Part Three, Chapter Two
by Dennis Abrams
Razumikhin recovers from his night of drinking and self-embarrassment. Going over the events of the evening, “He swung with all his might and hit the kitchen stove with his fist, hurting his hand and knocking out a brick.” The absurdity of thinking he had a chance with Raskolnikov’s sister, Avdoyta Romanovna. His conversation with Zossimov: Razumikhin’s drunken confession to Raskolnikov that Zossimov thought he might be inclined to madness; his concern that Raskolnikov shouldn’t have spoken to Zamayotov; Profiry knows about the conversation. Razumikhin goes to collect Raskolnikov’s mother and sister. The dismal tea service. Razumikhin, after prodding from Pulcheria Alexandrovna, gives his impressions of Raskolnikov: “…sullen, gloomy, arrogant, proud, recently (and maybe much earlier) insecure and hypochondriac. Magnanimous and kind. Doesn’t like voicing his feelings, and would rather do something cruel than speak his heart out in words. At times, however, he’s not hypochondriac at all, but just inhumanly cold and callous, as if there were really two opposite characters in him, changing places with each other. At times he’s terribly taciturn! He’s always in a hurry, always too busy, yet he lies there doing nothing. Not given to mockery, and not because he lacks sharpness but as if he had no time for such trifles. Never hears people out to the end. Is never interested in what interests everyone else at a given moment. Sets a terribly high value on himself and, it seems, not without a certain justification.” Razumikhin comments on Raskolnikov’s inability to love, and his similarity to his sister. Raskolnikov’s ill-fated near-marriage to the landlady’s daughter. The letter from Luzhin, who, unable to make the time to pick up his fiancee and her mother at the train station or to visit them that day, sets a time for meeting them the following day, but only if Raskolnikov is not present. What should they tell Raskolnikov? The death of Marfa Petrovna.
In his letter, Luzhin, concerned that Raskolnikov is well-enough to intrude on his meeting with mother and fiancee, says, “This was confirmed for me by my own eyes, in the apartment of a certain drunkard, who was crushed by horses and died as a result, and to whose daughter, a girl of notorious behavior, he handed over as much as twenty-five roubles yesterday, on the pretext of a funeral, which suprrised me greatly, knowing what trouble you had in gathering this sum.” (“on a pretext of a funeral…” nice touch) OK, I’ve read the death-scene in Marmeladov’s apartment over a couple of times…when was Luzhin there to witness Raskolnikov there and giving his money to Marmeladov’s wife? Am I missing something? Are we supposed to assume that he was there among the crowd or is this an example of Dostoevsky’s supposed sloppiness?
And a continuation of yesterday’s excerpt from Robert Louis Jackson’s essay “Philosophical Pro and Contra in Part One” discussing the most talked about scene in the book so far — Raskolnikov’s dream of the mare-killing.
“This terrible and terrifying scene is simultaneously a rehearsal for murder and a statement on man. ‘Don’t look,’ the father tells the boy. But Dostoevsky forces the reader to look at the beating, at the crowd, at himself. (‘Man on the surface of the earth does not have the right to turn away.’) ‘My property!’ screams the peasant Mikola in his drunken rage on three separate occasions, as he violently smashes away at the mare. This is a scene of absolute evil: here surface is a strange symbiosis what for Dostoevsky are the most predatory instincts in man: violence, sensuality and property-mindedness. The message of ‘my property’ is clear: what is mine, what I covet and own, releases me from all moral obligations, because it is my good that is involved; the u se of the word ‘dobro‘ here — property, goods, but also ethical ‘good’ — subtly suggests the smashing of all moral norms or ‘barriers,’ the triumph of raw egoism over any moral imperative in human relations. ‘My property! What I want — I go ahead and do!’ ‘Now I shall do just what I want with all of you because I have lost control of myself,’ cries the murderer of Akulka in Notes from the House of the Dead. The motif “all is permissible’ permeates Raskolnikov’s nightmare, as it does ‘Akulka’s Husband’ and Ivan’s stories of the cruelties inflicted on children. This is a grim statement on man.
Others, too, participate in the orgy of violence, or watch passively from the sidelines, laugh, enjoy the spectacle, or just go on ‘cracking nuts.’ There are some voices of condemnation. But they’re drowned out. Even the old man who shouts indignantly — ‘What are you about, are you a Christian or a devil?’ — becomes demonized, is unable, finally, to restrain his laughter as he watches the mare, ‘a bag of bones,’ kicking about.
‘Thank God, this is only a dream!’ exclaims Raskolnikov. But the dream was out of Russian life; reality, Dostoevsky liked to emphasize, was more fantastic than fiction. The mare-beating scene is the center of world evil, and it not surprising that at this moment, on the threshold of crime, Raskolnikov’s soul was in ‘confusion and darkness.’
Are the people who inhabit Raskolnikov’s nightmare ‘monsters’ or ‘victims’? Ivan’s question — and it is really Raskolnikov’s as well — is very much to the point here: ‘the real issue is whether all this comes from people’s bad qualities or simply because it is their nature.’ Raskolnikov’s nightmare — the terrible event at its center — provides a tragic answer to this question; and if human nature is a moral wasteland, then ‘there are no barriers, and that is as it should be!’ Raskolnikov’s social-philosophical conclusions — here embodies in the action of his own psychodrama — represent a precipitous movement toward murder.”
I’ll post the remainder of this analysis of the dream for the weekend post.
Part Three, Chapter Three