Tag Archives: Crime and Punishment

Classic Connections

We’ve had a few series that have popped up during the lifetime of this blog: Stupid Questions, Classic Word of the Day, What’s on My Nightstand?.
Maybe it’s time to add another series: Classic Connections?  Literary Links? Book Bridges?

I’m not sure what to call it, but as we get closer to the end of the novel list, things keep popping up that remind me of previous titles.  Sometimes is a quote from the text.  Sometimes it’s a different literary device like a theme, motif or symbol.  Sometimes it’s an actual literary device.

In chapter viii of Book 1 Winston takes a trip through the prole neighborhood.  It’s risky behavior.  The dark-haired girl spots him.  Whether she “spies” him we don’t know.  For a moment Winston ponders bludgeoning her with his newly purchased paperweight.

He might have silenced the dark-haired girl if only he had acted quickly enough; but precisely because of the extremity of his danger he had lost the power to act.  It struck him that in moments of crisis one is never fighting against an external enemy but always against one’s own body.

After reading this passage I thought of Crime and Punishment’s Raskolnikov”, another character whose body worked against him when he was trying desperately to keep a secret.

Have you made any connections between Winston Smith and other WEM characters?


Posted by on November 2, 2013 in 1984


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Fill in the Blank

________________ found in her all that he wanted in his wife: she was poor and alone in the world, so she would not bring with her a mass of relations and their influence into her husband’s house…

She would owe everything to her husband, which was what he had always desired too for his future family life.

Can you fill in the blank with the name of the character who thought these lines?

Need some help?
Here.  I’ll give you two choices.

Pyotr Petrovich Luzhin     or      Sergey Ivanovitch Koznyshev

Were you a tiny bit fooled?  Do you remember Luzhin from Crime and Punishment?  He was the character that was engaged to Dunya.  He wanted to marry a poor girl so that she would be indebted to him.  Koznyshev sounds just like Luzhin here, doesn’t he? (AK, Part VI, chap. 4)

After I read this section, I wasn’t disappointed that the proposal to sweet Varenka didn’t happen.

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Posted by on November 11, 2012 in Anna Karenina, Crime and Punishment


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Talk to the Hand

My husband and I started Crime and Punishment while on our trip to see my family this summer.  While there, my parents and sister graciously agreed to take our brood so he and I could have a night to ourselves – not for the purpose of reading Doestoevsky, that was just a by-product of our little Anniversary get-away.

Don’t worry, we didn’t waste beautiful Black Hills scenery, a secluded cabin, and honeymoon memories (did I mention that thanks to the generosity of our friends we got to stay in the same place that we inhabited after our wedding ten years ago?  Delightful.) on murder and mayhem.

We saved that for the car ride home.

Have you ever driven across South Dakota and northern Nebraska?  I love those two states, so I’ll refrain from using any negative terms to describe them, but, let’s just say that you won’t miss any breathtaking views if your happen to have your nose in a book for a mile or 100.

So we read, and we read, and we read, and drove and drove and drove.  And I got really good at pronouncing Russian names.  Then we got to Part I Chapter VII.  This shouldn’t come as a surprise, but there’s a murder.  Two, in fact.  They’re gruesome.  Gruesome, and disgusting, and repulsive, and sickening, and horrible, and terrible.

But I kept reading, And Jerry kept driving.  Although he might not have had both hands on the wheel.


Posted by on September 21, 2012 in Crime and Punishment


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Oh, Flaubert.  Here you are again popping into my head as I read the Russian novel.

Dounia is waiting for Rask in his apartment.  She knows.  Raskolnikov tells her he thought about suicide but couldn’t do it.

     “Yes, I am going.  At once.  Yes, to escape the disgrace I thought of drowning myself, Dounia, but as I looked into the water, I thought that if I had considered myself strong till now I’d better not be afraid of disgrace,” he said, hurrying on. “It’s pride, Dounia.”
      “Pride, Rodya.”
      There was a gleam of fire in his lustreless eyes; he seemed to be glad to think that he was still proud.
      “You don’t think, sister, that I was simple afraid of the water?” he asked, looking into her face with a sinister smile.

Rodion Raskolnikov is no Emma Bovary.  She commits suicide to avoid the shame and suffering that was going to come from her actions.  Her pride won’t let her face her future.  Raskolnikov is ready to face his punishment.  There will be no mouthful of arsenic for him.  He’s too proud for that.

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Posted by on September 15, 2012 in Crime and Punishment, Madame Bovary


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Reactions to Death

I knew something was up in Part VI, chapter 6.  I just knew it.

Svidrigaïlov is tying up loose ends.  He’s met with Raskolnikov, Dounia, Sonia, and his betrothed.  Now he’s in a hotel feeling feverish and having chills.  He is unable to eat.  He calls out for the ghost of his wife Marfa.  He sleeps and wakes, but isn’t sure what’s real and what’s a dream.  Bizarre nightmares trouble him.

Hmmmm…. seem familiar?

Think for a moment.  Does his behavior sound like anyone else’s that we know?

Could it be…. Raskolnikov?

Sure there are differences.  At the end of this chapter Svidrigaïlov shoots himself.  Did you see it coming?  I wrote in my book, “Is he planning to die?”  Raskolnikov doesn’t experience mental/physical illness until after he murders Alyona Ivanovna and Lizaveta.

In Dostoyevsky’s mind these “symptoms” are connected with murder/suicide:  fevers and chills, lack of appetite, ghosts, dreams.  We shouldn’t be surprised that these two characters share similar reactions to death.  Svidrigaïlov is Raskolnikov’s foil after all.

