Original writings by Adrienne Nater

Explaining the Spoof:

The title to my next effort is the Dostoevsky Spoof. It was my tongue in cheek critical analyses of the protagonist in Crime and Punishment. I read it in class, completely straight faced and serious. Our teacher came apart railing at the critics who dare to be critical of a great piece of writing. I did not share with him that it was my writings until the break in class. He fell over with laughter at himself the manner that I had constructed the writing. What a great moment for all of us.

 

Dostoevsky’s Raskolnikov: Aberrant Behavior:

Crime and the Consequences of Malnutrition, Dehydration and Sleep Deprivation.  

Adrienne Nater

 

In Fyodor Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment the protagonist, Rodion Romanovich Raskolnikov, commits what he considers a "Rational Murder" coupled with an opportunistic murder of great irrationally. The latter one by an unfortunate circumstance, an unforeseen coincidental moment in time, the former by a confused, obsessive and grandiose plan: To justify his protagonists actions, the cleansing the world of a "louse," the writer provides us with a rational set of circumstances of the situations under which the killer plans and executes his deed.

 But more: Is it rationality? Is it an act of murder taken with just altruistic justification all in the name of society’s needs? Or is there more to consider? Does the author offer the reader and the character alternatives for aberrant behavior? Yes.

 Dostoevsky immediately draws our attention to the deliberate deprivation that his protagonist suffers in the abject poverty of his situation. We learn that many months prior to the beginning of the story that Raskolnikov has had little to drink, little to eat and scarcely sleeps. When his does sleep it occurs in irregular patterns of time. Dostoevsky’s own words in his letter to N.A. Katkov outline his first thoughts on Crime and Punishment. "A young man expelled from the university, a petty bourgeois by background, living in the most extreme poverty, decides out of lightheadedness and instability of thinking to extricate himself from his deplorable situation with one bold stroke. He has become obsessed with badly thought out ideas which happens to be in the air." The idea, which he is inhaling, in large gulps and gasps, The Extraordinary Man Theory or Man of Destiny Theory gives credence and legitimacy to the murderous consequences of Napoleon’s act of deadly aggression.

 Rodion Romanovich has recurrent periods of circumspect thinking... His inner thoughts are resplendent with suspicions for those whom he is in direct and indirect contact. His outer behavior and internal reflections are erratic and confused. His mental and physical conditions are, without doubt, reflective of a person who is malnourished, dehydrated, and sleep deprived. He is subjected to weather conditions of extreme heat: the mean temperature in which he will malfunction is 99.5 degrees. As the narrative progresses, this sweltering environment adds harmfully to behavior patterns evident in his internal and external responses to people, places and events.


 During the nine and a half days that the greater part of the Raskolnikov chronicle takes place, careful noting indicates that the food intake could be estimated at less than one thousand calories. These calories are mostly made up of stale bread and potato or cabbage soup. His liquid intake is scant, sips of water or tea, a glass of beer or a dram of vodka. He admits to being a hypochondriac, encouraging and enjoying his debilitation as an excuse for his mental and physical conditions.    

Specifically and utilizing the 1951 translation of "Crime and Punishment" by Constance Garrett to validate this assessment:

 "…an overstrained, irritable condition, verging on hypochondria…isolated from his fellows…crushed with poverty…. He had lost all desire…." All worked painfully upon…overwrought nerves." Further on, "…speaking into complete blankness of mind…not observing what was about him…a habit of talking to himself, conscious that his ideas were in a tangle and that he was very weak; for two days he had scarcely tasted food.: "…he knew how many steps…exactly seven hundred and thirty." "… a sinking heart and a nervous tremor….Raskolnikov went out in complete confusion." "…was tormented by a burning thirst."  

More explicitly, throughout Chapter 5 part 4 there are unremitting descriptions of episodes of irrational behavior and the resultant physical expositions of an unstable state: "sick and overstrained imagination… trembling… overstrained nerves… suspicions… nerves quivering… thoughts grown to monstrous proportions… considerable irritation…parched lips… throbbing heart… hot all over…dizziness… chills…fell into an actual frenzy… hysterical laughter… he felt everything going around… delirium and confused thoughts."

 Again and again the author reminds us of Raskolnikov’s condition with phrases relating to his broken sleep, irritability, ill-temper, nervous irritation, suspicions of the underlying intent of those he comes into contact, fevers, shivering, weakness, fainting, hostility, headaches, loss of consciousness, and psychological instability. The reader cannot dismiss nor forget; Dostoevsky is unrelenting.

Thus, consider: all the physical and mental descriptions of his character and his resultant deeds could be related to the effects of long term sleep deprivation, malnutrition and dehydration.  

Robert Rappaport, MD in his FDA article "Sleepless Society" reports that "…lack of sleep can cause memory and mood problems…and may affect immune function, which could lead to an increased incidence of infection and other illnesses."

 In the 1999 Medscape article "Clinical Frontiers in Sleep/Psychiatry Interface" states"…sleep deprivation may precipitate mania, increased body temperature, major depressive episodes, mood disorders, and other peculiar syndromes both mental and physical. This condition will thrust a subject into paranoia."  

Furthermore, contemplate this character’s lack of liquid intake: he is dehydrated. Dehydration or the loss of water content and essential body salts (electrolytes) result in: fatigue, low blood pressure, dizziness, confusion, irrationality, and eventually coma.

 Factoring into the above is his scant food intake that places him in a chronic state of malnutrition. Malnutrition equals: Fatigue, headaches, irritability, inability to concentrate, anxiety, negative feelings about self-worth, impotence, and hostility directed at himself and the outer world. The condition of Pellagra from malnutrition adds to the above inflictions: dementia, schizoid-psychoses, phobias, sleep irregularities and obsessional behaviors Dercum Disease may also be present and manifest itself with bodily weakness, fainting and pain.

 These issues do explain the unusual behavior of our protagonist. Rather than isolate and attribute his absolute justification for a rational murder on a grand philosophical and social platform; it would be sensible to incorporate his behavioral decisions on the many months of physical deprivation. The author has blended this scenario into the script for us.  

The Epilogue tells us of the eventual recovery of his health and mental faculties. He returns to rational behavior and complete physical stability. His life becomes more regulated with food, liquids, and sleep. Thus the author offers readers and censors an escape clause for his underlying criticisms of society, church, man in a new age, and the instability of ideas in a time of divergent thinking.