Plot-wise Crime and Punishment is fairly straight forward, an impoverished young man murdered a nasty old woman and her sister but afterward finds that he can not live with himself; after suffering some extreme anguish of the soul he begins looking for redemption. The simple synopsis belies a psychologically complex book. This is an entire character driven novel, full of psychological insights and profundities. To me, the most difficult aspect of reading this book is the writing style which is eloquent and evocative but most of the characters seem to speak in extraordinarily long monologues, pontificating, ruminating, philosophizing, wringing their hands like nobody’s business. However, once I got used to this I became captivated by the protagonists and their plights.
Rodion Romanovich Raskolnikov is a wonderfully complex antihero, I was appalled by his act of murder which seems like some kind of weird experiment to test his very odd theory about what an intellectual is entitled to do, especially if he compensates for one evil act by doing numerous good deeds. While Raskolnikov is front and centre of the story, the novel is not entirely about him, the supporting characters also have very hard lives of their own. Particularly Sonia (Sofia Semyonovna Marmeladova) the poor girl who sells herself to feed her family and eventually finds love and respect in the last place you would expect. All the characters are very vividly developed, even the villains of the piece are not the mustache twirling types with Machiavellian schemes. They are just horrid, odious, selfish, manipulative men, the sort you meet or read about all too often in real life. There is Pyotr Petrovitch Luzhin who never murdered anyone but is so cruel, arrogant and selfish that I wish Raskolnikov had administered the same axe treatment to cure him of his personality. Then there is Arkady Ivanovich Svidrigaïlov who is a pervert, possibly a pedophile, yet also some kind of antihero yearning for redemption.
This is not a book to read if you are looking for a good giggle, but if you are interested in contemplating faith, redemption, conscience and morality it is the very thing. It would seem ridiculous if I said that reading this book has made me a better person, the trouble is the truth is sometimes ridiculous.