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Posted by on September 14, 2012 in Crime and Punishment


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and the winner is…

About a month ago our friend Ruth celebrated reading the first ten WEM novels by ranking them with her own personal system.  I enjoyed reading through the “awards” she bestowed on each title: most entertaining, most relevant, most controversial…  I loved the idea.  Being the wishy-washy girl that I am, I haven’t settled on my own “classic winners and honorable mentions”, but I can tell you what was my absolute favorite chapter of Crime and Punishment.

May I have the envelope please?


and the winner is… Part VI, chapter 5!

Do you find it strange that in my favorite chapter of C & P Raskolnikov has such a tiny role?

This is the chapter where Svidrigaïlov gives Rask the slip and meets up with Dounia.  The chapter has everything a psychological thriller could want.  There’s the luring of an innocent maiden.  There’s the revealing of the brother-murderer.  A good amount of promising happens that is meant to conceal entrapment.  Threats on both sides make for a most suspenseful chapter ending.

Oh, it’s a great chapter.  And the end!  The End!  Dounia has the revolver.  Svid tells her to shoot…    and she does!  But then she doesn’t.  And he lets her go.

I felt just like Willie Wonka in the movie: “The suspense is terrible… I hope it’ll last.”

Would you agree that this chapter was a winner, or would you have demanded a recount?


Posted by on September 13, 2012 in Crime and Punishment


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Who said that?

Let’s play a version of Jeannette’s “Name that Character” game.

I’ll give you a quote, and you tell me who said it.

I can never remember without laughter how I once seduced a lady who was devoted to her husband, her children, and her principles.  What fun it was and how little trouble!

Was it…

A. Edward Rochester from Jane Eyre

B. Rodolphe Boulanger from Madame Bovary

C. Arkady Ivanovich Svidrigaïlov from Crime and Punishment

D. George Wickham from Pride and Prejudice

Here’s a hint.

So it’s not Mme B‘s Rodolphe.  But didn’t it sound just like him?

So what was the correct answer?

Yes, you’re right!  The answer was C.
C for Crime and Punishment.  C for Creepy Svidrigaïlov.  C for Connections to other Characters.

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Posted by on September 12, 2012 in Crime and Punishment, Madame Bovary


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My new farewell

Crime and Punishment
Part VI, chapter 2

Porfiry believes Raskolnikov is the murderer, and he tells him so.  But the investigator hasn’t come to arrest Rask.  He wants Rask to confess.  He’s sure that eventually Rask will confess.  It’s an intense chapter.  At the end Porfiry leaves with a request.

“If anything were to happen (though indeed I don’t believe in it and think you quite incapable of it), yet in case you were taken during these forty or fifty hours with the notion of putting an end to the business in some other way, in some fantastic fashion–laying hands on yourself–(it’s an absurd proposition, but you must forgive me for it), do leave a brief but precise note, only two lines, and mention the stone.  It will be more generous.  Come, till we meet!  Good thoughts and sound decisions to you!”

Oh, Porfiry, how I enjoy you.  So here’s my paraphrase… Rask, I don’t think you’re going to kill yourself, but if you do, please leave a note.  Just a sentence or two to explain where you put the stolen goods.

The best part of Porfiry’s closing is that last sentence:

Good thoughts and sound decisions to you!” 

I shared that line with my husband, and we decided that as our children enter their teenage years, this is what we’ll say to them as they head out with their friends.

“Good thoughts and sound decisions to you!”


Posted by on September 8, 2012 in Crime and Punishment


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More Proof

There was proof in Madame Bovary and Don Quixote.

Here it is again in C & P, Park VI, chapter 2.


Proof that… Reading too much = Madness

In this particular part of Crime and Punishment, Porfiry is talking about Nikolay, the man who confessed to Lizaveta and the pawn broker’s murders:

He was full of fever, prayer at night, read the old books, the ‘true’ ones, and read himself crazy.

Here we are a year and a half later and eleven novels into the WEM list.
You’ll start watching for the signs, won’t you?
Because just like when the narrator in Don Quixote said, “… the lack of sleep and the excess of reading withered his brain, and he went mad”,  I’m feeling rather tired, and I found out that Anna Karenina is 900+ pages.


Posted by on September 7, 2012 in Crime and Punishment


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A priest, a murderer, and a dead woman…

So… a priest, a murderer, and a dead woman are all in the same room.

That’s how C & P Part VI, chapter 1 starts.  Something strange is happening.  Katerina Ivanovna is dead.  Rask is watching the priest perform the requiem service from the doorway.

From his childhood the thought of death and the presence of death had something oppressive and mysteriously awful; and it was long since he had heard the requiem service.  And there was something else here as well, too awful and disturbing.

I underlined that last section in my book and put a star by it.  What’s the awful and disturbing thing that’s happening?  Something more awful and disturbing than a mother having died of consumption?

“Raskolnikov stayed all through the service.  As he blessed them and took his leave, the priest looked round strangely.”

Why is the priest looking around strangely?

Then the narrator tells us that Rask has felt uneasy himself.

“Sometimes he walked out of the town on to the high road, once he had even reached a little wood, but the lonelier the place was the more he seemed to be aware of an uneasy presence near him.  It did not frighten him, but greatly annoyed him, so that he made haste to return to the town, to mingle with the crowd, to enter restaurants and taverns, to walk in busy thoroughfares.

This “uneasy presence” feeling has happened another time when Rask was listening to music in a tavern.

But at last he had suddenly felt the same uneasiness again, as though his conscience smote him.

Help!  If it’s Rask’s conscience prodding him, why does the priest notice.  What’s going on here?


Posted by on September 6, 2012 in Crime and Punishment


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