and the Soul
It is a truism that Dostoyevsky's novel Crime and Punishment is a study of crime and punishment. Its movement revolves around a single action, Raskolnikov's murder of a pawnbroker Alyona Ivanovna and her simple-minded and meek half-sister Lisaveta. The book is a narrative account of how Raskolnikov comes to commit such an act and then how its significance, seen from the perspective of the Christian morality in which Raskolnikov was brought up, sinks into his consciousness in the teeth of his desperate attempts to evade it. It is an account of the devastation which this single act brings to his life and the way Raskolnikov perpetuates and compounds this devastation in refusing to accept responsibility for it.
The suffering brought about by his denial, the anxiety and isolation which belongs to placing himself in the position of a hunted animal, masks a deeper suffering, bound up with his inability to give and to accept love, and with his knowing, however intermittently, how he has hurt those he loves. This is as far as the responsibility he accepts goes. Even in the first year of his life in the penitentiary he will not admit that he has committed a crime:
'Why does my action strike them as so hideous?' he kept saying to himself.
'Is it because it was a crime? What does “crime” mean? My conscience is
clear. No doubt I have committed a criminal offence, no doubt I violated the
letter of the law and blood was shed. All right, execute me for the letter of
the law and have done with it!' (p. 552)