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Crime and Punishment
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Thomas | 4409 comments Raskolnikov wakes from a dream -- a very telling dream -- to see a stranger in his room. The stranger introduces himself as Svidrigailov, and Raskolnikov asks, "Can this be a continuation of my dream?"

This is such a wonderfully crafted chapter because the similarities between the two men make it seem like Svidrigailov might actually be a figment of Raskolnikov's imagination. Sometimes Svidrigailov sounds just like an articulation of Raskolnikov's conscience, as if it were Raskolnikov speaking to himself:

"...what is there in all this, in the thing itself, that is so especially criminal on my part -- I mean, judging soberly, and without prejudice?

"The whole question here is: am I a monster, or a victim myself?

" Now, didn't I tell you there was a common point between us, eh?.... I said to myself at once: 'This is the very man!' "

Svidrigailov is also suspected of a murder which cannot so far be proven, placing them even closer together. What is Dostoevsky doing here?

When Svidrigailov is done with the story of Marfa's ghost, Raskolnikov suggests he may be lying. "I rarely lie, " Svidrigailov insists. Is this important? (And will this reflect back on Razumikhin's comments about "fibbing" as the gateway to truth?)

In the second chapter, Luzhin pays a visit and the marriage proposal appears to be dissolved. Luzhin accuses Dunya of insulting him (because she will not blindly obey him) and declares that, "There is a line in all things that is dangerous to step over; for once one steps over, it is impossible to go back." Dunya tells him, "I am taking upon myself the role of judge today..." Interesting terminology.

Does this exchange show us anything new about Dunya?

In the third chapter, Luzhin resolves to fix everything and destroy Raskolnikov, the "presumptuous brat." He admits the one he's really afraid of is Svidrigailov. Why?

The chapter ends on a very ominous note. Raskolnikov leaves after briefly addressing Razumikhin's business proposition, a publishing firm. Raskolnikov says, "I myself know of one work that would be sure to do well." Can we guess what it is?

Raskolnikov leaves, saying, "...maybe this is the last time we'll see each other." This frightens his family and Razumikhin, who follows him into the corridor.

Something strange seemed to pass between them... as if the hint of some idea, something horrible, hideous, flitted by and was suddenly understood on both sides... Razumikhin turned pale as a corpse.

"You understand now?" Raskolnikov said suddenly...


What is understood here?


Xan Shadowflutter (shadowflutter) | 386 comments Thomas wrote: "When Svidrigailov is done with the story of Marfa's ghost, Raskolnikov suggests he may be lying. "I rarely lie, " Svidrigailov insists. Is this important? (And will this reflect back on Razumikhin's comments about "fibbing" as the gateway to truth?)..."

I don't know but wanted to say I think this (fibbing) is an excellent observation and one I completely missed.


Xan Shadowflutter (shadowflutter) | 386 comments "‘What?’ flared Dunya. ‘I place your interests alongside everything I have ever held dearest, everything that my whole life has consisted of until now, and you suddenly take offence because I hold you too cheap!’"

Gotta be the best line in the book. You go, Dunya.


Xan Shadowflutter (shadowflutter) | 386 comments Thomas wrote: "Svidrigailov might actually be a figment of Raskolnikov's imagination. ..."

Svidrigailov says some fascinating and dark things: he can't help feeling sad looking and the sunrise and the gulf of Naples, and his view of eternity is a small room of spiders. This is truly a dark and corrupt soul.

Svidrigailov may symbolize the darkness in R if fully realized, a nice touch by D. This is what you are in danger of becoming, R, if you don't save yourself.


Tamara Agha-Jaffar | 1463 comments I am struck by the similarity between Svidrigailov and Luzhin in their attitude toward women. They seem to view them as tools—as a means to an end.

Marfa Petrovna is wealthy. She pays off Svidrigailov’s debts. He marries her and then casually announces he beats her. He shows no remorse for doing so, and like a typical abuser, he convinces himself she enjoys being abused.

