I usually try to stay away from classics on this blog. Most people have heard of Pride and Prejudice and Catcher in the Rye, and as good as those books are, you probably don’t need to be told to read them. Chances are you were already forced to in school.
What I’ve found, though, is that books that I’m forced to read? I almost always hate them. But when I return to them on my own terms, throwing off that rebellious you-can’t-tell-me-what-to-read attitude, I often find that they’re classics for a reason. I hated The Great Gatsby in high school, but now it’s one of my favorite books. The same is true for countless others.
I remember being a student in junior high and picking up Crime and Punishment. It was over 500 pages and, already growing into the reading nerd I was to become, I wanted to give it a try. As I went to check out, though, the librarian told me, “Well…this might be a bit advanced for you. Why not try one of these? Harry Potter, maybe?”
I vaguely remember taking offense that day, but now that I’ve read it–for the first time, in my 20’s–I understand where she was coming from. It’s not that Crime and Punishment is necessarily a “difficult” read; I think the plot is fairly straight-forward and easy to follow. But the moral implications and philosophical grayness…well, it’s heavy stuff.
In case you’re not yet familiar, Dostoyevsky’s novel follows Raskolnikov, a young, sensitive, poorly university student in Russia. He somehow comes to the conclusion that he is “extraordinary,” one of the few men in the world who is above the expectations–and consequences–of law.
The thing that I love most about Dostoyevsky is his ability to take us into the mind of (often deranged) characters. His writing is second-person, but I felt that I could understand Raskolnikov’s reasoning and emotions clearly–and, though he was often a despicable character, I found myself at times rooting for him and sympathizing with his cause.
I realize this is a tome of a book, one that carries the connotation of “classic” with it that often scares people away. But this novel and its ideas have stayed with me long after I’ve put it down. If you want something that will make you question your own moral compass, give it a shot.
Thanks for reading! -Autumn
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