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Crime and Punishment - Part 3

#179: Oct. - Dec. 2021 (Fiction)
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Crime and Punishment - Part 3

Crime and Punishment - Part 3

Please use this thread to discuss Part 3 of Crime and Punishment, by Fyodor Dostoyevsky.
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Re: Crime and Punishment - Part 3

Part Three begins with Raskolnikov in his tiny garret in Saint Petersburg, where his mother and sister have arrived from the country, excited about her impending wedding and seeking his blessing. He aggressively and rudely orders his sister not to marry her fiancé, which is thoroughly shocking to both sister and mother. His friend Razumihin is also there; he explains R is suffering from mental illness, little knowing the cause is his guilt and embarrassment about the gruesome double murder. Here we are halfway through the book, and no one has expressed open suspicions that R is guilty of this notorious crime.

Razumihin takes the tearful ladies to their rather grotty lodgings, and then goes to his home where his housewarming party remains in full swing, to collect Dr Zossimov and bring him to help R.

All this care and concern for Raskolnikov is remarkable. Most people would be immensely grateful for such help, but R spurns it because he knows he is secretly unworthy, as a hidden murderer. The crime continues to reverberate through his life and conscience, causing confusion and suffering for those around him, especially his family.

Dostoyevsky depicts R’s sister Dounia (Avdotya Romanovna) in a remarkable case study in physical description: “Avdotya Romanovna was remarkably good-looking; she was tall, strikingly well-proportioned, strong and self-reliant--the latter quality was apparent in every gesture, though it did not in the least detract from the grace and softness of her movements. In face she resembled her brother, but she might be described as really beautiful. Her hair was dark brown, a little lighter than her brother’s; there was a proud light in her almost black eyes and yet at times a look of extraordinary kindness. She was pale, but it was a healthy pallor; her face was radiant with freshness and vigour. Her mouth was rather small; the full red lower lip projected a little as did her chin; it was the only irregularity in her beautiful face, but it gave it a peculiarly individual and almost haughty expression. Her face was always more serious and thoughtful than gay; but how well smiles, how well youthful, lighthearted, irresponsible, laughter suited her face!”

This stunning physical description seems to suggest impending tragedy.
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Re: Crime and Punishment - Part 3

Raskolnikov’s mother has the ageless beauty that comes from serenity of spirit, sensitiveness and pure sincere warmth of heart. Mother and daughter share values of honesty, principle and the deepest convictions. Dostoyevsky presents this portrayal of maternal goodness to intensify the sheer cruelty of the betrayal of these family values by her son, a betrayal that remains hidden but is coming out in his extremely strange behaviour.

Razumihin had succeeded in bringing the doctor Zossimov to see Raskolnikov, and to see the two ladies. Dounia has totally smitten Razumihin, and she dazzles Zossimov with her beauty, which he studiously and professionally ignores, while pronouncing his diagnosis that R is suffering from moral influences and apparent monomania.

Chapter Two begins with Razumihin recriminating to himself about how he has blundered in winning Dounia’s heart, and wondering how he stacks up against her fiancé. An allusion is made to the police suspecting Raskolnikov of involvement in the murders. The family tragedy continues to intensify as the mother looks to Razumihin with nothing but gratitude, friendship and respect, when he feels he only deserves sneering condescension for his drunken slobbery.

R’s mother wants to know her son’s hopes and dreams, and why he is so irritable. If only she knew! Dostoyevsky now gives another of his deft character portraits from his friend Razumihin: he says Raskolnikov “is morose, gloomy, proud and haughty, and of late--and perhaps for a long time before--he has been suspicious and fanciful. He has a noble nature and a kind heart. He does not like showing his feelings and would rather do a cruel thing than open his heart freely. Sometimes, though, he is not at all morbid, but simply cold and inhumanly callous; it’s as though he were alternating between two characters. Sometimes he is fearfully reserved! He says he is so busy that everything is a hindrance, and yet he lies in bed doing nothing. He doesn’t jeer at things, not because he hasn’t the wit, but as though he hadn’t time to waste on such trifles. He never listens to what is said to him. He is never interested in what interests other people at any given moment. He thinks very highly of himself and perhaps he is right.”

