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Crime and Punishment
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Thomas | 4509 comments As chapter 4 of Part 3 opens, we see Sonya visit Raskolnikov. There seems to be some attraction going on here... he finds her pitiable, and when she backs away from him in fear, “it was as if something turned over inside him.” What is going on here?

Raskolnikov decides to visit Porfiry, Razumikhin’s relative, rather than go to the police. Is this really a strategic move, as he suggests, or is it maybe an instance of arrogance? Or is there a part of him that really wants to be caught?

Chapter 5: the visit to Porfiry. Porfiry is an interesting man. He seems to play along with Raskolnikov, like Zamyotov did before but with a philosophical flair. This gives Profiry the opportunity to ask Raskolnikov about his article on the nature of crime and his “extraordinary man” theory. He says extraordinary people are “those who have the gift or talent of speaking a new word in their environment.” (Italics in the original text.) Raskolnikov uses this term, “a new word” more than once. What is meant by this?

Is Raskolnikov an “extraordinary man”? Did Raskolnikov think of himself that way when he committed his crimes?

Why does Porfiry ask Raskolnikov if he believes in God?

Chapter 6: Who is the man “who came from under the ground” who identifies Raskolnikov as a murderer? Why is he “from under the ground”?

And another dream. What is the significance of Raskolnikov’s dream at the end of Chapter 6?


Xan  Shadowflutter (shadowflutter) | 387 comments Sonya = Amy Dorrit? (Little Dorrit). I was stunned by the similarities in descriptions, so much so that I stopped reading and looked up the publication date of Little Dorrit. It was published in serial form in 1857. Amy Dorrit is Arthur Clenham's savior. So now I'm wondering if like Amy, Sonya will be R's savior?

I'm going to have to reread because I don't recall the phrases "new word" or "from the underground" in the Ready translation.

"Extraordinary man" is used though. With his long explanation of his thinking behind the article he wrote, R is telling Porfiry why he murdered the pawnbroker, an arrogant catch-me-if-you-can dare, and a glimpse into his convoluted and not entirely rational thinking.

So, yes, I would say R thinks of himself as an extraordinary man. The irony is that by his own explanation he is not an extraordinary man. According to his explanation, an extraordinary man with an idea that could better mankind has the right kill a person who get's in his way. R has no such idea or at least not one that he has up to this point offered. R. is just a spiteful and delusional murderer.

It is R who is the fool or ordinary man. Porfiry, like detective Columbo, is baiting R. All his questions are designed to get R talking and to implicate himself.


message 3: by Xan (last edited Oct 04, 2017 05:23AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Xan  Shadowflutter (shadowflutter) | 387 comments Yes, that could be. It's too early to be sure, but I'm wondering if Dostoevsky isn't doing with Sonya what Dickens did with Amy. Amy is an archetype of the Christ-like figure (or Mary, Jesus's mother?) -- the innocence of a child symbolized by her child-like body but with the maturity and intellect of an adult. Amy, who has lived in a prison all of her life, is a moral agent for good who saves Arthur from himself. Sonya is a prostitute -- Mary Magdalene?


Tamara Agha-Jaffar | 1598 comments Cphe wrote: "They seem to have the same physical characteristics (the women that R is attracted to) in that they have the appearance of waifs.

I suspect that malnutrition does that."


I think the description of the women as child-like has a lot to do with R's attraction to them. Adults exert power over children. R feels empowered by exerting power over a child-like woman.


Tamara Agha-Jaffar | 1598 comments Xan Shadowflutter wrote: "Yes, that could be. It's too early to be sure, but I'm wondering if Dostoevsky isn't doing with Sonya what Dickens did with Amy. Amy is an archetype of the Christ-like figure (or Mary, Jesus's moth..."

That's an interesting point. Sonya, the prostitute, an outcast, ostracized by society and yet, purer and more innocent than R and, somehow, redeeming him.


