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Dostoyevsky - Crime and punishment



Type of Spiritual Experience


A description of the experience

Wikipedia - Crime and Punishment  - Fyodor Dostoevsky

Raskolnikov, a mentally unstable drop-out student, lives in a tiny, rented room in Saint Petersburg. He refuses all help, even from his friend Razumikhin, and devises a plan to murder and to rob an unpleasant elderly pawn-broker and money-lender, Alyona Ivanovna. His motivation, whether personal or ideological, remains at this point unclear. While still considering the plan, Raskolnikov makes the acquaintance of Semyon Zakharovich Marmeladov, a drunkard who has recently squandered his family's little wealth. He also receives a letter from his sister and mother, speaking of their coming visit to St. Petersberg, and his sister's sudden marriage plans which they will discuss with him shortly.

After much deliberation, Raskolnikov sneaks into Alyona Ivanovna's apartment where he murders her with an ax. However, he also kills her half-sister, Lizaveta, who happens to enter the scene of the crime. Shaken by his actions, Raskolnikov manages to only steal a handful of items and a small purse, leaving much of the pawn-broker's wealth untouched. Raskolnikov then flees the scene of the crime, and leaves miraculously unseen and undetected.

After the bungled murder, Raskolnikov falls into a feverish state and begins to worry obsessively over the murder. He hides the stolen items and purse under a rock, and tries desperately to clean his clothing of any blood or evidence. He passes out later that day, though not before calling briefly on his old friend Razumikhin. As the fever comes and goes in the following days, Raskolnikov behaves as though he wishes to betray himself. He shows strange reactions to whosoever mentions the murder of the pawn-broker, which is now known about and talked of in the city. In his delirium, Raskolnikov wanders Petersberg, drawing more and more attention to himself and his relation to the crime. In one of walks through the city, he sees his acquaintance Marmeladov being struck mortally by a carriage in the streets. Rushing to help him, Raskolnikov gives the remainder of his money to the man's family, which includes his teenage daughter, Sonia, who has been forced to become a prostitute to support her family.

In the meantime, Raskolnikov's mother, Pulkheria Alexandrovna, and his sister, Avdotya Romanovna (or Dunya) have arrived in town. Avdotya has been working as a governess for the Svidrigailov family until this point, but was forced out of the position by the head of the family, Arkady Ivanovich Svidrigaïlov. Svidrigailov, a married man, was attracted to Avdotya's physical beauty and her stunning spiritual qualities, and offered her riches and elopement. Avdotya, having none of this, fled the family and lost her source of income, only to meet Pyotr Petrovich Luzhin, a man of modest income and rank. Luzhin proposes to marry Avdotya, thereby securing her and her mother's financial safety, provided she accept him quickly and without question. It is for these very reasons that the two of them come to St. Petersberg, both to meet Luzhin there and to attain Raskolnikov's approval. Luzhin, however, calls on Raskolnikov while he is in a delirious state and presents himself as a foolish, self-righteous and presuming man. Raskolnikov dismisses him immediately as a potential husband for his sister, and realizes that she would only marry to save her family.

As the novel progresses, Raskolnikov is introduced to the detective Porfiry, who begins to suspect him for the murder purely on psychological grounds. At the same time, a chaste relationship develops between Raskolnikov and Sonya. Sonya, though a prostitute, is full of Christian virtue and is only driven into the profession by the habits of her father. Meanwhile, Razumikhin and Raskolnikov manage to keep Avdotya from continuing her relationship with Luzhin, whose true character is exposed to be conniving and base. At this point, Svidrigailov appears on the scene, having come from the province to Petersberg, almost solely to seek out Avdotya. He reveals that his wife is dead, and that he is willing to pay Avdotya a vast sum of money in exchange for nothing. She, upon hearing the news, refuses flat out.

As Raskolnikov and Porfiry have more and more encounters and dialogs, the motives for the crime become exposed. Porfiry becomes, with each meeting, more certain of the man's guilt, but has no concrete evidence or witnesses with which to back this suspicion up. Raskolnikov's nerves begin to wear thin, and the idea of confessing is constantly struggling with the acknowledgement that he can never be truly convicted. He turns to Sonya for support, and confesses his crime to her. By coincidence, Svidrigailov has taken up residence in a room next to Sonya's and overhears the entire crime. When the two men meet face to face, Svidrigailov acknowledges this fact, and suggests that he may use it against him, should he need to. Svidrigailov also speaks of his own past, in which he reveals that he has committed murder and most recently killed his wife.

Raskolnikov is at this point completely torn; he is urged by Sonya to confess, and Svidrigailov's testimony could potentially convict him. Meantime, Svidrigailov attempts to seduce and then rape Avdotya, who convinces him otherwise. He then spends a night in confusion, and in the morning shoots himself. This same morning, Raskolnikov goes again to Sonya, who again urges him to come clean, and to clear his conscience. He makes his way to the police station, where he is met by the news of Svidrigailov's suicide. He hesitates a moment, thinking again that he might get away with a perfect crime, but is persuaded by Sonya to confess.

The epilogue tells of how Raskolnikov is sentenced to penal servitude in Siberia, where Sonya follows him. Avdotya and Razumikhin marry and are left in a happy enough position by the end of the novel. Raskolnikov, however, struggles in Siberia. It is only after some time serving that his redemption and moral regeneration begin under Sonya's loving influence.

The source of the experience


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