• In total there is 1 user online :: 0 registered, 0 hidden and 1 guest (based on users active over the past 60 minutes)
    Most users ever online was 906 on Thu Jul 07, 2022 7:52 pm

Crime and Punishment - Part 5

#179: Oct. - Dec. 2021 (Fiction)
Post Reply
User avatar
Chris OConnor

1A - OWNER
BookTalk.org Hall of Fame
Posts: 16792
Joined: Sun May 05, 2002 2:43 pm
20
Location: Florida
Has thanked: 3362 times
Been thanked: 1270 times
Gender:
Contact:
United States of America

Crime and Punishment - Part 5

Crime and Punishment - Part 5

Please use this thread to discuss Part 5 of Crime and Punishment, by Fyodor Dostoyevsky.
User avatar
Robert Tulip

3B - MOD & BOOK & SILVER
BookTalk.org Hall of Fame
Posts: 6388
Joined: Tue Oct 04, 2005 9:16 pm
17
Location: Canberra
Has thanked: 2618 times
Been thanked: 2584 times
Contact:
Australia

Re: Crime and Punishment - Part 5

Part Five Chapter One opens with Pyotr Petrovitch, the jilted fiancé of Raskolnikov’s sister Dounia, dealing with “the black snake of wounded vanity gnawing at his heart.” He imagines the might-have-beens regarding how he could have avoided the breakup, which he finds unbelievable, and nurses a dark hatred toward Raskolnikov to whom he assigns total blame.

Pyotr Petrovitch is lodging in St Petersburg with Andrey Semyonovitch Lebeziatnikov, a young man who holds the latest fashionable progressive nihilist opinions. This relationship affords our author the opportunity for yet another intriguing sub-sub-plot. Described with quite a dollop of whimsical irony as part of “powerful omniscient circles who despised everyone and showed everyone up”, this progressive fellow is introduced to us as a simpleton, of the type who “of course” make no sense whatsoever in anything they say. And yet Dostoyevsky tells us their meaningless gibberish is greeted with exaggerated and distorted importance.

We learn that “Andrey Semyonovitch was an anæmic, scrofulous little man, with strangely flaxen mutton-chop whiskers of which he was very proud. He was a clerk and had almost always something wrong with his eyes.” This delicate descriptive palette is just warming up to Dostoyevsky’s full character assassination. Get this:
“He was one of the numerous and varied legion of dullards, of half-animate abortions, conceited, half-educated coxcombs, who attach themselves to the idea most in fashion only to vulgarise it and who caricature every cause they serve, however sincerely.”
Read that one again. Have you ever called someone a “half-animate abortion”? I get the impression this is a wider social broadside directed toward the woke community of the day.

Not surprisingly, the co-lodgers begin to dislike each other, even without these secret denunciations being made explicit. At issue seems to be the content of progressive opinion.

The wokists of St Petersburg were preparing for the communist revolution by condemning Christianity, establishing communes, rejecting baptism and encouraging adultery. Dostoyevsky is signalling his disapproval of these modern cultural and political trends. The characters get to talking about the funeral that Raskolnikov foolishly paid for, including its implications for feminism, termed ‘the woman question’, how in future fighting will be abolished, and how essential it is to always be on the lookout for opportunities for enlightenment propaganda, even where this is seen as offensive, such as by seeing prostitution as a welcome, respectable and vigorous protest against the organisation of society.

This vignette of communist culture offers a rather chilling preview of Russia’s descent into the mad hell of Stalinism, well prepared in the ideological insanity of the nineteenth century.

The young commu-nihilist Andrey Semyonovitch explains his vision of the future, saying “what is stupid here is sensible there, what, under present conditions, is unnatural becomes perfectly natural in the community.” This is Dostoyevsky’s idea of giving the condemned man enough rope to hang himself.

Andrey Semyonovitch’s numerous further comments include gems like suggesting cleaning cesspools is better than the painting of Raphael or the writing of Pushkin, expressing his anger at the uselessness of art. He argues against any personal privacy, offering the foolish rationalisation that “it’s always a stumbling-block to people like you, they turn it into ridicule before they understand it.”

