ClassicCrime And Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Crime And Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky


In one of my first lectures on Criminal Law, I became rather embroiled in a heated discussion on the many reasons people are driven to murder. The Professor, sardonically watching two naive privileged students argue something they knew nothing about, insisted we went away and read Crime and Punishment. It totally changed the discourse and still impacts me years later.

“The man who has a conscience suffers whilst acknowledging his sin. That is his punishment.” 

Lauded as one of the best novels ever written, this is a psychological account of crime, redemption and morality. Rodion Raskolnikov, is an impoverished ex-student in Saint Petersburg who commits a murder inexplicably. We see his ensuing torment and the wider repercussions on a vast array of other complex characters. The prose is tortuous, anxious and highly descriptive, a free falling stream of consciousness transporting the reader into an environment of fear. There is such an authenticity to the emotions depicted and it evokes an apocalyptic sense of isolation. 

Bringing to life the destitution and every day inequality, Dostoevsky had been orphaned, imprisoned, conscripted and widowed by the time he started writing this. It’s a hard, incredibly convoluted uncomfortable read that I didn’t want to end, making me question whether we can ever use evil as a means to achieve humanitarian ends. 

Let’s be clear I didn’t sit around for four years in uni lamenting life and reading Russian classics, I had a VERY good time getting up to the normal student hijinks. Maybe this stands out for me as it’s one of the assignments I actually completed on time but it still resonates with me, and will always be so relevant as the themes and questions are universal and timeless. Watch out next week for Sophie’s uni pick (and her less embarrassing photo).

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