Friday, October 13, 2006

Crime and Punishment

If you have comments that you didn't get to share in class discussion, go ahead and post them here. You might pose questions about details that mystify you, or offer insights about characters, scenes or symbols. Keep in mind that you must identify a significant motif or symbolic character to trace through the novel and write about when we finish. In addition, you might consider the list of prereading questions below.

1. What is the good life?
2. What is a good person?
3. Why do people suffer?
4. Why is there poverty?
5. How can society eradicate poverty?
6. Is murder always wrong?
7. Can stealing ever be justified?
8. Does a person have free will?
9. Does a power higher than humans control the universe?
10. Is a genius more important than someone with average intelligence? Should a genius be granted special privileges under the law?


Blogger Justin L said...

Notes of Main Ideas from Discussion on Friday, October 29, 2006 for Part 2:

• Guilt is driving Raskolnikov insane.
o He must either deal with the situation or run away.
o Is he punishing himself? Will he confess?
o Will he kill himself?
• What is Raskolnikov’s purpose?
o To better society
o Glory
o Sacrifice to fix injustice of society
 He might have sacrificed morals, sanity, Alyona
 Most are fruitless
o Punish himself to help society
o Going after reason and back to an educated person.
• Can Raskolnikov’s sins be redeemed? Why would he want to?
o Can he fix the mistakes he has made, i.e. murdering Alyona?
o Probably not, maybe through confessions.
o Doing nice things does not change the past.
 He really is not nice though, he only tried to save Marmelodov.
• Trying to change society, so that murder will not be wrong.
o He is going insane because society won’t change.
o He expects people to say that Alyona deserved to be murdered.
• What are Raskolnikov’s plans for the future?
o It seems dim.
o What could he be looking forward to?
 Turning himself in
 To become a better person
• Accident with Marmelodov-
o Right before, Raskolnikov is thinking about going to police.
 Standing at a literal crossroads, one way to police, one way to scene of accident.
o Fate that Raskolnikov was taken in the direction away from the jail.
o This could be his chance to do something good.
o Could the blood of Marmelodov have washed his old sins away?

Fri Oct 27, 11:57:00 AM 2006  
Blogger Robyn Louis said...

Part 1 Discussion Thoughts
Why does Raskolnikov kill the pawnbroker?
I think that there are three motivations for the murder Raskolnikov commits. The first is money. Raskolnikov obviously needs the money. He can’t pay his rent, buy food, or appropriate clothing for himself. He also wants the money so that his sister will not feel pressured into marring. His sister Dounia is marrying a wealthy man so that she will be able to help Raskolnikov. The second motivation for the murder is humanitarian reasons. Raskolnikov thinks that getting rid of this woman will be better for society as a whole. Although he thinks that he is helping society, I wondered why he thought he could choose who should live, die, and get money. The final reason for the murder is Raskolnikov’s pride. This is revealed further in the novel when Raskolnikov discusses his article “On Crime.” Raskolnikov believes himself to be superior to the rest of the society.
Why does the reader side with Raskolnikov?
As I read I go back and forth between siding with Raskolnikov and being repulsed by him. On one hand, I sympathize with him because he is deranged and crazy. He has been driven to insanity by his situation. He has been driven to madness and looses his morals because of his poverty. I also sympathize with Raskolnikov because I don’t want his sister to be forced into marriage. Even though I sympathize with Raskolnikov I am disgusted by his actions. Poverty isn’t an excuse for murdering. There are other characters in the novel that are just as poor and yet are not insane and are not killing others.

Sun Nov 19, 02:27:00 PM 2006  
Blogger Robyn Louis said...

Part 2 Discussion Thoughts
Raskolnikov as a foil of Razumihin
In this part the reader meets Raskolnikov’s friend Razumihin. Razumihin is very worried about Raskolnikov. He offers him work and then looks after Raskolnikov. Raskolnikov is careless, uptight, unhappy, and antisocial. Raskolnikov appears even more deranged when around his friend Razumihin, because Razumihin is so good. Razumihin is kind, happy, friendly, and relaxed. Razumihin is just as poor as his friend because he is also a struggling student. However he has learned to engage in society and enjoy life. Raskolnikov has separated himself from society and continues to punish himself and his pride. This proves that Raskolnikov’s situation in society is not justification for the murders. Razumihin is in the same situation and yet is not driven to murder like his friend.

Sun Nov 19, 02:28:00 PM 2006  
Blogger Robyn Louis said...

