Fyodor Dosteoevsky’s Crime and Punishment is a renowned 19th-century novel that has captivated audiences for generations. Part of the appeal for this classic text comes from the densely interwoven and constantly evolving thematic motifs and symbols. Arguably one of the most crucial episodes in the novel comes when Raskolnikov and Sonya discuss the existence or absence of God and the biblical account of Lazarus’ resurrection. By examining this scene in comparison to the novel’s conclusion, the reader can see how Dostoevsky uses the progression of development for Roskolnikov’s character and his “acquaintance with a new, hitherto completely unknown reality” (551) to echo the theme of resurrection that stems from story of Lazarus.When looking at the character of Raskolnikov, it is hard to get a holistic and unified view of his thoughts, actions, and faith. The schism in his behavior is clearly seen through his acts of charity on one hand and his self-absorbed isolation on the other. There is no defining moment that reveals the immutable character of Raskolnikov, and thus the scene with Sonya’s reading of Jesus’ miraculous healing of Lazarus only hints at one state of Raskolnikov’s fickle nature. However, it becomes clear from this episode that Raskolnikov appears to challenge the existence of God and Sonya’s faith. When Raskolnikov begins theorizing about what will happen to Sonya’s family if something tragic should occur, Sonya replies, “‘No, no! God will protect her! God!…’ she repeated, beside herself. ‘But maybe there isn’t any God,’ Raskolnikov replied…Sonya’s face suddenly changed terribly: spasms ran over it. She looked at him with inexpressible reproach…and simply began sobbing all at once very bitterly, covering her face with her hands” (321)2E It is evident from this interaction that Sonya cherishes her faith and is taken back by Raskolnikov’s inquisition and indirect denial of God. Strangely, when he notices a copy of the New Testament on a chest of drawers, Raskolnikov quickly asks Sonya to read him the story about the raising of Lazarus. In the story of Lazarus, Dostoevsky foreshadows the resurrection of faith that Raskolnikov eventually reaches after his confession.At Raskolnikov’s request, Sonya reads, “‘Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: and whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die..2EAnd when he has spoken, he cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth. And he that was dead came forth” (326-328). Undoubtedly this is a story of resurrection for Lazarus, a man who was physically dead and yet rose from the grave at Jesus’ command. Although the parallel may not be readily apparent since Raskolnikov is not physically dead, there does exist a synonymous relationship between Lazarus’ physical death and Raskolnikov’s spiritual death. Once Raskolnikov finally reveals to Sonya that he killed Alyona and Lizaveta Ivanovna, he comes to an internal realization, “Was it the old crone I killed? I killed myself, not the old crone!” (420). In a nonphysical sense, Raskolnikov experiences a self-inflicted death that is comparable to the death that sent Lazarus to the grave: both are potentially eternal apart from salvation or rebirth. The story of Lazarus is a story of fatal suffering and sickness, but it also embraces triumph over death and sin that is brought about through the miraculous resurrection. Through the reading of Lazarus’ story, Sonya is acknowledging and proclaiming the eternal message of faith that sits at the feet of Raskolnikov.After much anguish and tribulation, Raskolnikov is brought to a state of confession and is sent to Siberia with a sentence of eight years of hard labor. Sonya accompanies him to Siberia, and through her influence on him, the transformational power of love is displayed and a change begins to take place in the core of Raskolnikov: “they were resurrected by love; the heart of each held infinite sources of life for the heart of another” (549). Without Sonya’s love, Raskolnikov would be unable to leave his grave of unbelief, and although the change is gradual and indistinct, Dostoevsky makes it clear that an inner resurrection and rebirth takes place. With the New Testament in hand, Raskolnikov begins questioning, “Can her [Sonya’s] convictions become my convictions now? Her feelings, her aspirations, at least…” (550). Eventually Raskolnikov does reach a point where he consciously realizes his potential for accepting and obtaining the faith that he sees displayed through Sonya’s loving character. The closing of the book states, “But here begins a new account…the account of his gradual regeneration, his gradual transition from one world to another, his acquaintance with a new, hitherto completely unknown reality” (551). From prior passages, it was clear that Raskolnikov openly rejected God and a belief in the sacredness of human nature. After all, his crime was committed in an attempt to prove the world exists without a moral consciousness or eternal goodness. Although Raskolnikov’s rebirth may not be as explicit as Lazarus’ walking out of the tomb, it is clear in the closing of the novel that a resurrection has taken place inside of Raskolnikov’s character as he begins to embrace a life of faith.Crime and Punishment is a novel rich in thematic meanings displayed through the lives of its characters. In the case of Raskolnikov, Dostoevsky uses a complex and intriguing character to portray the eternal message and power of faith. Because of Sonya’s love for Raskolnikov, he is eventually resurrected from a life of destruction, egotism, and despair to a life capable of acknowledging the sanctity in human nature, a higher good, and a caring God. Through the story of Lazarus and the scene involving its reading, Dostoevsky uses Raskolnikov’s life to reveal the theme of resurrection and the significance of rebirth in the acceptance of faith.
“The extraordinary…have the right to commit all kinds of crimes and to transgress the law in all kinds of ways, for the simple reason that they are extraordinary.”  Dostoyevsky’s main characters are divided into two philosophical categories. The first group maintains that man is not equal, but divided into two groups–the ordinary and the extraordinary. Ordinary people are trapped within the laws and traditions of society, existing only to reproduce their own kind. The extraordinary, on the other hand, have the moral right to break the law if their transgression is for the betterment of humanity. The second group believes that all people are equalthere is no ubermensch, or superior man, who has the right to harm others for personal gain. Dostoyevsky opposed the ubermensch theory, revealing this in his portrayal of characters. Those who upheld the idea of a Superman appeared negative while opponents were regarded with admiration.Svidrigalov in Crime and Punishment, and Fyodor Karamazov in The Brothers Karamazov, were proponents of the Superman idea. Svidrigalov is the epitome of this philosophical outlook at an extreme. His sole objective was to satisfy his physical desires, no matter what means were necessary to achieve his goals. Rumors had circulated connecting him to the death of a servant as well as the suicide of a fourteen-year-old deaf-mute girl. “One day the girl was found hanging in the garrett,” Peter Petrovich explained. “The verdict was suicide…but a later report came to light that the child had been cruelly outraged by Svidrigalov.”  He was known to abuse his wife and was suspected of giving her a beating, which eventually led to her death. He insisted, however, that they enjoyed a good relationship, at least according to his definition. “During our seven years together I used the switch only twice in all (not counting a third time that was extremely ambiguous anyway),” he explained to Raskolnikov.  Svidrigalov stopped at nothing in his attempt to seduce Sonia, Raskolnikov’s sister, and even tried to blackmail her, though unsuccessfully.Fyodor Karamazov indulged in irresponsible activities much like Svidrigalov. His life consisted of drinking, debauchery, and the mistreatment of his wives. “Primitive patriarch that he is, he begins by stealing them from their families or by raping them; he then soon abandons them in pursuit of yet other women.”  He neglected his children when they were infants, leaving them to be brought up by relatives. Karamazov is insensitive and selfish, displaying this by ridiculing his second wife in the presence of their sons, and depriving his eldest son of his inheritance. The narrator describes him as “a despicable, vicious man and at the same time senseless.”  Similar to Svidrigalov’s involvement with the deaf-mute girl, Karamazov was rumored to have raped a mentally retarded woman who died after giving birth. All the town was talking…of Lizaveta’s condition, and trying to find out who had wronged her. Then suddenly a terrible rumor was all over town that it was no other than Fyodor Karamazov. Dostoyevsky paints a negative portrait of these two menthe representations of the ubermensch. Svidrigalov and Karamazov put no one before themselves and are concerned only in fulfilling their selfish aspirations. They are “dreadfully vital and vitalistically dreadful,” writes Harold Bloom.  Machiavellian in their outlooks, they believe that any means are justified so long as they help to achieve a desired outcome. Dostoyevsky uses these characters to display the destruction that results from a single man believing he is higher than anothermorally free to do anything, even if it results in the death of an innocent person. On Dostoyevsky’s use of Svidrigalov and Karamazov, Ernest Simmons writes, “Ideas…play the central role in his novels. His chief figures are often embodied ideas and he appears to be concerned not so much with the life of his characters as with the ideas they represent.”  By portraying Svidrigalov and Karamazov as entirely negative characters, Dostoyevsky reveals his disapproval of the idea of the ubermensch.Alyosha in The Brothers Karamazov acts as a foil to Karamazov and Svidrigalov. Instead of pursuing selfish desires, he dedicates himself to helping others. To Alyosha, no person is more important than anothereveryone has equal worth, no matter what their social position is. He obtained much of his philosophy from Fr. Zosima, a saint-like monk who lived at the monastery. Fr. Zosima was once questioned about his views on equality. “Are we to make our servants sit down on the sofa and offer them tea?” he was asked. To the questioner, this scenario was absurd. Servants were considered to be below their employers and would never have had the opportunity to share tea with them. However, to everyone’s surprise, Fr. Zosima replied, “Why not, sometimes at least.”  Alyosha applied this way of thinking by accepting people for their quality of character rather than for their wealth or social class. He befriended Grushenka, who was shunned by many because of her reputation as a prostitute. “You should love people without a reason, as Alyosha does,” she tells her cousin.  Alyosha also had a strong rapport with children. Kolya, a boy who idolized him, observed that “Alyosha treated him exactly like an equal and then he talked to him just as if he were grown up.”  Alyosha even shows love and respect towards Karamazov, his father. The fact that he doesn’t judge the amoral man who tormented his mother and abandoned him and his brothers reveals his strength as a character. Alyosha brought with him something his father had never known before: a complete absence of contempt for him and a constant kindness, a perfectly natural, unaffected devotion to the old man who deserved it so little. Alyosha treated everyone with equality and generosityhe is Dostoyevsky’s ideal character.Dostoyevsky has shown two extremes with Karamazov and Svidrigalov, and Alyosha. Because Karamazov and Svidrigalov live as Supermenmaking their first priority fulfillment of selfish desiresthey are portrayed negatively by the author. Alyosha, who is the exact opposite, is displayed a moral hero. But although these characters help to reveal Dostoyevsky’s feelings on the Ubermensch idea, his views are better displayed with Raskolnikov in Crime and Punishment, a character who believes strongly in the idea of a superior man, but later changes his opinions.Raskolnikov is a former student in a largely uneducated St. Petersburg. He is intelligent and clearly knows this. Raskolnikov begins to believe that because he is intellectually superior to the common person, he has the right to break the law if he decides his unlawful act would improve society. “He divides man into two main groupsthe trembling multitude of common men and the daring minority of exceptional individuals who have the right to transgress the conventional rules of social law and custom.”  However, although Raskolnikov’s idea had been analyzed and thought out intellectually, he soon came to question its validity. To test his theory, Raskolnikov murdered an old pawnbroker who he deemed a useless “louse.” “The old woman was only a disease I wanted to step over as quick as I could,” he said. “I didn’t kill a person, I killed a principle!”  However, after the murder, Raskolnikov began to feel guilty. He thought obsessively about the consequences of his action and even developed a psychosomatic illness due to his endless worrying. He turned away from friends and family, desiring only to be left alone. Although his guilt caused him to become completely dysfunctional, he still refused to admit that his actions were wrong. Finally, Raskolnikov confessed in order to relieve himself of guilt, and only after spending time in prison did he realize that his idea of a superior man was wrong. Although the woman he killed was neither educated nor rich, she was a fellow human beingas worthy of life as he was. With Raskolnikov, Dostoyevsky demonstrates his views. While Raskolnikov believed in the existence of a superior man with the moral right to transgress the law, he appeared to be treading the same path as Svidrigalov and Karamazov. Just as they used any means to meet an end, Raskolnikov had murdered for the purpose of testing a theory. After the murder, his breakdown caused him to become totally dependent on his friends. He cut off contact with his mother and sister, and became absorbed in guilt. His life was ruined. However, after he realized his error, Dostoyevsky allowed him to have hope of an agreeable future. Dostoyevsky clearly believed that everyone is equal. Alyosha, his ideal character, was able to make friends even with a woman shunned by society and a group of children who were otherwise ignored in an adult world. Through his use of characters, Dostoyevsky reveals the negative effects caused by those who transgress the law because they consider themselves intellectually or socially superior. The opposites of Svidrigalov and Karamazovpeople like Alyoshabenefit society by fostering equality. They are morally superior. At the end of The Brothers Karamazov, Alyosha explains to a group of boys the importance of being kind to everyone.Let us remember how good it was once here, when we were all together, united by a good and kind feeling which made us, for the time we were loving that poor boy, better perhaps that we are” The last line of the book is Dostoyevsky’s voice as well as the children’s: “Hurrah for Alyosha!” Endnotes Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Crime and Punishment, trans. Sidney Monas (New York: New American Library, 1968) 256. Ibid., p. 293. Ibid., p. 279. Michael Holquist “How Sons Become Fathers” Fyodor Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov, Ed. Harold Bloom (New Haven: Chelsea House Publishers, 1988) 41. Fyodor Dostoyevsky, The Brothers Karamazov, trans. Constance Garnett (New York: New American Library,1958) 19. Ibid., p. 104. Harold Bloom, Fyodor Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov (New Haven: Chelsea House Publishers, 1988) 1. Ernest J. Simmons, Russian Realism (Bloomington: Indiana University Press,1965) 117. Dostoyevsky, The Brothers Karamazov, p. 308. Ibid., p. 340. Ibid., p. 510. Ibid., p. 99. Marc Slonim, An Outline of Russian Literature (New York: Oxford University Press, 1958) 135. Dostoyevsky, Crime and Punishment, p. 271. Dostoyevsky, The Brothers Karamazov, p. 728. Ibid., p. 729.
