Literature: Crime and Punishment

"What can I tell you? I've known Rodion for a year and a half: sullen, gloomy, arrogant, proud; recently (and maybe much earlier) insecure and hypochondriac. Magnanimous and kind. Doesn't like voicing his feelings, and would rather do something cruel than speak his heart out in words. At times, however, he's not hypochondriac at all, but just inhumanly cold and callous, as if there really were two opposite characters in him, changing places with each other."

Perhaps the most famous novel written by Russian author Fyodor Dostoevsky. Originally in Russian under the title Prestuplenie i nakazanie (Преступлéние и наказáние)

A moody university student named Raskolnikov murders an old moneylender who has been exploiting her clients, but accidentally also kills someone else. He struggles with the ramifications of his actions through the novel. While ruminating over his crime, he deals with visiting family, a nosy friend who falls in love with his engaged sister, an implacable police detective namned Porfiry who who plays mindgames with him, the all-too-obvious faults in his own Übermensch theories, and his budding relationship with a prostitute and her poor family.

Translated into English many times, and Detective Porfiry is a primary inspiration for the title character of the Columbo TV Movie series.

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This book contains examples of:

  • My Life Flashed Before My Eyes: Raskolnikov, shortly after he is accused of being a murderer.
  • Near-Rape Experience: Svidrigajlov is about to rape Dunya, but then he changes his mind.
  • Nice Guy: Razumihin.
  • Noodle Incident: While reading the newspapers trying to find an article on the pawnbroker's murder, Raskolnikov relays the headlines of several terrible happenings recorded within, one of which involving the Spontaneous Human Combustion of a shopkeeper from alcohol. Nothing more is said on the matter.
  • Not So Different: Luzhin and Svidrigailov are two despicable and immoral men who are treated by Rodion with complete revulsion. However, it is constantly implied that they follow the same pattern of thought as Raskolnikov, only devoid of all ambiguity and pretense of improving the world by breaking the law.
  • The Noun and the Noun
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: Porfiry pretends to be a buffoon, but he is actually so sharp he occasionally seems to have ESP.
  • Parasol of Prettiness: Sonya carries one, even when she's not in her work uniform.
  • Princess in Rags: Katerina Ivanovna Marmeladova.
  • Redemption Equals Death: Svidrigaylov commits suicide after rediscovering his inner moral compass and understanding that there is a higher purpose in life.
  • Sarcastic Confession: When surprised by a policeman in a café, Raskolnikov makes a point to lead him on as much as possible that Raskolnikov would make a great criminal, going so far as telling them nearly exactly how he managed to escape from blame so far. Once he had the policeman in such a creeped-out state, Raskolnikov admits that he did murder the pawnbroker only to laugh in the policeman's face shortly after, causing the confession to sound like a mean spirited joke. For extra measure, Raskolnikov then rubs more evidence that he did actually do it in the policeman's face as he hastily leaves the café.
  • Single Mom Stripper: Sonya becomes a prostitute to feed her step-siblings.
  • Single Woman Seeks Good Man: Dunya and Razumihkin get married in the epilogue.
  • Smug Smiler: Raskolnikov.
  • Smug Snake: Luzhin.
  • Spell My Name with an "S": Due to multiple translations from Russian to English.
  • Starving Student: Raskolnikov was like this.
  • Straw Nihilist: A celebrated Ur-Example and Unbuilt Trope. Raskolnikov's musings on the "beyond good and evil" superhuman are at least 20 years older than Nietzche's philosophy, and in fact partly inspired him.
  • The Stoic: Raskolnikov, most of the time.
  • Surprise Witness: Subverted.
  • Sympathetic Murderer: Raskolnikov.
  • The Perfect Crime: Oh, the irony...
  • The Power of Love: Nihilism and pride fuel most of the actions of the book. This is the only thing that stands in their way. It's enough.
  • Tsarist Russia: The story takes place during the reign of Tsar Alexander III.
  • Übermensch: An Unbuilt Trope at the time it was written. Raskolnikov's main purpose is to become a superior man beyond good and evil; the whole book could be considered a Take That ante litteram to Nietzsche's theories (but ironically, Nietzsche took him as an inspiration). Raskolnikov himself describes his inspiration, Napoleon Bonaparte, in Ubermenschian terms.
  • The Unfettered: Raskolnikov, initially.
    • Subverted quite quickly, though, as his inability to truly become this after the murder makes him his own worst enemy.
  • Unusual Euphemism: (Svidrigailov, speaking to Achilles) "When you are asked, you just say he was going, he said, to America." (Svidrigailov says this before he commits suicide. A sentence after he says the aforementioned, the guy tells him he can't shoot himself in the head here in the street. The next sentence is "Svidrigailov pulled the trigger.")
  • Utopia Justifies the Means: Ruthlessly deconstructed. Even though Raskolnikov intends to help the people whom the moneylender has exploited, the unplanned murder of her innocent sister leads him to question his beliefs.
  • Wham Line: Novel's full of 'em. "Did I murder the old woman? I murdered myself, not her! I crushed myself once for all, for ever.... But it was the devil that killed that old woman, not I. Enough, enough, Sonia, enough! Let me be!"
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: It is mentioned that Lizaveta is constantly pregnant. No mention is ever given of her children again.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: Raskolnikov. Though it's debatable whether he murdered the pawnbroker to use the money altruistically or to help himself or whether he simply wanted to prove that he was an Übermensch and could get away with it. Considering Raskolnikov and his situation, probably a combination.