Dostoevsky Studies     Volume 3, 1982


Steven Cassedy, University of California, San Diego

One issue which has continued to capture the attention of readers of "Crime and Punishment" is the problematic nature of the Epilogue. Every Dostoevsky critic worth his salt, it seems, in discussing the structure and organization of this novel, has felt called upon either to condemn the novel's final pages as superfluous, anti-climactic, unworthy of the rest of the work, or to rush to the defense of the Epilogue, offering various ingenious schemes which conclusively prove its inevitability and necessity. (1) In the rush to take sides and offer normative pronouncements on the concluding section of the novel, however, no one has fully accounted for the problem itself. What is the source of the ambivalence towards the Epilogue which has given rise to this controversy? This is the question I propose to answer. The analysis I offer here does not pretend to resolve the question for or against the Epilogue. The most it can do in this regard is to show that the whole debate is in a sense misdirected, that the structure of "Crime and Punishment, " for reasons which I will detail, implicitly offers no resolution. It is my contention that "Crime and Punishment" is formally two distinct but closely related, things, namely a particular type of tragedy in the classical Greek mold and a Christian resurrection tale; that it successfully superimposes the two forms because they are, within clearly determined limits, identical; finally, that the conflict between the two forms occurs at precisely the point where they cease to be superimposable. Briefly, the tragic form logically concludes with the hero's suffering (pathos), and thus corresponds to Raskolnikov's arrest at the end of Part VI; while for the Christian form suffering is merely an antecedent to another stage, namely resurrection, and this requires the inclusion of the Epilogue.

Some years ago, in an article in "Harper's, " W. H. Auden pointed out the formal similarities between the murder mystery and Greek tragedy. (2) Basing his analysis on the categories established by Aristotle in the "Poetics, " Auden showed how the standard mystery plot bears analogies to tragic logic, comprising hybris (the murder), recognition (the discovery of the villain), reversal or peripeteia (the change in the villain's fortune corresponding to his discovery and arrest), and suffering or pathos (the villain's punishment).

In so far as "Crime and Punishment" follows the pattern of the mystery novel one can see how it also contains the elements of this rudimentary model. But even on the internal, formal level there is a good deal more to


be said than this, and here the critical literature on the subject is disappointing. Although a number of eminent writers have discussed the notion of tragedy in Dostoevsky, very few have made any effort to define the term carefully or to treat the formal aspect of the question in any rigorous or systematic way. Vjacheslav Ivanov, whose name immediately comes to mind in this context, briefly touches on the similarity of the plot of "Crime and Punishment" to a tragic plot of Aeschylus, referring to the progress of events in both from an act of hybris against the chthonic deess, "Mother Earth, " to "knowledge in suffering" (pathei mathos). (3) But Ivanov is ultimately too concerned with Nietzsche and Christian mysticism to draw on his erudition in the classics and pursue this remark further. Bicilli, in a well-known essay, is also disappointing on this subject. He refers to the tragi-comic in Dostoevsky and mentions the dramatic qualities of his works, but never really ties either notion to the "inner form" of the novels, as one might expect from the title of his article. (4) Nor are the others who have written on tragedy and Dostoevsky any more illuminating on the question of form. (5)

Let us be specific about the meaning of "tragic form. " Richmond Lattimore has shown how futile it is to try to establish a single, simple, and universal formal model for Greek tragedy by simply gathering empirical data from the existing thirty-two tragic dramas and looking for a set of constants. Any such effort is bound to be frustrated, as Lattimore demonstrates, for the good and sufficient reason that almost none of the categories traditionally associated with tragedy occurs in ail or even most of the surviving examples. (6) The formal pattern to which I refer holds for a limited number of Greek plays, but they are the plays which Western tradition has selected and canonized as the standard models which most frequently provide the norms for critical investigations of the nature of tragedy: Sophocles' "Oedipus the King" and the three plays in Aeschylus' "Oresteia" are representative of this model, and I will restrict my examples to them in this discussion. The point, after all, is not the simple resemblance of the formal structure of "Crime and Punishment" to that of Greek tragedy in its most general sense (to the limited degree that it is possible to have a clear sense of the formal structure of Greek tragedy that takes the entire extant corpus of plays into account). What is important is, first, the resemblance of the formal structure of "Crime and Punishment" to a particular, easily recognizable type of formal structure found in the most familiar examples of Greek tragic drama, and second, the degree to which aspects of this formal structure are governed and motivated by intrinsic and extrinsic factors common to Dostoevsky's novel and the Greek dramas under consideration. It should also be pointed out that in referring to a formal structure in Greek drama I refer not necessarily to the dramatic events alone in any single play, but to the entire mythos, or plot, much of which often merely precedes and predetermines the specific action of the play (most of the crucial events in Oedipus' story, for example, having taken place well before the action of Sophocles' play begins).

These, then, are the elements which make up the form to which I refer.


First, there is an act which is legally and ethically ambiguous in the tragedy's own terms (it is also ambiguous in historically contemporary legal terms, but I will return to this shortly). Thus, before the action of Aeschylus' "Agamemnon" opens, Agamemnon has slain his daughter, but has done so in order to enable the Greek warships to depart for Troy. Clytemnestra slays her husband Agamemnon in the same play (thus preparing the way for the action of the "Choephoroe"), but does so, at least ostensibly, to avenge the death of their daughter. In the "Choephoroe" Orestes will commit matricide by slaying Clytemnestra, but in so doing will be avenging the death of his father, Agamemnon. In "Oedipus the King" the hero kills his father, but without knowing the identity of his victim any more than he knows the true identity of the woman with whom he commits incest.

It is not only the character of the act which must be ambiguous. The motivation of the perpetrator, his independence of action must also be unclear. This often takes the form of a conflict between destiny and free will, as for Oedipus, who attempts to defy the oracle dooming him to incest and parricide, but whom, in the end, "all-seeing times has found out, against (his) will. " (7) The tragic hero's madness or blindness (ate), an error in judgment (hamartia) leading him to commit his act are conditions which deprive him of the rational capacity to choose and which are as inexorable as a decree from the gods.

