Crime and Punishment

The Long Way to Confession in Fyodor Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment Research Paper

September 29, 2020 by Essay Writer

One of the greatest psychologists in the world literature, the Russian writer Fyodor Dostoyevsky employed his literary talent in order to explore the most obscure and intricate nooks of human nature.

Delving unprecedentedly deep in the mysteries of human soul, he created his novels that present outstanding examples of psychological analysis of the most morbid issues and ideas. Dostoyevsky’s famous Crime and Punishment features a poor ex-student Raskolnikov who commits a premeditated murder of an old prosperous pawnbroker excusing his actions by the demands of the greater good and the general justice.

However, despite those exalted aims, Raskolnikov suffers pangs of conscience and mental anguish for a prolonged time before he finally ventures to confess his crime. The act of confession is one of the central themes in Crime and Punishment, since it is the climax point of the novel signifying crucial changes in Raskolnikov’s mental and physical state.

As such, the genre of confession was not new for literature: started as early as 400 AD by the Confessions of St. Augustine, the genre of intimate avowals of one’s secret sin enjoyed a growing popularity in European literature of the nineteenth century. In the eighteenth century Jean-Jacques Rousseau widely applied this genre in his autobiographical writings.

Remarkably enough, Dostoyevsky repeatedly referred to Rousseau’s confessions, polemicizing with the latter’s interpretation of the genre. Traditionally, confessional genre was viewed as “a narrative in which the confessor recounted some secret crime or scene and then depicted the gradual reform and rebirth that resulted from pangs of conscience and expiation through suffering” (Lantz 364).

But while Rousseau’s confessor’s were represented as inherently virtuous beings, Dostoyevsky rejected such interpretation of the penitent and viewed the nature of man as not virtuous but “innately stupid and limited” (Lantz 365). This latter approach is by large reflected in Crime and Punishment which was supposedly conceived as a novel titled “Confession” (Frank 60; Lantz 71).

Committing murder under a fanatical belief that his unlawful and inhumane action could be justified by a higher purpose of liberating the world from an evil parasite, Raskolnikov represents a supercilious figure lost in lofty and overweening ideals which contrast his miserable daily existence. The crime he commits is provoked not so much by financial need as by his desire for self-assertion as a unique and heroic personality. As Svidrigailov states in his dialogue with Dounia,

“Napoleon attracted him tremendously, that is, what affected him was that a great many men of genius have not hesitated at wrongdoing, but have overstepped the law without thinking about it. He seems to have fancied that he was a genius too — that is, he was convinced of it for a time. He 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 he is not a man of genius.” (Dostoyevsky 507)

Having forced himself into a presumably heroic action and thus demonstrated his non-conformity with the social standards, Raskolnikov soon finds himself overcome by a mental disorder that necessitates him to seek a way out of the emotional instability and physical indisposition he experiences.

Inherent in every psychological situation, there are obvious choices before Raskolnikov: either to relieve his suffering rapidly by committing suicide or to go through the pangs of conscience and confess his crime to the world. The idea of suicide comes to Raskolnikov not once; he repeatedly faces suicide committed by others, and those incidents trigger decisive changes in his life attitudes and policies.

On one occasion, having witnessed a woman drown herself in the Neva River, he gives up his initial intentions of putting an end to his life and resolves to resume an active life attitude: “Enough! … Life is real! … My life has not yet died with that old woman!” (Dostoyevsky 176–178, 197–198). On another occasion, learning of Svidrigailov’s suicide he finally decides to confess his crime to the police.

With regard to Svidrigailov there emerges another significant connection in the novel. Svidrigailov symbolizes the cynicism of life, and Raskolnikov falls into deep despair at such attitude of nihilism. In Svidrigailov’s suicide he sees the defeat of disbelieving attitude and therefore turns to faith in search of salvation. A demonstrative scene in this respect is the episode when Sonia is apprehensive of Raskolnikov’s suicide for “his lack of faith” and he suddenly turns up asking her for a cross (Dostoyevsky 537–538).