Madness and sanity seem to exist on opposite poles of a binary; one is defined by the absence of the other. However, this binary, though present in Fyodor Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment and Miguel de Cervantes’ Don Quixote, is problematic. The protagonists – who are meant to represent the mad extreme – straddle the line that separates sanity from madness, and they thus refuse to be so easily classified. While the authors demonstrate that such a binary cannot explain a complex human character, they extend their argument one step further: madness is not an agent that results in irrational human behavior, but a description of such behavior. One is not irrational because he is mad; one is considered mad by society because he is behaving irrationally. To gain an understanding of the reason for certain behavior, one must consider each thread in the web of causes that shape identity and effect action.Cervantes encourages the reader to conclude that Don Quixote is undoubtedly mad. The reader is easily convinced because the third-party narrator is presented as objective and omniscient. The narrator describes Don Quixote as having “utterly wrecked his reason” and fallen “into the strangest fancy that ever a madman had in the whole world” (Cervantes 33). If Quixote represents the mad extreme of the binary, the narrator corresponds to the opposite pole. Thus, the reader himself, who is aligned with the narrator, finds his position next to the narrator on one extreme. Sancho Panza, who serves as a voice for the reader, further convinces the reader that Don Quixote is entirely delusional. He voices the reader’s unbelief and outrage that Don Quixote allows his fantasies to have such disastrous real world effects. For example, when Don Quixote asserts that he will avenge “the outrage which they have done to Rocinante,” Sancho replies skeptically, “How the devil can we take revengewhen there are more than twenty of them, and we are only two?” (Cervantes 112). Sancho humbly voices his disbelief again and again. In responding to a typical adventure resulting in personal injury, Sancho says, “It’s my opinion that the creatures who amused themselves at my expense were not phantoms or enchanted, as your worship says, but flesh-and-blood men like ourselves” (Cervantes 133). The narrator also makes a clear distinction between what Don Quixote’s imagines and what is real. Even the most clear situations “[do] not prevent Don Quixote from imagining what [is] neither visible nor existing” (Cervantes 135). The simple binary that classifies both Quixote and Sancho in the beginning, however, does not exist for long; Cervantes begins to explore how madness and sanity can overlap.It becomes increasingly clear that Don Quixote’s madness is not seamless; the reader catches Don Quixote in moments of perfect clarity, during which he seems entirely capable of rational thought. Quixote is able to discuss politics with the priest in the barber “with such intelligencethat the two examiners had no doubt whatever that he was quite recovered and in complete possession of his wits” (Cervantes 472). He becomes increasingly able to recognize the limits of his imagination and increasingly willing to relinquish the fantasy once it begins to push these limits. When Quixote mistakes a church for Dulcinea’s palace, for example, he realizes “immediately that the building was no royal castle, but the parish church of the place” (Cervantes 521). Similarly, Sancho Panza – and other characters that represent reason – exhibits madness amidst his rationality. The reader doubts exactly how reasonable Sancho can actually be if he continues as Quixote’s squire despite the fact that he recognizes the folly of Quixote’s actions. He does so because he believes that “an adventure might occur that would win him in the twinkling of an eye some isle, of which he would [be made] governor” (Cervantes 66). The canon later notes this contradiction as he marvels “at Sancho’s foolishness in so ardently desiring the courtship of his master had promised him” (Cervantes 443). The strange concurrence of madness and sanity in these characters is remarkably similar. The priest and the barber, for instance, compare the madness of these two characters, commenting that “the pair of them seem to be cast in one mould, and the master’s madness would not be worth a farthing without the squire’s foolishness” (Cervantes 482). By demonstrating how madness and sanity can coexist, Cervantes begins to break down the binary he originally put in place.The reader is given further reason to be suspicious of Don Quixote’s madness. There seem to be a certain order and sense to his madness, described by the narrator as “well-reasoned nonsense” (Cervantes 443). Firstly, his madness is limited to the topic of chivalry – he can comment rationally on almost any other issue. For example, when Quixote is being returned home for rehabilitation in, the canon notes that he displayed “excellent sensein his conversation and in his answers” and “only [loses] his stirrupson the subject of chivalry” (Cervantes 435). Once inside the fictional chivalric world he has created for himself, however, Quixote’s behavior and reasoning is both consistent and rational. He carefully follows the guidelines outlined by the canon of chivalric literature with which he is so familiar. For example, “Don Quixote [often does] sleep but [thinks] about his Lady Dulcinea, to conform to what he [has] read in his books about knights spending many sleepless knights in woodland and desert dwelling on the memory of their ladies” (Cervantes 70). All of his actions are entirely consistent with what is expected of a knight errant. Quixote has clearly not lost the ability to reason, as such inability would be universally present.Citing “madness” as the reason that Don Quixote has suddenly refashioned himself as a knight errant becomes a less and less satisfactory explanation for his behavior. If not it is not because he is mad, the curious reader will question, why does Quixote behave in a manner that is entirely delusional? Cervantes urges the reader to make a critical shift in his reasoning; he urges the reader to regard madness not as a cause for irrational behavior, but rather as a description of it.It is important to consider the function that Quixote’s behavior serves. What need does it fulfill? Quixote, before he became a knight errant, lead a comfortable yet boring life, with a “habitual dieton [which] he spent three-quarters of his income” and essentially “nothing to do[but to give] himself up to the reading of books on knight errantry” (Cervantes 31). It is no wonder that he took such pleasure in reading chivalric novels, which allowed him to vicariously experience honor, victory, and true love. If one enjoys something vicariously, it is reasonable to assume that he might enjoy experiencing it in real life. This would explain why Quixote “hastened to translate his desires into actionimpelled to this by the thought of the loss the world suffered by his delay, seeing the grievances there were to redress, the wrongs to right, the injuries to amend” (Cervantes 33-35). Becoming a knight errant, therefore, responded to Quixote’s thirst for adventure, honor, renown, and a purpose. One sees that Sancho, too, allows himself to be deluded in order to fill a specific need: to provide for his family and elevate his social status.If madness is not the cause of certain behavior but a description of it, the reader must question by what criteria the behavior is judged and who determines this criteria. Quixote’s behavior is considered mad because it responds to a world that is inconsistent with what most people view as reality. It is unfortunate for Don Quixote that he cannot be a true knight. Don Quixote does not Don Quixote authors both his identity and his purpose: he has adopted the identity of a knight errant, as defined by his chivalric novels, and he transforms everyday situations into adventures and conquests so that he something to do, a purpose.In the final pages of Don Quixote, Cervantes furthers his argument that behavior and thus identity changes as our internal needs change. When Quixote has essentially been defeated as a knight errant – and is required to stay in the village for a year – he decides to a shepherd, to “give play to [his imagination] and devise the scheme of the pastoral life [he is] meant to follow” that “could give free rein to his amorous thoughts, whilst occupying himself in that pastoral and virtuous calling” (Cervantes 930). Shepherding befits the more melancholy Don Quixote and would allow him to mourn his defeat lost love and amongst male friends. However, this need abruptly changes once again when Quixote “a fever [seizes] him” and sends him to his death bed (Cervantes 935). A sudden conversion to Christianity follows, with a sober renunciation of his folly as a knight. While this may seem to the reader that he has finally surrendered to reality and returned to his true self, Cervantes alerts us that something more may be happening. Just as Quixote is renouncing “those detestable books of chivalry,” he bemoans the fact that his imminent death “leaves [him] no time to make amends by reading other [religious] books which might enlighten [his] soul” (Cervantes 35). This aligns his conversion to Christianity with his conversion to knight-errantry; Christianity is merely another identity that one can don like a cloak. Cervantes, however, seems to suggest that there is no such thing as absolute identity, and that even socially accepted, “sane” identities (such as Christianity) are constructed rather then intrinsic.There are many parallels in the way that Cervantes and Dostoevsky treat madness. Like Cervantes, Dostoevsky aims to convince the reader in the beginning that his protagonist, Raskolnikov, is mad. Through free and direct discourse, Dostoevsky opens a window onto Raskolnikov’s mental processes. This entrance into the mind of the protagonist is a departure from Cervantes, whose narrative voice remains distinct from that of the protagonist. Dostoevsky transports the reader inside Raskolnikov’s head by blending the narrative voice with Raskolnikov’s internal monologue. One of Raskolnikov’s thoughts, for example, slips into the narration: “But