The final stage of the tragic hero's progress is his suffering (pathos), the "punishment" for his transgression, to put it in legalistic terms. This is preceded in many cases (Aristotle maintains that it is a necessary part of good tragic form) by an understanding, a recognition (anagnorisis) by the hero of his mistake (hamartia). Agamemnon, as he goes in to the slaughter, begins to have glimmerings of the event which awaits him. This causes him to hesitate before accepting his wife's request to tread, like a god or an Oriental monarch, on a rich, purple carpet, thus overstepping his bounds and inviting destruction. The crucial moment of Sophocles' "Oedipus" is the scene of recognition where the hero's previous mistake (hamartia) concerning his own identity is corrected and he realizes that the oracle has already been accomplished. It is following this understanding, or simultaneously with it, that the hero experiences the reversal in fortune (peripeteia) which brings on his suffering (pathos). The sequence of events, then, looks like this: 1) the ambiguous criminal act accomplished in the partial absence of free will; 2) recognition/understanding of error by the hero; 3) reversal in fortune; and 4) suffering.

It is hardly necessary to point out the ambiguous character of Raskolnikov's crime. One can easily see the same clash of ethical convictions in Raskolnikov's act as in Greek tragedy - at least as Raskolnikov himself sees his act. For, while Raskolnikov's act might be called murder in the absolute sense, it is also, depending on the specific ideology Raskolnikov is defending, either a humanitarian act (which will benefit thousands of innocent unfortunates) or a right and privilege (for the extraordinary


man). And, just as the Greek hero seems in part led by forces beyond his control to commit the ambiguous act that later brings him great suffering, so it is with Raskolnikov. One of the last experiences Raskolnikov has before committing his crime follows the chance encounter that assures the safe accomplishment of that crime. After Raskolnikov overhears that Lizaveta, the pawnbroker's sister, will not be home at the appointed time, he loses his reason and the crime becomes a preordained thing, "It was only a couple of steps to his apartment. He went in like a man condemned to death. He did not reason about anything, and was completely incapable of reasoning; but he suddenly felt with his entire being that he no longer had either freedom of reason or will (ni svobody rassudka, ni voli) and that suddenly everything had been definitely decided. " (8) Similarly, six weeks earlier, after overhearing the fateful conversation in the tavern in which his own thoughts concerning the pawnbroker were echoed exactly, Raskolnikov had had the sense that this was evidence of predestination (predopredelenie - PSS, VI, 55). And the same suggestion that the act was committed somehow in a way that escaped Raskolnikov's control is present in those Utopian Socialist statements that attribute the crime to environmental factors (" "low ceilings and close rooms oppress the soul and mind! ' " -PSS, VI, 320) and in all Raskolnikov's other retrospective justifications that place the cause of his action outside himself ("it was the devil who was dragging me along then, " as he later explains to Sonja. PSS, VI, 322).

But what is more important than this is the way in which Dostoevsky (perhaps unwittingly) shows the close logical connection between his hero's loss of reason and will, his crime, and his subsequent punishment. This is essential to tragedy, as the French classicist, Jean-Pierre Vernant says: "The hero's blindness, his criminal act and the punishment are not separate realities. It is the same supernatural power - blindness, ate, madness, hubris - which takes on different aspects while remaining the same. It is like a cloud in which man is enveloped and which makes him blind, makes him criminal, and then punishes him. " (9) Raskolnikov loses his reason only the day before he performs the murder. That the loss of reason and the crime itself are in this sense continuous, part of the same "cloud" of ate, to use Vernant's expression, becomes clear when we consider the murder scene. For what do the myriad ways in which Raskolnikov bungles his plans, loses control, forgets essential details prove if not (and this clearly served Dostoevsky's ideological plans all too well) that the manner in which the crime is committed has defied all of its perpetrator's attempts to bend circumstances to his free will, that the whole thing in the end is "blindness, atē, madness, hubris"? And finally, as if to point up the logical proximity of the hero's crime to his later suffering, Dostoevsky shows Raskolnikov thinking to himself the day after the crime (not two pages after the conclusion of the murder scene), "What, can it be that it's already starting, that this is already the beginning of my punishment (kazn')? " (PSS, VI, 72)

Aristotle maintains that, in tragedy, the best form of recognition scene (anagnōrisis) is one that is coincident with the reversal (peri-


peteia) in the hero's fortune, as in "Oedipus. " (10) The easiest way to apply this analogy to "Crime and Punishment" is to follow Auden's analysis of the mystery novel and locate the recognition scene in Raskolnikov's confession to the police. Here, as in many tragedies, an identity is revealed, and the reversal in fortune the hero experiences (as he is arrested) is clear and absolute. But there is an earlier scene which presents richer possibilities for this analogy: it is the scene of recognition where Raskolnikov reveals his true identity to Sonja in Part V. The scene is significant in this light partly because it leads to a clear turning point in Raskolnikov's life, one which, in turn, as the author tells us, leads directly to the hero's final downfall, and is thus similar to the Aristotelian reversal (peripeteia). Part VI, which follows the confession scene (and the brief exchange with Svidrigajlov, who has overheard the confession) opens like this: "A strange time began for Raskolnikov: it was as though a mist had suddenly descended before him and enclosed him in a hopeless, oppressive solitude. Long after, as he thought back on this time, he decided that his consciousness had occasionally grown dim and that this had continued, with only a few intervals, right up to the final catastrophe. " (PSS, VI, 335)

But the chief interest of this scene is the degree to which the tragic recognition moves the plot along specifically by focusing on the problem of knowledge, learning, and discovery. Anyone who has studied Sophocles' "Oedipus" will remember how the same is true of the central dramatic scene in that play, the recognition scene where Oedipus learns his true identity from the herdsman who had rescued him as a baby. The whole passage from the entrance of the messenger bearing news of Oedipus' step-father's death, to the revelation of Oedipus' parentage, is peppered with words expressing various notions of knowing, learning, and discovering.