This act symbolizes that Raskolnikov’s inner struggle between suicide and confession, between disbelief and faith, has ended in the victory of the latter and in acceptance of God as the only judge to the world’s injustice (Peace 73). By saying “I have come for your cross, Sonia”, Raskolnikov admits his improper act and states his intension to confess his crime publicly and accept all the consequences of his misdeed (Dostoyevsky 538).

Sonya is another key character of the novel: she assists Raskolnikov with his arrival at the necessity for confession and reunion with the moral world. She is the first person to whom the murderer comes with his confession, and the way she reacts to his revelations is decisive for the future development of events.

Her understanding and empathic reaction to his words — “But aren’t you suffering, too?” “It’s better I should know, far better!” “Only speak, speak, I shall understand, I shall understand in myself!” (Dostoyevsky 430), — and her encouragement of confession and letting the sin off his soul by bowing down and kissing the earth he has defied open a promise of forgiveness and regaining harmony with the world of morality.

Before talking to Sonia, Raskolnikov’s “guilt and the wish to confess were as strong as his rage” (Breger 34). After it, the rage was gone and only the guilt and the urge of confession were left, since he realized that confession would be the only way to shed off his guilt and cease the remorse.

In the figure of Raskolnikov, Dostoyevsky demonstrates an example of a personality split between two extremes: on the one hand, Raskolnikov aims at restoring the world justice; on the other hand, he realizes the wrongfulness of his crime. Since Raskolnikov by large grants his first extreme on an arrogant idea of uniqueness and superiority rather than pure justice restitution, he is punished by moral suffering, as well as physical illness.

The only way-out envisioned by Dostoyevsky in this case is in faith and grace that provide ultimate redemption. Raskolnikov achieves faith through a long struggle between his nihilism, disbelief, and despair on the one hand, and Sonia’s call to repentance and public confession, on the other hand. The resulting love Raskolnikov acquires in the end can be thus seen as a sign of heavenly grace and rewards for his resignation and righteousness.

Works Cited

Breger, Louis. Dostoyevsky: The Author as Psychoanalyst. New York, NY: New York University, 1989. Print.

Dostoyevsky, Fyodor. Crime and Punishment. Trans. Constance Garnett. Charleston, SC: Forgotten Books, 2008. Print.

Frank, Joseph. Dostoyevsky: The Miraculous Years, 1865–1871. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1995. Print.

Lantz, Kenneth. The Dostoyevsky Encyclopedia. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2004. Print.

Peace, Richard Arthur. Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s “Crime and Punishment”: A Casebook. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2006. Print.

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The Politics of Crime and Punishment in America Essay

September 29, 2020 by Essay Writer


Four Americans were sentenced to eight years of imprisonment when they were found guilty of shipping lobsters in plastic bags and not in wooden boxes, violating the law (that was no longer enforced) of Honduras (“Rough Justice” par. 1). Punishment and disciplining has been part of the society since the Enlightenment (Foucault 82). Offences, earlier in history were made a public spectacle to insight fear for the power of the ruler. However, in the nineteenth century with the advent of the modern times, the nature of punishment transformed and the new form aimed at deprivation in seclusion, hence the prison system.

Imprisonment was believed to be a method to control the deviant and has been embraced by most of the modern societies today. However, in some countries like the USA, this form of punishment ahs assumed a new meaning. Imprisoning of the law-breaker was no longer just a method to control and discipline the behavior of the perpetrator but also to garner economic growth and business. In this essay, I will argue that incarceration and prisons in America has become a governmental tool to meet economic and political ends by building more prisons and creating new laws.

Prisons and Criminal Justice in America

The justice system in America boasts of being harsher and stricter than any other developed countries. The paranoia over the felonious moving freely on the roads creates panic and hence, the overprotective justice system. Any forms of aberration, even the minutes of them, are punished with imprisonment. Why is it so? Is it because the country’s beliefs in a crime free society or some other reason?