David | 2695 comments Tamara wrote: "That's an interesting point. Sonya, the prostitute, an outcast, ostracized by society and yet, purer and more innocent than R and, somehow, redeeming him."

Isn't that the old "Hooker with a heart of gold" trope/cliché?


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Xan  Shadowflutter (shadowflutter) | 387 comments David wrote: "Isn't that the old "Hooker with a heart of gold" trope/cliché?..."

Yup! And I'm going with it.


message 8: by David (last edited Oct 04, 2017 07:42PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

David | 2695 comments I think this was a crucial part of R's exchange with Porfiry:
“If he has a conscience he will suffer for his mistake. That will be his punishment—as well as the prison.” “But the real geniuses,” asked Razumihin frowning, “those who have the right to murder? Oughtn’t they to suffer at all even for the blood they’ve shed?” “Why the word ought? It’s not a matter of permission or prohibition. He will suffer if he is sorry for his victim.
Shortly after this while confirming he hated the old woman, he finally acknowledges the fact he also murdered Lizaveta:
“Ah, how I hate the old woman now! I feel I should kill her again if she came to life! Poor Lizaveta! Why did she come in? . . . It’s strange though, why is it I scarcely ever think of her, as though I hadn’t killed her?
Also, in light of their prominence in Brothers Karamzov Raskolnikov's assertion that permission and prohibition are irrelevant caught my attention and may be related to why Porfiry ask Raskolnikov if he believes in God.


Thomas | 4509 comments Xan Shadowflutter wrote: "So, yes, I would say R thinks of himself as an extraordinary man. The irony is that by his own explanation he is not an extraordinary man."

One of R's defining characteristics is that he is and he isn't a lot of things, sometimes simultaneously. This is symbolized in the murder itself, when he kills the greedy old crone and the innocent Lizaveta at the same time. Neither act is "extraordinary" in the sense he claims, but he might have thought that killing the pawnbroker was at least justified when he did it. Killing Lizaveta could never be.


Xan  Shadowflutter (shadowflutter) | 387 comments Yes, R is a lot of things, his mind a cauldron of conflicting feelings.
And I agree he thought killing the pawnbroker was justified. She must represent something to him he hasn't yet revealed, because he hates her with a passion. But what? Guessing, perhaps she represents to him an uncaring world, one without compassion.


Xan  Shadowflutter (shadowflutter) | 387 comments That's an interesting point -- that he is an extraordinary man while she is not extraordinary, and, therefore, he would make better use of the money.

But as Porfiry says, the money in the box is not taken. I forget. Does Porfiry say this is because the murderer is an amateur or because money was not the reason?

PS: Porfiry is very intelligent -- the extraordinary man who would never murder?


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Sue Pit (cybee) | 329 comments I wondered if R saw the pawnbroker as representative of his own failure ...a dark representative of a system that failed him: his intensity of hatred against her given rise from her profiting from his woes to which he had to resort and he despised that ...and her (she.....who dared to look at HIM with distrustful eyes..HIM!).
He seems to repress thinking of the unplanned killing of Lizaveta but obviously at times it burbles up to his consciousness and makes him hate the pawnbroker all the more as the cause of it.

R had an emotional attempt of self justification and then reckoning with himself right before his disturbing dream: that the pawnbroker was a "principle" (or a 'louse" or "sickness")(and his killing the eradicating such/someone who makes a profit of other people's woes ) and that the pawnbroker was not even a person (again omitting mention of Lizaveta...his thoughts of her seemingly seque into thought of Sonya) and that his killing the pawnbroker would work as a stepping stone for him (by eradicating that evil and taking the money, "no more and no less" than what he needed to make that "first step"). These thoughts ending in a conclusion that it was he, R, that is the great louse.

I wonder if the "tradesman" who was wearing "something of a smock over his waistcoat" and called R a murderer (!) was in fact one of the painters who may have seen R unbeknownst to him on that fateful day. The fact that in the dream the "tradesman" walks to the house of the killings furthers this speculation, but who knows. The disturbing dream appears to indicate his horror of having been witnessed/identified.