Exactly the same thing happens in Dostoevsky's "recognition" scene. The entire dialogue turns on the process whereby the truth of Raskolnikov's identity becomes known not only to Sonja but to himself as well. The same vocabulary occurs here as in Oedipus, starting with Raskolnikov's leading question:

"Ugadala?" (PSS, VI, 315) "Nu chto tebe v tom, esli b ja i sozna1sja sejchas, chto durno sdelal? " (318) "I zachem, zachem ja ej skazal, zachem ja ej otkryl!" (318) "Da ved' i sam znaju , chto ne vosh' . " (320) " . . . ja ved' i sam znaju chto menja chert tashchil. . . . Ja vse znaju." (321) ; Ja eto vse teper' znaju...Poimi menja: mozhet byt' , toju zhe dorogoj idja, ja uzhe nikogda bolee ne povtoril by ubijstva. Mne drugoe nado bylo uznat', drugoe tolkalo menja pod ruki: mne nado bylo uznat' togda, i poskorej uznat', vosh' li ja kak vse, ili chelovek? " (322; my emphasis throughout)

"Have you guessed?" (PSS, VI, 315) "What would it matter to you if I were to confess (the Russian word contains the verb t o


know) right now?" (318) "Why, why did I tell her, why did I reveal it to her! " (318) "I too know that she's not a louse. " (320) "I know that the devil was dragging me along. ... I know all that. " (321) "I know all that now. ... Understand me: perhaps if I had it all to do over I should never commit the murder again. There was something else I had to know, something else was urging me on: I had to know back then and know at once whether I was a louse like everyone else or whether I was a man. " (322; my emphasis throughout)

If Raskolnikov has a revelation for Sonja (the verb otkryt' is twice applied to Raskolnikov's confession in this scene - see pp. 316, 318), she has one for him, too. The final truth which Raskolnikov can only begin to learn now, and to which the dialogue leads precipitously, is contained in Sonja's sudden exclamation, "What suffering! " ("Ekoe stradanie! " - PSS, VI, 322), and in her equally abrupt exhortation to Raskolnikov to accept his suffering (stradanie prinjat') and achieve atonement thereby. But suffering (stradanie) is the same thing as the pathos which concludes tragedy, and we see in this scene, too, as we see in the passage cited a moment ago from the opening of Part VI, how irresistibly, how tragically the recognition and simultaneous reversal now move toward this final stage.

About this final stage it is not necessary to say much. That Raskolnikov experiences suffering is obvious and has been obvious from the beginning. That his suffering now approaches tragic dimensions as he becomes conscious of it as an activity which will further his knowledge of himself and his deed is worth mentioning, since it bears out what Vjacheslav Ivanov says concerning the presence of the Aeschylean "learning through suffering" (pathei mathos) in "Crime and Punishment. " (11)

As Jean-Pierre Vernant has pointed out so concisely and lucidly, tragedy is not just a literary form, it is a historical "moment" which, as it almost appears, causes tragedy, but is also reflected back in all its issues and conflicts by tragedy. This is important to consider for two reasons. First, it helps explain why Dostoevsky should have generated a literary form that closely resembles classical tragedy, when we know full well that this was never his intention. The resemblance between the "moment" of "Crime and Punishment" (in the terms in which Dostoevsky saw it) and that of Greek tragedy is striking indeed, and once we have seen this, it will no longer seem odd that Dostoevsky's novel presents such striking formal analogies to tragedy. The second reason is that the historical moment elucidates the form of tragedy specifically by providing the context and terms for many of the conflicts I have mentioned.

Here is how Vernant describes the moment of Greek tragedy: It is a moment, he says, where there is "a distance established between the heroic past, between the religious thought proper to an earlier epoch and the juridical and political thought which is that of the city performing the tragedy. " At the same time, Vernant goes on to say, "for tragic man to


appear, human action must have emerged as such, but the human agent must not have acquired too autonomous a status, the psychological category of the will must not be developed, and the distinction between voluntary and involuntary crime must not be clear enough for human action to be independent of the gods. " (12) In Vernant's view, as this passage and the rest of his essay show, the moment and the form of tragedy are characterized by a number of tensions or clashes, religious, philosophical, social, and legal. We may extend Vernant's remarks and say that tragedy is a transitional form, occurring at the turning point from a religious outlook to a philosophical or scientific one, from a view of man as determined to a view of man as exercising free will, from a clan-based society where the individual is not recognized as such to an urban society where he is: thus the recurrent ambiguity of motivation and responsibility in tragedy. It is also the turning point from a primitive legal system where guilt is a family matter and is decided in relatively simplistic terms by custom, and a modern, juridical system where guilt involves the individual (and the City) and is decided on the basis of rational deliberations and fixed principles: thus the ambiguity in the character of the tragic act which is absolutely guilty by primitive standards, but at least partly justifiable by modern standards (where extenuating circumstances are considered). About the legal aspect of the question I will have more to say shortly.

For Dostoevsky the question is not only whether the same facts apply, but also whether he saw them that way. It is clear that he did. For what is the source of Dostoevsky's twenty-year polemic with the radical left if not the conflict between the new scientific and philosophical ideas and an older religious way of life? And, outside of the broader conflict of atheism and religious faith, what were the specific terms of this conflict if not determinism (destiny, fate, call it what you will) and freedom of will, just as in the age of tragedy in Greece? The only difference is that, for mid-century Russia, the chronological order of the philosophical conflict is reversed: freedom goes with the older, religious outlook, determinism with the new, scientific outlook.

There is no need to document Dostoevsky's privately held beliefs on this subject. It is sufficient to recall his antagonism towards his radical contemporaries in the 1860's, towards writings like Chernyshevskij's "Anthropological Principle in Philosophy, " that great, muddled assault on human freedom, towards the scientism of the nihilists, in short, towards any view which used the findings of modern science to reduce man to a cog in the mechanism of nature and thus deprive him of his individual freedom of action. What matters is that Dostoevsky made the conflict a thematic focus of so much of his post-exile work, starting with "Notes from the House of the Dead, " whose most important revelation is perhaps that no degree of physical restraint or hardship can ever be sufficient to extinguish the exercise of man's free will, even if the only form this takes is some utterly senseless act of self-destruction.

