Friday, August 17, 2012

Crime and Punishment: Part One Summary


                  Dostoevsky presents the protagonist, Raskolnikov, while he is contemplating a plan to commit a crime.  He does not suggest what kind of crime and whom it involves, but while Raskolnikov is in the apartment of Aliona Ivanonva doing business, he is examining the environment and all of the old woman’s movements.  One begins to understand that whatever crime it is, it will take place there and possibly involve Aliona.  We also learn that Raskolnikov is disgusted by the thought of the crime, and often he recoils from the idea.

                  Raskolnikov meets Marmeladov, a drunk, who tells him about his personal life story, including that he has a daughter, Sofia, who prostitutes herself in order to help the family.  Marmeladov invites Raskolnikov to his home, though it is a mistake; but before he walks out, he leaves money behind for the family.  Raskolnikov has second thoughts about having wasted his money on the family, but he cannot go back and retrieve it.

                  Next, he receives a letter from his mother explaining that his sister, Dunya, is going to marry a successful man, Pytor Petrovich, and that they are all coming to Petersburg.  However, Raskolnikov is insulted over the engagement, and he vows to prevent the wedding. 

                  Some time after, Raskolnikov dreams of a haunting childhood event involving a group of people beating an old mare to death.  When he wakes, it causes him to retreat from the plan to commit the crime.  But then he overhears that Aliona’s sister, Lizaveta, will be away from Aliona’s apartment at a certain time, and he is sure now the opportunity is too good; he must take advantage of it. 

                  He thinks about the first time he met Aliona, how she repulsed him, and how the thought of killing her came into his head.  Then he remembers how one day he overheard two men talking about how wealthy and unjust Aliona is; that she abuses her sister Lizaveta; and that it would be justified to kill her and take her wealth and redistribute it to destitute families.  What are the odds that someone else would have the same idea as him? Raskolnikov considers it fate that is leading him to commit the crime he has been thinking about.


                  It is now close to 7 PM, and Raskolnikov begins his way towards Aliona’s apartment, as everything falls nicely into place, it seems.  Aliona opens the door to him, and he lets himself in to show her his pledge; as she looks closely, he uses the ax to kill her.  He uses her keys to open the box in her room, but is only able to find a few gold pieces.  He also takes her purse.  

                 Unexpectedly, Lizaveta arrives, and Raskolnikov kills her, too.  He washes off the ax and his hands and locks the door just as he hears footsteps.  Two men want to see Aliona regarding business, and when they step away to fetch the porter because of their suspicions,  he escapes the apartment unseen by the men, returns to his apartment, and replaces the ax.


                  At the end of part one, we still do not understand the motive for the gruesome crime, but we know that Raskolnikov thinks it is fate that has pushed him to do it, since everything seems to have worked in his favor.  It is almost as if he thinks he has no control over his actions.  Sounds like someone else I know…can anyone say, “Captain Ahab?”

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