I get the feeling that Dostoyevsky is somehow presenting Raskolnikov as a window on the Russian soul, distressing as it may be.
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Re: Crime and Punishment - Part 3

Continuing this theme of Raskolnikov as allegory for Russia, his friend, his sister and his mother discuss his weird behaviour after he forcefully opposed his sister’s marriage plans. We learn he seems incapable of love, and that when he tried to marry his landlady’s daughter, his mother felt she almost died of grief. They say the girl was poor, ugly and crippled, and the mother rejoiced at her death. The implication seems to be that Russia displays a similar national perversity of working against its own interests.

On top of this autistic perversity, Raskolnikov is a nihilist, incapable of understanding the value of anything. Luzhin, Dounia’s fiancé who was so grossly insulted by R, writes to say he watched R give the 25 roubles that his mother had worked so hard to raise to the prostitute daughter of a dead drunkard wastrel out of some mad sense of compassion. Such insane behaviour puts R outside the pale of acceptable society, and demands that he be totally shunned and banned from any social gatherings. Luzhin makes this a condition of the marriage proceeding.
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Re: Crime and Punishment - Part 3

Chapter Three
Returning to my discussion chapter by chapter, I am now up to Chapter Three of Part Three, where Doctor Zossimov seeks to diagnose the malady afflicting Raskolnikov. The reader understands the illness is a result of psychotic derangement caused by bad conscience about committing appalling murders, but Zossimov is oblivious about this, given R’s success in concealing his crime, and instead looks for other causes.

Dostoyevsky continues his mastery of playing cat and mouse with the characters. For example when the doctor tells R that his condition is perhaps his own fault and R agrees, we see the irony of the two sides of the conversation possessing different information about what it means. And then when R agrees that a return to university could cure him, this is followed by a withering look of mockery toward Zossimov that mystifies the doctor.

Then the doctor says it is “a familiar phenomenon that actions are sometimes performed in a masterly and most cunning way, while the direction of the actions is deranged and dependent on various morbid impressions--it’s like a dream.” The reader laughs with Dostoyevsky that this is such an exact diagnosis of R, despite being ignorant of the real horror involved. No wonder R finds this conversation such torture, as he continues to systematically conceal his guilt.
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Re: Crime and Punishment - Part 3

Robert Tulip wrote: Sun Apr 03, 2022 1:41 pm Chapter Three
Returning to my discussion chapter by chapter, I am now up to Chapter Three of Part Three, where Doctor Zossimov seeks to diagnose the malady afflicting Raskolnikov. The reader understands the illness is a result of psychotic derangement caused by bad conscience about committing appalling murders, but Zossimov is oblivious about this, given R’s success in concealing his crime, and instead looks for other causes.

Dostoyevsky continues his mastery of playing cat and mouse with the characters. For example when the doctor tells R that his condition is perhaps his own fault and R agrees, we see the irony of the two sides of the conversation possessing different information about what it means. And then when R agrees that a return to university could cure him, this is followed by a withering look of mockery toward Zossimov that mystifies the doctor.
Yes, the difference between the expert opinion and the truth is almost humorous. It reminds me of the wonderful scene in "Fiddler on the Roof" when a person trying to buy a cow is confused with a suitor for the daughter (or do I have that backward?)
Then the doctor says it is “a familiar phenomenon that actions are sometimes performed in a masterly and most cunning way, while the direction of the actions is deranged and dependent on various morbid impressions--it’s like a dream.” The reader laughs with Dostoyevsky that this is such an exact diagnosis of R, despite being ignorant of the real horror involved. No wonder R finds this conversation such torture, as he continues to systematically conceal his guilt.
There are a whole series of interesting insights into "partial knowledge" in this section of the book. In some ways Dostoevsky is consistently going with a sense that intuition is capable of penetration where logic and education are misled by what they are trained to use for testing the matter carefully. The scene at the police station is another set piece of professional failure. If, however, all this is meant to suggest that Raskolnikov has superior intuition about his own situation and the nature of moral insight, then that point is lost on me. R's pride leads him to excellent insights about, say, the fiance of his sister, while at the same time leading him to utterly delude himself about his own relation to the world.
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Re: Crime and Punishment - Part 3