It is there in "Crime and Punishment," too, where Dostoevsky has


embodied the two poles of his conflict in his two central characters, Raskolnikov, who espouses the modern, "rational, " scientific world-view, and Sonja, who represents the prescientific, pre-rational faith of an earlier religious word-view. And the central aspect of this conflict is the question of freedom. When Raskolnikov is speaking the language of positivism and social Darwinism, he reflects the views of his radical contemporaries who had mechanized not only man, but his environment, both natural and social, as well. " 'Let them devour each other alive - what do I care', " Raskolnikov reflects, reproaching himself for having come to the aid of a young girl who has been molested. " 'This is how it ought to be, they say. A certain percentage, they say, must go each year. . . somewhere. . . to the devil. . . Percentage! How glorious these words of theirs are: so reassuring, so scientific'. " (PSS, VI, 42-43) " 'People, by a law of nature, are generally divided into two categories. . . . The first category, that is the material, generally speaking, consists of people who are by their nature conservative, sedate, live in obedience and like to be obedient. In my opinion, they are obliged to be obedient because such is prescribed for them (eto ikh naznachenie). ... But one thing is clear, and that is that the order governing the way in which people are conceived, governing all these categories and subdivisions, must be determined in a highly reliable and exact fashion by some law of nature' . " (PSS, VI, 200-202)

Even when Raskolnikov speaks of the extraordinary men who dare to seize power, those who are not subject to nature's laws and prescriptions, who exercise their will over the rest of humanity, he continues nonetheless to embody the tragic conflict between free will and forces beyond man's control. There is a telling passage early in the novel which, especially if considered in light of succeeding events, points up the terms of this conflict with great clarity and with considerable tragic irony. Raskolnikov is preparing to set out for the pawnbroker's residence and perform the murder. The author tells us that Raskolnikov feels as though he were being dragged along now mechanically and irresistibly. As he prepares to go he ponders the question why criminals are always so easily caught, and comes to the conclusion that, " 'the chief reason lies not so much in the material impossibility of concealing the crime as in the criminal himself. The criminal, ' " he continues, " ' at the moment of the crime falls victim to a failure of will and reason...' Having arrived at these conclusions, he decided that with him personally, so far as his own affair was concerned, there could be no such upsets from illness, and that his reason and will would not forsake him..." (PSS, VI, 58-59; emphasis added).

The irony of this passage is occasioned by the events which take place a few pages later. But the passage is important also because it points up another dimension of the tragic conflict of freedom and destiny as it takes shape in Dostoevsky. If the events of "Crime and Punishment" prove anything, they prove that Raskolnikov is wrong in the passage just cited, and that he does not possess the will or freedom of action he desires. But this is not to deny the possibility of freedom in general. To have done


so would have given victory to the positivists and social scientists whose doctrines Dostoevsky found so offensive. What is denied is a specific kind of freedom of will, namely the kind where the will aims to suppress the freedom of others and establish itself in a position of dominance. What the will i s free to do is shown by Sonja in her ecstatic exhortation to Raskolnikov to rise up and atone for his sins. To speak the language of Christian theology, the will is free to strive to exchange its sinful essence for a pure essence by repenting. (13) In fact, one of the most tragic characteristics of the conclusion of "Crime and Punishment" without the Epilogue is that the truth of Raskolnikov's incapacity to act freely in his sense finally catches up with him there. As he resolves to abandon his confession to the police (that is, to reject the only freedom available to him), he hears the news of Svidrigajlov's suicide. It is undoubtedly no coincidence that this should occur precisely here at this point, since it proves to Raskolnikov once and for all, by showing the ultimate failure of a man whose very existence was devoted to the imposition of his will on others, that such freedom is not possible. Here truly, as for Oedipus, time has found the tragic hero out, and, with this understanding, Raskolnikov goes to meet the suffering that awaits him.

The moment of tragedy in Greece is also legal moment, as I mentioned earlier, and it is here that some of the most noteworthy parallels occur between Dostoevsky and the Greeks. Born in an age where the effects of the great change had become noticeable from earlier legal practices based on a vague but rigid notion of justice as determined by custom, to the modern Athenian juridical system instituted by the reforms of Solon in the early sixth century, B. C. , Greek tragedy reflects in form and substance many of the ethical and moral problems raised by this transition. It does so, moreover, in specifically legal terms. The whole change may be seen as a response to a need created by a larger social change, namely, from a society of clans to an urban society. As Louis Gernet pointed out many years ago, this broad change had an enormous impact on legal concepts and also on the vocabulary used to express such concepts. (14) Gernet demonstrates in his lengthy study of the subject that the changes in thought and language were occasioned above all by the emergence of the individual as a relatively autonomous entity, capable of, and responsible for, actions undertaken on his own volition. In primitive society notions like crime, guilt, "penality, " had been family concerns, and the individual was seen as part of a group which became responsible for his actions. But with the breakdown of this structure accompanying the rise of an infinitely more abstract organization, namely the city, the individual comes into his own as a legal entity.

The ambiguity of both the character and motivation of the tragic hero's criminal act becomes clear in this historical context. For such acts include a component of absolute and unconditional guilt as determined by primitive customary law, and a component of justification, something which only a juridical system would even deign to consider. Similarly, if the motivation of the tragic act is ambiguous, it is undoubtedly because the very notion of motivation is undergoing a change from something


beyond the individual's control towards something arising within the individual. The tragic situation seems specifically designed to isolate and explore these historical conflicts.

The true subject of Gernet's account, however, is one which concerns us more closely. It is the semantic shift that accompanies the social changes I have mentioned. For, as Gernet demonstrates with scrupulous thoroughness, terms of law and ethics vary in their usage to reflect the changing conceptions of their age. In the urban age of tragedy we find, for instance, a word like hamartia, whose primitive meaning had been simply "error" (that is, an involuntary mistake due, say, to madness), adopting the notion of voluntary, individual intention. (15) The word timē, which in its primitive sense means "honor," as something emanating from and owed to the gods, with the rise of urban society undergoes a process of generalization and abstraction, leading to a new conception of honor as something which attaches to the individual and reflects his relation not to the gods, but to the City. (16)