Not to speak of the fact that there are cases when women are very, very glad to be insulted in spite of all their show of indignation. There are instances of it with everyone; human beings in general, indeed, greatly love to be insulted, have you noticed that? But it’s particularly so with women. One might even say it’s their only amusement.”

Luzhin recognizes Dounia as a means to increase his social standing in the world.

The fascination of a charming, virtuous, highly educated woman might make his way easier, might do wonders in attracting people to him, throwing an aureole round him, and now everything was in ruins!

But his interest is also in dominating her.

Here was a girl of pride, character, virtue, of education and breeding superior to his own (he felt that), and this creature would be slavishly grateful all her life for his heroic condescension, and would humble herself in the dust before him, and he would have absolute, unbounded power over her!…

The male/female relationships are all pretty bleak so far. They are all about domination and abuse in one form or another.


Tamara Agha-Jaffar | 1463 comments Xan Shadowflutter wrote: ""‘What?’ flared Dunya. ‘I place your interests alongside everything I have ever held dearest, everything that my whole life has consisted of until now, and you suddenly take offence because I hold you too cheap!’"

Gotta to be the best line in the book. You go, Dunya. .."


My vote goes to her summation of her brother:

“Wicked, heartless egoist!” cried Dounia.


message 7: by Shelley (last edited Oct 11, 2017 10:02PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Shelley (omegaxx) | 55 comments Thomas wrote: "Svidrigailov might actually be a figment of Raskolnikov's imagination. Sometimes Svidrigailov sounds just like an articulation of Raskolnikov's conscience, as if it were Raskolnikov speaking to himself

Amen. I found that chapter to be very dark and sinister. R. and Svidrigailov seem almost like Jekyll and Hyde. A few details I noted:
1) Svidrigailov arrives in St. Petersburg "2 days ago"--that is, just before R. wakes from his post-murder delirium in a kind of "rebirth";
2) In my P&V translation, R. repeats multiple times, "I must go out." Not "I have stuff to do" "You need to leave". His room, again, seems almost an external projection of the cell of his own mind, in which he is trapped with his doppelganger--and from which he's desperate to escape.

Something about Svidrigailov reminds me of Nabokov's Humbert Humbert. I can't put my finger on it. Does anyone else feel that way?


Thomas | 4409 comments Xan Shadowflutter wrote: "Svidrigailov says some fascinating and dark things: he can't help feeling sad looking and the sunrise and the gulf of Naples, and his view of eternity is a small room of spiders. This is truly a dark and corrupt soul. ."

That dark little room sounds to me very much like a prison cell. Maybe Svidrigailov knows something....

It's a little strange that Raskolnikov tells Porfiry that he believes in God and the New Jerusalem, and he even believes the Lazarus story literally, but he tells Svidrigailov that he does not believe in a future life. Maybe he doesn't believe in a future life if it resembles a prison cell? Or Hell?


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Thomas | 4409 comments Tamara wrote: "The male/female relationships are all pretty bleak so far. They are all about domination and abuse in one form or another."

I think Dunya shows her independence here, which tempers the abuse and poverty that plagues womens' lives in this novel. Maybe there is a little ray of sunshine in this section? (With respect to Dunya, at least?)


Thomas | 4409 comments Shelley wrote: "1) Svidrigailov arrives in St. Petersburg "2 days ago"--that is, just before R. wakes from his post-murder delirium in a kind of "rebirth";"

Nice observation. Dostoevsky was obviously interested in the idea of "the double," and there are so many points of commonality between Raskolnikov and Svidrigailov that it's hard to avoid thinking of them as reflections of each other, at least in some respects. It will be interesting to see where this goes.


Tamara Agha-Jaffar | 1463 comments I got the impression R has a grudging respect--almost a fascination for Svidrigailov. He asks him questions and engages him in conversation as if he is trying to figure him out.
Svidrigailov admits to abusing his wife. He may or may not have murdered her. In either case, he shows no remorse, appears calm and totally in control. He is unfazed by his actions. R, on the other hand, has actually committed a murder and is tortured by his action. I felt his questioning was an attempt to understand Svidrigailov so he could get to the same place.


message 12: by Tamara (last edited Oct 12, 2017 12:32AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Tamara Agha-Jaffar | 1463 comments I'm wondering if it's possible to consider Luzhin, Svidrigailov, and R as representing three progressively deteriorating stages.

