Dostoevsky explores a question in this classic novel:
Can I commit one evil act for the greater good?
The main character, Raskolnikov, sets out to murder an old lady in order to steal money from her that will start his life out on the right path. He plans to commit the one evil deed in order to have thousands of good deeds later on.
His theory is that he is a superior man and he’ll be able to get away with it both at the legal level and at the conscience level. The book is an exploration as to whether or not that is possible.
It’s a brilliant and unforgettable book. The Crime part of the title, the murder, occurs quite early in the book. The Punishment part of the title, at least in a legal framework, occurs in the last 10 pages. However, there is a deeper punishment going on throughout the book. The punishment from Raskolnikov’s own conscience.
This was one of the first novels I ever read for fun and it made me want to read more. Revisiting 20 years after reading it the first time was a real joy. This one will continue to stay at the top of my list of all-time favorite works of literature.