Fyodor Dostoevsky (1821 1881) Part#2 Criticisms And Interpretations I. By Emile Melchior, Vicomte De VogÜÉ

1146 words - 5 pages

THE SUBJECT is very simple. A man conceives the idea of committing a crime; he matures it, commits the deed, defends himself for some time from being arrested, and finally gives himself up to the expiation of it. For once, this Russian artist has adopted the European idea of unity of action; the drama, purely psychological, is made up of the combat between the man and his own project. The accessory characters and facts are of no consequence, except in regard to this influence upon the criminal's plans. The first part, in which are described the birth and growth of the criminal idea, is written with consummate skill and a truth and subtlety of analysis beyond all praise. The student Raskolnikov, a nihilist in the true sense of the word, intelligent, unprincipled, unscrupulous, reduced to extreme poverty, dreams of a happier condition. On returning home from going to pawn a jewel at an old pawnbroker's shop, this vague thought crosses his brain without his attaching much importance to it: 1"An intelligent man who had that old woman's money could accomplish anything he liked; it is only necessary to get rid of the useless, hateful old hag." 2This was but one of those fleeting thoughts which cross the brain like a nightmare, and which only assume a distinct from through the assent of the will. This idea becomes fixed in the man's brain, growing and increasing on every page, until he is perfectly possessed by it. Every hard experience of his outward life appears to him to bear some relation to his project; and by a mysterious power of reasoning, to work into his plan and urge him on to the crime. The influence exercised upon this man is brought out into such distinct relief that it seems to us itself like a living actor in the drama, guiding the criminal's hand to the murderous weapon. The horrible deed is accomplished; and the unfortunate man wrestles with the recollection of it as he did with the original design. The relations of the world to the murderer are all changed, through the irreparable fact of his having suppressed a human life. Everything takes on a new physiognomy, and a new meaning to him, excluding from him the possibility of feeling and reasoning like other people, or of finding his own place in life. His whole soul is metamorphosed and in constant discord with the life around him. This is not remorse in the true sense of the word. Dostoevsky exerts himself to distinguish and explain the difference. His hero will feel no remorse until the day of expiation; but it is a complex and perverse feeling which possesses him; the vexation at having derived no satisfaction from an act so successfully carried out; the revolting against the unexpected moral consequences of that act; the shame of finding himself so weak and helpless; for the foundation of Raskolnikov's character is pride. Only one single interest in life is left to him: to deceive and elude the police. He seeks their company, their friendship, by an attraction analogous to that...

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