Part 3 Discussion Thoughts
When Raskolnikov and Razumihin meet with Porfiry, the detective brings up an article Raskolnikov wrote. Unbeknownst to Raskolnikov an article he wrote “On Crime” was recently published. In this article Raskolnikov suggests that certain people who are superior to the rest of mankind have the right or the duty to do certain acts to benefit the majority of the society. This includes murder. Raskolnikov’s article and the fact that he defends and supports his thoughts written in the article makes Porfiry even more suspicious of him. Raskolnikov originally believed he was one of the “superhumans” he wrote about. This was one of the original justifications for the murder. Now that Raskolnikov has committed the murder, he realizes that the murder has not benefited society as whole. He questions his motives for the murder because now he wonders whether he measures up to the “superhuman” he wrote about.

Sun Nov 19, 02:28:00 PM 2006  
Blogger Robyn Louis said...

Part 4 Discussion Thoughts
Raskolnikov feels the need to tell someone about the murder. He is obviously not strong enough to deal with the guilt of his actions alone. He believes he can tell Sonia and that she will understand. He thinks Sonia will understand because she has violated moral rules as well. Raskolnikov believes that both himself and Sonia are victims of society.
Are Raskolnikov and Sonia equal; are they both victims of society?
Yes both of these characters have violated moral rules, but on totally different motives. I think that Sonia is a victim of society. She was forced into prostitution to feed herself and her family. Society, her drunken father, and her proud stepmother forced her to violate her moral rules. However, I do not think that Raskolnikov is a victim of society. He contributes to the victimization of society. He makes others a victim and has even turned himself into a victim. Alyona and Lizaveta were victims to Raskolnikov’s insanity. If the murder had ended up benefiting society and helping others, Raskolnikov might not be as low. I think that Sonia should be disgusted with Raskolnikov and insulted that he viewed himself as low as her. In my opinion Raskolnikov is much lower than Sonia regardless of what Sonia’s prostitution.

Sun Nov 19, 02:32:00 PM 2006  
Blogger Kylee L said...

In the discussion today I really liked one of the questions that was brought up, which was what is the punishment? I agree that the after effects, both mentally and physically, are the punishments that Raskolnikov goes through. Raskolnikov committed the crime because he thought that by killing the pawnbroker he would better society because this woman was not an aid to society and its growth. Raskolnikov tortures himself after the crime is committed. I think he realizes that he did not better society, which makes him feel guilty. He leads a selfish life and does not think of the consequences of his actions. Raskolnikov thinks that what he did was justifiable but really he is just playing mind games with himself. Maybe he is avoiding the situation whenever possible because he is trying to make himself believe that he did not commit the crime, which as a result is causing more confusion and stress.

Mon Nov 20, 07:41:00 PM 2006  
Blogger ChristyH said...

Discussion on November 20:
After the discussion today I thought two topics that were brought up were particularly interesting. The first is about Sonia and her effect on Raskolnikov's actions. There was a comment made about the fact that both times Raskolnikov confesses, he is influenced by Sonia or her presence, with the first being in her room and the second being after he sees her outside the police station. I find this really interesting because it portrays Sonia as a very strong person in this novel. Her ability to persuade Raskolnikov to confess reveals the strength found in people who have had to find a life for themselves, as opposed to someone who is still trying to justify their importance in the world (Raskolnikov).
The second point I found really interesting is a question that asked if Raskolnikov needs to find a new life or if he can be content with the life he has created for himself. I personally think Raskolnikov needs to find a new life because his idea of murder to better society clearly fogged his future even more. He spends so much time debating whether to confess or not, and after he finally does, he comes to the realization that society isn't better after the murder, and himself being an "extraordinary man" has shown him nothing but more inner turmoil. I do think Raskolnikov needs to find a new life, and Sonia is the bridge from his confession to his new starting point.

Mon Nov 20, 10:15:00 PM 2006  
Blogger Dana A said...

Discussion Nov. 20-
I was most interested by the part of the discussion that focused on Raskolinikov's feelings towards himself. Questions arising from this topic were: Does Raskolnikov feel he is above all others still or has the confession made him realize he is not? Does Raskolnikov think what he did was a crime? Did he confess simply for the sake of confessing? Some people believed that after the muder Raskolnikov realized he was not above all others. Support for this idea was that he never did anything with his supposed greatness. Also, some people believed that when Raskolnikov says,"Crime what crime?" he is denying his committing of a crime for the very last time. Its kindof a last effort at his idea that what he did was not a crime. Some people viewed this as sort of a futile effort and believed that his heart was not behind this saying. But some people disagreed and believed that Raskolnikov really did believe himself to be extraordinary because of his confession. They said that his confession had no feeling of shame behind it. They believed that his confession that had no feeling behind it showed that Raskolnikov was confessing merely because he had to, not because he was truly guilty. These ideas all greatly intersested me and I would like to explore them more thoroughly as I finish the novel.

