Monday, June 16, 2008

The Mystery of Motive

The other day Sandra Parshall posed a question online: "What would make you kill?" Several people answered, both on Sandra's blog post and on mystery forums. There are reasons for people to kill.

Perhaps no author has ever plumbed the depths of those reasons for me better than Fyodor Dostoevesky, who wrote two of the greatest crime novels ever written: The Brothers Karamazov (in which a father is murdered) and Crime and Punishment, (in which an old pawnbroker is murdered).

In discussing these crimes, however, Dostoevsky discusses much, much more. Ultimately he strips away the pretense of humanity. Here are some of my favorite quotes.

From The Brothers Karamazov:

"The stupider one is, the closer one is to reality. The stupider one is, the clearer one is. Stupidity is brief and artless, while intelligence wriggles and hides itself. Intelligence is a knave, but stupidity is honest and straightforward."

"A man who lies to himself, and believes his own lies, becomes unable to recognize truth, either in himself or in anyone else, and he ends up losing respect for himself and for others. When he has no respect for anyone, he can no longer love, and in him, he yields to his impulses, indulges in the lowest form of pleasure, and behaves in the end like an animal in satisfying his vices. And it all comes from lying--to others and to yourself."

"The more I detest men individually the more ardent becomes my love for humanity."

From Crime and Punishment:

"Taking a new step, uttering a new word, is what people fear most."

"Actions are sometimes performed in a masterly and most cunning way, while the direction of the actions is deranged and dependent on various morbid impressions--it's like a dream."

"Accept suffering and achieve atonement through it -- that is what you must do."

"Nothing in this world is harder than speaking the truth, nothing easier than flattery."

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