Stories That Define Me
A drunken peasant in czarist Russia is beating his overburdened, dying horse, a mare, and the child Raskolnikov and his father happen upon the scene. Raskolnikov wants to save the horse, but his father pulls him away, saying, as fathers have so frequently—so necessarily—said: It's none of our business.
When I first read "Crime and Punishment" some time in my late teens, and came upon this image, it struck me as neither melodramatic nor lurid; nor was it, in its subtle configuration (child-witness, helpless "civilized" father, brutal "natural" peasant, female horse), anything other than a paradigmatic image, for me, of how the larger world—the world outside the home, the schoolroom, the library—is constituted. A melancholy vision, a "tragic" vision, but inevitable. Uplifting endings and resolutely cheery world views are appropriate to television commercials but insulting elsewhere. It is not only wicked to pretend otherwise, it is futile. If all a serious writer can hope to do is bear witness to such suffering, and to the experience of those lacking the means or the ability to express themselves, then he or she must bear witness, and not apologize for failing to entertain, or for "making nothing happen"—in Auden's derisory phrase.
—Joyce Carol Oates
Full Text of "Stories That Define Me"