Luzhin wants to dominate but it appears as if his attempt has been thwarted. He doesn't want to give up.

Svidrigailov goes one step further by dominating and abusing his wife. We don't know for sure whether or not he murdered her. Either way, he is calm, collected, and confident.

R goes one step further than that by actually committing a murder. He is tortured by his actions.

Luzhin wants to emulate Svidrigailov's power over another; R wants to achieve his mental equilibrium.

Svidrigailov strikes me as being midway between the two.


message 13: by Cphe (last edited Oct 12, 2017 02:41AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Cphe | 586 comments In some ways both Svidrigailov’s and R took the easy way to follow the money.

S certainly didn't appear to marry for the right reasons and R committed murder to get the money prize.

From what was said earlier in the novel my impression was that S was older than his wife, certainly not several years younger, a gigolo, a bought man.

However in this later chapter he does seem to be trying to correct a wrong for Dounia. I'm wondering if he has anything concrete against Prytor?


Xan Shadowflutter (shadowflutter) | 386 comments Interesting thought S having something on Luzin. Possible. As S says, Luzin is family, but not by blood, and Martha is characterized early in the book as a talker and gossip.


Xan Shadowflutter (shadowflutter) | 386 comments I'm noticing a change in R. in chapter 3. He leaves so Razumikhin can replace him as stand-in head of family.

He's a bit more composed, less nasty, more capable now. He goads Luzin not once, but twice into revealing his true nature, then stops Razumikhin from confronting Luzin so that he can confront him himself. But the man who confronts Luzin is in control. He tells him firmly yet relatively calmly not to say another word and just leave.

Then the goodbye scene:

He encourages his mother and sister to accept Razumikhin's business offer and tells them out loud how much he loves them -- only a few chapters earlier he remarks to himself how much he hates them -- and then walks out of their lives.

Perhaps S. -- a nihilist with dark thoughts -- scared the crap out of R. because he saw himself in him. But whatever the reason, this chapter -- R. walking out -- marks a turning point, I think, as well as the end of the first half of the book.


Thomas | 4409 comments Tamara wrote: "I'm wondering if it's possible to consider Luzhin, Svidrigailov, and R as representing three progressively deteriorating stages...."

I like that idea. It's interesting that Svidrigailov is related to Luzhin (through his wife, he says) and that if the marriage to Dunya went through, Raskolnikov would also be related to Luzhin. The three of them are almost brothers.


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Xan Shadowflutter (shadowflutter) | 386 comments Tamara wrote: "Luzhin wants to dominate but it appears as if his attempt has been thwarted. He doesn't want to give up.
..."


My thoughts:

Luzhin is a vile, petty sneak. A little man incapable of great deeds who satisfies his inadequacies by exerting power over the powerless, usually women. He's also a lousy judge of character if he ever thought Dunya would be a meek wife beholding to his "generosity". I loath Luzhin because there are so many of them, petty tyrants who remain within the boundaries of acceptable social behavior and law yet leave human wreckage in their wakes.

S. is an immoral profligate who seeks his own pleasures at the expense of others. He cares not one whit that you insult him. Try as R. might, he can't do it. A degenerate darkness resides within him -- this man who is saddened by a sunrise, the blue waters of the ocean, and who thinks of eternity as being spent in a tiny room filled with spiders. He's creepy-scary and perhaps the manifestation of evil.

R struggles between the two and his compassionate side. He's the only one conflicted.

I think Luzin and S. represent two different sicknesses in society. R represents the struggle to free ourselves from, or to succumb to, one sickness or the other.


Christopher (Donut) | 531 comments I'm sorry I haven't been posting much. I got way ahead in the audio, but never followed up by re-'reading' the e-book.