to stop on the stairsto have to dodge all the while, make excuses, lie – oh, no, better to steal catlike down the stairs somehow and slip away unseen by anyone” (Dostoevsky 3). Conversely, a technique that Dostoevsky uses to capture Raskolnikov’s disjointed thought process leaks into the narration as well. The ellipses – often used to illustrate how Raskolnikov’s thoughts run into one another – are usually contained inside of the quotations of his inner thoughts. Sometimes, however, they seem to escape: “Now its peculiar ring seemed suddenly to remind [Raskolnikov] of something and bring it clearly before himHe jumped, so weak had his nerves become this time” (Dostoevsky 6) . Even Raskolnikov’s first transcribed thoughts – which babble about babbling – echo with insanity: ” I learned to babble over this past month, lying in a corner day in and day out, thinking aboutcuckooland’ ” (Dostoevsky 4) . The narrative description of Raskolnikov furthers the notion that he is mad: “There was something strange in him; his eyes seemed even to be lit with rapture there seemed also to be a flicker of madness in them” (Dostoevsky 12). As the novel unfolds, there is more and more evidence that suggests that Raskolnikov is mad. This evidence includes mainly actions and thoughts that seem inconsistent, contradictory, asocial, without a rational motive, or independent of causality. For example, after Raskolnikov reads his mother’s letter, he exhibits what seem to be contradictory emotions: sadness and malicious delight. His “face was wet with tearsbut when he finished, it was pale, twisted convulsively, and a heavy, bilious, spiteful smile wandered over his face” (Dostoevsky 39). Such examples that suggest that Raskolnikov is mad are innumerable.While Dostoevsky clearly wants Raskolnikov to appear mad, the divide between madness and sanity in Crime and Punishment is even less clear than in Don Quixote. The first binary that becomes problematic is that the world inside Raskolnikov’s mind is mad and the world outside is orderly and sane. This binary weakens as the reader catches glimpses of complete lucidity and even calculation in Raskolnikov’s reasoning and behavior, until it becomes clear that Raskolnikov, like Don Quixote, is concurrently sane and mad, a seeming paradox that it is not altogether surprising for someone whose name is derived from raskol, the Russian word for split. In one scene, Raskolnikov cries out at this mother and sister “with exaggerated irritation,” but “was partly pretending” (Dostoevsky 246). Yet another binary – which places Razumikhin at the sane extreme and Raskolnikov as the mad extreme – parallels the binary that Cervantes sets up between Sancho Panza and Don Quixote. It functions in a similar fashion. Razumikhin exhibits his own sort of madness: he is always drunk, which obscures his reason and makes him socially overbearing. Perhaps the most striking binary that Dostoevsky destabilizes is that between the reader and Raskolnikov, which classifies the reader as sane and Raskolnikov as mad. However, Dostoevsky, by granting the reader access to Raskolnikov’s inner world, facilitates a connection between reader and protagonist. By the time that Raskolnikov has committed the murder, the reader finds himself as caught up in the emotion and excitement as Raskolnikov is, experiencing a vicarious feeling of anxiety about the possibility of apprehended and release after the crime is finally committed.Dostoevsky, like Cervantes, suggests that madness has no agency in itself, but is merely a behavioral classification. The reasons why Raskolnikov commits the murder are purposefully left ambiguous, and perhaps remain unresolved – even by the end of the novel. Dostoevsky presents several possible explanations as to why Raskolnikov committed the crime, including financial gain, humanitarian reasons, mental illness, and environmental influences, to name a few. While each proposal has merit and seems plausible, none of them are alone enough to explain Raskolnikov’s behavior. Environment, for example, is cited as one possible cause. Given the terrible poverty of his situation, it is no wonder that he is driven to desperation. Svidrigailov remarks that “one seldom finds a place where there are so many gloomy, sharp, and strange influences on the soul of a man as in Petersburg (Dostoevsky 467). Razumikhin describes him as “a poor student, crippled by poverty and hypochondria, on the verge of a cruel illness and delirium” (Dostoevsky 268). Some people believe that “if society itself is normally set up, all crimes will at once disappear, because there will be no reason for protesting and everyone will instantly become righteous,” while others are staunchly against this theory because “nature isn’t taken into account” (Dostoevsky 256). When none of this theories seem to be sufficient, it is concluded “that the crime itself could not have occurred otherwise than in some sort of temporary insanity, including, so to speak, a morbid monomania of murder and robbery, with no further aim or calculation for profit” (Dostoevsky 536). This conclusion, however, seems terribly insufficient, leaving the reader with a cold dissatisfaction. The political theory that Raskolnikov subscribes most vehemently to is that there are two classes of people: the ordinary and the extraordinary. As much as Raskolnikov wants to believe that his crime was a trial of sorts to see whether or he was a Napoleon or a louse, the truth seems to be that he already knows that he is no Napoleon. He says to himself, “I had to have known beforehandEh! but I did know beforehand!” (Dostoevsky 274). Raskolnikov perhaps comes closest to understanding by concluding that he “just wanted to darethat’s the whole reason!” (Dostoevsky 418). It is this unidentifiable, visceral, nearly compulsive urge that originates from deep within the subconscious.While Dostoevsky cannot help the reader to fully demystify the human subconscious, he can induce pang – however slight – of the same subconscious urge to kill that Raskolnikov himself experiences. This, perhaps, is Dostoevsky true stroke of genius. This urge exists completely outside of the realm of madness, as defined by society. It is also important to remember that Dostoevsky was writing in a post-Freudian time, and Dostoevsky seems to encourage the reader to theorize about Raskolnikov’s subconscious activity. Raskolnikov’s dreams about the horse and the apocalyptic world beg for such analysis. In this dream, he is a little boy walking with his father. They come across a drunken crowd of people trying to force an old mare to drag a load that is far too heavy for her. Raskolnikov, as the child, feels utterly powerless because he cannot provoke a response from his impotent father and cannot stop the whipping, even when he puts his own body between the horse and the whip (Dostoevsky 56). This dream suggests another possible motive for the crime: Raskolnikov wants to do something to oppose his feelings of impotence and powerlessness in life. When Porfiry says, “Human nature is a mirror, sir, the clearest mirror,” he is perhaps referring to the fact that our behavior is a manifestation of the activity happening on a subconscious level that we cannot understand rationally (Dostoevsky 342). The subconscious is like a black box that consolidates innumerable causes and results in a particular action or thought. However, how these causes interact inside this dark box is a very complicated matter, one that Dostoevsky certainly does not fully resolve. It is likely that the activity and workings of the subconscious are beyond even the retrospective theorizing of the conscious mind. Because the subconscious mind is so difficult to understand, the actions that it effects could be mislabeled by society as induced by madness.Dostoevsky and Cervantes both argue that madness is defined by society and is the description rather than an agent. In this, they acknowledge the universality of urges and desires to fill our subconscious needs. There is, however, something that sets Don Quixote and Raskolnikov apart from the average person. The difference seems to lie in the fact that Quixote and Raskolnikov respond to these urges with little consideration of how their fulfillment will work in the framework of society. Raskolnikov, for example, overhears two young men in a pub discussing whether they would “kill the old womanfor the sake of justice,” seeing as she is “a stupid, meaningless, worthless, wicked, sick old crone…harmful to everyone” (Dostoevsky 65). They are contemplating the exact same idea as Raskolnikov; the difference is that Raskolnikov actually follows through. Raskolnikov suggests that all men have urges and desires, yet choose not to respond to them as a result of “cowardice;” man fears “a new step, [his] own new word” (Dostoevsky 4). Cervantes also shows the universality of these urges. While Cervantes does not make the reader see delusion as reality, he has effectively induced the same visceral urge to refashion ourselves according to our needs that originally drove Quixote. And we are certainly not alone. Sancho, the priest, and the barber – all of who are figures aligned with the reader as voices of reason and sense – become terribly excited with Quixote’s new proposal. While “astonished at Don Quixote’s fresh craze,” the priest and the barber “gave in to his new project, applauding his folly as wisdom and offering to join him in its pursuit” (Cervantes 933).While both Cervantes and Dostoevsky acknowledge that identity is always relative to society, they do not denounce this influence altogether or advocate that one simply create a fictional world in response to his individual needs. Both authors issue a warning against allowing subconscious desires to triumph over reason or to result in asocial behavior. This is illustrated particularly well in Raskolnikov’s apocalyptic dream, in which the human race is infected by trichinae that make each person think “the truth [is] contained in himself alone,” and as a result, they cannot ” agree on what to regard as evil, what as good” (Dostoevsky 547). This dream shows the large-scale implications of such behavior. Similarly, Cervantes certainly presents a bitter side to knight errantry, especially in the melancholy that follows it.