In Chapter Four, we can continue to marvel at the deft masterstrokes that Dostoyevsky uses to build up his intimate portraits of his characters. Sonia is the prostitute daughter of the drunkard Marmeladov who died in a traffic accident. She turns up at his door unannounced to thank Raskolnikov for giving her family all the money his mother had saved for him. Of course she cannot know it was a futile gesture toward somehow expiating his guilt for the senseless murders. She invites R to the funeral, which he has paid for. R’s mother and sister and friend are already crowding his tiny bedsit, creating quite a difficult situation.

Here are some examples of the writer’s craft within this encounter:
“Raskolnikov’s pale face flushed, a shudder passed over him, his eyes glowed.” Each term in this sentence contributes to our understanding of Raskolnikov’s psychology. Such characterisation is part of a cumulative process that takes us ever deeper into his mind and his situation. It is this type of writing that makes Crime and Punishment such an existential novel. Each point – the flushing face, the bodily shudder, the glowing eyes – reflect the powerful emotions of guilt and anxiety that are consuming him. Exactly what it means to say his eyes glowed is slightly mysterious, evoking his barely concealed murderous passions. The shudder points to involuntary physical sensations created by the concealed embarrassment of his situation, and the fear that at any time such an unpredictable social encounter could produce an accidental revelation of his secret.

“Pulcheria Alexandrovna glanced at Sonia, and slightly screwed up her eyes.” Here the mother conceals her shock and disdain at the disgusting company kept by her son. Dostoyevsky knows this tiny facial gesture communicates essential information.
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Re: Crime and Punishment - Part 3

I find myself wondering to what extend Dostoyevsky’s novel is so popular because Raskolnikov is a metaphor for the soul of Russia. His mother describes him and his sister Dounia in the following terms: “in soul, you are both melancholy, morose, hot-tempered, haughty and generous”. Is this a stereotype of the Russian character, even if the generosity is largely imaginary?
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Re: Crime and Punishment - Part 3

Once again, I love Dostoyevky’s powers of description. Here is a great example, of the mystery man who follows the poor prostitute Sonia home from Raskolnikov’s. It is so interesting how each precisely-chosen adjective adds to our impression of his personality and background. I particularly noted the “cold and thoughtful look” in his blue eyes. It will be interesting how his identity is revealed.
He was a man about fifty, rather tall and thickly set, with broad high shoulders which made him look as though he stooped a little. He wore good and fashionable clothes, and looked like a gentleman of position. He carried a handsome cane, which he tapped on the pavement at each step; his gloves were spotless. He had a broad, rather pleasant face with high cheek-bones and a fresh colour, not often seen in Petersburg. His flaxen hair was still abundant, and only touched here and there with grey, and his thick square beard was even lighter than his hair. His eyes were blue and had a cold and thoughtful look; his lips were crimson. He was a remarkedly well-preserved man and looked much younger than his years.
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Re: Crime and Punishment - Part 3

“The butterfly flies to the light” he thought, with a beating heart, and he turned white.
This metaphor for his situation occurs to Raskolnikov as he accompanies his friend Razumihin to meet Porfiry, the detective in charge of the murder investigation. He has been called in because he had unredeemed pledges with the murdered pawnbroker.
This presents a series of delicious opportunities for R to ruminate on how to handle the meeting without attracting suspicion, even though they apparently already regard him as mad. Razumihin says “Last year he cleared up a case of murder in which the police had hardly a clue. He is very, very anxious to make your acquaintance!” to which R enquires “On what grounds is he so anxious?”
The subtext is whether R is a murder suspect. He contrives to enter the detective’s flat laughing. Will it work?
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Re: Crime and Punishment - Part 3