But I think it is more instructive to think of Luzhin and Svridrigialov as contrasting characters than along a spectrum.

L. is petty and ''correct," very much concerned with what others think of him, S., does it have to be said? doesn't give a damn.

Was everyone really creeped out by S. when he finally comes on stage, so to speak? Or did this 'villain' who had been talked up so much, seem to be more complex and human than the reader had been led to expect?

Was there nothing touching, homely even, in those ghost stories?

And as far as whether women like to be beaten- I'm not touching that, but bear in mind that Madame Svidrigailova was introduced to us as making a completely unnecessary humility tour of the entire neighborhood. There was definitely something masochistic in that, so that when S. claims he was just giving his wife a little of what she wanted, he may be right IN THAT CASE, and this doesn't indicate that he's a psychopath.

In fact, he seems to be very depressed.

But further, by way of contrast, S. has the reputation of a criminal, for a crime of which he is innocent. R. is guilty of a crime for which no one (except Porfiry) even suspects him.

I think Dostoevsky is making a point about reputation or character.

Just two cents' worth of "opposing viewpoint."


David | 2609 comments Christopher wrote: "But I think it is more instructive to think of Luzhin and Svridrigialov as contrasting characters than along a spectrum."

I like where you can go with that. There does seem to be a good better and best situation, or a least a way to rank the three characters along a a spectrum of morality. S just seems flat out evil with a history of crime and cruelty that puts him at the bottom of the spectrum at immoral. Luzhin seems to be selfish and greedy in an modern (Western?) and amoral way. R seems to have made morally wrong choices for what he thought were morally good reasons and as a consequence is beginning to relate in both immoral and amoral ways to the other two.


Thomas | 4409 comments Christopher wrote: "L. is petty and ''correct," very much concerned with what others think of him, S., does it have to be said? doesn't give a damn."

Another way of putting this is to say that Luzhin is a liar (which we can see for ourselves, and which Raskolnikov proves) while Svidrigailov makes no attempt to hide his depravity. As far as bad guys go, I find Svidrigailov less repulsive.

But further, by way of contrast, S. has the reputation of a criminal, for a crime of which he is innocent.

Has his innocence been established, or are you taking S. at his word? (Because he rarely lies, right?)


Christopher (Donut) | 531 comments Thomas wrote: "But further, by way of contrast, S. has the reputation of a criminal, for a crime of which he is innocent.

Has his innocence been established, or are you taking S. at his word? (Because he rarely lies, right?) .."


I'm saying, if 'everyone knew' he was cruel to his wife, and probably killed her, this is a case of the majority is always wrong.


Tamara Agha-Jaffar | 1463 comments Thomas wrote: "As far as bad guys go, I find Svidrigailov less repulsive. .."

I agree. I find him less repulsive than Luzhin--which is ironic considering he admits to using the whip against his wife "only" a few times in seven years.


message 23: by Cphe (last edited Oct 12, 2017 05:24PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Cphe | 586 comments Luzhin seems to me to suffer from the "little man" syndrome where as S appears to have a better grip on understanding himself. He appears to have "lived more", experienced more of life then R.......he's jaded.

Dounia is the lioness who roared.


David | 2609 comments And now Tamara, I see what you were getting at from the Pulcheria's letter to R. Dostoevsky finally spells it out Luzhin for us in no uncertain terms:
He brooded with relish, in profound secret, over the image of a girl—virtuous, poor (she must be poor), very young, very pretty, of good birth and education, very timid, one who had suffered much, and was completely humbled before him, one who would all her life look on him as her saviour, worship him, admire him and only him.
I have to laugh because Dounia seems the antithesis of the, "very timid" type and seems quite capable of drawing her own boundaries. As Cphe suggested Luzhin is a little man trying to pick a fight with someone his own size and Dounia clearly towers over this loser.

