Crime and Punishment

In Feodor Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment, the main character, Rodion Ramonovich Raskolnikov, becomes very ill due to guilt of a murder he committed. Many times during the novel, Raskolnikov debates whether or not he should confess his crime. When Raskolnikov visits the police station, he converses with an investigator by the name of Porfiry Petrovich. Porfiry is very aware of the crime, and knows without a doubt that Raskolnikov is the culprit. Porfiry does not approach Raskolnikov in the traditional manner of an investigator. Instead, he talks about nonsense that Raskolnikov has no interest in. When Rask feels that he is even close to being interrogated, he becomes offensive and demands that Porfiry stop playing games. Porfiry’s reaction to Rask is always apologetic and one of confusion. Porfiry proclaims that he only wants to have a conversation and nothing more. He states, “I gave it you with both hands, I, an examining magistrate! Don’t you see anything in that? If I suspected you at all, should I have done that? On the contrary, I should first have lulled your suspicions, and pretended that I had not been informed of the fact, I should have drawn your attention in the opposite direction, and then stunned you, as with a blow on the head with an axe…If I haven’t acted like that it follows that I am not harbouring any suspicions,” (Dostoevsky 294). As Rask and Porfiry talk, they undergo a psychological war; a war that is fought for the purpose of Raskolnikov’s welfare and mainly for his confession of the crime. Although Raskolnikov has no intentions of becoming friends with Porfiry, Porfiry has Raskolnikov’s health in mind. Porfiry states, “I know that now you regard my words as a sermon learnt by heart, but perhaps later you will remember them at some time and they will stand you in good stead; that is why I am talking,” (Dostoevsky 388). Rask’s options are to confess, commit suicide, or to run away. Porfiry explains to Rask that the life of a fugitive would be too difficult to live. Porfiry explains, “The fugitive’s life is hard and hateful, and your first need is for a definite position and existence, and a suitable atmosphere, and what sort of atmosphere would you have? If you ran away, you would come back of yourself,” (389). Porfiry, helping establish a positive well-being, explains that the only choice resulting in life would be confession (Dostoevsky 388-389). By presenting Rask with a way of clearing his unhappiness, Porfiry appeals to Rask’s human nature and pushes him closer to turning himself in. All throughout the conversation, Porfiry is very confident about two things. One, he isconfident that Rask committed the crime, and two, he is confident that Rask will eventually confess due to his guilt. Porfiry states, “Have you ever seen a moth near a candle? Well, so he’ll keep circling around me, circling around me, as around a candle; freedom will no longer be dear to him, he’ll fall to thinking, get entangled, he’ll tangle himself all up as in a net, he’ll worry himself to death! . . . He’ll keep on making circles around me, narrowing the radius more and more, and—whop! He’ll fly right into my mouth, and I’ll swallow him, sir, and that will be most agreeable,” (Dostoevsky 288). During the conversation, Porfiry explains where even the best criminals have blunders. He says, “He will begin trying to forestall us, he will thrust himself in where he is not wanted, he will begin to talk incessantly about things he would do better to say nothing about, he will talk in allegories, he will come of his own accord and begin asking why he hasn’t been arrested long since,” (290). Porfiry’s tactics during the war contribute to Rask’s confession. In conclusion, the psychological war is a war for Rask’s future and his confession. The war attributes to Rask’s revelation, and it presents the beginning of Raskolnikov’s future. Never does Porfiry pressure Raskolnikov into confessing. Rather, he does well at becoming Raskolnikov’s mirror during certain points of the conversation, resulting in Raskolnikov’s close call of confession. If Mikolka had not interrupted, Raskolnikov may have turned himself in on spot.