Dreams are considered a link to one’s unconscious, able to offer explanations that “… the dreamer could not invent for himself in his waking state,” (46). Sigmund Freud made revolutionary strides with the psychological implications of dreams in the late nineteenth century. But before Freud, Feodor Dostoevsky was using dreams as a powerful, psychological tool in his novel, Crime and Punishment. Dostoevsky manipulates his protagonist, Raskolnikov (Rodion)’s, dream of a dying horse to indicate the source of his isolation to the reader and also comments on Raskolnikov’s later theories.In order to demonstrate a pointed change in Raskolnikov’s nature from before the event to after the event, Dostoevsky presents a very young Raskolnikov bearing traits that are pointedly absent from the adult version. In the beginning of the dream sequence, Dostoevsky describes the love Rodion has for the church, “with its green cupola,” (47). Rodion’s spirituality is emphasized when he kisses the grave of his dead brother, who he never met. The fact that Rodion exhibits great respect and affection for a person who he never knew (let alone loved) deeply contrasts to the older Raskolnikov, who is so disgusted with all humanity that he is rude and biting to even his best friend. There is also an important connection between the young Rodion’s homage to his brother and his later kissing the dirt of the marketplace; Just as he exhibits his respect to all people through his reverence to his brother, he later atones for his crimes against humanity by making the same action in a St. Petersburg street. The important point is that he already possesses this respect as a child, indicating that some event must alter his mindset, requiring him to regain it later in the novel. In addition, Rodion’s reaction to the beating of the animal is incredibly moving, as he cries and desperately tries to intervene, indicating he is emotional, a quality also lacking in the older version. Rodion’s innocence is emphasized as he is referred to as “the child” (48). He is also described as clutching to his father, who makes his only appearance in this dream as he tries to protect his son. In this way, his father appears to offer a sort of shield or safety for the young Rodion that he lacks in later life. It is only logical to assume that Dostoevsky presents this dream to the reader in order to give an explanation for Raskolnikov’s schizophrenic personality. Vyacheslav Ivanov suggests that Raskolnikov (whose name is derived from the word “Raskol,” that means “split” or “schism”) renounces humanity, and “splits off,” “…and thus himself becomes split: the intellectual and criminal Raskolnikov…or, on the other hand, the martyr to the faith in humanity as a spiritual integer…” (Ivanov, 584). This picture of Raskolnikov is a stark contrast to the young Raskolnikov who is presented as a spiritual, emotional, and healthy child. Through the dream, Dostoevsky indicates that Raskolnikov went through some major event that produced the cold, Nihilist Raskolnikov known through the rest of the novel.In addition to producing a realistic picture of cruelty, Dostoevsky creates significant connections with later events in the novel via his use of imagery and symbolism. The fact that the victim is an animal offers the drunken crowd justification for their malicious beating, as they believe they are inherently superior. Interestingly, this mentality is similar to Raskolnikov’s superman ideas later in the novel, adding irony to the event; Rodion becomes what he hates as a result of encountering it. In his essay, “The World of Raskolnikov,” Joseph Frank further debunks Raskolnikov’s “superman” theory on the grounds that…the feelings which inspired his altruistic love of humanity cannot co-exist in the same sensibility with those necessary to be a Napoleon, a Solon, or a Lycurgus. For the true great man, possessed by his sense of mission, cannot have any thoughts to spare for the suffering of humanity on whom he tramples for their own future happiness. (Frank, 577)Dostoevsky adds further irony to the dream as he describes the weeping eyes of the horse. This imagery is revisited during the murder scene where Raskolnikov’s victim, Lizavetta, eyes are described right before he axes her. Dostoevsky’s injection of irony into the dream shows his criticism of Rodion’s superior attitude; Rodion is no better than the cruel drunks in his mentality and in his actions although these qualities result from his exposure to such evil. To strengthen the connection of the horse to other victims in the novel, Dostoevsky invokes images of Sonya, the “eternal victim” (Rahv, 565), since he describes the horse as “small, lean, decrepit,” (47) and bearing the weight of others (48). Most importantly, however, is the fact that this event greatly changed Rodion’s outlook on humanity. Dostoevsky allows us to see this event as powerful and scarring through his presentation of the horse and the drunks. The horse’s death is long and painful, and we see the child Rodion running helplessly about trying to end the suffering. One of the most heart-wrenching images is that of Rodion kissing the horse’s weeping eye. It shows us a child with more compassion than an entire crowd of adults. Dostoevsky characterizes the drunks by painting their faces, clothing, and eyes with the color red; “They took up with them a fat red-faced peasant-woman in red cotton… young men, as drunk and red in the face as [Mikolka]…who, with blood-shot eyes, was standing with the crowbar…” (48-50). Dostoevsky uses red to indicate excess, in this case, alcohol. This is an important point that the young Rodion understandably seems to miss; the crowd is made up of drunks. The child doesn’t understand that this horrible cruelty is coming from a relatively small group of intoxicated tavern-goers, who are by no means representative of the world’s population, and, as a result, carries this child-like notion that all humanity is cruel through to his adulthood. While this point gives us some insight as to Dostoevsky’s beliefs about the influence of childhood experiences, it also shows us how sinister this group of people must have appeared to the young Raskolnikov. If we chose to attribute that effect to Rodion’s age, in can also be noted that his father found the event atrocious enough to attempt to shield his boy from it since he probably guessed at the effects of viewing such brutality. In conclusion, Dostoevsky’s descriptions illustrate that the event was violent enough to cause a great emotional outburst from Raskolnikov and can therefore be deemed as scarring and significant.Dostoevsky’s placement of the dream sequence adds to its significance in the novel. In his essay, Frank expresses admiration for Dostoevsky’s craftsmanship as he explains why Dostoevsky chose to enter the tavern scene (where Raskolnikov over-hears a young officer and a student discussing motivations for killing the old pawnbroker) immediately before the murder sequence. Frank explains, “The purpose of Dostoevsky’s juxtaposition and telescoping of the time-sequence is obviously for the reader to undermine Raskolnikov’s conscious motivation for the reader,” (Frank, 575). Dostoevsky’s structure gives the reader an understanding of Raskolnikov’s motivations directly before the crime is committed. In the same way, Dostoevsky enters the dream sequence directly after Raskolnikov decides to avoid seeing his friend, Razumikhin, another indication of Rodion’s heightening isolation. Since the dream offers a source for this isolation, its placement is appropriate, giving further evidence of Dostoevsky’s brilliance and the dream’s significance.Because of the psychologically damaging impact of the dream, Raskolnikov becomes disgusted with humanity and believes that he is superior to it because he is compassionate. This mindset brings on his isolation from society. The irony lies in his heartless actions against humanity, where he proves himself just as brutal as those he believes his is superior to. He does this as he attempts to test his “great man” theory by murdering women as innocent as the dying horse. Dostoevsky communicates all this through the imagery, symbolism, and placement of the dream sequence. Dostoevsky used the dream as a window to the unconscious of Raskolnikov, with which we are able to gain a better understanding and sympathy for him. Before the dream begins, Dostoevsky even notes that dreams are “…artistically in harmony with the whole picture…” (46).
Anyone who has had any exposure to theatre has at least once heard the colloquialism, “there are no small parts, only small actors.” Some may mock this platitude, pointing out the fact that, of course there are small parts; most literary works contain several “bit parts.” But the root of this statement is true: no matter how “small” a character’s part may be, that character makes a contribution, large or small, to the story. And in Fyodor Dostoevsky’s classic work, Crime and Punishment, a central character that provides a key turning point has only two brief appearances.Alyona Ivanovna is a pawnbroker and moneylender. This acceptable existence, vaguely awkward for a woman, in the beginning of the novel leads one to first want to disregard her as a mere surface character. But as the story unfolds, it becomes quite clear that both Alyona Ivanovna and her despicable character are a vital part of Raskolnikov’s plot to achieve extraordinary status.To begin with, Alyona Ivanovna first presents a problem for Raskolnikov at her murder, albeit quite indirectly. While he is bludgeoning Alyona Ivanovna with the butt end of an axe, her sister Lizaveta returns from an errand and happens upon the horrifying scene. Startled by her arrival, Raskolnikov turns to her and murders her as well. This event equips Raskolnikov with two dilemmas: he has not only killed one woman, but two, the second of whom he had no intention of harming, and the fact that he murdered Lizaveta could spoil his theory of the Extraordinary Man, the Ubermensch. As a result of this possibility, Raskolnikov comes to more or less ignore his murder of Lizaveta.Through the progression of Raskolnikov’s experience, several holes in his theory lead the reader to believe that Raskolnikov is not, in fact, an Extraordinary Man. These can be tied directly to Alyona Ivanovna, or to her murder. It becomes apparent that perhaps Alyona Ivanovna was not quite the despicable and nasty character she first appeared to be to Raskolnikov, or at the very least not worth murdering. While in his mind she was a wicked miser withholding money from the destitute of St. Petersburg, she, too, was one of the destitute. She was not a mighty money collector robbing from the poor who needed to be destroyed. She was simply “a louse.”A second example of Raskolnikov’s unworthiness of the title Ubermensch is he first sets out upon this crime intending to take the money Alyona Ivanovna has been hoarding from the impoverished masses and use it to save dozens of families and individuals from starvation, or perhaps to continue his own education, eventually bettering the lives of many others. But in his panic after the murders, he seizes nearly no money at all, and fails to even see how much he has taken or the value of the items he took. Instead, he hides them under a rock in a side alley. In this way he fails to achieve his original aim.Finally, Raskolnikov destroys his possibility of being extraordinary at the very scene of Alyona Ivanovna’s murder by directly violating one of the limitations he himself set upon the Ubermensch: the Extraordinary Man should make no mistakings in the acting out of his mission. Unlike his Ubermensch, Raskolnikov overlooks several things in the playing out of his “valiant” act. From the beginning, he is running late on his time span, arriving at Alyona Ivanovna’s apartments long after he should have. Secondly, not only did he not lock the door, but he did not even shut it properly, practically asking Lizaveta to walk in on his dastardly deed. Also, he did not even achieve his original aim of aiding the suffering majority of St. Petersburg by retrieving nearly no money from Alyona Ivanovna’s trunk. Lastly, his final escape from Alyona Ivanovna’s building is less than grand, with his nearly escaping discovery of his crime twice. Slightly less than extraordinary.In many ways, Alyona Ivanovna’s brief appearance deeply affects the course of Raskolnikov’s journey. Though mostly through her death, Alyona Ivanovna’s character has great influence on Raskolnikov’s conscience. This influence demonstrates to the reader that there are, in fact, no small parts.