Wed Nov 22, 03:52:00 PM 2006  
Blogger sarahg said...

I have missed so many discussion points because of Hawaii, the mock trial, an astronomy field trip, and because I have been sick. So this may be one of many long blogs...

Reading Justin's notes on the discussion from October 29th brought back several details about the book that I had forgotten. I will address some of the questions and notes that Justin posted:

Throughout the novel, we see how Raskolnikov's guilt affets him more and more, and how his "punishment" evolves.
I was one of the people who, from the very beginning, did not excuse what Raskolnikov did. As Justin said in discussion, he is a murderer. End of story. If he was (and I do not believe that he was) in fact aiming to better society, that is no excuse. And he did not better society by ridding the world of Alyona. If anything, he made the society worse, because everyone was wondering and worrying about who the murderer was. And Nikolai's false confession did not help society.

Anyway, as the novel progresses, we discussed the true reason that Raskolnikov murdered Alyona. I believe that it is very possible that Raskolnikov wanted to know if he could get away with murder--wanted to know if he was above the law, and/or greater than the surrounding society. He wanted to fool everyone. Perhaps Dostoevsky wanted to make a point that when society is so destitute, hopeless, and ruined, people are driven to madness similar to that of Raskolnikov...but I'm just babbling and throwing ideas out here...

We also spent a huge percentage of class discussing Raskonikov's "punishment". I recall when, a few weeks ago, Becca said something about how Raskolnikov is constantly sick and a little, if not completely, crazy, because of what he sees happening in the society around him. I think, however, that Raskolnikov is sick with the fact that he is becoming one of the worst elements of society. One thing that is tearing the society apart is the crime and the inability of law enforcement to stop it. Raskolnikov never consciously admits this, and maybe he does not consciously realize it, but I believe that he subconsciously sees that he is falling into the depths of the horrible, corrupt society that he is forced to live in.

That will be enough for now.

Sun Nov 26, 05:05:00 PM 2006  
Blogger Becca S said...

Discussion for November 20th
I thought the most interesting part of the discussion was when we were discussing Raskolnikov's punishment. I thought it was interesting that someone said they thought he was going to receive his punishment in jail. I think that Raskolnikov's real punishment had nothing to do with whether or not he was going to get caught. He committed the crime to test his own "extraordinaryness" and his punishment was realizing that he was not extraordinary. I liked how someone mentioned that Raskolnikov's paranoia about getting caught was simply a reflection of how he didn't want anyone to know that he wasn't extraordinary. I don't know if I agree with this because I think his paranoia was a manifestation of his fear of being ordinary. However, he mentions a couple times during the book that the extraordinary should be able to suffer the consequences of their crime as long as they accomplish their goal. I think these conflicting ideas contributed to why he debated whether or not to confess but also was seriously afraid of being caught by Porfiry.

Mon Nov 27, 03:29:00 AM 2006  
Blogger Chaser said...

Important Themes in Crime and Punishment
- Anti-nihilist Attitude (Revolutionary, rebel, radical)
- Supports vs. disputes
- Creating vs. eradicating
- Nihilist: Luzhin
- Search for salvation/freedom/atonement: religious vs. secular
- Redemption
- What does it take to achieve salvation? Is it possible to achieve for any transgression?
- Lazarus & Raskolnikov
- Whether or not salvation requires religion or is logical atonement
- Does Raskolnikov find redemption, achieve atonement and salvation?
- Choices Raskolnikov makes: adequate for salvation or not?
- The significance of self-conscience/guilt
- Personal redemption, self-acceptance and admittance vs. denial
- Must have personal peace of mind first
- Does conscience act as the ultimate punishment
- Sacrifice
- The importance of sacrifice and its meaning
- Suffering
- Lizaveta: silent suffering, significance of being overlooked despite crime committed on her. Raskolnikov regrets killing her more… why?
- Guilt vs. innocence
- Perspective on the circumstances, optimism vs. pessimism
- Excuses/self-induced punishments actions that go unchallenged lead to suffering
- Can you avoid suffering? How do you avoid it? Or do you just fight against it?
- Is suffering a positive, maturing part of life? Is it necessary to achieve something greater?
- Society
- Does society cause people to act they way they do or do they act as they do in spite of society? Perspective, attitude, individuality, actions, conscience.
- Does the structure of society force people to act or do certain things? How should they react to this?
- Sense of conformity/society vs. sense of individuality

Mon Nov 27, 11:52:00 AM 2006  
Blogger Robyn Louis said...