But in words like these one sense never fully replaces the other, and in the age of tragedy the same word is often used in two different senses, one reflecting the primitive, the other the modern, juridical usage. It is precisely this polyvalence in legal and ethical terms that tragedy exploits. As a product of an age of legal transition, tragedy sets itself up as a forum for exploring the ethical and moral implications of this transition. This is why, as Vernant points out in his essay, Greek tragedy is always so full of legal vocabulary, and legal vocabulary, moreover, which is tested and explored in all the ramifications of its polyvalent possibilities. When Orestes cries, at almost the exact midpoint of the central play of the "Oresteia, " that "Justice will vie with justice, Ares with Ares, " (17) he is using the dual meaning of justice (specifically, customary, blood-feud justice and modern justice of the law courts) to express the legal and ethical conflict at whose center he finds himself. And this is one of the central subjects of tragedy. As Vernant puts it, "A Greek tragedy is a tribunal. The institution of these tragic contests, with all of the practical organization implied, is but one institution and part of an institutional whole. Tragedy represents, specifically, a part of the establishment of a system of popular justice, a system of tribunals in which the City as City, with regard to individuals as individuals, now regulates what was formerly the object of a sort of contest among the gene of the noble families, a change resulting in the quite different system of arbitration. Tragedy is contemporaneous with the City and with its legal system. " (18)

The sociological pattern is the same in Dostoevsky as in the age of tragedy in Greece. Dostoevsky's heroes begin to confront their metaphysical and ethical essence as individuals only when they have broken with the family. All of Dostoevsky's greatest heroes, from the underground man to the Karamazovs, come from broken families, from families in crisis, or seem to have severed all ties with a family that is never even mentioned.

Dostoevsky's "legal moment" speaks for itself in other respects. Greek


tragedy, I said, is the product of an age following the extensive legal reforms of Solon. It is not surprising, then, to find Dostoevsky writing "Crime and Punishment" in the immediate wake of the Judicial Reform Act of 1864, a piece of legislation designed, like the Solonian reforms in Greece, to put an end to centuries of vaguely defined customary law and institute instead a codified body of law and a juridical system with courts, lawyers, and juries. The effects of the Judicial Reform Act were as far-reaching in Russia as the Solonian reforms had been in Greece, (19) and it is easy to see why many of the changes associated with the Reform would have troubled Dostoevsky. One of the most important aspects of the new system was that it was to be pervasively informed by the spirit of Western European science. This requirement was featured in the "Basic Principles" of 1862, a document designed at the request of Alexander II to lay the foundations for the reform. (20) For Dostoevsky, the injection ,of scientific rationalism into the law could hardly have been an appealing notion. Nor was he favorably impressed, once the Reform had been instituted, with the creation of a new group of legal professionals trained to analyze and argue questions of ethics and morality according to "scientific" principles. For Dostoevsky this could only appear as the unwelcome intrusion of rational method into a realm of human experience where reason was powerless and incompetent to operate, and the only possible consequence of this intrusion would be the kind of quasi-scientific casuistry exemplified by Raskolnikov's own rhetoric. The reasons for Dostoevsky's subsequent hostility to the new breed of legal advocate as well as the intensity of that hostility appear clearly in his tirade some years later against the attorney in the much publicized Kroneberg trial in 1876. For in Dostoevsky's view this was a clear case of a keen and devious professional cynically mustering all the intellectual powers of a true casuist in order to exonerate a defendant who was manifestly guilty of child abuse. (21) The same hostility may be seen later in Dostoevsky's portrayal of Dmitrij Karamazov's defense attorney (patterned after the lawyer in the Kroneberg case), who uses "reason" in an equally deceitful way.

The point is that the force of the Judicial Reform is to create a conflict analogous to the tragic ethical conflict central to "Crime and Punishment": in Russia it is the conflict between an older, Christian ethic, and a newer, rational ethic - utilitarianism, social Darwinism, or post-Reform law - which examines crime and personal responsibility rationally and intellectually. Oedipus' act of patricide is absolutely forbidden under a primitive ethic, but partly justifiable if extenuating circumstances are considered (he was not aware that it was his father), as they are only under Solonian principles of law. Similarly, Raskolnikov's murder is absolutely forbidden under Sonja's Christian ethic, but partly or wholly justifiable for Raskolnikov's utilitarian ethic when the circumstance is considered that this murder serves a higher end. In addition, Dostoevsky's account of the trial in the early pages of the Epilogue shows how not only utilitarianism, but also post-Reform legal rationalism was capable of coming to the defense of a murderer, for here too "various extenuating circumstances" are taken into account (PSS, VI, 412), many of them


proposed by psychologists and adherents of the "recent fashionable theory of temporary derangement. " (PSS, VI, 411)

The real purpose for discussing legal history here, however, is that, as in Greek tragedy, legal notions provide a context and a terminology for larger ethical questions. We find Dostoevsky, like the Greek tragedian, resorting to an exploration of legal terms which, because of historical changes in political, ethical, and legal thinking, have become polyvalent. It is as though Dostoevsky too is putting his community on trial.

This semantic play with legal terms surfaces most clearly in two scenes where Raskolnikov's views are presented "dialogically, " that is, together with a point of view that challenges them. The first is the scene where Raskolnikov defends his article on crime against the attacks of Porfirij Petrovich (himself a man of the law). The entire argument is not merely filled with legal terms: pravo (right), prestuplenie (crime, transgression), zakon (law), prestupnik (criminal), zakonodate1' (law-giver). It is also noteworthy because the meaning of these terms is continually shifted and challenged. Raskolnikov's interlocutors, for example, are astonished at his notion of a "right to commit a crime" ("pravo na prestuplenie" - PSS, VI, 199) because, in Raskolnikov's mind, there is a distinction between an "official right" ("oficial'noe pravo" - PSS, VI, 199) and the intrinsic right of an extraordinary man to transgress. Similarly, it is possible for Raskolnikov to apply the terms "law-giver" ("zakonodatel' " - PSS, VI, 199) and "criminal" ("prestupnik" - PSS, VI, 200) to the same person, since here he plays on a new meaning of "law" (one which sanctions bloodshed) and juxtaposes it with a traditional meaning of "crime" (one which presupposes a prohibition on bloodshed). The same is true of Raskolnikov's "law of nature" ("zakon prirody"), which is distinguished in its modern sense from the laws that extraordinary men transgress.

