“Lying in one’s own way is almost better than telling the truth in someone else’s way; in the first case you’re a man, and in the second — no better than a bird!”

Part Three, Chapter One
by Dennis Abrams

Raskolnikov, his mother and sister, Razumikhin. Raskolnikov tried to send them away, informs his sister that he had, in fact, threatened to throw Luzhin down the stairs, and warns her not to marry him under any circumstances. “You’re marrying Luzhin for my sake. And I do not accept the sacrifice. And therefore, by tomorrow, write a letter…of refusal…Give it to me to read in the morning, and there’s an end to it!” Dunechka’s hot temper. Razumikhin drunkenly defends Raskolnikov, “He’s raving!” Raskolnikov’s response: “I’m not raving; this marriage is a vile thing. Maybe I’m vile myself, but you mustn’t…one is enough…and though I may be vile, I will not regard such a sister as a sister. It’s either me or Luzhin!” Razumikhin, after much discussion, convinces Raskolnikov’s mother and sister to let him walk them to their apartment, promising to return within 15 minutes to report on Raskolnikov’s condition, within an hour after that with Zossimov to give his report, after which both he and Zossimov will go spend the night at Raskolnikov’s building. Razumikhin’s drunken talk. The importance of lying. Razumikhin praises Dunya, attacks Luzhin, “I’m a miserable dolt, I’m unworthy of you, but to worship you is everyman’s duty, unless he’s a perfect brute! So I have worshipped…Here’s your rooming house — and for this alone Rodion was right to throw your Pyotr Petrovich out today! How dared he place you in such rooms? It’s a scandal!” Razumikhin’s drunken passion for Avdotya Romanovna. Her beauty — in looks very similar to her brother. Razumikhin and Raskolnikov’s landlady — attempting to pass her on to Zossimov.

The plot thickens as Razumikhin develops feelings for the beautiful Avdoyta Romanovna.

I’m still pondering this passage…

“I like it when people lie! Lying is man’s only privilege over other organisms. If you lie — you get to the truth! Lying is what makes me a man. Not one truth has ever been reached without lying fourteen times or so, maybe a hundred and fourteen, and that’s honorable in its way; well, but we can’t even lie with our own minds! Lie to me, but in your own way, and I’ll kiss you for it. Lying in one’s own way is almost better than telling the truth in someone else’s way; in the first case you’re a man, in the second — no better than a bird! The truth won’t go away, but life can be nailed shut; there are examples…”


I found this response on the site “Antiquitopia:”

“What truth is there in lying? For Razumikhin, there appear to be at least two truths of lying: it is the marker of our humanity (and positively so) and a marker of originality, that is, individual personality. They are connected, in fact. Firstly, all other creatures are trapped in truth; only humans lie and deceive. It leads to the truth of ourselves as a race. But it is also the truth of a person. Anyone can parrot the truths and verities and proverbs of others, of their surrounding culture, or other cultures (Razumikhin, at one point, calls the main protagonist, Raskolnikov, a “foreign translation”–not only are Raskolnikov’s ideas unoriginal, but they are not even Russian). But a lie can be more personal. It gets into individual circumstances, has to consider particular data that regards one’s own self–even if to evade and obfuscate. It is better, for Razumikhin, in these terms to be “true to oneself” and lie rather than to falsify oneself by telling other people’s truths, since even a bird (e.g., parrot) could do that. Razumikhin throughout disdains people trying to advance themselves, make themselves look better, by just parroting whatever ideas are in the air, whatever ideas are popular in the moment–they are, what seems to be the worst sin for him, “commonplace” ideas. These are the people who do not operate on their own reason, but get by “on other people’s reason.” What is, however, the negation of the negation (to borrow a commonplace, foreign translation, concept from Hegel) is when people borrow other people’s commonplace lies. They are no longer being true to themselves, but, perhaps, they are at least true to their humanity. One has to wonder, however, if Razumikhin thinks there are any ideas that are not commonplace. The threefold repetition of “everything” suggests that all is banal. Although, perhaps he would think his idea of the deeper truth of lies falls outside of the commonplace.”