Criminologists believe that the American penal system is flawed as incarceration rate, duration of imprisonment is very high, and the system criminalizes acts that need not be turned into a criminal act. For instance, a 65-year-old orchid collector who has been accused by law as smuggling flowers from South America under the Convention on International trade in Endangered Species (“Too many laws, too many prisoners” par. 3).

This exemplifies the belief that the increase in number of prisoners in US prisons is due to the increase in incarceration due tot non-violent crimes. According to a recent Prison Policy Initiative (PPI) report, there are around 2.4 million people inside prisons and of these, 1.3 million in state prisons (“Who, what, where and why” par. 2). President Eisenhower started the war on crime in the sixties and it was not until the nineties that the American bureaucracy started to develop the prison complexes (Schlosser 3). This has resulted in a spurt in prison construction in the US.

One reason behind this increase in incarceration rate may be due to the increase in number of laws in the US. Criminal law legislations increased from 3000 in 1980 to 4500 in 2008 (Pelaez par. 7). Does this demonstrate the politicians are more concerned about public safety and hence have device means to control the outburst of criminal activities as was observed in the eighties? Some believe that the intent to increase internal security was the initial agenda of the lawmakers but then the power hunger drifted them to utilize this as a tool to influence votes (Schlosser 3).

Prison population has been used since the Civil Wars as a means of cheap labor in the US. With rise in the incarceration rate in America, there has been an increase in prison labor, which is much cheaper than ‘free’ labor. Many private investors are contracting prison labors that have been legalized in 37 states in America (Pelaez para 11). Many eminent business houses are eager to tap into the possibilities of the increase in cheap prison labor the boom that it would cause to the economy. Thus, it is popularly believed that prisons can turn around the economy of a state.

Increasing Prison Industrial Complexes

The politics and economic of prison building was first, unwittingly, initiated by New York governor Mario Cuomo in the eighties (Schlosser 6). The prison building effort of Cuomo was due to his predecessor’s legislation to strengthen criminal act. Overcrowded prisons had become the breeding place of crime and criminals and hence there was immediate need to increase prison faculties.

However, the unconventional method of financing prison building was probably the brainchild of Cuomo, who turned to Urban Development Corporations who invested in rural areas of New York State, to build prisons (Schlosser 6). By building new prisons in the backward areas of the state, helped in giving employment to the locals and therefore, improve the living standard in the area. Thus, prisons helped bring steady economic growth to rural regions: “Prisons are labor-intensive institutions, offering year-round employment” (Schlosser 7).

Prisons not only help in providing employment to the locals, they also develop ancillary industries. Prisons require supplies of various forms – catering, telephones, prison interiors, security cameras, plumbing supplies, health care, and construction. There are investors in Wall Street who handle prison bonds that are specifically invested in prison building purposes (Schlosser 9). Providing and supplying to prisons have become a niche industry in the US.

Therefore, building of prisons helped in achieving two purposes – increase number of cells for overcrowded prisons and generate economic growth. The prison building effort in the US is a large industry that thrives on increased number of prisoners. Hence, reducing prisoners’ intake will negatively affect the growth of this industry that thrives on higher incarceration rate. Though scholars believe in reviving the old fashion method of preventing crime, the politicians believes in rejuvenating the growth engine with the aid of increased prisons, and therefore, increased number of prisoners.

Private Prisons

Privatization of prions in the eighties marked another milestone for the criminal justice system in America, under the leadership of President Ronald Reagan but reached its height in 1990s when the stock market was extremely bullish. Private prisons are believed to provide the largest business opportunity to prison industrial complex. Private prisons are provided with a fixed compensation for each prisoner they guard. Nevertheless, how helpful are these to the justice system of he state?

Private corporations operate on profit motive. Their business model would be same as that of the hospitality or hotel industry. The larger the number of guests in the greater is their profits. In other words, higher the number of prisoners higher will be their profits. Thus, the increase in the number of prisoners can be attributed to an increase in private prisons. The private prison establishments are often mismanaged and are unsafe place for boarding dangerous sociopaths.

