Fyodor Dostoevsky (1821-1881) PART#2 Criticisms and Interpretations I. By Emile Melchior, Vicomte de Vogüé

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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."


This 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...