many critics who think the book should end at this point. Raskolnikov is acting like himself, and so is Sonia, who-thanks to Svidrigailov-isn't a prostitute anymore. Realistically, they say, this is the logical conclusion to Raskolnikov's crime and punishment. But Dostoevsky has something very different in mind.

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FREE Barron's Booknotes-Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky-Free
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