Dostoyevsky provides the profound insight into communist thinking that understanding such absurdities requires that the novice must have “a firm faith in the system.” The point is that the alleged logic of communism is really nothing but religious faith inverted. The arrogant confusion, bigotry and ignorance of these allegedly progressive ideas helps to explain the emotional power of the communist contempt and disdain for every tradition, and why communism inevitably descends into tyranny.

Enter Sonia the prostitute. Pyotr Petrovitch gives his apologies for not being able to attend the extravagant funeral that Sonia’s mother has arranged, and discusses the family finances. He accuses Andrey Semyonovitch of trying to groom and seduce her, which the young communard denies, expressing a boldly puritan ethic.

The chapter ends with discussion of the merits of paternalistic charity, and the need to keep money out of the hands of people who cannot manage it, and why it is that men insist on only raising their own genetic children, in conflict with the communist principles of free love and abolition of marriage and the family as social institutions. The communist secretly marks the supposedly reactionary attitude of the bourgeois on these points, suggesting they will be grounds for future retribution.

I found all this quite profound. Still today, the progressive political movement claims to be on the side of reason, logic, evidence and science, but all this is just a myth, a rationalisation for preconceived ideological positions that are primarily emotional. For when any actual evidence contradicts their prejudice, progressives are just as bigoted as conservatives in their facility to ignore inconvenient information. Crime and Punishment shows this syndrome is an enduring feature of modern political culture, and what a truly difficult thing it is to ground our opinions in evidence.
User avatar
Robert Tulip

3B - MOD & BOOK & SILVER
BookTalk.org Hall of Fame
Posts: 6388
Joined: Tue Oct 04, 2005 9:16 pm
17
Location: Canberra
Has thanked: 2618 times
Been thanked: 2584 times
Contact:
Australia

Re: Crime and Punishment - Part 5

Here is some of the final debate in chapter one on the institution of the family
Fyodor Dostoyevsky wrote:“And, what do you want with marriage, with _legal_ marriage, my dear, noble Pyotr Petrovitch? Why do you cling to this _legality_ of marriage? Well, you may beat me if you like, but I am glad, positively glad it hasn’t come off, that you are free, that you are not quite lost for humanity.... you see, I’ve spoken my mind!”
“Because I don’t want in your free marriage to be made a fool of and to bring up another man’s children, that’s why I want legal marriage,” Luzhin replied in order to make some answer.
He seemed preoccupied by something.
“Children? You referred to children,” Lebeziatnikov started off like a warhorse at the trumpet call. “Children are a social question and a question of first importance, I agree; but the question of children has another solution. Some refuse to have children altogether, because they suggest the institution of the family. We’ll speak of children later, but now as to the question of honour, I confess that’s my weak point. That horrid, military, Pushkin expression is unthinkable in the dictionary of the future. What does it mean indeed? It’s nonsense, there will be no deception in a free marriage! That is only the natural consequence of a legal marriage, so to say, its corrective, a protest. So that indeed it’s not humiliating... and if I ever, to suppose an absurdity, were to be legally married, I should be positively glad of it. I should say to my wife: ‘My dear, hitherto I have loved you, now I respect you, for you’ve shown you can protest!’ You laugh! That’s because you are incapable of getting away from prejudices.
The communist begins by asserting that legal marriage is an inhuman and oppressive institution, to which the bourgeois Luhzin responds that it provides guarantee of paternity. The nub of this debate is that for a communist, it is hard to see a logical reason why anyone should care about paternity, which seems to rest solely upon instinctive intuitions of human nature. Conservatives consider intuitive instinctive reactions important in assessing moral questions, whereas progressives see feelings as obsolete reaction.

Dostoyevsky has a masterful handle on how such debates occur. His image of the ‘warhorse at the trumpet call’ well reflects the arrogant instinctive reaction of the communist who snorts with disgust on encountering a living and breathing reactionary who defends paternal family systems. When a woke progressive is entirely surrounded by people of like mind, he is stunned and appalled to find a real conservative in the flesh. He therefore expresses his visceral disgust at the bourgeois concept of ‘honour’, a lie solely instituted to perpetuate the obsolete military doctrines of nobility and hierarchy. This thinking led the Red Army under Trotsky to abolish ranks in the Civil War, only to rapidly reinstitute them when it found they were losing. Similar problems arise with the Marxist idea that marriage is prostitution, that it rests upon superficial logical veneer that totally disregards major important factors in culture and life.