A Tid-bit of an afterthought:
I never got a chance to say this when we discussed the possibilities of communism and how it may relate to this novel and I didn’t want to bring the subject back up but, here my thoughts on that conversation:

Because communism had not been started in Russia at the time, I think that Dostoevsky may be foreshadowing communism. Communism was most likely an idea that was floating around at the time even though Marx had not written about it yet. Foreshadowing communism in Crime and Punishment is divided into foreshadowing Marxist Communism, or communism in theory, and Soviet Communism, or communism in reality.

This novel begins to foreshadow Marxist Communism. Marxist Communism was the theory of how communism would work. To begin, Raskolnikov kills for the greater good of the society. Marxist Communism is for the greater good of the majority of society. Raskolnikov is able to kill these two human beings because he does not value the individual human life. Communism did not value the individual but rather the group as a whole. If it was better for the majority, it was acceptable, regardless of what is done. The end always justifies the means. Lastly, Raskolnikov killed the rich woman of the society. Communism sought to bring down the rich to help raise the poor. All of this supports the theory of communism according to Marx.

As the novel continues the prediction evolves into a foreshadow of Soviet Communism. Soviet Communism is how the soviet’s actually played out communism in reality. Soviet Communism is very different from Marxist Communism and it did not follow many of the conditions Marx lied out for Communism to work. In Soviet Communism a select number of people rose above the society to rule, rather than everybody being equal. Raskolnikov believed and wrote about superior beings. He believed that there were a few great individuals, who were superior to the rest of society and had certain duties to help the society as a whole. Raskolnikov believed he was one of these superior men and that the murders he committed were to benefit society. Raskolnikov believes it is his decision to choose who should live and who should die. Soviet Communism resulted in thousands of deaths that were to benefit the society.

The more I think about it, the more I am convinced that Dostoevsky may have written this book as a warning as to the results of communism. He would have known only theory of Communism, or Marxist Communism. I think he is predicting on a much smaller scale the results of how communism would be played out, Soviet Communism.

Wed Nov 29, 05:16:00 PM 2006  
Blogger Melissa said...

Part III

This section of the book introduces Raskolnikov's theory of Extraordinary men and their role in crime. The scene where Raskolnikov first meets the detective Porfiry and this theory is introduced really stood out to me as a topic of interest.

Initially, this scene absolutely confused me. As the reader, you are viewing an in-depth, profound conversation that sometimes contradicts itself about crime, when it is right or wrong, and who commits the crime. Raskolnikov's theories about the ordinary man vs. the extraordinary man seemed blurred and contradictory to me. The murder was commited because Raskolnikov had it in his head that it would benefit mankind by ridding of this evil woman that harms poor people; he overhears a conversation about her that two students are having, "A hundred thousand good deeds could be done and helped, on that old woman's money....dozens of families saved from destitution, from ruin, from vice...." (63). Raskolnikov gets the idea to 'save' these people living in destitution. He reasons that by removing her from society, he will be removing a burden and harmful "louse". With her money, Raskolnikov could contribute and help society in ways unimaginable. It almost seems like he wants to be a hero. Porfiry even inquires, "Oh come, don't we all think ourselves Napoleons..." (248), implying Raskolnikov thinks of himself as a hero, or extraordinary man. Yet, this is where the contradiction sets in.

Raskolnikov justifies the murder by thinking that he is benefitting mankind and being 'extraordinary', yet he maintains in his theory that the 'extraordinary man' is above society and what society thinks of him. He explains to Porfiry, "...the really new people are very often unobserved by [ordinary men], or even despised as reactionaries of grovelling tendencies....The vast mass of mankind is mere material" (244)implying that the extraordinary man should not deal with society and its problems (which are natural) because ordinary men do not understand the extraordinary man's motives.

I believe, in a way, that Raskolnikov had not yet figured this theory out and made connections with the details before he had commited the murders. His theory claims that extraordinary men have the will and intellectual power strong enough to dominate society and create changes for humanity. The man must stand completely alone, must not let the wishes of ordinary men confuse him, and is isolated fom ordinary society. Raskolnikov wants to prove this theory, and takes it upon himself to test his will over mankind and see if he is extraordinary. The flaws in his crime indicate the flaws in the theory. It is in the coming sections that he must prove himself and his theory completely by actually becoming an extraordinary man.

Sun Dec 03, 11:00:00 PM 2006  
Blogger Melissa said...

Part IV

In this section of the book, Raskolnikov is coping with the after effects of his experiment to prove his theory after he realizes in Part III that he must prove it himself.

