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I have started to read some classic books and I am having some trouble understanding some parts of chapter 6 part 3 in Crime and Punishment, this is after Raskolnikov is called a "Murderer" by a man that was in Raskolnikov's lodgings. Briefly after Raskolnikov chases the man and comes back to his room, he starts thinking about his theory. However, I get confused in this part:

"In the first place, because I can reason that I am one, and secondly, because for a month past I have been troubling benevolent Providence, calling it to witness that not for my own fleshly lusts did I undertake it, but with a grand and noble object--ha-ha! Thirdly, because I aimed at carrying it out as justly as possible, weighing, measuring and calculating. Of all the lice I picked out the most useless one and proposed to take from her only as much as I needed for the first step, no more nor less (so the rest would have gone to a monastery, according to her will, ha-ha!). And what shows that I am utterly a louse,"

So I believe he is trying to prove that is indeed a "louse," which I think means something insignificant and trivial. However, I don't get what he is trying to say with this list:

In the first place, because I can reason that I am one

Ok so he is one because he can figure out by himself he is a louse. Got it.

secondly, because for a month past I have been troubling benevolent Providence, calling it to witness that not for my own fleshly lusts did I undertake it, but with a grand and noble object--ha-ha!

This is where I get lost. He says for "a month past," which I think means a month after, he has "been troubling benevolent Providence." What is "benevolent Providence?"

Then he says that it wasn't because of his human lust, but because of a nobler purpose. How does that prove he is a "louse"?

I have a slight feeling that he is being sarcastic, but I am not sure. Could someone clarify what he means?

  • (1) "He is one because he can reason that he is one": He is evil for doing the crime because he was/is aware that such a thing would be evil to do. (2) "For a month past" - For the last month. (3) Troubling benevolent Providence -- this is a bad translation -- but realize that Raskolnikov is slightly insane. He says, essentially, that he has been asking G-d to defend his deed in view of its supposedly noble intentions. – SAH Aug 7 '18 at 20:33
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I admit that I haven't read the novel, but a look at the Russian text suggests that by "benevolent Providence" Raskolnikov means God. The relevant quote is Russian is as follows:

во-вторых, что целый месяц всеблагое провидение беспокоил, призывая в свидетели, что не для своей, дескать, плоти и похоти предпринимаю, а имею в виду великолепную и приятную цель, – ха-ха!

He uses "беспокоил", which means "troubled" (note the past tense), and "целый месяц", which means "a whole month".

By "всеблагое провидение беспокоил, призывая в свидетели" ("troubling benevolent Providence, calling it to witness"), he means calling God to witness that he is doing something for the greater good, of for a noble purpose. In chapter 3, part 5, Raskolnikov says that he believes in God, so it's not hard to believe that he would say something like "God is my witness", "I swear to God", etc. In Russian they sometimes say "ей-богу", which is a somewhat softer version of the mentioned English expressions.

Raskolnikov is most surely being sarcastic here, because in the Russian text he uses the word "дескать", which, as @DVK points out, means "allegedly", and is commonly used in reported speech in Russian to indicate that the person being spoken of said one thing but did the other. By "louse", which in Russian is "вошь", he means a small, low, and otherwise a bad person.

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    дескать means "allegedly" – DVK Jun 20 '17 at 15:19
  • @DVK for the win! Thanks, that's the word I was looking for <nod nod> – Gallifreyan Jun 20 '17 at 17:58
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Roskolnikov is obsessed with the idea of powerful people who can 'break' the laws because they are 'special'. His primary example is Napolean. These people are in his mind 'better' and the laws (such as 'you shall not murder') simply do not apply to them. This should become clearer as the book progresses.

The murder he commits is his way of trying to prove to himself that he is one of those people, the better/special ones who the law does not apply to. (As I see it his refusal of more menial work, such as he is sometimes offered by friends, is refused because of his feeling of 'being better'.)

So

In the first place, because I can reason that I am one

Is him saying he can reason he is one of the 'better people'.

And

secondly, because for a month past I have been troubling benevolent Providence, calling it to witness that not for my own fleshly lusts did I undertake it, but with a grand and noble object--ha-ha!

The second piece is him explaining to himself how he chose someone who was a 'worse person' who didn't 'deserve to live'. The first step he mentions is his first step into his new life as a person who will impact the world (as Napolean did) but in a good way (thus the noble object). However by this point he is doubting his own theory thus the 'ha-ha'. The month past is the one leading up to the murder.

I beleive Gallifreyan is correct about the benevolent Providance.

This is all Roskolnikov trying to convince himself he did right but by this point he knows in his heart he is wrong and admits it at the end of his speech, by calling himself a louse.

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