I managed to finish the first part of Crime and Punishment today. I actually flew through these first 70 pages even though I haven’t had a lot of extra time to read. And surprisingly, I am liking this book far more than I thought I would.
I think that I had some preconceived notion that this book was going to be torture to read. As a kid in high school and even in college, Crime and Punishment was one of those books that only the really educated read and loved. For some reason, I think that I believed it was too far above me for me to like it, or that I wasn’t smart enough to get through it. That does not seem to be the case.
There is a lot of argument about why we even teach the “classics” to teenagers in the first place. There are good arguments on both sides, but I think that many, many teenagers just don’t “Get” the classics when they read them. At fourteen, can you really comprehend Great Expectations? Perhaps and perhaps not.
So I think that the first time I tried to read this I just couldn’t get it because I wasn’t old enough and I hadn’t lived enough to connect with it.
Rascal (see the previous post if you are confused by the name) commits a crime because he thinks he can live with the consequences. In this first part, it sets up his decision to actually go through with his plan and not just think about it.
I won’t give away much of the story if I tell you his crime, but if you really don’t want to know, stop reading now.
Rascal decides to commit the murder of an older lady, a pawnbroker who is rumored to have money stored up. Since Rascal is poor and needs money, and the woman is “Evil” and mean to her younger sister, would Rascal actually be doing society a favor by killing her off? That is his moral dilemma.
He knows the consequences and knows that he can get caught. But he also knows his situation and how that money could benefit not only him, but the others who might come in contact with him after he has all of that money in his possession. He also knows that the woman is not well-liked and that he might be doing many people a favor by killing her off himself.
But no matter how evil and how corrupt, is there really any time to commit such a crime like that? Even if you knew the extent of what that person would do in their lifetime, would you still be able to live with the consequences?
Obviously I haven’t found the answer within the context of the story, as I’m not that far yet.
But I can’t help but think that the guilt and shame from committing so heinous a crime would never leave you and it would be something to haunt you for a lifetime. It offers a lot to think about.
If you would have known who Hitler would become, would you have faced the guilt of killing another human being?
What about Saddam Hussein?
Or Joseph Stalin?
Or a child molester?
Or a kidnapper?
I leave you with some words from Dostoevsky:
“Kill her, take her money and with the help of it devote oneself to the service of humanity and the good of all. What do you think, would not one tiny crime be wiped out by thousands of good deeds?” (page 53)