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Kiremidjian, D. (1976). Crime and Punishment: Matricide and the Woman Question. Am. Imago, 33(4):403-433.

(1976). American Imago, 33(4):403-433

Crime and Punishment: Matricide and the Woman Question

David Kiremidjian, Ph.D.


Raskolnikov's motives and the general psychologic economy of Crime and Punishment pose complex questions. In 1948, Mark Kanzer was the first to recognize that the murder of the pawnbrokeress had a clear matricidal cast, and W. D. Snodgrass in 1960 set out the basic structure of aggression by men against women in the novel. In 1967, Edward Wasiolek took up the problem briefly but perceptively in the interchapters of the Notebooks for Crime and Punishment, and has recently set forth a penetrating account of the whole matter correcting and extending Snodgrass's view. Wasiolek feels that in killing the pawnbrokeress, Raskolnikov attempts to kill the “hateful mother” in order to restore his own wholeness, but as the hateful mother has already been introjected, the attempt fails. Wasiolek sees the resolution of the conflict in “that it will not be by rejection and force that he will be made whole again, but by acceptance-forgiveness: the forgiveness of his mother and of himself, the first step of which is the confession to Sonia.” Wasiolek's account characterizes the complex sexual and familial relationships very comprehensively, but, like Snodgrass, he does not identify the deep origin of the crime itself nor locate this modern matricide in its cultural/social context. I would like here to offer a complement to these two views, emphasizing not so much the structural aspects of the psychology as its energetic and active functions.

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