And finally, from yesterday’s essay “Philosophical Pro and Contra in Part One,” by Robert Louis Jackson, an examination of one of the most discussed aspects of Part One: Raskolnikov’s dream.

“Raskolnikov’s dream, echoing earlier incidents, situations and emotional experience, is a psychological metaphor in which we may distinguish the various responses of Raskolnikov to his project crime; his deep psychological complicity in, and yet moral recoil before, the crime. What has received less attention, however, is the way in which the underlying philosophical pro and contra is revealed in the separate elements of the dream (pastoral church and cemetery episode, tumultuous tavern and mare-beating scene); how the scene of the beating itself, this picture of Russian man and reality, raises the central and grave question of Part One: what is the nature of man? In its oppressive realism, and in the pessimism of its ‘commentary’ on man, this dream yields only to the tale “Azulka’s Husband” in Notes From the House of the Dead; at the center of that episode is the stupefied life of the Russian village, the persecution and murder of a peasant girl. The story is the nethermost level of Dostoevsky’s ‘hell'” here there is no light, only brutality, ignorance, absolute loss of control, and the violation of all that is sacred: beauty, human dignity, life.

The opening recollection in Raskolnikov’s dream, though dominated by an atmosphere of impending evil, embodies Dostoevsky’s pure aesthetic-religious ideal. Everything is sacred form, harmony, and reverence in the boy’s first memory of the tranquil open landscape, the stone church with its green cupola, the icons, the simple rituals, the cemetery and, finally, the tombs of his grandmother and younger brother with their clear promise of resurrection. ‘He loved this church’ and its atmosphere. In this, Raskolnikov’s purified and almost completely submerged memory of sacred form, spirituality and beauty, there lies, without question, the seed of Raskolnikov’s own moral and spiritual renewal. But the path to the church and cemetery — to resurrection — goes by the tavern on the edge of town, with its crowd of drunken, brawling peasants with their ‘drunken, fearsome distorted faces,’ their ‘shapeless and hoarse singing.’ Here, everything is desecration and deformation. The faces of the people in Raskolnikov’s nightmare tell the tale: this is a demonized universe. It all created an ‘unpleasant impression’ on the boy. On the deepest level of the dream, then, we may speak of the coexistence — passive, we shall see — of two barely contiguous worlds: the ideal world of Christianity, with its aesthetic-religious ideals, and the real world claimed by the devil.

But now again, as Raskolnikov dreams, it is a holiday, a day of religious observance; the peasants, however, are drunk and in riotous spirits. There is an overloaded cart drawn by a poor mare. Then, suddenly, a drunken crowd of peasants, shouting and singing, emerge from the tavern, ‘blind drunk, in red and blue shirts.’ At the invitation of the driver, Mikolka, they pile onto the cart, followed by a ‘fat, red-faced peasant woman’ in a ‘red calico dress…plumed and beaded…she was cracking nuts and laughing. In the crowd all around they’re laughing, ,too.’ Then, the effort to start the cart and the brutal process of beating, and finally killing, the mare commences…”

I’ll continue this tomorrow.

Wednesday’s Reading:

Part Three, Chapter Two



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One Response to “Lying in one’s own way is almost better than telling the truth in someone else’s way; in the first case you’re a man, and in the second — no better than a bird!”

  1. Chuck says:

    It struck me the other day that Raskolnikov might be experiencing Joseph Campbell’s “hero’s journey.” I googled around and I saw a few other references to the same idea.

    He’s certainly not a hero in the traditional sense, but it seems like many parts of the book up to this point could be interpreted as this kind of transformative experience. I’m not sure if this pattern holds up for the rest of the book — it’s going to be interesting to see how long it fits. I think Raskolnikov “entered the belly of the whale” the day after he committed the murders.

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