By: A.E. Carnehl, Contributor
Crime and Punishment was written by Fyodor Dostoevsky in 1866. It truly stands as one of the greatest achievements in world literature.
The following excerpt is from a scene early on in the book when Alexei (the protagonist) has a conversation with a drunkard named Marmeladov in a seedy tavern in St Petersburg. Marmeladov’s speech shows that at the heart of Dostoevsky’s Orthodox faith was an emphasis on weakness, suffering, and redemption.
The weakest people in Russian society were the peasants who were only recently emancipated from serfdom in 1861. The Russian peasant always has a central place in Dostoevsky’s novels, as the peasant exemplifies humility, poverty, and weakness. Even the Russian word for “peasant” has the same root as the word for “Christian”, and Dostoevsky was always quick to point this out. According to him, it was the dejected and poor peasants of Russia with their Orthodox faith who were closest to God and who were the true Christians, as they lived lives of sacrifice and suffering. Just as Christ gathered around himself the lowest of all so too did Dostoevsky see the true Church as being manifest specially in the peasants of the Russian Orthodox Church.
Living and writing in the 1860s and 1870s, Dostoevsky knew that Russia was slowly succumbing to the influence of secularism, collectivism and Marxism, and he wrote against these destructive ideologies in all of his post-Siberian novels. Russia needed to be redeemed from the evils of socialism, and it was only by the indefatigable, loving, and faithful hearts of peasants and simple men such as Marmeladov, that redemption would ever be possible.
"To be pitied! Why am I to be pitied?" Marmeladov suddenly declaimed, standing up with his arm outstretched, as though he had been only waiting for that question.
"Why am I to be pitied, you say? Yes! there's nothing to pity me for! I ought to be crucified, crucified on a cross, not pitied! Crucify me, oh judge, crucify me but pity me!
And then I will go of myself to be crucified, for it's not merry-making I seek but tears and tribulation!... Do you suppose, you that sell, that this pint of yours has been sweet to me? It was tribulation I sought at the bottom of it, tears and tribulation, and have found it, and I have tasted it; but He will pity us Who has had pity on all men, Who has understood all men and all things, He is the One. He too is the judge. He will come in that day and He will ask: 'Where is the daughter who gave herself for her cross, consumptive step-mother and for the little children of another? Where is the daughter who had pity upon the filthy drunkard, her earthly father, undismayed by his beastliness?' And He will say, 'Come to me! I have already forgiven thee once.... I have forgiven thee once.... Thy sins which are many are forgiven thee for thou hast loved much....' And he will forgive my Sonia, He will forgive, I know it... I felt it in my heart when I was with her just now!
And He will judge and will forgive all, the good and the evil, the wise and the meek.... And when He has done with all of them, then He will summon us. 'You too come forth,' He will say, 'Come forth ye drunkards, come forth, ye weak ones, come forth, ye children of shame!' And we shall all come forth, without shame and shall stand before him. And He will say unto us, 'Ye are swine, made in the Image of the Beast and with his mark; but come ye also!' And the wise ones and those of understanding will say, 'Oh Lord, why dost Thou receive these men?'
And He will say, 'This is why I receive them, oh ye wise, this is why I receive them, oh ye of understanding, that not one of them believed himself to be worthy of this.' And He will hold out His hands to us and we shall fall down before him... and we shall weep... and we shall understand all things! Then we shall understand all!... and all will understand, Katerina Ivanovna even... she will understand.... Lord, Thy kingdom come!"
And he sank down on the bench exhausted, and helpless, looking at no one, apparently oblivious of his surroundings and plunged in deep thought. His words had created a certain impression; there was a moment of silence; but soon laughter and oaths were heard again.