The second scene is far more important. It is the confession scene with Sonja, which I have already mentioned. In this culminating scene, where "Justice vies with Justice, " as it does for Orestes in the "Choephoroe, " we see a confrontation not only of ethical systems, but of the corresponding semantic systems as well. Once again Raskolnikov presents his terms in their modified sense and Sonja reacts with horror in each instance. "That is their law (zakon)... Law, Sonja! " (PSS, VI, 321) "Whoever dares much for them is right (prav). Whoever spits upon others the most is their law-giver (zakonodatel'), and whoever dares the most of all is the most right (prav)." (PSS, VI, 321) "Sonja realized that this gloomy catechism had become his faith and 1aw (zakon)." (PSS, VI, 321, my emphasis throughout) Sonja challenges Raskolnikov with the inarticulate exclamations customary to her: Raskolnikov asks, "Was I a trembling creature or did I have the right..." Sonja interrupts him: "To kill? Did you have the right to kill? " (PSS, VI, 322) Even "kill" (ubivat') has a dual meaning, for Sonja, who places an unconditional prohibition on bloodshed, understands the sense of the English "murder, " while Raskolnikov has eliminated any


necessary implication of moral fault from the verb. Sonja's usage is based on simple, unconditional ethical categories, and is, as it were, univalent.

Only one point remains to be made in reference to tragedy. In the tragic form I have used as a model, the central conflict is between a primitive system of justice characterized by customary and unconditional criteria for establishing guilt, and a modern system allowing for reasoned debate in the determination of guilt. The conclusion to this form of tragedy, 1 have said, is suffering. The effect of this is to deny any semblance of triumph to the modern system, giving victory instead to the primitive system. In "Oedipus, " for example, and in the "Oresteia, " it is as though moral order can be maintained in critical situations of conflict only if the primitive, unconditional criteria are reasserted in the end (this might be called the tragic irony of these plays). (22) So it is with Raskolnikov at the end of Part VI, for here he finds himself finally succumbing to the sentence of the older ethic (in this case a Christian one) and "accepting suffering. " Here the tragic logic of "Crime and Punishment" is complete. All the steps of the form have been played out: 1) the ambiguous criminal act, 2) recognition/understanding, 3) reversal in fortune, and 4) suffering. They have been played out, moreover, in the same legal and historical terms as in Greek tragedy, and victory has been given to the primitive pole of the ethical conflict. As far as tragedy is concerned, nothing further is needed.

It is easy to see where this model is incomplete, however, and the reasons for this are both formal and historical. For to say that suffering concludes the logical demands of tragedy is to overlook one important thing in "Crime and Punishment, " and that is that the "suffering" we are speaking of is not a general term, nor is it exclusively the enlightening suffering born of ethical conflict that we find in Greek tragedy. Suffering here must be understood in a Christian sense, moreover in a specific Christian sense which the novel's own terms alone can fully supply.

But first it should be mentioned that the mere fact of providing a Christian context - any Christian context - for the notion of suffering entails certain assumptions. For Christian suffering or passion ( stradanie in Russian means both), in the terms of the Gospel narratives, is not a finality but aprius to a finality: rebirth. Christ's sufferings, the crucible of doubt in Gethsemane and the passion on the cross, point always forward - not just to knowledge, as for the Greek hero, but to resurrection. Suffering in the Christian sense is an intrinsically incomplete activity, since it is necessarily directed towards an end.

The importance of this idea for Russian Christianity is borne out by the emphasis on voluntary physical suffering as a means towards participating in the ordeals of Christ. George P. Fedotov points out, in his study of the Kenotic tradition of Orthodoxy (the tradition which stresses the human, physical side of Christ as the one aspect of His being which man is capable of experiencing) how the one factor of major importance in the lives of canonized saints - the factor which 1 ed to their being canonized


- was this voluntary acceptance of physical suffering as a means for imitating Christ. (23) In fact, in many of the accounts Fedotov gives of the lives of early saints, it is possible to notice a narrative pattern which resembles Raskolnikov's story. To begin with, many of the early saints did not display exemplary moral and religious characters during their lives. What truly sanctified them in the eyes of the Russian faithful, according to Fedotov, was nothing more than the violent nature of their death and their voluntary submission to it. But there is more to it than this, for it becomes clear from the accounts concerning the earliest saints, Boris, Gleb, and others that combined with voluntary suffering is a recognition, a sudden joyful understanding of the significance of that suffering. And the significance of that suffering is precisely that it brings the subject closer to Christ. In addition, it is essential to point out that the traditional consequence of such acts of non-resistance was eternal life, that is, a rebirth in Christ following the earthly death of the man in question. In this sense the stories closely resemble the final stages of the Gospels, where Christ emerges from his struggle in the garden with an understanding of his position and with the voluntary acceptance of his imminent suffering ("if this cup may not pass away from me, except I drink it, thy will be done" - Matthew 26:42).

It is easy to see how the pattern fits Raskolnikov, for, as I pointed out earlier, Raskolnikov's Christian acceptance of suffering is dependent on the understanding which grows from Sonja's teachings and from Svidrigajlov's suicide. This similarity is crucial to the present argument. The intrinsic narrative logic in the lives of the early Russian saints provides a calque not only for Raskolnikov's story, but for certain specifically tragic elements of that story. The Christian narrative involves a moment of recognition, like the tragic anagnorisis, which is followed by suffering, just as it is in the tragic forms I have discussed. The difference is that, where tragedy is content to conclude with suffering, Christian narrative is logically incomplete unless it goes beyond suffering to conclude with resurrection.

Still, it is almost unnecessary to turn to the Gospel narratives and the lives of the Russian saints to make this point, since the logic I speak of is already implicit in the terms in which the problem is presented in "Crime and Punishment. " What is more, in "Crime and Punishment" this logic more completely parallels the tragic model, since it is predicated on a criminal act or sin. When Sonja issues her rapturous command to Raskolnikov in the confession scene the notion of suffering, necessarily preceded by sin, a sinful act, is associated with an act of (self-) revelation and recognition ("I have murdered! " - PSS, VI, 322), then causally connected to redemption through suffering ("Accept suffering and redeem yourself through it ..." - PSS, VI, 323) and rebirth ("Then God will send you life again" - PSS, VI, 322). This, in any case, is the logic implicit in Sonja's speech, even if she does not say it all in this order. All the important steps of the tragic model are thus present - crime (or sin), recognition, reversal, suffering - but the Christian order requires an additional step: resurrection. As a result, it is an order which is logically

