I asked her to share her thoughts with me, and she has given me permission to share them here. She does not think they are profound, but that was not what I was looking for. More, I wanted to get an honest human reaction to what is on the one hand a dark book with some gleaming points of real light. Feel free to interact with her!
My gut about Crime and Punishment is that it scares me how much I am like Raskolnikov (I didn’t really want to own up to it – that’s why you didn’t get a review of the book). I get annoyed at people; yet, I get truly carried away with how much I am irritated by something that they have done, and it takes on an almost inconceivable level of dislike where I rationalize why it’s okay for me to dislike and treat them as I do. He despises the pawnbroker, he despises the police inspectors, he despises everyone, and he doesn’t show them any charity (charity, meaning grace), in interacting with them. He thinks he has a right to hate and treat hatefully because of his superiority.
Sonia, on the other hand, is so full of love, and real unconditional love for everyone she meets. Dounia, too – their characters are almost copies of one another. She doesn’t judge, or hate, she just loves people. Her unfailing love practically drives him crazy because he knows he’s so vile and shouldn’t deserve it, but she never stops reaching out to him with Christ’s love. His pride is one of the things that makes him hate others – and he will not attempt to share in the identities of others. One of my favorite quotes is by a Balkan theologian Miroslav Volf (he wrote a lot about ethnic relations in the former Yugoslav republics), and it says, “We must have the will to give ourselves to others and welcome them by readjusting our identities to make space for them.” That’s kind of along the same lines as Philippians 2, which is also one of my favorite verses that I strive for but seldom achieve:
3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. 4 Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: 6 Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, 7 but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.
Sonia gave so much of herself to show love to others who were suffering – Raskolnikov on the other hand was conceited and set himself up as a demi-god, and didn’t consider the interests of others (although he curiously did have compassionate streaks that emerged). And Sonia in the end is a beautiful picture of how God chases us, and we run away, but if He wants us, we can’t hide.
And so, you see why I find this to be such a fascinating book. The one who gives this beautiful picture of God is a prostitute. Amazing.
[Note: the image is of Gromit reading Crime and Punishment by Fido Dogstoevsky in The Wrong Trousers.]