Tamara Agha-Jaffar | 1598 comments R seems to project his self-hate for being so needy on to the women he desperately needs to help him financially. He hates the pawnbroker because he needs her and he also expresses a hatred for his mother and sister.

Mother, sister—how I loved them! Why do I hate them now? Yes, I hate them, I feel a physical hatred for them, I can’t bear them near me…. I went up to my mother and kissed her, I remember….

He seems to resent women who exert financial power over him and prefers women who are child-like and need his help.


David | 2695 comments Cphe wrote: "Do you think that R was jealous of the pawnbroker and that was why he was contemptuous of her?"

If it was jealousy, what is the meaning behind R's saying to himself:
“The old woman was a mistake perhaps, but she is not what matters! The old woman was only an illness. . . . I was in a hurry to overstep. . . . I didn’t kill a human being, but a principle! I killed the principle, but I didn’t overstep, I stopped on this side. . . . I was only capable of killing.
And he immediately follows those thoughts by revealing his sympathy for socialist reforms:
Why was that fool Razumihin abusing the socialists? They are industrious, commercial people; ‘the happiness of all’ is their case.
This is immediately followed by his frustrations with the lopsided distribution of weath and his impatience to wait for socialist reforms:
No, life is only given to me once and I shall never have it again; I don’t want to wait for ‘the happiness of all.’ I want to live myself, or else better not live at all. I simply couldn’t pass by my mother starving, keeping my rouble in my pocket while I waited for the ‘happiness of all.’ I am putting my little brick into the happiness of all
I am left wondering what he means by
I stopped on this side. . . . I was only capable of killing.



Xan  Shadowflutter (shadowflutter) | 387 comments Sue wrote: "I wonder if the "tradesman" who was wearing "something of a smock over his waistcoat" and called R a murderer (!) was in fact one of the painters who may have seen R unbeknownst to him on that fateful day. ..."

I wondered this too. I also wondered if the tradesman is a creation of R's conscience.


Xan  Shadowflutter (shadowflutter) | 387 comments "Lizaveta! Sonya! Poor things, meek, meek-eyed . . . So sweet! . . . Why don’t they cry? Why don’t they groan? . . . Always giving . . . and their meek, quiet gaze . . . Sonya, Sonya! Quiet Sonya!’"

He is attracted to specific qualities: the meek, the givers, the silent suffers, the vulnerable. The meek, the silent suffers are vulnerable. This is what, I think, triggers his compassion, his other self. I don't see power in this attraction, at least not yet.

Sonya sacrifices herself for her family and Lizaveta did the same for her sister in her own way. They are opposite and opposed to R's theoretical extraordinary man. They won't make the world better with some great new idea, but they do sacrifice themselves to make the lives of their loved ones better. And if there were enough Sonyas and Lizavetas, the world would be a better place.

Perhaps this is why R murders the pawnbroker, because she abuses, takes advantage of Lizaveta and her gentle soul. Perhaps R's better theory would be that there needs to be someone who punishes the abusers.


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Dave Redford | 145 comments Xan Shadowflutter wrote: "Sonya = Amy Dorrit? (Little Dorrit). I was stunned by the similarities in descriptions, so much so that I stopped reading and looked up the publication date of Little Dorrit."

Yes, I'm also seeing a strong Dickens connection reading C&P this time. The scenes between William Dorrit and his daughter Amy are very reminiscent of those between Marmeladov and Sonya. There's also something of the Mr Micawber character about Marmeladov, the tragic buffoon who causes his family deep suffering.


Xan  Shadowflutter (shadowflutter) | 387 comments Dave wrote: "Yes, I'm also seeing a strong Dickens connection reading C&P this time. ..."

Yes. I found this. Haven't read it all, but Micawber is mentioned.