Fyodor Dostoevsky once stated, “Nothing is more seductive for man than his freedom of conscience. But nothing is a greater cause of suffering” (Eiermann). Existentialism insists that human life is understood in terms of one’s unique experience. Thus, being nothing or accomplishing nothing in life suggests failure and is a source of suffering. A particular example is Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment, where a young Russian student, Raskolnikov, murders an old pawnbroker to prove his Extraordinary Man theory, which suggests that the extraordinary may transgress the law of ordinary or inferior men. Immediately following his crime, Rodya experiences severe illness and emotional conflicts as he confronts issues with his family, the Marmeladov family, and the police during his gradual steps to confession. The motif of the need of suffering is used throughout the novel to produce the book’s theme: great suffering leads to salvation and the expiation of man’s sins. In Crime and Punishment, several characters undergo much pain and personal anguish, binding the apparent motif of suffering to the theme, and providing a strong unifying element throughout the story.Though many readers often conceive Raskolnikov’s suffering as having a direct relationship with his guilt over his crime, the actual controlling idea behind his punishment is an indirect result of his dual personality and his obsession to prove his theory. He is best represented as being either cold, intellectual and isolated from society, or as being warm and compassionate. The murder is the result of his intellectual side’s need to determine whether or not he fits his Extraordinary Man theory. It was this aspect of his personality that developed the crime and executed his plan, thus, forcing the humane side to suffer for his actions. It is important to note that Raskolnikov becomes ill and unconscious immediately following the murder, signifying his ability to suffer greatly as, “The conviction that all his faculties, even memory, and the simplest power of reflection were failing him began to be an insufferable torture” (Dostoevsky 81). This scene is also important to the development of Dostoevsky’s theme as Raskolnikov’s theory requires the extraordinary man to suffer greatly. Earlier, Rodya had written an article about crime in which he expressed his belief that “pain and suffering are inevitable for a large intelligence and a deep heart. The really great man – must have sadness on earth” (230). However, Raskolnikov’s suffering is also due to his recognition of his failure to meet his theory as he eventually confesses and also comes close to confessing when his theory or intellect is insulted or questioned by Porfiry and Zamitov. This point of view is best described by Svidrigailov when he tells Dounia that Raskolnikov “has suffered a great deal and is still suffering from the idea that he could make a theory, but was incapable of boldly overstepping the law, and so is not a genius. And that’s humiliating for a young man of any pride” (403). Though Rodya had grown much from through suffering and recognizing his error in his theory, his intellect still prevents him from admitting he committed a crime as he believes he had made a mistake in killing the old pawnbroker whom he continues to see as a louse.Additionally, this internal conflict between his two opposing personalities is a constant source of confusion and frustration for the main character. Throughout the novel, Raskolnikov will usually refer to his compassionate side first in a given situation and perform an act of kindness or generosity, but, immediately afterwards, he will regret his action. For example, Rodya gives the Marmeladovs the last of his money after seeing the family’s poor living conditions, then shortly “afterwards, on the stairs he changed his mind and would have gone back. `What a stupid thing I’ve done,’ he thought to himself” (23). The charitable side of him is a sign of self-submissiveness and weakness that displeases him greatly due to his expectations of his own theory.In addition, Dostoevsky uses other characters as redemptive figures in the novel. Raskolnikov sees Sonia as a Christ figure, suffering for all of humanity as she willingly prostitutes in order to support a family, even though her father, Marmeladov, spends the money to quench his alcoholism:”He will come in that day and He will ask: Where is the daughter who gave herself for her cross, consumptive step-mother and for the little children of another? Where is the daughter who had pity upon the filthy drunkard, her earthly father, undismayed by his beastliness?’ And He will say, ‘Come to Me’.Thy sins which are many are forgiven thee, for thou has loved much – .'” (20)Because of the silent submissiveness in her suffering and her ability to love, Raskolnikov turns to her to confess and agrees to wear her cypress cross as “symbol of my taking up the cross! – as though I have not suffered much till now!” resembling Jesus’ carrying of the cross as he suffered for mankind (450).Moreover, Porfiry Petrovitch is another redemptive figure, urging Rodya to confess while representing Raskolnikov’s intellectual equivalent, “I am convinced that you will decide to take your suffering – For suffering, Rodion Romnavitch, is a great thing – there’s an idea in suffering'” (397). Porfiry sees in Rodion a brilliant mind which he feels has the potential of being a great man after much rehabilitation; therefore, the police investigator does not arrest him immediately, letting Raskolnikov suffer longer and eventually realize his errors in his theory, thus, allowing him to become a useful member of society.Furthermore, salvation from great suffering is best captured in one of the book’s later scenes where Katerina Ivanovna dies after roaming the streets for days. She had lived a life of poverty while raising a family under a prostitute’s minute income and an alcoholic husband. In Sonia’s arms she exclaims to the world “What, the priest? I don’t want him. I have no sins. God must forgive me without that. He knows I have suffered – and if He won’t forgive me, I don’t care” (423). Her dying words are a statement of the novel’s theme in which great suffering has resulted in the expiation of one’s sins.Life is often filled with times of immense joy, but it is equally permeated with moments that mankind would prefer to forget. In Crime and Punishment, Dostoevsky fills the pages with the cries of men and women suffering from the pains of guilt, death, and daily tribulations. As several characters suffer greatly, the novel is unified as each of them find a sense of salvation from their pain. This theme, in which great suffering is often correlated to such redemption and salvation, is also prevalent in the stories of the Bible such as Job and Jesus’ Crucifixion. Through such literature, mankind has been able to live life without fear and in hopes of someday being forgiven.
The primary conflict in Crime and Punishment is the internal development of Raskolnikov’s character. In Raskolnikov’s mind are two contrasting personalities, each demanding control over him. One side, brought out by poverty and egoism, is the murderer who kills the pawnbroker. The other side, inspired by the love of others and his inner goodness, is his benevolent conscience which desires to help those around him. The conflict rages on throughout the whole novel, and in the end Raskolnikov’s good side wins over as he accepts his guilt, admits to his wrongness, and turns his life over to Sonia and God. In Crime and Punishment, Dostoevsky attempts to portray the complexity of Raskolnikov’s mental evolution. A primary vehicle for this task is his use of the literary device irony. Irony is the contrast between what is said and what is meant, or what happens and what is expected to happen. In verbal irony, characters say the opposite of what they mean. In situational irony, the unexpected happens. Crime and Punishment is abundant with both verbal and situational irony, as it instigates the critical turning points of Raskolnikov’s development, and thus allow Dostoevsky to convey his message that even a murderer can be reformed and purified through guilt and the unconditional love of others. Irony is first used in the ramblings of Marmeladov. Marmeledov says, “Crucify me oh judge…He is the One…He will forgive my Sonia.” This statement is ironic, because Marmeladov, despite being a drunk, introduces a primary Christian message of the novel. He also explains the irony of his daughter Sonia. Although she is a prostitute, something considered rather base, she will be “forgiven by God” for she is a very holy person and the epitome of innocence and purity in the novel. These two concepts are vital to the transformation of Raskolnikov later in the novel. They also convey Dostoevsky’s strong belief in Christianity, and they reveal his value system towards certain humans. Situational irony first becomes a key device in Raskolnikov’s plot to murder the pawnbroker. Raskolnikov vacillates over his decision. One minute he tells himself, “I would like to attempt a thing like that.” After saying this, he turns around and says, “I knew I could never bring myself to it.” Raskolnikov is clearly wavering between whether or not to commit the murder. However, his indecisiveness is eliminated by the occurrence of two ironic events. First, immediately after his dream when he states, “My God! I couldn’t bring myself to do it…I couldn’t do it…I couldn’t do it!” he overhears Lizaveta saying, “At seven o’clock tomorrow…I’ll come (to the apartment)” This ironic twist of fate makes the murder of the pawnbroker the next day ideal, as her sister Lizaveta would be away at seven o’ clock, and the “old lady would be left alone.” Raskolnikov decides this is a golden opportunity, revealing a substantial change of attitude in Raskolnikov, beginning the development of his dark character. Next, Raskolnikov overhears a man at the bar say, “I could kill that damned old woman and make off with her money, I assure you, without the faintest conscience-prick.” This ironic statement startles Raskolnikov, as he had “the very same idea.” It provides another justification for the murder, as Raskolnikov believes the crime will benefit others. This ironic event is key to Raskolnikov’s development as it has “an immense influence on him in his later action.” These ironic events allow Raskolnikov to commit the murder of the pawnbroker and begin his lengthy journey of conversion. Irony is apparent in the early stages of Raskolnikov’s guilt. First, situational irony occurs when Raskolnikov is in the pawnbroker’s apartment, and he hears someone knock on the door and say, “Are they asleep or are they murdered?” This arouses panic in Raskolnikov and instigates his guilt. A similar instance occurs when Raskolnikov receives a “summons to the police office.” Immediately Raskolnikov panics and suffers from extreme guilt. He does not suffer remorse because he believes his murder was wrong, but because he did not commit it perfectly. The summons is ironic because it is not for the murder but because Raskolnikov is a “fine bird” who did not pay debts. When Raskolnikov discovers this, he is overcome with relief and reassurance that his murder was justified. This ironic event reveals the extreme mental disorder of Raskolnikov. More importantly, the guilt Raskolnikov suffers is suffered by his egotistical, cold side, and the guilt is eliminated when he realizes he is not caught. This form of guilt reoccurs throughout the book until the very end, supporting Dostoevsky’s message that guilt is not constructive until the benevolent side feels it for being wrong. Dostoevsky uses the ironic discussion between Raskolnikov and Zametov to reveal Raskolnikov’s duality and also the mental illness brought about by crime. In the bar, after asking Zametov insane questions regarding the murder, Raskolnikov asks him, “And what if it was I who murdered the old woman?” This is ironic because Zametov has no clue that Raskolnikov committed the murder, and now Raskolnikov risks being caught to release his information. Dostoevsky uses this irony to show that guilt is causing great pain in Raskolnikov, creating the need to confess in him. This also strengthens the battle of duality within Raskolnikov and creates huge suspense for the end of the novel. Another important ironic event is Nikolay’s confession of the murder. Porifry is battling Raskolnikov and has him on the verge of confessing when Nikolay bursts in the room and shouts, “I am guilty… I am the murderer!” Dostoevsky thus creates suspense and allows Raskolnikov time to prepare for his confession by talking with Dounia and Sonia. Otherwise, Raskolnikov would have confessed and would never have been reformed. Also, Raskolnikov shows no guilt for Nikolay’s confession, further revealing the domination of the evil side of Raskolnikov. Irony is present in the conversation between Sonia and Raskolnikov in Part Four, Chapter Four. In this scene Raskolnikov verbally attacks Sonia for her religious beliefs, calling her “crazy”, suggesting suicide, and stating, “But perhaps there is no God at all.” This example of verbal irony shows that Raskolnikov is deeply troubled, as earlier he decided against suicide, and he is usually characterized as “crazy.” However, he is intrigued at her strong believes and begins to ask her about the killing of the pawnbroker and Lizaveta. He explains to her that he has “broken with (his family) completely.” This dramatic irony confuses Sonia, for she is unaware that Raskolnikov is the killer. However, it is used by Dostoevsky to allow Raskolnikov to realize that Sonia is a forgiving person and develop and interest in Sonia’s religion. This leads to Raskolnikov’s confession and also to his conversion to Christianity. Next, Dostoevsky uses irony in Svidriagaiolov’s description of his love for Dounia to reveal his message that companionship is an important aspect of life. Svidrigailov explains his love for Dounia, and ironically his description parallels Raskolnikov’s relationship with Sonia. The difference between Svidriagailov’s relationship with Dounia and Raskolnikov’s relationship with Sonia is that Dounia is repulsed by Svidrigailov. As a result, Svidriagailov commits suicide, dying abandoned and alone, while Raskolnikov lives. If Dounia loved Svidriagailov, he would not have committed suicide. Likewise, if Sonia abandoned Raskolnikov, he would have killed himself. This contrast in resolutions show that companionship can be a deciding factor in one’s life, and that the love of others is vital. Irony plays a tremendous role in the resolution of Raskolnikov’s confession. As he walks to the police department to confess, he hears that “Svidrigailov has shot himself.” Svidrigailov was the only person who knew of Raskolnikov’s crime, so now Raskolnikov could walk away and be home free. His dark side forces him to turn away from the police department, only to see Sonia standing at the door. Raskolnikov then turns around and confesses, showing the dominance of his kind, warm side which needs Sonia’s love. However, the conflict between Raskolnikov’s duality is not over, as he confesses only for Sonia, and not because he believes what he did was wrong. Despite this, the confession is a huge step towards Raskolnikov’s conversion. Raskolnikov is then sentenced for only seven years, due to an ironic conviction based on “his abnormal mental condition,” and his term in Siberia, where the most critical turning point of the novel occurs. Raskolnikov is bitter in jail, tortured by the others for his disbelief in God, and rude to Sounia when she would visit. Ironically, Raskolnikov’s attitude shifts when he dreams of a world that “was condemned to a terrible new strange plague,” caused by everyone believing his theory was right. This idea represented Raskolnikov’s believing his theory was right, and it awakened him to the wrongness of it. Finally, the caring, good side of Raskolnikov defeats his evil side, as he turns to a life of Christianity with Sonia. Dostoevsky also uses this ironic dream to criticize abstract theories and their devastating affects. Crime and Punishment is the story of the battle between Raskolnikov’s intellectual arrogance and his conscience. He constantly attempts to run from his conscience but he can’t escape it. Ironic events force Raskolnikov to face the conflict and ultimately decide his destiny. Dostoevsky uses this device to explain the complex conflict raging within Raskolnikov, and in turn to reveal his message about mankind: that anyone through the acceptance of guilt and suffering can be reformed. Although Raskolnikov commits murder, through his guilt and the love of others towards him, he is saved.
