Tag Archives: Raskolnikov

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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Role Models

I’ve got more literary connections for you.  There’s no stopping me now.

Do you remember over a year ago back in Crime and Punishment when Raskolnikov had that weird little power trip and bonded with the idea of Napoleon?  Here’s a refresher quote:

“Yes, that’s what it was! I wanted to become a Napoleon, that is why I killed her…. Do you understand now?”

Like Sonia, I don’t really understand, but that’s not the point right now.  The point is that Bigger had similar thoughts.

Of late he had liked to hear tell of men who could rule others, for in actions such as these he felt that there was a way to escape from this tight morass of fear and shame that sapped at the base of his life.  He liked to hear of how Japan was conquering China; of how Hitler was running the Jews to the ground; of how Mussolini was invading Spain.  He was not concerned with whether these acts were right or wrong’ they simply appealed to him as possible avenues of escape.

Wait a minute.  Maybe Sonia should get herself a copy of Native Son.  Maybe that would help.

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Posted by on September 20, 2013 in Crime and Punishment, Native Son


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Screech! Screech! Screech! Screech!

The Trial -Chapter 1 “The Arrest” Reflection

We started off like Raskolnikov and ended up more like Alfred Hitchcock.


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Posted by on July 10, 2013 in The Trial


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Chapter Swap

When we first met Nikolai in Part 1 Chapter 24, I felt as though I’d picked up the wrong novel off my desk.  We walked into a room full of dense clouds of cheap tobacco smoke.  Coarse voices filled the air.  The woman present had a less than respectable reputation.  The privileged classes were being scorned.  The clothing was rough and old.

I half expected to find Levin’s brother conversing with Raskolnikov.


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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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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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Beautiful but Terrible Words

Crime and Punishment Part IV, chapter 4

Sonia has read the story of Lazarus to Raskolnikov.

“That is all about the raising of Lazarus,” she whispered severely and abruptly, and turning away she stood motionless, not daring to raise her eyes to him.  She still trembled feverishly.  The candle-end was flickering out in the battered candle-stick, dimly lighting up in the poverty-stricken room the murderer and the harlot who had so strangely been reading together the eternal book.

I think Dostoyevsky could give Flaubert a run for his money.

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Posted by on August 26, 2012 in Crime and Punishment


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Luther to the Rescue

calumny – n.  slanderous statements

Classical Usage:  Guess where we are?  Yup, still hanging out over vodka pancakes at the funeral luncheon, but now Raskolnikov is explaining what would motivate Pyotr Petrovich to falsely accuse Sonya of theft.  “And to his question, whether I would sit Sofya Semyonovna next to my sister, I answered that I had already done so that same day.  Angry that my mother and sister did not want to quarrel with me over his calumny, he became more unpardonably thrown out of the house.”

Classically Mad Usage:  The eighth commandment!!  The eighth commandment!!  I know this one!!  Martin Luther wrote this great little, okay, long hymn about the Ten Commandments, and in the translation in the old, red The Lutheran Hymnal the stanza for “You shall not bear false witness.” sang like this:
Bear no false witness nor belie
Thy neighbor by foul calumny.
Defend his innocence from blame;
With charity hid his shame.
And I’m not ashamed to admit that in order to avoid being tricked by the false rhyme I always pictured a guy balancing a column on his knee.

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Posted by on August 26, 2012 in Crime and Punishment


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Returning to the Scene

Part II chapter 6

Raskolnikov has returned to the scene of the crime.  He lets himself in to Alyona Ivanovna’s room.   The furniture is gone. The bloodstains on the floor have been scrubbed clean.  The workmen wallpapering finally take notice of Rask and ask what he wants.

Instead of answering Raskolnikov went into the passage and pulled the bell.  The same bell, the same cracked note.  He rang it a second and a third time; he listened and remembered.  The hideous and agonisingly fearful sensation he had felt then began to come back more and more vividly.  He shuddered at every ring and it gave him more and more satisfaction.

Is this sort of like when I’m feeling blue and play the saddest songs I can find to make myself feel even more depressed?   Maybe so, but then again, probably not because look at that last sentence of the quote: He shuddered at every ring and it gave him more and more satisfaction.



With himself for actually going through with his plan to kill the woman?  and then killing her sister?

Is that what’s satisfying?

Oh, Rask.  You need serious help.


Posted by on August 23, 2012 in Crime and Punishment


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