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Dave Redford | 145 comments Thomas wrote: "Raskolnikov uses this term, “a new word” more than once. What is meant by this?"

R's concept of the "new word" is difficult to unpack, but I think he essentially means a new theory. There also seem to be religious connotations ("in the beginning was the Word"), and that uttering a "new word" has the power to create a schism. In that sense, it's an act of original thought that involves stepping across, or transgressing, the normal bounds of society. I think, not so sure myself now!

R references Lycurgus of Sparta, Solon of Athens, Muhammad and Napoleon as examples of historical figures who have uttered a "new word", and though he associates their acts with crime and violation of ancient law, he also describes them as "extraordinary" individuals asserting their moral right to stand above the common herd.

Porfiry cleverly asks R if he considers himself "extraordinary", with the right to commit murder as a matter of conscience – it's a wonderfully gripping passage, a mix of detective cat & mouse and philosophical sparring. I particularly liked Porfiry's tongue-in-cheek question about how to distinguish these "extraordinary" individuals, "Should we look out for birthmarks of some kind?" – I couldn't help thinking of Harry Potter's lightning bolt scar.


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Lily (joy1) | 5057 comments Xan Shadowflutter wrote: "Whoops! Forgot to ad link

http://www.victorianweb.org/authors/d..."


THANK YOU, Xan. Found that really interesting stuff.


Xan  Shadowflutter (shadowflutter) | 387 comments You are welcome.


David | 2695 comments "I stopped on this side. . ."

This side of what? What boundary did he not overstep?


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Shelley (omegaxx) | 55 comments Thomas & Xan: Great points re: R.'s ambivalence towards the pawnbroker.

David at #18: I'm also puzzling over that passage. I read it 3 times and still can't say I understand what R. is driving at. There does seem to be a recognition that he is not exactly extraordinary and a kind of self-loathing. Perhaps the boundary is the imaginary boundary between the ordinary and the extraordinary people?

I find it fascinating that, right after R. is forced to expound his philosophy of the Great Man, mysterious figures begin to surface ("from the underground"), from the anonymous tradesman to the possible uxoricide Svidrigailov. They aren't ordinary, but they seem to be as remote from the Great Man as possible--they're sinister parodies.


Thomas | 4509 comments David wrote: "I am left wondering what he means by
I stopped on this side. . . . I was only capable of killing.."


I took this to mean that he was not able to effect social change, or any change at all. All he could do was murder a single despised old woman (and an innocent young lady), which had no effect on society. The blood is quickly cleaned up and the apartment repainted. R is no "Napoleon of crime."


Thomas | 4509 comments Dave wrote: "R's concept of the "new word" is difficult to unpack, but I think he essentially means a new theory. There also seem to be religious connotations ("in the beginning was the Word"), and that uttering a "new word" has the power to create a schism. "

The religious connotation occurred to me as well, especially since the Gospel of John is alluded to later in the chapter with the "New Jerusalem" reference. What is curious about R's interpretation is that uttering a "new word" implies destruction rather than creation. Perhaps this is because he is incapable of creation; he can only destroy. (As if Jesus, the "new word," had been crucified but never resurrected.)

R's motives for murder are puzzling because he never asserts a positive reason for the killing. Without one he can never be an "extraordinary" man. He destroys, but he does not create anything to take its place.


Tamara Agha-Jaffar | 1598 comments The examples R gives of the "extraordinary" men destroyed the old order and established a new one. But their goal was never just to destroy. Their goal was to create a new order which meant the old one had to be destroyed.

As Thomas said, R is only capable of destruction.

I didn’t kill a human being, but a principle! I killed the principle, but I didn’t overstep, I stopped on this side. . . . I was only capable of killing.

As Cphe said above, R is trying to justify his actions. But unlike "extraordinary" men who may have to kill in order to establish a new world order and/or to promote certain principles, R kills for no reason. There is no vision for a new world order behind the murders he commits. "I was only capable of killing."