Sin and Salvation: A Spiritual Rebirth Sin is an inextricable force that entangles an individual who has committed a crime; only through confession can a man be free of his sin. In Crime and Punishment Dostoevsky manifests the evil and goodness of Raskolnikov, depicting the need for him to change—the need for the confession of his sin. Throughout the novel, Raskolnikov is lost and suffers from the consequences of his sin. Although he is in a struggle between good and evil, Raskolnikov cannot simply renounce his sins by his own determination; therefore, he must surrender his will and pride and be willing to confess his sin. By emphasizing the theme of confession and redemption, Dostoevsky effectively portrays the spiritual rebirth that Raskolnikov experiences when he confesses, especially through the story of Lazarus. Through the Biblical allusions in Crime and Punishment, Dostoevsky illustrates the theme of redemption as Raskolnikov experiences sin and atonement. As Raskolnikov commits the crime of murder and lives in sin, Dostoevsky places a secular emphasis on Raskolnikov’s life, divulging the human and sinful nature of those who lack God. Through demonstrating vice in Raskolnikov, Dostoevsky reveals the sinful nature of Raskolnikov. He is not only a sinner because of his crime of murder but also because of his self confidence and self-centredness; Raskolnikov retains an inherent and strong belief in himself and places “his trust in himself, not in prayer” (Dostoevsky 88). Ironically, Raskolnikov places faith in himself although he is well aware of his own crime. His tendency to trust only himself in spite of his crime reveals his self-confident nature; he is not willing to listen to the opinions of others nor God. Therefore, Raskolnikov’s sin is not merely the physical sin of committing murder but also the sin of placing faith in himself rather than God. Jacques Madaule states that “evil is in man as an unalterable quantity” (41). Raskolnikov’s evil exists as his arrogant attitude of trusting only himself causes him to lose direction, wandering aimlessly as he wishes to absolve himself of his sin. Without placing trust in God, Raskolnikov will never be able to expiate his evil and find his direction in life. In fact, Dostoevsky clearly underlies the idea that Raskolnikov is a lost man lacking direction: “A young man came out of his little room…and turned slowly and irresolutely” (Dostoevsky 1). The word resolution appears on several occasions in the novel and displays Raskolnikov’s inability to come to a decision, especially the decision of whether to confess his crime or not. The critic Vadim V. Kozhinov notes that “the word ‘irresolution’ [nereshimost’] and the various word formations from the same root come up repeatedly in the novel, especially in the final scenes… ‘insoluble’ [nerazreshimo]; “inability to make up one’s mind” [neveshat’sja]” (17). As revealed throughout the novel, Dostoevsky has put tremendous thought into using the words of the same root as irresolution. Often describing Raskolnikov’s actions as irresolute, Dostoevsky stresses the idea that Raskolnikov is a man lacking true direction and purpose in life, exhibiting Raskolnikov’s extreme emotions of different sides, which range from wanting to confess his sins to wanting to conceal his crime. Unlike Raskolnikov, the Christian belief is to “Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths” (Proverbs 3:5-6). In contrast to this belief, Raskolnikov depends only on himself and neglects God. His inability to confide in God causes him to lose direction and stumble on his path after committing the murder; he cannot firmly make a decision. Furthermore, Dostoevsky continues to reveal the evil in Raskolnikov through divulging the hypocritical life that Raskolnikov leads when he is rebuked by his sister Dunya. As Raskolnikov questions Dunya’s marriage to Peter Petrovich, she furiously reprimands him: “Why should you demand from me a heroism which, perhaps, you yourself are not capable of? That is tyranny, despotism” (Dostoevsky 223). In her speech, she underlies the idea of how women are expected to make self sacrifices whereas men are not. Her sharp words pierce through Raskolnikov’s hypocrisy, especially when she exclaims that “If I destroy anybody it will be myself and nobody else…I have not killed anybody” (Dostoevsky 223). Through his sister’s words, Raskolnikov realizes the depth of his sin and hypocrisy, feeling a heavy burden of guilt upon his shoulders. Evidently, the confidence that he places in himself causes him to suffer to a greater extent. Accordingly, Dostoevsky further emphasizes the devastating nature of pride through Raskolnikov’s Napoleonic theory of the superhuman. Raskolnikov believes that “the extraordinary have the right to commit any crime and break every kind of law just because they are extraordinary” (Dostoevsky 248). In Raskolnikov’s search to become superior, he plunges himself into sin through his act of murder. By going against the law to prove his superiority, Raskolnikov is no different from Adam and Eve when they eat the forbidden fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 3). In both cases, there is a desire to become more powerful and surpass the normal boundaries of man. Dostoevsky exemplifies the essence of the original sin within Raskolnikov’s search to transcend human boundaries. Ironically, Raskolnikov’s craving to become superior only drives him towards depravity and he suffers from the guilt of the crime, becoming a weaker and more pitiful man in the process. Through his yearning to achieve superiority, Raskolnikov transforms into a stolid man lacking compassion as he claims that he “killed not a human being but a principle” (Dostoevsky 264). Raskolnikov’s lack of feelings for life emphasizes the deterioration of his values and the degradation of his morals. Although he wishes to surpass his fellow men, Raskolnikov is despicable, growing more disdainful as he attempts to reach the superhuman status. Essayist Nicholas Berdyaev articulates that “Christ came not to violate but to fulfill the law” and “the truly great, the men of genius who did great things for all of mankind, did not act in the manner of Raskolnikov. They did not consider themselves supermen to whom everything was permitted” (75). In order to be truly great, Raskolnikov must relinquish his superman idea and realize that he must follow the limits of what is permissible. As Christ came to fulfill the law, so must Raskolnikov also abide to the morals of humanity and accept the punishment of his crime; Raskolnikov cannot live a life that is superior to other men. In the midst of Raskolnikov’s grave sin, he feels inexorable guilt and is crushed by the consequences of his sin. He is not only disgusted with his crime as “repulsion… [grows] in his heart with every moment” (Dostoevsky 77) but also confused at the same time because he does not know how to expiate his crime. While Raskolnikov despises himself for the crime, he faces severe confusion as he wishes to relieve himself of guilt; yet, he refuses to confront the punishment for his crime because he believes he has a reason for his actions. As Raskolnikov is torn apart by this struggle, he is weary and feels “ever so slightly dizzy,” proclaiming that “he would not live like this” (Dostoevsky 148). Although he wishes to be rid of his guilt, he cannot help but feel the burden of his crime. Nicholas Berdyaev argues:Because human nature is created in the image…of God…every man has an absolute value…when man in his self-will destroys another man, he destroys himself as well, ceases to be a man, loses his human image, and his personality begins to disintegrate. (74)For killing a fellow human being, Raskolnikov feels the burden of his sin and begins to break down, as denoted by his weariness. Evidently, Raskolnikov’s energy is drained as he bears the consequences of his sin because he is not willing to repent. The Scriptures states that: “Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall: But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength” (Isaiah 40: 30-31). In the first sentence of the novel, Raskolnikov is described as a “young man” (Dostoevsky 1) and now this young man is faltering and falling because he has chosen to sin and to rely on himself instead of accepting God’s grace. Throughout the novel, Raskolnikov is constantly burdened with troubles and he is frequently weary because he is unwilling to give up his life to God. The consequences of Raskolnikov’s sin are great and he is incapable of absolving himself of his grievous sin. Dostoevsky palpably heightens Raskolnikov’s suffering as he becomes estranged from society and is unable to “understand with his mind as feel instinctively with the full force of his emotions that he could never again communicate with these people” (Dostoevsky 98). Upon committing his crime, Raskolnikov is broken off from society as he cuts the cord around Alena Ivanovna’s neck. As the circle is a symbol for unity, the severing of the circle cord of the necklace depicts the dissolution of unity between Raskolnikov and society. Contrary to the idea of the unified body of Christ as expressed in 1 Corinthians 12, Raskolnikov is isolated from society as he dwells in his sin. The idea of unity is central to Christianity and John Donne states that “no man is an island entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main” (272). Once an individual has broken off from society, he will lose his function and purpose as a small piece of land loses its purpose once it is torn from the continent. Therefore, Raskolnikov’s estrangement from society is a type of death for him and he is unable to live fully unless he is reconciled with society and God. Despite Raskolnikov’s sinful nature, Dostoevsky reveals the struggle that Raskolnikov endures as he is in need of repentance. Goodness does exist in Raskolnikov and there are characters in the novel that influence him. Although he is a sinner, Raskolnikov acts as a Good Samaritan, giving all his money to the Marmeladov family when he witnesses Marmeladov’s death. Through the novel, Dostoevsky delivers guidance to Raskolnikov as Sonya is a spiritual guide who leads Raskolnikov into confession. She is a “creature with a flame coloured feather” (Dostoevsky 185) and the fiery imagery surrounding her illustrates the image of an angel. Symbolically employing Sonya as an angel to guide Raskolnikov, Dostoevsky evinces the childlike qualities in Sonya that Raskolnikov must have in order to live a guiltless life and enter into God’s kingdom. She is “simple-hearted and good” and seems “almost a little girl still, much younger than her age” (Dostoevsky 228). These childlike qualities are essential for Raskolnikov to find salvation as Jesus teaches that “except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:3). Thus, Dostoevsky