In the spider’s web. Raskolnikov has to claim the goods he pawned with the woman he murdered. He is the only one that has not yet come forward. He goes with his friend Razumihin for an interview with the detective, Porfiry. Will he escape detection?
R feels that he is under suspicion, just from the way the policeman winks at him. And then this: “Your things, the ring and the watch, were wrapped up together, and on the paper your name was legibly written in pencil, together with the date on which you left them with her...” Surely this alone is grounds enough for him to be a suspect
Conversation about R’s delirium, and his extravagant gift to the family of his dead acquaintance, seems to send him deeper still into the pit of obvious guilt. When the policeman then says “If only you knew how you interest me!” the reader feels this will not end well.
Dostoyevsky takes us on a long excursion into the paranoid guilty mind, with thoughts flashing through R’s brain like lightning. And then, in a slightly awkward but profound interpolation, the conversation turns to the merits of socialism. This is worth examining in some detail. We apparently see here Dostoyevsky’s own rather reactionary assessment of the dangers of communist revolution.
Razumihin argues that for socialists, everything is ‘the influence of environment,’ and nothing else. This extreme determinism reflects the Marxist idea of dialectical materialism, the total exclusion of personal will and freedom from analysis of causality, excluding human nature by seeing social organisation as the sole moral factor. Further, socialists “believe that a social system that has come out of some mathematical brain is going to organise all humanity at once and make it just and sinless in an instant.” This mockery of the power of reason brings a premonitory chill for the modern reader, knowing as we now do how the cult of reason became the cult of Bolshevik terror and oppression. Socialist opposition to the doctrine of the soul comes from the fact that the soul won’t obey the rules of mechanics, or the socialist demand for a collectivist human identity that “is not alive, has no will, is servile and won’t revolt!” In a remarkable line, Dostoyevsky summarises the socialist paradox: “You can’t skip over nature by logic… It’s seductively clear and you mustn’t think about it.”
This quite exact prophecy of the culture of Stalinism opens the existential theme of individual freedom as the basis of ethics, and how the monolithic mentality of class war thoroughly rejects personal identity and creativity, instead seeing existence in collective rather than personal terms. And this leads to a further deepening of the murderer’s guilt – it transpires that Raskolnikov has written an article arguing that some men are above the law.
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Re: Crime and Punishment - Part 3

Here is Porfiry’s summary of Raskolnikov’s article:
“You maintained that the perpetration of a crime is always accompanied by illness. Very, very original, but... it was not that part of your article that interested me so much, but an idea at the end of the article which I regret to say you merely suggested without working it out clearly. There is, if you recollect, a suggestion that there are certain persons who can... that is, not precisely are able to, but have a perfect right to commit breaches of morality and crimes, and that the law is not for them.”
Raskolnikov smiled at the exaggerated and intentional distortion of his idea.
“What? What do you mean? A right to crime? But not because of the influence of environment?” Razumihin inquired with some alarm even.
“No, not exactly because of it,” answered Porfiry. “In his article all men are divided into ‘ordinary’ and ‘extraordinary.’ Ordinary men have to live in submission, have no right to transgress the law, because, don’t you see, they are ordinary. But extraordinary men have a right to commit any crime and to transgress the law in any way, just because they are extraordinary. That was your idea, if I am not mistaken?”
“What do you mean? That can’t be right?” Razumihin muttered in bewilderment.
Raskolnikov smiled again. He saw the point at once, and knew where they wanted to drive him. He decided to take up the challenge.
The detective has discovered that R submitted an article to a magazine which was published without R’s knowledge in another magazine. It appears his published ideas directly incriminate him in murderous psychology, but Porfiry wants to allow R to explain.
The idea as R goes on to explain to the detective is that “an ‘extraordinary’ man has the right... that is not an official right, but an inner right to decide in his own conscience to overstep... certain obstacles, and only in case it is essential for the practical fulfilment of his idea (sometimes, perhaps, of benefit to the whole of humanity).”
The immediate hint is that R has used this doctrine of superiority to justify murdering his victims, based on the claim that advances in knowledge can rightly come at the expense of human life. From the abstract potential for advances in astronomy to justify murder, R infers that “legislators and leaders of men, such as Lycurgus, Solon, Mahomet, Napoleon, and so on, were all without exception criminals, from the very fact that, making a new law, they transgressed the ancient one.”
This way of thinking is similar to the ubermensch idea from Nietzsche that devolved into totalitarian tyranny with Stalin and Hitler. For R it, as the rationalisation of his crime, it is just about petty resentment. His poverty and exclusion lead him to justify his fantasy of his own exceptional status. And yet Porfiry has still not said a thing to directly accuse R of murder.
R describes “men who have the gift or the talent to utter a new word” - those great ones who “seek in very varied ways the destruction of the present for the sake of the better.” These dictators construct a totalising worldview, an ideology that creates a new social mythology, able to wade through blood. They may be condemned in their generation but are later venerated as men who “move the world and lead it to its goal.”
Building on his critique of socialism, outlined above, Dostoyevsky is providing a glimpse into totalitarian thinking, a psychology that over the next century would drench the world in sorrow and suffering.
As they discuss how to identify such superior men, R explains that “the great geniuses, the crown of humanity, appear on earth perhaps one in many thousand millions.”
Porfiry continues with “unconcealed, persistent, nervous, and discourteous sarcasm” as R “raised his pale and almost mournful face and made no reply” to Razumihin’s astonishment that he could be serious. Dostoyevsky is warning of the strange and dangerous coherence within the totalising logic of socialism, a logic that R has . He presents a prophetic vision of how Lenin and Trotsky would come to entrance and fascinate the Russian nation with their soulless materialism of “bloodshed in the name of conscience”, in a way that Stalin would then apply to absolute power.
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Re: Crime and Punishment - Part 3