On the other hand, concerning the murder of his wife, Svidrigaïlov seems a guilty as O.J. Additionaly Luzhin says Svidrigaïlov was got out of a:
. . .criminal charge, involving an element of fantastic and homicidal brutality for which he might well have been sentenced to Siberia. . .
Svidrigaïlov seems to be a truly evil man. Luzhin just seems to be a jerk.


Tamara Agha-Jaffar | 1463 comments David wrote: "Svidrigaïlov seems to be a truly evil man. Luzhin just seems to be a jerk..."

I am not defending Svidrigailov, a self-admitted wife-abuser. But I do think we have to take into consideration that Luzhin has an ulterior motive in depicting him in an unfavorable light. Even Dounia seems to doubt the veracity of his accusations against Svidrigailov.

I have considerable reason to believe that Marfa Petrovna, who was so unfortunate as to fall in love with him and to pay his debts eight years ago, was of service to him also in another way. Solely by her exertions and sacrifices, a criminal charge, involving an element of fantastic and homicidal brutality for which he might well have been sentenced to Siberia, was hushed up. That’s the sort of man he is, if you care to know.”

“Good heavens!” cried Pulcheria Alexandrovna. Raskolnikov listened attentively.

“Are you speaking the truth when you say that you have good evidence of this?” Dounia asked sternly and emphatically.



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Shelley (omegaxx) | 55 comments Tamara wrote: "I am not defending Svidrigailov, a self-admitted wife-abuser. But I do think we have to take into consideration that Luzhin has an ulterior motive in depicting him in an unfavorable light. Even Dounia seems to doubt the veracity of his accusations against Svidrigailov."

Good point. Luzhin similarly represents R.'s financial assistance for M.'s widow in a very nasty light in his note to Dunya. I don't feel we can quite put a finger on S. at this point.


Christopher (Donut) | 531 comments Shelley wrote: " Luzhin similarly represents R.'s financial assistance for M.'s widow in a very nasty light in his note to Dunya.."

And that is another good point right there.


message 28: by Sue (last edited Oct 14, 2017 04:23AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Sue Pit (cybee) | 329 comments Yes, it is as if Dostoevsky is creating characters representing various possible motivations (or various shades thereof) for crime, from pure evil self furtherance (e.g. S) to "being a jerk" (again for self centered purposes)(e.g. L).....R liked to think his crime, in contrast, had an element of a greater social good (e.g. ridding the world of those who profit from others' misfortune such as a pawnbroker , albeit meanwhile giving himself a step up but no more than needed at the time ) but he is recognizing that perhaps his was just another shade of the same (and "ordinary") criminal mentality as the others.

Yes, interesting how it passed, by a look from R to Raz , a horrific understanding that made Raz go pale (but allowed him to go back to and attend Dunya and R's mother in an appropriate way (under the circumstances)) .


Xan Shadowflutter (shadowflutter) | 386 comments S. tells R. the story of Marfa and himself yet never says how they knew each other. Was this mentioned elsewhere? Also, we never hear Marfa's story from her own lips. Everything we know of her we learn from others.

If we believe the others, then S., a man of unsavory reputation, sits in prison until Marfa, a wealthy woman, enters stage right from apparently nowhere to pay off his debt, possibly hush up a worse crime (again most likely with money), and marry him under certain conditions S. must abide by. She seems to have blackmailed a horrible person into marrying her. This is all very peculiar. A masochist or something else? And what are those conditions S. mentions?


Roger Burk | 1717 comments As I recall, Svidrigailov voluntarily confessed to Marfa Petrovna that Dounia was innocent of any wrongdoing, and that he himself was the guilty party. He seems to have some kind of conscience, at least as far as Dounia is concerned.

Afterwards Marfa Petrovna went to everyone in the community to explain her husband's guilt and Dounia's innocence, embarrassing herself but saving Dounia's reputation. I thought this was an act of remarkable moral heroism.


Tamara Agha-Jaffar | 1463 comments Roger wrote: "As I recall, Svidrigailov voluntarily confessed to Marfa Petrovna that Dounia was innocent of any wrongdoing, and that he himself was the guilty party. He seems to have some kind of conscience, at ..."

