Monday, October 31, 2011

Reflections on Crime and Punishment with Lorilyn Roberts

Reflections by Lorilyn Roberts on

Crime and Punishment

by Fyodor Dostoevsky

 Crime and Punishment is the most profound fictional book I have read on evil and suffering. I remember when I was young and foolish—the “crimes” I committed, followed by outlandish lies I told to cover my tracks. I believed I wouldn’t get caught because I was smarter than everyone else. They are memories I would like to bury somewhere in a cave and forget. I was caught in every instance and soon learned I was not extraordinary.

Never mind the “punishments” I received. What I learned early on is I have a conscience. A relentless whisper spoke to me even when I didn’t want to listen. My guilt pricked my soul like a thorn, bothering me more than I could have imagined. I did not know I would feel so miserable before I committed each of my various “crimes.”  I was forced to carry a heavy burden that painfully weighed me down until I either confessed my sin or my guilt was discovered. The suffering was relentless and did more to drive me to a loving God than the severe discipline I received from those who showed no grace.

Crime and Punishment addresses this psychological suffering in a most profound way. The protagonist, Raskolnikov, believes he has unveiled a hidden truth: That there are two classes of beings—those who are ordinary and those who are superior. The superior individuals are those who commit crimes that are deemed later to be justified because the end (a better society) justifies the means (killing an innocent person). He cited examples of great conquerors such as Alexander the Great.

Raskolnikov subconsciously acts on his newly discovered “truth” by murdering a “leech” on society. But then he is forced to kill an innocent observer to cover up his actions. Thus began the story, and the rest of the book lays out the immense suffering brought on by Raskolnikov’s refusal to come to terms with his wicked crime.

Even when Raskolnikov publically confesses his crime at the end of the book, because of pride, he is unwilling to admit personal guilt. His suffering continues, making him ill and adversely cutting him off from society, friends, and family. Only his dear, long-time friend Sonya, gives him grace, traveling with him to Siberia. Sonya, a former prostitute driven to such circumstances by ill-deserved depravity, lived her life sacrificially for others. Despite her intense suffering as the result of family sins, she exuded love, drawing strength from reciting Scripture, which became her saving grace.

Sonya never gave up on Raskolnikov. In the end, it was her unconditional love that brought Raskolnikov to repentance, and through repentance, salvation.

It is difficult for me to add more to this commentary without destroying the beauty of Dostoevsky’s writing. What speaks to me the most about this book, besides the profound truths portrayed, is the way Dostoevsky writes. Every scene is fully developed; each person’s thoughts and motivations are explored; detailed attention is given to societal norms—the good, the bad, and the ugly; and the overarching themes of suffering and hopelessness hang broodingly over the pages. The surprise ending supports the truth of Scripture—that all evil can be conquered by grace. Sonya’s faithfulness and love for Raskolnikov overcomes the darkness, leaving the reader with hope that God can redeem the vilest of creatures.     

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