Final issues for discussion:
From the murders forward, Raskolnikov spins a web in which he is himself trapped. And he is, in his more lucid moments, well aware of the trap: he even says that he “turned spiteful…Then I hid in my corner like a spider.”*
Yet of all the characters, Porfiry is the one who seems most “spiderlike” as he skillfully maneuvers Raskolnikov during their encounters. Porfiry also has keen insight into Raskolnikov. When he finally confronts the young man (part six, chapter 2), Porfiry tells Rodya: “Do you know how I regard you? I regard you as one of those men who could have their guts cut out, and would stand and look at his torturers with a smile -- provided he’s found faith, or God”
Discuss what Porfiry means by this. Notice that he does not say “faith in God”, but “faith, or God” (part 6, ch. 2, 3 pages from the end of the chapter, 460 in P/V).
*Interesting…Svidrigaïlov (pages 289-290) poses this anti-metaphysical “spiders of eternity” notion to Raskolnikov:
“We keep imagining eternity as an idea that cannot be grasped, something vast, vast! Instead of all that, imagine suddenly that there will be one little room there, something like a village bathhouse, covered with soot, with spiders in every corner, and that's the whole of eternity? I sometimes fancy something of the sort.”
“But surely, surely you can imagine something more just and comforting than that!” Raskolnikov cried, with painful feeling.
“More just? Who knows, perhaps that is just—and, you know, if I had my way, it's certainly how I would do it!” Svidrigaïlov answered, smiling vaguely.
A sort of chill came over Raskolnikov at this hideous answer. Svidrigaïlov raised his head, looked at him intently, and suddenly burst out laughing.
“No, but realize,” he cried, “that half an hour ago we had never even seen each other, we’re supposed to be enemies, there is unfinished business between us; so we've dropped the business, and look where we've gone sailing into! Well, wasn't it true when I said that we were birds of a feather?”
• • • • • •
In Heart of Darkness, Marlow’s descriptions of Kurtz include the following: “a wandering and tormented thing”, someone whose words were like “phrases spoken in nightmares”, someone who “had no restraint, no faith”, whose “soul was mad”, someone who “struggled, struggled”. Think back to the nightmare-like atmosphere that suffused Heart of Darkness, then read again the description of Rodya’s last dream (6 pages from the end of the novel, p. 547 P/V version, paragraph beginning “He lay in the hospital all through the end of Lent…” and ending with “…had heard their words or voices.” Both Rodion and Kurtz engage in interior battles fought between their inner goodness and their desire to “step over”, to be “supermen”. Crime and Punishment, however, ends with a powerful feeling of hope and redemption, whereas Heart of Darkness ends with (naturally)…darkness. How can we better understand Raskolnikov’s redemption through the tragedy of Kurtz? (As always, support your opinions.)