These are two very good points.

Svidrigailov doesn't seem at all concerned with how people perceive him--unlike Luzhin. And as Roger has pointed out, he seems to have at least a modicum of conscience in that he is trying to rectify the wrongs he did to Dounia.

And Marfa Petrovna is heroic in clearing Dounia's name while alive and leaving her money after her death as a form of restitution. As Roger says, that is heroic.


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Sue Pit (cybee) | 329 comments As to the three (S, L and R), all are seemingly blind to some extent and/or self justify their actions by not acknowledging certain realities, such as the pain and/or perspectives/ feelings of the victim.


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Sue Pit (cybee) | 329 comments Just an additional very side note: I just watched Orson Wells'"The Trial"...most excellent in capturing Kafka's absurd and frustrated essence. I have to say while watching it, I was reminded of "Crime and Punishment" and I find that indeed, upon research thereafter, Kafka describes Dostoyevsky a blood relative and that indeed, there is a fair amount of writing out there regarding that "relationship". Indeed, what I noticed is that both main characters (in "C & P" and "The Trial") feel alienated and quite uncertain and while one knows one's crime (R in "C & P") and the other never does (K in "The Trial")..guilt (or the absence?) plays a role in both and the mystery thereof; both feel on the edge of the abyss and there is a complicity of both as to the system. "C & P" and "The Trial" are in essence, psychological novels. This is a bit of a tangent but I found it interesting.


Thomas | 4409 comments Sue wrote: "Indeed, what I noticed is that both main characters (in "C & P" and "The Trial") feel alienated and quite uncertain..."

This is a little off track from your comment, but I wonder if Raskolnikov's alienation is somehow tied into his "extraordinary man" theory. It seems to me that if he really believes in this theory that he must have little regard for people as individuals; individual human beings are dispensable for the "extraordinary man". Raskolnikov in all his sickness and weakness must know that he is actually one of these dispensable human beings.

His killing of two women is his feeble attempt to be an "extraordinary man," but he knows that there are other "extraordinary" men who lie in wait to do the same to him. One result of this is alienation. Another is paranoia.


Tamara Agha-Jaffar | 1463 comments Thomas wrote: "His killing of two women is his feeble attempt to be an "extraordinary man," but he knows that there are other "extraordinary" men who lie in wait to do the same to him. One result of this is alienation. Another is paranoia..."

I think you're right. R wants to believe he is an extraordinary man. However, in addition to being alienated and paranoid, he is delusional.

When "extraordinary men" kill, they do so because they see it as a means to an end--the end being some cause they believe in regardless of whether the rest of us see that cause as having merit.

But R' has no cause for killing. Presumably, he kills because he needs money. But when it becomes apparent he doesn't use the money to alleviate his poverty, he tries to justify the killing by asserting the pawnbroker was despicable and, therefore, deserved to die.

Perhaps part of his anxiety is because he searches for a "grand" cause to justify the killing, and finding none, he realizes he is far short of being an "extraordinary man."


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Sue Pit (cybee) | 329 comments Yes, Thomas. I think that is a good supposition. I suspect that R felt alienated from society even before his crime (he is not conforming well to its expectations for instance) and perhaps as a coping mechanism, he seeks to rise above, to be extraordinary and his crime, he self justifies, attends to such "principle" and sets him on a new route. However, after the crime (and perhaps self suggested to him before) , it appears that he in fact is ordinary; that his killing(s) were not of an extraordinary man after all but of a louse and now he feels even more sharply alienated and as you wrote and full of paranoia. Seems his guilt or sense of helplessness makes him seemingly complicit in the societal revenge of his crime.


Xan Shadowflutter (shadowflutter) | 386 comments The "extraordinary man" theory proffered by R. looks to me to be little more than the achieving of an end without caring about the morality of the means. This is how the pursuit of noble goals devolve into savagery.


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Sue Pit (cybee) | 329 comments Yes, R's proferred "extraordinary man" theory is quite controversial indeed: essentially the ends justify the means.


