Dostoevsky's "Notes from Underground" versus "Crime and Punishment"

2021-02-25

I just finished watching a lecture by Irwin Weil on Dostoevsky's "Crime and Punishment". I was shocked when he said many critics believe the Epilogue to "Crime and Punishment" should not have been included in the book. The Epilogue is the whole point of the novel.

"Notes from Underground" and "Crime and Punishment" are to me bookends of Dostoevsky's understanding of his Orthodox faith.

In the Paschal Icon, Christ is standing on the broken gates of hell. The gates of hell were not locked from the outside but from the inside. Christ goes to hell not as a victim but as a conqueror and breaks down the gates of hell. Those in hell after Christ's resurrection are those who desire it.

The Underground man is in a hell of his own making. He does not want redemption. He is "happy" in his hell and by his actions we see he wants others to share in his hell even when he is offered a way out. He rejects salvation offered to him by Liza and tries to drag her into his hell.

The Underground man is similar to C.S. Lewis' characters in "The Great Divorce' that refuse to even get on the bus to visit heaven.

In "Crime and Punishment" Raskolnikov's ideology is the beginning of his journey to hell even though he doesn't realize it. He believes his ideology can bring about the betterment of society but only after he commits the murders does he realize he is in a hell of his own making. The rest of the book is the struggle between falling deeper into hell or redemption. With Raskolnikov's confession we see his rejection of his hellish ideology. But is is with the Epilogue where Raskolikov's redemption in Christ is found.

"Notes from Underground" and "Crime and Punishment" both show Dostoevsky's belief in the Christian faith. Man is damned to a hell of his own making but is only redeemed by Christ. "Notes from Underground" shows man's freedom to reject redemption by Christ and "Crime and Punishment" shows Christ's ability to redeem man from hell.

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