demonstrates through Sonya the way to salvation. Essayist Yury F. Karyakin asserts:In order that a man not merely acknowledge, but also repent of his crime and expiate it, he needs positive help. He must have something in himself which can give confidence both to him and to others who would recognize his humanity and wish to help him rise again. (95)Sonya is one of the forces that provide help for Raskolnikov, making him feel loved. At the same time, a divine force or spirit seems to influence Raskolnikov as he notices that “the water, unusually for the Neva, looked almost blue” (Dostoevsky 108). In the Russian Orthodox Church, the colours black, blue, green, and gold all bear symbolic meaning. The colour blue is a symbol for the Spirit of God (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Russian_Orthodox_Church). Through emphasizing the blue water of the Neva, Dostoevsky depicts that God’s spirit is appearing to Raskolnikov, trying to lead him back into God’s kingdom. The fact that the water is “almost blue” and not completely blue represents that God’s spirit cannot be fully manifested in Raskolnikov yet because he is unwilling to repent. Through these influences, Raskolnikov is slowly led into confession as he feels the need to expiate his sin. As Raskolnikov experiences the struggle between good and evil inside of him, he is in need of change. He seems to have “two separate personalities, each dominating him alternately” (Dostoevsky 206). Because of his internal struggle for which he cannot resolve through his own efforts, Raskolnikov possesses a side to him that wants to confess his sins and be rid of his guilt. At the same time, there is another side of him that wants to continue living without acknowledging his faults. As Raskolnikov endures this struggle, he faces harsh reprimand from Porfiry Petrovich. He takes on the role of a “sort of prophet” that warns and admonishes Raskolnikov: “Well, find your faith, and you will live. To begin with, you have needed a changed of air for a long time. Perhaps, also, suffering is a good thing” (Dostoevsky 441). Porfiry stresses that Raskolnikov must change his way of living, or “air”, in order to find his faith and live. Unless Raskolnikov finds his faith and is able to cast away the burdens of his sin unto God, Raskolnikov will incessantly live in torment. The idea of suffering is significant to the theme of salvation as the Bible teaches: “consider it pure joy…whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance” (James 1:2-3). In terms of Christianity, suffering draws an individual closer to God and Dostoevsky suggests that suffering is what Raskolnikov must experience in order to know God further. Through suffering, Raskolnikov realizes his powerlessness, seeing the need for him to confess his crime in order to relieve himself of his guilt. On his journey to confession, Raskolnikov bears a resemblance to Christ, accentuating the intensity of suffering. Before Raskolnikov confesses his crime to Ilya Petrovich, Raskolnikov asks himself a painful question: “If I must drink this cup does it make any difference? The viler the better…If I must drink, let it be all at once” (Dostoevsky 506). Through the cup of punishment that Raskolnikov must drink, Dostoevsky alludes to Christ, who suffered a similar struggle in the garden of Gethsemane. Christ himself prayed “Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done” (Luke 22:42). Christ was unmistakably in pain during his prayer as “his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground” (Luke 22:44). As even Christ suffered tremendously when he was destined to fulfill his purpose, Dostoevsky—through the Biblical allusion to Christ—emphasizes the painful and arduous process that Raskolnikov must experience in transgressing his sin. Although Raskolnikov, like Christ, is hesitant to confess his crime, he acknowledges that he must drink the cup that is prepared for him in order to atone for his sin. Jacques Madaule remarks that Raskolnikov lives in “a world where each person suffers for everybody, and where everybody suffers for each, in Christ” (45). Madaule is certainly correct in the belief that suffering is pervasive in Raskolnikov’s life; however, suffering is predominant as a form of punishment for those who sin and not necessarily a lifestyle that everyone partakes in. The idea of everybody suffering in the name and unity of Christ is questionable but Raskolnikov certainly does suffer, perhaps not in Christ but like Christ. As Sonya hangs the cypress-wood cross on Raskolnikov’s breast, he exclaims “This, then, is a symbol that I am taking up my cross…as if my earlier sufferings had been mere trifles” (Dostoevsky 502). The action of taking the cross is of momentous significance, symbolizing that Raskolnikov, like Christ, is bearing his cross and ready to bear the consequences. Of particular notice, taking the wooden cross instead of the copper cross represents that Raskolnikov chooses humility instead of extravagant pride. Through suffering, Raskolnikov learns to slowly let go of his pride. Taking the cross, Raskolnikov feels the true burden of receiving the punishment for his crime. Through depicting the powerful experience of atonement, Dostoevsky illustrates Raskolnikov’s redemption as he confesses his crime. The first signs of salvation for Raskolnikov are revealed as he experiences worldly redemption when he kneels “in the middle of the square, bow[s] to the ground, and kiss[es] its filth with pleasure and joy” (Dostoevsky 505). In the act of kissing the earth, “Raskolnikov is performing a symbolic act…marking the beginning of his change into a complete, organic, living human being, rejoining all other men in the community” (Gibian 4). Through the “gesture of kissing the earth, [Raskolnikov] is reestablishing all his ties” with society (Gibian 4). Although he is earlier estranged from society, Raskolnikov is now reunited with the community and is able to belong again because he finally confesses that he is a sinner. This reconciliation with man is significant because a man must be in fellowship with others, “for as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ” (1 Cor 12: 12). Only through communion with his fellow men can Raskolnikov be a part of God’s kingdom and salvation. In his act of bowing to the ground, Raskolnikov becomes no longer an outcast but a repentant sinner who is able to be reconciled with society. In addition to worldly redemption, Raskolnikov ultimately experiences a spiritual redemption that allows him to be forgiven of his sin. The story of Lazarus that Sonya reads to Raskolnikov is a reflection of the spiritual rebirth that Raskolnikov experiences. George Gibian states that “the raising of Lazarus from the dead is to Dostoevsky the best exemplum of a human being resurrected to a new life” (4). Evidently, the raising of Lazarus represents Raskolnikov’s death in sin and resurrection in confession. As Raskolnikov lives under the influence and suffering of his sin, he is no different from a dead man because his spirit is lacking vitality and the presence of God. The possibility of resurrection from Raskolnikov’s sinful life is exhibited as Sonya reads out from the Holy Scriptures: “I am the resurrection and the life; he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: and whosoever liveth, and believeth in me shall never die” (Dostoevsky 314). This passage accentuates that Raskolnikov can be forgiven of his sins and that his life can indeed be changed if he is willing to confess his sin and place trust in God. Upon confession, Raskolnikov is no longer burdened by the heavy suffering of his sin; instead, he enters into a new life free from excessive worrying. Both he and Sonya were “pale and thin, but in their white sick faces there glowed the dawn of a new future, a perfect resurrection into a new life” (Dostoevsky 526). The pale colour of Raskolnikov’s face represents death; yet, Raskolnikov is able to be resurrected into a new life through atonement and his abounding love for Sonya. Thus, the story of Lazarus powerfully captures the essence of Raskolnikov’s spiritual rebirth. Furthermore, Dostoevsky emphasizes the resurrection of Raskolnikov through the use of the sacred number seven: “Seven years, only seven years! At the dawn of their happiness, both had been ready…to think of those seven years as if they were no more than seven days” (Dostoevksy 527). On a literal level, Raskolnikov and Sonya love the life they share together to the extent that Raskolnikov’s days in prison will seem timeless and inexorably pass by at an alarming rate; however, the Biblical meaning behind the number seven distinguishes Raskolnikov’s spiritual rebirth. In church tradition, the number seven is sacred as demonstrated in the seven stars, seven seals, and seven churches of Revelations and the seven fold sprinkling of blood for the cleansing of sins in Leviticus. Through stressing the number seven, Dostoevsky articulates that Raskolnikov’s life will now be holy as the number seven is holy; therefore, Raskolnikov is finally able to lead a holy life because he has confessed his sin. Dostoevsky clearly accentuates Raskolnikov’s forgiveness, attributing him with a sense of holiness. In addition, the number seven alludes to the seven days of creation. This further enhances the idea of rebirth in Raskolnikov where his old ways are gone and a new life is created. Dostoevsky himself maintains “that is the beginning of a new story, the story of gradual renewal of a man, of his gradual regeneration, of his slow progress from one world to another” (Dostoevsky 527). In fact, Dostoevsky does not need to describe Raskolnikov’s life anymore because he—with the traces of sin wiped away—is free to create a new life. Truly, Raskolnikov is completely resurrected into a new life, experiencing a spiritual rebirth that delivers to him energy and hope. In Crime and Punishment Dostoevsky demonstrates the consequences of sin by revealing the suffering of isolation that Raskolnikov endures as evil persists in his character. Although there is a struggle between good and evil inside of Raskolnikov’s mind, the want to be righteous is not enough to deliver him from his sin. Through relying on himself, Raskolnikov suffers from the consequences of his sin and meanders through a long path in trying to take away the heavy and onerous burden of his sin. In the process of suffering, Raskolnikov realizes his own insignificance and sees that he, too, is in need of salvation. As Raskolnikov is unable to emancipate himself from the bondage of sin and guilt until he finally confesses his crime, Dostoevsky unveils that man is incapable of finding forgiveness through his own actions; only through the confession of sins can true salvation be found and the old life of sin be reborn into a new, free life.
