Jewish-Christian encounters, suicide and transitory spaces in Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment and Trollope’s Nina Balatka
Two nineteenth-century novelists, Dostoevsky and Trollope, in novels written in the same year 1866/67, chose liminal spaces for suicides. In Crime and Punishment Raskolnikov contemplates suicide by throwing himself off a bridge into the river, while Svidrigailov commits suicide in front of the guarded gate having previously crossed the same bridge. In Nina Balatka: the Story of a Maiden of Prague, the eponymous heroine attempts to throw herself off a bridge into the river. Bridges and gates become transitory spaces invested with symbolic meaning demarcating crossing borders between life and afterlife. The mid-nineteenth century realist novel reflected on the choice of suicide place, and throwing oneself off a bridge became a literary convention (Anderson 1987, Gates 1998; Paperno 1997). While the choice of suicide places to a degree reflected statistics (Shneidman 1984, 11), artistic representation of these scenes invested places of suicide with religious meanings expressed by various symbols. Dostoevsky and Trollope’s choice of places of suicides conform to these literary conventions. However, there is one significant and intriguing addition to this typology: both novelists assign Jewish characters salvific roles in trying to prevent Christian protagonists, Svidrigailov and Nina Balatka, from self-destruction. The aim of my investigation is to unveil complex authorial motivations in Dostoevsky and Trollope’s choice of these subplots for interreligious encounters.
- Journal Articles