Xan  Shadowflutter (shadowflutter) | 387 comments R's a wannabe extraordinary man. He has some grand idea (maybe) but has no idea how to go about it. He's arrogant and superior without accomplishments that justify the arrogance and superiority.

He probably failed math too. :-)


Tamara Agha-Jaffar | 1598 comments Xan Shadowflutter wrote: "He probably failed math too. :-) ...

Rumor has it he also failed logic.


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Sue Pit (cybee) | 329 comments Yes, I agree with Thomas and Tamara in that it appears in R's emotional attempt to self justify, he realizes that all he did was kill....that any intended new or noble principle or goal was not effectuated...that he stopped on this side..this side as an ordinary man. There was no step over into that of being extraordinary.


Xan  Shadowflutter (shadowflutter) | 387 comments Tamara wrote: "Rumor has it he also failed logic."

Haha. Good one.


Thomas | 4509 comments Anytime someone is described as being pug-nosed, I think of Socrates, so this description of Porfiry Petrovich jumped out at me:

Porfiry Petrovitch was wearing a dressing-gown, very clean linen, and trodden-down slippers. He was a man of about five and thirty, short, stout even to corpulence, and clean shaven. He wore his hair cut short and had a large round head, particularly prominent at the back. His soft, round, rather snub-nosed face was of a sickly yellowish colour, but had a vigorous and rather ironical expression.

Socrates is typically described as having a pot belly, a snub nose, thick lips and he is usually wearing worn clothing and often no shoes. I'm not sure if Socrates wore his irony on his face, but I'd be curious to learn if the Russian word Dostoevsky uses here might be an oblique reference to the irony that was Socrates' trademark.

The Colombo-like way that Profiry questions Raskolnikov certainly sounds Socratic... Razumikhin says that his method is to "take their side just to fool them all." And when we learn that the discussion at the party revolves around the question "Is there such a thing as crime," well, I have to wonder if Porfiry isn't modeled on Socrates.

The Great Conversation at work? Or just a tenuous connection?


Roger Burk | 1729 comments Thomas wrote: "Anytime someone is described as being pug-nosed, I think of Socrates, so this description of Porfiry Petrovich jumped out at me:

Porfiry Petrovitch was wearing a dressing-gown, very clean linen, ..."


Love it.


David | 2695 comments So will Porfiry be like Columbo and solve the crime by the end of the episode, or be like Socrates and end in a state of aporia?


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Bigollo | 186 comments I like Thomas's comparison of Porfiry to Socrates, too.

Although, I heard this expression - 'Socratic forehead' (when someone's forehead is rather steep and tall). Porfiry, on the other hand, just the opposite, has his head particularly prominent at the back... Purposeful 'Accident' made by D?

"His... face ... had a vigorous and rather ironical expression."

I checked a couple of my Russian-English dictionaries. In them, that Russian original that goes above as 'ironical', is given as 'mocking', 'derisive', and in one spot even 'sarcastic'.

Oliver Ready translates that line as "face ... with a touch of mockery about it."

Those words seem synonymous to 'ironical', implying less good-naturedness though, right?


Thomas | 4509 comments Thanks, Bigollo. Garnett has "ironical" while P&V have "mocking." The prominence on the back of Porfiry's head is something I overlooked, but it makes me think of phrenology. Do we have any phrenologists in the house?


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Nemo (nemoslibrary) | 2456 comments Here I see another parallel between C&P and BK. Exactly half way through the novel, an article by one of the protagonists is discussed, the subject of which captures the moral and philosophical dilemma of the entire novel.

Is there an answer to the extraordinary men theory? Are "extraordinary" killings justified?

One might also follow up Porfiry's question: What really distinguishes an extraordinary man from the ordinary? Are there certain marks?

If we grant the existence of such extraordinary men, what principle would justify their killings and condemn the same actions by the ordinary men?


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