When is one morally sanctioned to take another’s life? In Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s highly acclaimed philosophical detective story, Crime and Punishment, the author casts light on several important existential and metaphysical quandaries that are universally applicable to understanding the human condition. The story centers on the tale of “our hero” Raskolnikov’s premeditated murder of the old “louse,” Alyona, a self-serving, morally reprehensible pawnbroker. Additionally, it describes the “other” murder, of Alyona’s largely ignored (but philosophically crucial) pitiful, vulnerable, and victimized half-sister, Lizaveta, in the novel’s opening section, as well as Raskolnikov’s subsequent (largely internally driven) “Punishment.” Dostoyevsky sets up several dichotomies between philosophical binary extremes, a number of which Raskolikov attempts to reconcile in the remaining five sections of the novel and its epilogue. These polarized philosophical issues include the relationship between the secular (nihilistic) and the religious (faithful), free will and determinism, anarchy and the law, and utilitarianism and social ethics, among others. While Raskolnikov–whose name, in translation, implies a split personality–struggles to find his own place in the polarized world of moral/ethical extremes, Dostoyevsky poignantly confounds the terms of his existential debate through the impulsive murder of Lizaveta. Throughout the novel, Raskolnikov’s moral compass vacillates between the two ethical extremes of crude utilitarian nihilism/brutally rational intellectualism and utterly humane, religious, emotion-based social morality. The two polarizing characters with whom Raskolnikov shares intimate relations, Sonia and Svidrigaylov, strengthen this binary classification. They serve as living embodiments of their respective moralistic values, each profoundly impacting Raskolnikov’s outlook on life. Sonia, a childlike, victimized, self-sacrificing, and God-fearing individual, maintains her faith in religious moral precepts, despite her first-hand experience of worldly suffering and, thus, life’s irrationality. After Raskolnikov confesses to Sonia that “He…did not mean to kill that Lizaveta…he killed her accidentally. He meant to kill the old woman when she was alone…” (322), she replies, “What have you done to yourself…there is no one – no one in the whole world so unhappy as you!” (323). While the reader learns that Lizaveta and Sonia were best friends, and that Sonia wears a locket that Lizaveta gave her, Sonia nevertheless, like Raskolnikov, quickly forgets about her friend’s brutal murder. Instead, she selflessly recognizes Raskolnikov’s own moral crisis, hoping to guide him toward spiritual salvation, despite her significant personal loss.Svidrigaylov, conversely, represents emotional detachment, nihilism, and utilitarian morality. He articulates to Dounia what he believes to have been Raskolnikov’s primary rationale for murder: “I for instance consider that a single misdeed is permissible if the principle aim is right, a solitary wrongdoing and hundreds of good deeds…Napoleon attracted [Raskolnikov] tremendously…that a great many men of genius have not hesitated at wrongdoing, but have overstepped the law without thinking about it” (386). In this statement, Svidrigaylov combines Raskolnikov’s two principal motives for his crime. The first is his belief that the murder of the old “louse” represents a socially justifiable act, as he convinces himself that she is an authoritarian victimizer par excellence. Therefore, killing her represents a socially just act, as her death will revenge wrongdoings to hundreds of her victims. The second motive lies in his metaphysical need to believe that he has the free will to break the constraints of the legal and ethical framework that binds society and commit an act of utter rebellion against the social order. This notion, which is tied to Raskolnikov’s belief that he is a super-man and that it is his destiny to kill Alyona, stems from his high self regard, as well as from various articles of circumstantial evidence that work to justify these murders. Nevertheless, Lizaveta’s murder, while at first appearing a plot detail of relatively trifling importance, profoundly complicates Raskolnikov’s moral universe and discredit the utilitarian, Napoleonic, and deterministic justifications by which he rationalizes his criminal actions. Yet Lizaveta’s murder does not fit into any of his intellectual, philosophical, and moral categorizations. Raskolnikov thereby reveals that his philosophical underpinning for committing a criminal act is inconsistent and flawed. Lizaveta does not represent a morally reprehensible individual, but is innocent, kind, spiritual and saintly (Sonia’s character parallel). In another context, Raskolnikov might have been quite charitable toward her, as she fits the profile of those towards whom “our hero” shows unrestrained, and quite impractical, generosity. Because her murder carries none of the moral justifications of Alyona’s, but is rather done out of Raskolnikov’s impulsiveness to avoid being caught, as he immediately reacts by “rush[ing] at her with the axe” (65), Lizaveta’s murder is a utilitarian sin. Raskolnikov appears to be her ethical inferior, and thus does not have the “right” to kill her. Likewise, Raskolnikov attempts to intellectually rationalize his crime based on circumstantial evidence that he interprets as proof of his Napoleonic authority over the rule of law. He considers his eavesdropping of Lizaveta’s statement that she will be away from her residence at seven the next day, as well as of a conversation between a student and an officer in which the student claims “A hundred thousand good deeds could be done and helped, on that old woman’s money which will be buried in a monastery!…Kill her, take her money and with the help of it devote oneself to the service of humanity and the good of all” (54), as proof of his destiny. However, Lizaveta’s unexpected early return and subsequent murder discredit his deterministic justification for Alyona’s murder. A rational higher power calling him to action surely would not give him such mixed signals–he would not be encouraged to believe Lizaveta would be away, for example, only to find her at home and be forced to commit a double murder. Therefore, Lizaveta’s unplanned killing adds additional layers of complexity to the simple binary ethical universe that Raskolnikov imagines himself inhabiting.As Lizaveta’s murder cannot be justified by either of Raskolnikov’s rational, intellectual, and emotionally detached precepts (Svidrigaylov’s moral influence), nor by the opposing polar extreme of a spiritual, faith-based, emotional set of principles (Sonia’s moral influence), Raskolnikov can neither rationalize nor reconcile her murder in his mind. Rather, he represses this memory for the greater part of the novel. He recognizes that he rarely ever thinks about it “as though I had not killed her”; for example, upon confessing his crime to Sonia, he proclaims, “I’ve only killed a louse…a useless, loathsome, harmful creature” (327). Raskolnikov thus rarely acknowledges Lizaveta’s prior existence before his final blanket confession to Petrovitch that “It was I killed the old pawnbroker woman and her sister Lizaveta with an axe and robbed them” (417). Should Raskolnikov have tried to apply the same level of scrutiny to this deed as he does to Alyona’s murder, he would have had no metaphysical grounds for action, and, thus, should have suffered immense existential guilt and torment. Svidrigaylov’s suicide (which Raskolnikov almost completely ignores) evidences the pitfalls to which utter rationality may subject us. He must face his harshest reality directly when, in Dounia’s failed attempt to shoot him from close range, he questions her, “‘Then you don’t Love me?’ he asked softly. Dounia shook her head. ‘And…you can’t? Never’ he whispered in despair. ‘Never!'” (390). By addressing his unrequited love of Dounia and his general inability to be loved, Svidrigaylov, unlike Raskolnikov, cannot bear his existence. He is driven to suicide. Raskolnikov, whose spiritual awakening/religious revival in the novel’s epilogue comes about through Sonia’s guidance and love, results in his prima facie rejection of his calculating, nihilistic, utilitarian alter-identity associated with his “angel of darkness,” Svidrigaylov. Rather, “our hero” chooses to be both morally and legally “reformed” by his “angel of light,” Sonia, as well as the Russian legal system. While this somewhat sentimental and conciliatory happy ending neatly tries to tie together some of the loose ends left unresolved in the novel, the reader may have trouble accepting the finality of Raskolnikov’s moral purification. After all, Lizaveta’s murder has served to greatly complicate Raskolnikov’s moral universe. Thus, having established a morally ambiguous universe in which troubling and seemingly irreconcilable metaphysical existential quandaries lie at its core, Dostoyevsky’s epilogue, while an interesting resolution to the novel, slightly detracts from his subtle philosophical characterizations.
Although Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment has a primarily social theme, it offers an interesting approach to the Christian interpretation of man. Through the self-destructive experiences of Raskolnikov, the reader is drawn to see the fallacy of human individualism when carried to the extreme. However, Dostoevsky also provides a hopeful message which teaches that through humility and love, even the most vile of men can be reformed. Raskolnikov finds the path to reformation through Sonia, who teaches Raskolnikov about love’s power to release one from the chains of guilt. When considered with this theme in mind, the epilogue to Crime and Punishment is a powerful and necessary addition which enhances the overall structure and theme of the novel. At the beginning of the novel, the reader becomes acquainted with Raskolnikov. One can see evidence of Christianity in his character immediately after he commits murder. After attempting to prove his theory of an “extraordinary individual,” Raskolnikov is afflicted with guilt. He realizes that his theory is wrong and begins to seek relief from his troubled conscience. Dostoevsky writes that Raskolnikov “drove away thought” and “he only knew, one way or another, everything had to be changed” (150). The idea that Raskolnikov must change his life in order to find peace of mind is clearly Christian. One of Christianity’s main teachings is that comfort is found through converting to a new behavioral pattern. As the novel progresses, Dostoevsky shows that Raskolnikov’s psychological illness is not going to heal on its own. Through the many failed attempts to forget his crime, the reader quickly understands that an internal change is necessary for Raskolnikov to find peace. The author provides the key to inner change in his main character through conversation with the drunkard Marmeladov. Although drunk, Marmeladov aptly quotes several Bible passages and then explains his beliefs about the Lord and Judgment Day. Marmeladov claims that the Lord will summon all the drunkards at the end of His judgment and will direct an explanation for doing so to the wise and clever ones saying, “I receive them, O wise and clever ones, because not one among them considered himself worthy of this” (21). From this the reader can see Dostoevsky’s stance that the humble are greater than the wise and clever. This idea also has a Christian foundation. A story can be found in Christian teaching about Jesus Christ answering the question “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” Christ answers by saying that “whosoever…shall humble himself as [a] little child, the same is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:1,4). Dostoevsky lays out the solution to Dostoevsky’s problem: he must humble himself if he wants to escape the debilitating guilt he feels. The author strengthens his argument that humility is key to relinquishing feelings of guilt by describing Raskolnikov’s inability to abandon his pride. Even after being reminded of his conversation with Marmeladov, Raskolnikov still tries to fight his guilt on his own. He thinks to himself, “Now for the kingdom of light and reason and … and freedom, and power…and now we shall see! Now we shall match wits!” (182) As if that were not obvious enough, Dostoevsky writes that Raskolnikov says this “arrogantly as though he were addressing some dark force and issuing it a challenge” (182). As the story continues, the reader is shown that Raskolnikov cannot overcome his guilt by reason and again slips into a delirious state of inner panic. By showing the reader more of the main character’s egotism, the author gives greater credibility to the idea that humility is a necessary step to finding comfort for one’s guilty conscience. Dostoevsky also uses Sonia to help Raskolnikov find the path to redemption. She acts as Raskolnikov’s double. She too is a great sinner and in need of moral redemption. However, in contrast to Raskolnikov, she is at peace with herself. Once readers understand her secret for success, they can assume that it will also work for Raskolnikov. Sonia recognizes her unworthiness before God. At one point she asks, “What would I be without God?” (309) This viewpoint allows her to realize the true source of human worth and further allows her to love others unconditionally. At first, Raskolnikov mocks Sonia and calls her a “holy fool” (309). Later he confesses to her, but still allows his ego to get in the way as she describes the steps he must take to find peace. Towards the end of the book Raskolnikov decides to do what Sonia has advised him to do, and confesses his crime. However, at the last second, Dostoevsky tells the reader that “the words…which had perhaps been ready on his tongue, died inside him” (500). Raskolnikov cannot push aside his ego, and the book ends with the main character stuck with a guilty conscience. This is where the epilogue’s importance comes in: within its short pages, the reader sees the end result of the path that Dostoevsky has laid out for Raskolnikov. While in prison in Siberia, Raskolnikov is still plagued with guilt and egotism. He does not feel remorse for committing his crime. Rather, he feels ashamed that “his pride was deeply wounded” (515). In fact, he “could find no specially terrible guilt in his past” (515). He considers his crime to be a “blunder, the sort of thing that might happen to anyone” (515). Dostoevsky further points out Raskolnikov was only ashamed that his guilty feelings came so easily and that “he felt no remorse for his crime” (515). This obvious egotism ties the epilogue in with the rest of the novel. It begins where the book left off. The reader sees the same character flaw in this section as can be seen throughout the entire novel. Dostoevsky does well to keep the theme and structure consistent as he moves into the epilogue. At the end of the epilogue the reader, at long last, witnesses the change of heart that Dostoevsky has been calling for in his main character. Raskolnikov finally drops his pride and throws himself at Sonia’s feet. Dostoevsky explains that “there was no longer any doubt he loved her” (521). Raskolnikov has forgotten his ego and allowed newfound love and humility to grant him a feeling of “light of a renewed future, a resurrection to a new life” (521). The reader reads that Raskolnikov no longer tries to reason away his guilt and “life replaced logic” (522). The concept that happiness is found through forgiveness and love is a strong Christian teaching. Humility and love empower an individual with the ability to start anew, and to find happiness in life. Dostoevsky finishes his argument that the solution to overcoming moral guilt is the development of humility and love in this epilogue. The epilogue’s Christian undertones mirror those found in the rest of the novel. These undertones attach the epilogue to the rest of the novel and act as an effective continuation to the Christian argument that Dostoevsky lays out in Raskolnikov’s story. The epilogue completes the novel. With it, the reader is able to bring together all the aspects of several different characters and apply them to fully understand one of Dostoevsky’s great messages in Crime and Punishment.Works CitedCrime and Punishment. Fyodor Dostoevsky. Translated by Sidney Monas. Signet Classic Printing. Feb. 1999