In our post-communist world, reason that once thundered in revolt, in the words of the Internationale, is now chastened and humbled by the historical evidence of how abuse of reason descended into tyranny under communist regimes. That makes it hard for us to transport our minds back into the pre-revolutionary world of Petersburg, where the communists asserted total moral superiority.

Little details of the text are psychologically important. "Luzhin replied in order to make some answer" reflects that conservatives find such communist challenge to revered sacramental institutions sacrilegious, and would much prefer not to be asked such an obnoxious question about the legitimacy of family values. Similarly, "he seemed preoccupied by something." Yes indeed, he is preoccupied by his astonishment at the effrontery of his interlocutor, while knowing the communist represents the zeitgeist and therefore has the upper hand.
User avatar
Robert Tulip

3B - MOD & BOOK & SILVER
BookTalk.org Hall of Fame
Posts: 6388
Joined: Tue Oct 04, 2005 9:16 pm
17
Location: Canberra
Has thanked: 2618 times
Been thanked: 2584 times
Contact:
Australia

Re: Crime and Punishment - Part 5

Chapter Two brings the funeral dinner of Marmeladov. I found it slightly irritating that Dostoyevsky made so much of this event in the plot, but it has a symbolic importance as a description of the systemic deception in Russian culture, with people constantly pretending to be more distinguished and honourable than they really are. It even reminds me of the Ukraine War, with Putin getting his backside kicked for pretending Russia is a great power when the reality is a tragic, destructive and venal farce.

The hostess widow, Katarina Ivanovna, we recall, is a very sad and unfortunate pauper who is dying of tuberculosis. Her only income is from her prostitute daughter Sonia. She maintains a fantasy pretence of nobility, for example by imagining her father was almost governor of a state, and exaggerating the status of people she admires while directing the most contemptuous insults toward people she despises. No one with any dignity bothers to come to the dinner, in view of the appalling social status of the family.

It is all a bit like the banquet in the Bible where beggars from the street are rounded up to make up the numbers. But Raskolnikov does show, having paid for it with his mother’s money, as a gesture of insanity. She pretends he is due to become a university professor and puts him in the seat of honour, so she can whinge to him about why the dinner is a failure. Raskolnikov is disgusted by the drunken farce, but seeks to be polite to the hostess, as the event steadily descends into argument, insult, mayhem and fighting.

Then Luzhin turns up.
User avatar
Robert Tulip

3B - MOD & BOOK & SILVER
BookTalk.org Hall of Fame
Posts: 6388
Joined: Tue Oct 04, 2005 9:16 pm
17
Location: Canberra
Has thanked: 2618 times
Been thanked: 2584 times
Contact:
Australia

Re: Crime and Punishment - Part 5

Chapter Three
High drama! After “scanning the party with severe and vigilant eyes”, Luzhin confirms the widow was lying when she claimed he was an old friend of her father, producing mirth among the assembly. It turns out this syndrome of invention is how Katarina Ivanovna copes with life, firmly convincing herself of comforting ideas.

Luzhin dramatically accuses the prostitute daughter Sonia of stealing 100 roubles from him, which she vehemently denies. After general indignation at this turn of events, Katarina searches Sonia’s pockets and finds the money. Sonia continues her denial, but her guilt seems obvious. Out of compassion for the family, Luzhin agrees not to press charges for the crime.

Suddenly, Luzhin’s co-lodger the young communist Lebeziatnikov strides in, full of anger, and accuses Luzhin of slander. He says Luzhin secretly slipped the note into Sonia’s pocket, and proceeds to explain in detail how he observed this strange trickery, which at the time he thought was a secret gift. Now the point of dispute is what the possible motive could have been. All attending turn against Luzhin, since Lebeziatnikov has spoken with such obvious certainty. Luzhin’s defence is that Lebeziatnikov is a godless communist and not to be trusted or believed, but that ad hom wins him no friends.