Robert Tulip wrote: Fri May 20, 2022 12:37 am Conversation about R’s delirium, and his extravagant gift to the family of his dead acquaintance, seems to send him deeper still into the pit of obvious guilt. When the policeman then says “If only you knew how you interest me!” the reader feels this will not end well.
I would have liked to see the character of the policeman Porfiry sketched out more fully, perhaps with some personal backstory. This trait of curiosity at the "meaning" of Raskolnikov's illness, monomaniacal critique of morality, and likely guilt is in many ways opposite to the other great literary policeman of 19th C. fiction, Victor Hugo's Inspector Javert. D's Porfiry is patient and holds back, by contrast with Javert's obsessive and impulsive pursuit. Porfiry considers larger implications and issues of character, while Javert is blinded by his own need to repudiate his tainted family background. Both seem merciless, each in his own way. One a spider, the other a bloodhound.
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Re: Crime and Punishment - Part 3

This conversation with the detective is far too polite and intellectual to be classed as a police interrogation. Nothing so uncouth as an accusation or charge is mentioned. And yet, when Porfiry asks R “What if some man or youth imagines that he is a Lycurgus or Mahomet--a future one of course--and suppose he begins to remove all obstacles.... He has some great enterprise before him and needs money for it... and tries to get it... do you see?” the reader must inevitably wonder why this line of questioning arises if the detective does not consider R a suspect. At the next line, “Zametov gave a sudden guffaw in his corner”, the only plausible reason for the amusement is his admiration of how Porfiry is gradually drawing the fly into the web without arousing its suspicion.

Steve Jobs used to preface his big announcements such as the iPhone by saying “one more thing”. And so when R takes his hat to leave, the detective’s one little question comes up. The first part is whether R fancied himself an extraordinary man, to which the contemptuous reply is “quite possibly”, an extraordinary statement that invites accusation. It prompts Zametov to blurt out “Perhaps it was one of these future Napoleons who did for Alyona Ivanovna last week?”

But the real ‘one more thing’ is still to come. With “a most good-natured expression”, the detective asks if R saw painters at work at the murder flat. While R is “almost swooning with anxiety to conjecture as quickly as possible where the trap lay”, Razumihin leaps in to defend his friend, observing that the painters were only there on the day of the murder, and so the question implies obvious suspicion of guilt, whereas R pawned his good three days earlier.

The great thing in this writing is the careful deliberate gradual ratcheting of the tension. The device of a police interrogation without any accusation of suspicion generates a heavy atmosphere. The unspoken sense of guilt and inevitable punishment for the crime is reflected in the last line of chapter 5, “They went out into the street gloomy and sullen, and for some steps they did not say a word. Raskolnikov drew a deep breath.”
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