A significant scene in this part arises in the very beginning, chapter one, when Svidrigailov visits Raskolnikov in his room. The man is a perfect symbol for the extraoridinary man in Raskolnikov's theory.

The man possesses a strong will and is able to make his desires and his power dominant over others. For instance, he is suspected of killing his wife to sought after Dounia and take her fortune. He has no fear of punishment in doing so, and he asserts his own will in order to get what he wants. He does not care what society thinks of him. He informs Raskolnikov, "I am not particularly interested in anyone's opinion...and therefore why not be vulgar at times...especially if one has a natural propensity that way" (264). Svidrigailov believes he has the propensity, or ability, to enforce his will and is naturally able to do what he wants to get what he wants. He stands alone against society with his new words and ideas that will bring about change. Raskolnikov even wonders for most of their conversation if he is a madman. Svidrigailov ponders intellectually about absurd ideas that Raskolnikov can't understand. He says, "We always imagine eternity as something beyond our conception, something vast, vast! Instead of all that, what if it's one little room, black and grimy and spiders in every corner, and that's all eternity is" (269). Svidrigailov is pondering new ways of thinking, ones that ordinary men cannot understand. He does not mind that Raskolnikov does not understand or is judging him as insane.

In fact, this scene that reveals Svidrigailov as an extraordinary man proves as the first test for Raskolnikov to realize that he is extraordinary if, in fact, he is. Svid corners Raskolnikov in this conversation about new ideas and words and concepts of will power dominating and he must react as an extraordinary man. Svid says, "Only think...half an hour ago we had never even seen eachother, we regarded each other as enemies; there is a matter unsettled between us; we've thrown it aside, and away we've gone into the abstract! Wasn't I right in saying that we were birds of a feather" (269). He regards Raskolnikov as an extraordinary man. He also exclaims, "Perhaps we may become better friends" (272).

Raskolnikov's reaction towards Svid and his judgement of him as a madman may not be a good step in his experiment to prove himself extraordinary. He was not willing to accept Svid's ideas and intellectual standings; he also did not seem so keen on standing alone against society and isolating himself with fellow extraordineers. He says to Svid in the middle of their conversation, "I am in a hurry, I want to go out..." (270), implying that he wants to be a part of society and he is trying to escape from the secluded life. His future as an extraordinary man definitely looks bleak.

Sun Dec 03, 11:42:00 PM 2006  
Blogger Melissa said...

Part V

This section is extremely prominent in Raskolinkov's experiment. It is ultimately leading to his downfall, proving that he is not extraordinary. It is leading to his confession that will ultimately escort him back to ordinary society.

The scene that stands out prominently to me, is the scene where Raskolnikov reveals to Sonia that he is the murderer of the Ivanovitch sisters.

In his desperate plea to justify his theory and prove to Sonia that he is extraordinary, he realizes that he is not, and did not have the right to kill the women. He pleas, "I wanted to find out then and quickly whether I was a louse like everybody else or a man. Whether I can step over barriers or not, whether I dare stoop to pick up or not, whether I am a trembling creature or whether I have the right..." (388). Not only is Raskolnikov attempting a plea of justice for the murders, but justice for himself. He wanted to be extraordinary, he desperately needed it to justify his sad life. In that speech, he contrasts the ordinary and extraordinary men as polar opposites. The extraordinary are allowed everything, they are real men, and they have the right; whereas, ordinary men are trembling creatures, they pick up after messes, they aren't real men. Raskolnikov realizes that he does not fit this agenda of being a real man. The experiment has been destroyed because he was not able to prove it. He laments, "Did I murder the old woman? I murdered myself, not her!" (388). This second-guessing himself breaks the wonder that the murders could have been. He knows that he is not capable of creating these wondrous changes in humanity. Normal extraordinary men would not be fazed by the murder.

He seals the deal of breaking his theory when Sonia gives him an assignment that would never occur to an extraordinary man to follow; yet he follows willingly, in an effort to salvage himself from the agony of not living his dream of being extraordinary. He is being influenced and his will is being taken over by another person. This is breaking a cardinal rule of being an extraordinary man: do not let society influence you, and do not care what they think of you, you are isolated. Raskolnikov obviously needs to go back to the ordinary world, which is why he follows an order and succumbs his will to dominate. Sonia justifies that he is inept for greatness when she says, "...bow down to all the world and say to all men aloud, 'I am a murderer'" (389)urging him to come back to the ordinary world.

All that is left for Raskolnikov to finally return to being ordinary once and for all is to confess the murder outwardly.

Mon Dec 04, 12:06:00 AM 2006  

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