Home  »  Crime and Punishment  »  Criticisms and Interpretations. IV. By Maurice Baring

Fyodor Dostoevsky (1821–1881). Crime and Punishment.
The Harvard Classics Shelf of Fiction. 1917.

Criticisms and Interpretations. IV. By Maurice Baring

IN 1866 came “Crime and Punishment,” which brought Dostoevsky fame. This book, Dostoevsky’s “Macbeth,” is so well known in the French and English translations that it hardly needs any comment. Dostoevsky never wrote anything more tremendous than the portrayal of the anguish that seethes in the soul of Raskolnikov, after he has killed the old woman, “mechanically forced,” as Professor Brückner says, “into performing the act, as if he had gone too near machinery in motion, had been caught by a bit of his clothing and cut to pieces.” And not only is one held spellbound by every shifting hope, fear, and doubt, and each new pang that Raskolnikov experiences, but the souls of all the subsidiary characters in the book are revealed to us just as clearly; the Marmeladov family, the honest Razumihin, the police inspector, and the atmosphere of the submerged tenth in St. Petersburg—the steaming smell of the city in the summer. There is an episode when Raskolnikov kneels before Sonia, the prostitute, and says to her: “It is not before you I am kneeling, but before all the suffering of mankind.” That is what Dostoevsky does himself in this and in all his books; but in none of them is the suffering of all mankind conjured up before us in more living colours, and in none of them is his act of homage in kneeling before it more impressive,—From “An Outline of Russian Literature” (1914).