[by Phillip Coates]
Our discussion this week began with an interesting comparison between author and character. In a biography of Fyodor Dostoevsky it is mentioned that while writing Crime and Punishment he would often be heard pacing and muttering about murder, not unlike our lead protagonist. Another similarity could be made when it is revealed in part three that Raskolnikov has been published in a periodical in recent months on the subject of the morality of murder, among other things. This article paints a new depth to the motivations of Raskolnikov and also further marks him as a suspect. After this revelation he becomes increasingly paranoid of such suspicions and leads our group to wonder, how long has he really been planning this murder? Or in fact, any murder? The topic of murder’s morality was excellently surmised by one of our group’s participants, Britt, who compared it to the “Trolley Problem.” This is where one must decide, essentially, between the lives of the few versus the lives of the many.
Later in this section, Raskolnikov goes on one his many walks around St. Petersburg. On this particular sojourn a tradesman confronts him. The newcomer then whispers to him sharply murderer. The identity of the tradesman is not clear and caused some debate within our discussion. Is this potential blackmailer a hallucination of Raskolnikov’s troubled mind, a ruse from the police investigators, or something else entirely?
As the novel progresses we learn more and more how many of these characters are “stepping across” their own lives, such as Raskolnikov’s own crime. We also learn Razumikhin believes there is an inherent privilege in lying, something that can be considered outside of social expectations. This begs the question, what else has, and will, Razumikhin lie about?