completed in "Crime and Punishment" only at the end of the Epilogue (or right after the end). Here the process from knowledge and suffering to rebirth is unquestionable. In exile, where "sufferings and tears are, after all, also life, " (PSS, VI, 417) Raskolnikov finally reaches the knowledge of which he had had only a glimmer in confessing to Sonja and surrendering to the police. It is here that he casts himself at Sonja's feet, that he knows that he has been reborn (PSS, VI, 421), knows "with what infinite love he will redeem all (Sonja's) sufferings. " (PSS, VI, 422) And, while the process is not yet complete, while further knowledge and suffering are still required ("He did not even know that his new life would not be reached easily ..." - PSS, VI, 422) before the hero is entirely renewed, the promised rebirth is the image we are left with at the conclusion of the novel. And the image is reinforced in Russian, where the growing repetition of the word "resurrection" (voskresenie) in the last few pages leaves little doubt concerning Raskolnikov's fate.

So far, I have argued that there is an internal logic in "Crime and Punishment" which requires the element of resurrection with which the Epilogue concludes, and that this logic is given by certain forms of Christian narrative. There is a final argument which concerns the parallel between tragic and Christian narrative. I have mentioned that, in the tragic form that serves as a model for "Crime and Punishment, " the outcome of the central clash between two systems of justice is a relative victory for the historically earlier one. It seems to be a logical demand of this formal structure in Greek tragedy that the primitive, blood-feud ethic, with all its unconditional categories, prevail in the end over the modern, juridical ethic which allows for rational deliberations and debate. Now if Dostoevsky's "tragedy" follows the same logic, the outcome must give victory to the primitive and unconditional ethic. But in Dostoevsky's world the primitive ethic is the Christian one, and, while its categories are unconditional (just as its legal vocabulary is always univa-lent), justice is never satisfied (as the Furies are in Greek tragedy) with violence and suffering alone. It is satisfied only by something that is ultimately peaceful, that transcends violence.

The situation in Dostoevsky as compared with Greek tragedy may be illustrated in the following chart, which confronts the primitive and modern systems in both eras according to four categories: 1) underlying world-view (religious or humanistic); 2) complexity of conception of guilt (guilt as unconditional, or guilt as possible including extenuating circumstances); 3) the basis on which guilt is decided (popular custom or rational principles); and 4) the manner in which justice is restored (violence, attenuated violence, passive suffering and renewal).





It should be noted that the "modern" categories for Dostoevsky will apply to any of the systems present in the book: Raskolnikov's utilitarian ethic, his extraordinary man theory, and even the principles of post-Reform law. The point is that in the tragic form the primitive member of each opposition must be part of the final solution. Oedipus, for example, suffers the guilt of one who has committed incest and murdered his father, not the attenuated guilt of one who committed these acts out of ignorance. This is because the older religious view did not sanction these crimes under any circumstances. Oedipus' violent suffering in the end is commensurate with the gravity of his offense, viewed unconditionally. Raskolnikov's crime is viewed in an equally unconditional fashion by Sonja, who represents the primitive, religious pole of the conflict in Dostoevsky's Russia. Here, however, justice is restored not through violent suffering alone, but through the voluntary acceptance of suffering as a means to atonement and new life.

The final picture is this. Dostoevsky's "Christian" tragedy is fundamentally similar to one prominent formal type of Greek tragic drama. This similarity owes its existence to the limited parallels which exist between the logic of events in tragedy and a "Christian" logic. This Christian logic may be seen partially in certain representative forms of narrative (the Gospels, the lives of saints), but it is ultimately generated simply by a religious ideology concerning sin and justice. Both forms include among their logical stages a crime or sin, an act of recognition or understanding, and suffering. But the Christian logic understands suffering as a means to an end, not as a finality, and thus departs from the tragic form at this point, adding its own final stage, namely rebirth. Moreover, it is in the very nature of the tragic model that its central ethical problem involve a conflict between a primitive and a modern system of beliefs, and that the primitive system prevail in the end. In Dostoevsky's Christian tragedy that primitive system is Christian, and thus logically requires as a final solution suffering leading to rebirth. In short, the logical demands of the tragic model as such are satisfied without the Epilogue in "Crime and Punishment. " Raskolnikov's catastrophic reversal in fortune and the suffering necessarily entailed by his arrest at the end of Part VI, are all that is needed. At the same time, this tragedy contains a Christian component, and the logical demands of this element are met only by the resurrection promised in the Epilogue.


  1. There are really two questions at issue in the Epilogue: first, whether it is necessary at all, and second, given that it is there, whether there is a genuine conversion in the end. Konstantin Mochulsky gives perhaps the strongest negative answer to the second question, terming Raskolnikov's promised regeneration a "pious lie. " See Mochulsky, Dostoevsky: His Life and Works, trans. Michael Minihan (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1967), p. 312. Philip Rahv agrees with Mochulsky, maintaining that Sonja's faith offers no