Tamara Agha-Jaffar | 1463 comments Xan Shadowflutter wrote: "The "extraordinary man" theory proffered by R. looks to me to be little more than the achieving of an end without caring about the morality of the means. This is how the pursuit of noble goals devo..."

Not entirely off topic: Joan Didion has a wonderful essay called "On Morality" in her collection, Slouching Towards Bethlehem.

She claims we all like "to 'believe' in something, like to assuage our private guilts in public causes, like to lose our tiresome selves..."

She develops her argument with the following:

It is all right only so long as we recognize that the end may or may not be expedient, may or may not be a good idea, but in any case has nothing to do with "morality." . . . Because when we start deceiving ourselves into thinking not that we want something or need something, not that it is a pragmatic necessity for us to have it, but that it is a moral imperative that we have it, then is when we join the fashionable madmen, and then is when the thin whine of hysteria is heard in the land, and then is when we are in bad trouble. And I suspect we are already there.

The essay was first published in 1965.


message 40: by Thomas (last edited Oct 17, 2017 11:20AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Thomas | 4409 comments Tamara wrote: "But R' has no cause for killing. Presumably, he kills because he needs money. But when it becomes apparent he doesn't use the money to alleviate his poverty, he tries to justify the killing by asserting the pawnbroker was despicable and, therefore, deserved to die. ."

Exactly why R. commits the murders is still not clear, but I think you are right that he is looking for justifications after the fact. What gave him the original idea is still a mystery to me. If I were religiously inclined, I might say he was possessed or had made a deal with the devil. (If so, it looks like a bad deal... what is he getting out of this besides misery?)


Xan Shadowflutter (shadowflutter) | 386 comments Tamara wrote: "Not entirely off topic: Joan Didion has a wonderful essay called "On Morality" in her collection, Slouching Towards Bethlehem..."

I read lots of essays, Tamara. Love a good essayist, and I really like the way Didion writes and what she writes about. I have "Slouching" but haven't read it yet. I'm going to look for that essay now. Thanks.


Tamara Agha-Jaffar | 1463 comments Xan Shadowflutter wrote: "I have "Slouching" but haven't read it yet. I'm going to look for that essay now. Thanks...."

You're welcome.


Tamara Agha-Jaffar | 1463 comments Thomas wrote: "If I were religiously inclined, I might say he was possessed or had made a deal with the devil. (If so, it looks like a bad deal... what is he getting out of this besides misery?) ..."

Even Faust got something out of his pact with the devil.


David | 2609 comments Tamara wrote: "She develops her argument with the following:

It is all right only so long as we recognize that the end may or may not be expedient, may or may not be a good idea, but in any case has nothing to do with "morality." . . ."


The word expedient recalled to my mind our recent reading of Cicero's de Officiis . Cicero held that there could be no real conflict between the good and the expedient, since it is truly most expedient (i.e., of greatest benefit to a person) to pursue what is right in itself honestum. Thus he formulates the problem as choosing between that which appears to be morally right honestum and that which appears to be expedient, utilitas.

Applying Cicero's views to the story suggests that R has deceived himself to murder by mere appearances of expediency and morally right action from a narrow interpretation of his "extraordinary man" theory. He now seems to be fighting the realization by the fact he fears the moral condemnation of others, the law, friends, and family, and the fact that his actions have only yielded material, physical, and mental harms bereft of benefit on any scale and that maybe his actions were neither expedient nor morally right.


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Nemo (nemoslibrary) | 2456 comments Sue wrote: "Yes, R's proferred "extraordinary man" theory is quite controversial indeed: essentially the ends justify the means."

The two are not quite the same, I think. "The end justifies the means" implies confirming to a moral standard, whereas the "extraordinary man" does not.

One definition of a psychopath is a person who has no conscience, no inner moral standard. This seems to apply to both Svidrigaïlov and Luzhin. They don't see themselves as any worse than other people, but perhaps even superior in some way.


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Sue Pit (cybee) | 329 comments Interesting , Nemo. Good point.


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