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Crime and Punishment

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CRIME AND PUNISHMENT (Prestu pleniye i Nakazaniye). Dost6yevslcy's greatest masterpiece in fiction, (Crime and Punishment,' is the psychological study of a murderer. A law-student in the University of Petersburg has written for a periodical an article on crime. This has turned his attention to the subject, and as he has not been informed that the article was accepted, and as the small pittance that his mother and sister have been in the habit of sending him has inexplicably ceased corning, he is reduced to such straits that he has been obliged to pawn some of his pos sessions and is deeply in debt. The notion enters his head of murdering Alena Ivanovna, a disreputable old woman who lends money on pledges and is reputed to be as rich as a Jew. He dwells on the plan until it obsesses him. He argues that if great conquerors, like Na poleon and Alexander the Great, who had suc ceeded in winning fame and glory by their colossal crimes, were justified by their success, it would not be wrong for him to rid the world of a hard and evil usurer, and then, by taking the thousands of rubles which he should find in her possession, to pursue his career without the sordid cares that are blocking his way. He takes a hatchet, which he fastens by a loop to the inside of his cloak, and wrapping up a chip and a piece of iron as a pretended pledge, he goes to her apartment. Everything favors the accomplishment of his scheme. He finds the suspicious old woman alone, and while she is untying the knot around the package, he strikes her on the head and kills her. He hastily ran sacks the inner room; he fails to find the great sums of money which are hidden about, but picks up a few pieces of jewelry and a pocket-book stuffed with bank-notes. While he is at work, the old woman's half-sister enters the outer room. He strikes her down also, and then, hearing steps, he for the first time thinks to bolt the door. Persons try to enter. They ring and knock, and suspecting something is wrong, go to find the janitor. Raskolnikof manages to escape. In order not to meet the two visitors coming back with the janitor,, he steps into a room just vacated by two painters and there accidentally drops one of the jewel-cases. Undetected he leaves the house. Reaching his room he regards his booty,

insignificant as it is, with a sort of horror. He goes to a deserted house and buries it all under a large stone. Returning to his room he dis covers blood on his boots and on his clothing.

He tries to get rid of all such incrirninatirtg evidence. He cannot, however, eliminate his conscience. His crime haunts him night and day. He becomes ill, and his friends cannot understand his actions, which are those of a crazy man. He is constantly impelled to visit the police-station and to revisit the scene of his crime. He is as yet safe from suspicion, since one of the two •painters, who had left the apartment-house just about the time of the murder, has confessed to being the perpetrator. The examining-magistrate, who had read Ras kolnikors article, now published, and has a high idea of the young man's abilities, has gathered from his wild talk that he is the criminal: he advises him to confess and bear his punishment like a man; he intimates that his sentence will be mitigated by such action. In the meantime Roskolnikof has confessed his crime to Sonya, a girl of the town, the victim of cruel circumstances. He had met her through chance acquaintance with her father, an official degraded by drink, and had become greatly interested in her. Rask6lnikof, finally, yields to Sonya's earnest entreaties, goes to the police station and is sentenced to eight years of hard labor in Siberia. The young girl accom panies him, and by her utter devotion brings him back to sanity and to complete repentance.

There are subordinate threads of plot, in volving Raskolnikof's mother and sister and a wealthy roué, named Svidrigailof, who in spite of his rascalities has the saving grace of a generous spirit: he is a character worthy of Dickens. The episode of his suicide is depicted with startling power. So is the tragic end of Sonya's father. The scene of his funeral reaches the highest degree of pathos, mingled with a touch of sardonic humor. One , of the most famous episodes in the story shows S6nya reading the New Testament to her unhappy friend: the prostitute and the murderer make a picture which haunts the memory by its realism and its dramatic poetry.

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