    solution to Raskolnikov, but, where Mochulsky still finds a place for the Epilogue in his formal analysis of the novel (see below), Rahv uses this argument to attack the Epilogue as implausible. See his "Dostoevsky in Crime and Punishment, " in the Norton Critical Edition of Crime and Punishment, ed. George Gibian (New York: Norton, 1975), pp. 244-258. Edward Wasiolek deems the Epilogue an artistic failure, but argues for its structural necessity by showing that it completes an ascending movement by Sonja and what she represents, corresponding to a downward movement by her antithesis, Svidrigajlov. See "On the Structure of Crime and Punishment, " PMLA, 74 (1959), 131-136. The less ambivalent supporters of the Epilogue are virtually unanimous in their belief in the sincerity of Raskolnikov's conversion. Their arguments tend to concentrate on the Christian elements in the Epilogue as completing trends and patterns established earlier in the novel. This group includes: Maurice Beebe, who argues that "the ending is artistically and psychologically inevitable because the basic motive of regeneration is the same as the underlying motive for the crime" ("The Three Motives of Raskolnikov: A Reinterpretation of Crime and Punishment, " in Gibian, op. cit. , p. 589); George Gibian, who says that the Epilogue is necessary in order to complete religious symbolism developed earlier in the novel ("Traditional Symbolism in Crime and Punishment, " in Gibian, pp. 519-536); and Maurita Willett, who concurs with Wasiolek in saying that the Epilogue presents the logical outcome of the conflict between what Sonja represents and what Svidrigajlov represents ("The 'Ending' of 'Crime and Punishment' , " Orbis Litterarum, 25, 1979, 244-258).
  2. W. H. Auden, "The Guilty Vicarage: Notes on the Detective Story, by an Addict, " Harper's, May, 1948, pp. 406-412.
  3. Vyacheslav Ivanov, Freedom and the Tragic Life, trans. Norman Cameron (London: Harvill Press, 1952), p. 77.
  4. Petr M. Bicilli, "K voprosu o vnutrennej forme romana Dostoevskogo, " Sofia Universitet, Istorikofilologičeski Fakultet, Godišnik, 42 (1945/1946), 1-71. Rep. in Donald Fanger, ed. , O Dostoevskom: Stat'i, Brown University Slavic Reprint IV (Providence: Brown University Press, 1966). See pp. 27, 45-46.
  5. The most extensive discussion of the formal analogies between Crime and Punishment and tragedy is that of Mochulsky, who demonstrates that the novel obeys the three unities and fits the five-act structure of Renaissance and European classical tragedy (although Mochulsky simply uses the term "classical tragedy" as if these characteristics all applied to the Greeks as well). What vitiates Mochulsky's argument, however, is his failure to show that the five-part structure is anything but a happy accident. Apart from his implicit assumption that Raskolnikov's duality is an essential quality of tragic hero, Mochulsky has almost nothing to say about the content of the novel which might explain why it should be like a tragedy. See Konstantin Mochulsky, op. cit. , pp. 270-313. Murray Krieger speaks of the "tragic vision" in Dostoevsky, but he discusses primarily The Idiot and, besides, has broadened his definition of the tragic so much that it is no longer strictly linked to any formal determinations. See


    Murray Krieger, The Tragic vision: Variations on a Theme in Literary Interpretation (New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston, 1960) S. I. Gessen's article on "The Tragedy of Good in The Brothers Karamazov" is actually not about tragedy as such, since the author is using the word "tragedy" in his title in a loose sense. See Sergej Josifovich Gessen, "Tragedija dobra v Brat'jakh Karamazovykh, " in Donald Fanger, op. cit. , pp. 197-229. A more recent article by Nina Gourfinkel, entitled, "Les éléments d'une tragédie moderne dans les romans de Dostoïevski, " in Dostoïevski, ed. Jacques Catteau (Paris: Editions de l'Herne, 1973), pp. 235-251, is not a discussion of tragic elements in Dostoevsky at all, but a description of various modern stage adaptations of Dostoevsky's novels. Finally, there is a book-length study devoted to the subject of Christian tragedy in Dostoevsky and Shakespeare by Roger Cox: Between Earth and Heaven: Shakespeare, Dostoevsky, and the Meaning of Christian Tragedy (New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston, 1969). One drawback I find in Cox's book is that, in developing the notion of "Christian tragedy, " he shows at the outset why Christian narratives may be considered tragic, but does not return sufficiently to the idea of the tragic when he studies the individual novels and plays. Instead, he tends simply to concentrate on the Christian elements in the texts themselves, assuming that the point has already been made that what is Christian is also therefore tragic. Cox points out some interesting analogies between the Gospel narratives and tragedy, but I cannot agree with his belief that a narrative concluding with as positive an element as rebirth and spiritual renewal can be wholly tragic. My analysis differs from Cox's most significantly in emphasizing the distinction between tragic and Christian structure (although I recognize the parallels up to a very important limit).
  6. Richmond Lattimore, Story Patterns in Greek Tragedy (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1964).
  7. Oedipus Tyrannos, 1. 1213; my translation.
  8. F. M. Dostoevskii, Polnoe sobranie sochinenij v tridcati tomakh (Leningrad: Akademiia Nauk SSSR, 1972 - ), VI, 52. Hereafter cited in the text as PSS. Translations are my own throughout.
  9. Jean-Pierre Vernant, "Greek Tragedy: Problems of Interpretation, " in The Structuralist Controversy: The Languages of Criticism and the Sciences of Man, ed. Richard Macksey and Eugenio Donate (Baltimore and London: The John Hopkins University Press, 1970), p. 286.
  10. Aristotle, Poetics, 1452 a.
  11. Ivanov, loc. cit.
  12. Vernant, op. cit. , p. 288.
  13. Cox. op. cit. , pp. 34 ff. , mentions this Johannine conception of sin, and the escape from the determinism of original sin it entails, as closely resembling Dostoevsky's view.
  14. Louis Gernet, Recherches sur le développement de la penseé juridique et morale en Grèce (Paris: Ernst Leroux, 1917).
  15. See Gernet, pp. 305, ff.
  16. See Gernet, pp. 279, ff.
  17. Choephoroe, 1. 461; my translation.
  18. 190

  19. Vernant, p. 278.
  20. An account of the Reform and its consequences is given by Samuel Kucherov, who had been a lawyer under the old regime, in Courts, Lawyers and Trials under the Last Three Tsars (New York: Frederick A. Praeger, 1953).
  21. Grigorij A. Dzhanishiev, Osnovy sudebnoj reformy (Moscow: Karinskoi, 1891), p. 47, cites the passage in the Basic Principles and discusses its importance in that document. Mentioned in Kucherov, p. 23.
  22. See Dnevnik Pisatelja za 1876 g. , February article "Po povodu dela Kroneberga, " ("On the Kroneberg Affair") and following articles, PSS, XXII, p. 50-73.
  23. The conclusion of the Eumenides, where Athena gives the deciding vote to Orestes and not to the Furies, is an apparent exception to this. But it should be noted that even here the final accommodation rests on the inclusion of the Furies and their violent ethic. Moreover, even if the final tally does not officially point to guilt for the accused, Orestes' fate remains one of suffering.
  24. George P. Fedotov, The Russian Religious Mind (I): Kievan Christianity: The 10th to the 13th Centuries (Cambridge, Mass. , 146-166; rpt. Belmont, Mass. : Nordland, 1975), Chapter IV, "Russian Kenoticism, " pp. 94-131.
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