Crime and Punishment at 150 (2016)

Teaching Crime and Punishment in the Age of Global Capitalism Shneyder, Vadim


In Part V of Crime and Punishment, Katerina Ivanovna loses her apartment and finds herself on the street with her children. In this desperate situation, she forces them to perform songs in French in hopes of attracting the sympathy of passers-by at the plight of educated, noble people, as she repeatedly stresses. She insists that the sovereign will drive by and take pity on her children. Yet, as it happens, only one agent of the state becomes involved in their situation: a policeman comes to inform Katerina Ivanovna that unlicensed street performances are prohibited. The economic options for a widow and her children are exceedingly limited; Raskol’nikov’s earlier prediction that Sonia’s stepsisters are destined to lives of prostitution seems prescient. But if the situation seems desperate for women in Crime and Punishment, the major male characters—an ex-student and a former civil servant—do not fare much better. It is in fact in the expanses of time opened up by enforced idleness that these men can produce their philosophical disquisitions and plan their crimes. It seems that only new people like Luzhin, empowered by Western ideas and financial schemes, can flourish in Russia, while educated nobles sink into destitution.

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