Enter Raskolnikov. The plot only thickens, as he explains it all in perfect logic as a complex intrigue by Luzhin, designed to win back Dounia’s hand in marriage, linking Sonia to the money R gave for the funeral. Like a remarkable whodunnit explanation worthy of Sherlock Holmes, the contorted psychology of the crime is laid bare, leaving Luzhin isolated and pale. But he decides attack is the best defence, yelling indignantly at the crowd that “the thief has been more than unmasked, and I shall prosecute. Our judges are not so blind and... not so drunk, and will not believe the testimony of two notorious infidels, agitators, and atheists, who accuse me from motives of personal revenge which they are foolish enough to admit.” Luzhin leaves in a huff, the landlady informs Katarina amidst the tumult that she is to be evicted, and Raskolnikov goes to find Sonia.

The reader is left to wonder, what will the courts make of this complication, especially once they find Raskolnikov guilty of murder? Following along with the passionate stories we see the events clearly, but convincing a judge of such strange events, all undermined by the relative social status of the disputing parties, will by no means be so clear. The testimony of a murderer, a communist and a prostitute will be worthless against a reputable bourgeois gentleman.
User avatar
Robert Tulip

3B - MOD & BOOK & SILVER
BookTalk.org Hall of Fame
Posts: 6388
Joined: Tue Oct 04, 2005 9:16 pm
17
Location: Canberra
Has thanked: 2618 times
Been thanked: 2584 times
Contact:
Australia

Re: Crime and Punishment - Part 5

Chapter Four
Recall, Raskolnikov promised to tell Sonia who killed her friend Lizaveta. He did! Now he walks toward her house, after the amazing accusation from Luzhin, and gets cold feet. Must he really confess? Here is the exquisite psychological portrait as he deliberates:
He hid his face in his hands again and bowed his head. Suddenly he turned pale, got up from his chair, looked at Sonia, and without uttering a word sat down mechanically on her bed. His sensations that moment were terribly like the moment when he had stood over the old woman with the axe in his hand and felt that “he must not lose another minute.”
“What’s the matter?” asked Sonia, dreadfully frightened. He could not utter a word. This was not at all, not at all the way he had intended to “tell” and he did not understand what was happening to him now. She went up to him, softly, sat down on the bed beside him and waited, not taking her eyes off him. Her heart throbbed and sank. It was unendurable; he turned his deadly pale face to her. His lips worked, helplessly struggling to utter something. A pang of terror passed through Sonia’s heart.
“What’s the matter?” she repeated, drawing a little away from him.
“Nothing, Sonia, don’t be frightened.... It’s nonsense. It really is nonsense, if you think of it,” he muttered, like a man in delirium.
Will he actually tell her? Raskolnikov is determined to unburden his conscience to Sonia. And even so, the language of his confession is indirect. He proceeds to describe the murder in the third person, supposedly committed by someone he knows, a description that gradually reveals the horror to her, that she must guess the truth. Finally comes the moment of revelation:
“You can’t guess, then?” he asked suddenly, feeling as though he were flinging himself down from a steeple.
“N-no...” whispered Sonia.
“Take a good look.”
As soon as he had said this again, the same familiar sensation froze his heart. He looked at her and all at once seemed to see in her face the face of Lizaveta. He remembered clearly the expression in Lizaveta’s face, when he approached her with the axe and she stepped back to the wall, putting out her hand, with childish terror in her face, looking as little children do when they begin to be frightened of something, looking intently and uneasily at what frightens them, shrinking back and holding out their little hands on the point of crying. Almost the same thing happened now to Sonia. With the same helplessness and the same terror, she looked at him for a while and, suddenly putting out her left hand, pressed her fingers faintly against his breast and slowly began to get up from the bed, moving further from him and keeping her eyes fixed even more immovably on him. Her terror infected him. The same fear showed itself on his face. In the same way he stared at her and almost with the same _childish_ smile.
“Have you guessed?” he whispered at last.
“Good God!” broke in an awful wail from her bosom.
In this moment she felt she had already known, although she had not. It is extraordinary how gradually and inexorably Dostoyevsky ratchets up the pressure and tension, feeling the cold sweat of his characters as we learn their inner thoughts and emotional turmoil. We wonder until the event whether he really will go through with the confession.

The reaction afterwards is equally psychological. Sonia expresses compassion for the great sadness that Raskolnikov must bear in his guilt for his awful crime. Her violent hysterical weeping brings something to the cold automaton that he has not felt for years - Raskolnikov also sheds a tear. Slowly, this relationship between the murderer and the prostitute becomes a love story.
Post Reply