These companies are highly controversial and have aided in enhancing prison complex development. Private prisons were brought forth through the privatization drive of Reagan and Bush administration. The justice department has also supported the move by placing minimum-security inmates in private prisons. It was believed that private prisons would drive away inefficiencies of the public sector and make prisons more efficient. However, experience suggests that private prisons were not successful in guarding dangerous criminals, the primary task for which they were commissioned.

Privatization of prisons was a business move as the government sought to reduce its public burden. However, the privatization process led to profit motive that essentially contributed to the increase in incarceration rate.


Crime and punishment in America is governed by political intent to lure votes or to pacify lobbying businesspersons. The political clout and the justice system has helped develop an institution that breeds on injecting fear in the mind of the common people to attract votes with their showy criminal control legislations and then presenting another lure of economic growth to counter their initial mistake that increased prison population. Privatization of prisons demonstrates another motive of the politicians to help the interest of private businesses while overlooking the need for true justice.

American politicians and justice department in conjunction, In the name of war against crime, law and order, and safety, has crowded the American prisons and filled the coffers of the private investors. Prisons, that were supposed to be isolated campus for dangerous criminals, has become home to non-violent offenders. Thus, the political system in America has rigged the justice system to create a flawed correction and incarceration institution for mere profit. Clearly, the policymakers in America have overlooked the need to correct and give another chance. This essay therefore points out, through the words of Michael Foucault that “there is no glory is punishing” (10).


Foucault, Michel. Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison . London: Penguine Books, 1975. Print.

Pelaez, Vicky. The Prison Industry in the United States: Big Business or a New Form of Slavery? 2008. Web.

Schlosser, Eric. The Prison-Industrial Complex. 1998. Web.

The Economist. Rough Justice. 2010. Web.

Too many laws, too many prisoners. 2010. Web.

Who, what, where and why. 2014. Web.

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Effects of Guilt in Crime and Punishment

May 28, 2020 by Essay Writer

Guilt is a force in all that has the ability to bring people to insanity. When guilt becomes great enough, the effects it has on people go much deeper than the surface. People’s minds and body’s are overpowered by the guilt that consumes them every second they live with their burden. The devastating effects of guilt are portrayed vividly in Dostoevsky’s fictional but all to real novel Crime and Punishment. In the story, the main character Raskolnikov commits a murder and suffers with the guilt throughout.

Eventually his own guilt destroys himself and he is forced to confess. Through Raskolnikov, Dostoevsky bestows on the reader how guilt destroys Raskolnikov’s physical and mental well being, which, in time, leads to complete alienation from society.

When one suffers with a great deal of guilt, their physical health quickly deteriorates. Raskolnikov’s physical suffering begins shortly after the murder with delusions and nonsense ravings while constantly drifting in and out of reality.

He often goes into a state of “not completely unconscious” but is in a “feverish state, sometimes delirious, sometimes half conscious”(98) while blaming it on his previous sickness. Raskolnikov is being destroyed by his guilt. He is unable to physically live in society while he has such a burden constantly looming over him.

When in the police station, Raskolnikov hears talk of the murders and with just a reminder of his crime, he quickly becomes weak. When he “recovered consciousness”(88) the men at the station undoubtedly notice his illness and point out that “he can barely stand upright.”(89) His guilt has driven him to a serious state of sickness. He can no longer function normally or even keep consciousness when he is reminded of his crime. Raskolnikov can no longer function normally because his guilt has destroyed is physical capabilities so drastically.

The mental abilities of a person are stifled when they are suffering with a great deal of guilt. Along with his physical health, Raskolnikov’s mental health quickly deteriorates following the murder. He is in a constant state of mental delirium and has constant ravings that are very irrational. However, Raskolnikov’s true state is shown when Razumihin tells him “You are delirious you know!” and Raskolnikov’s response is a bold “No I am not!”(93) Even though Raskolnikov is in a state of delirium, his problem is so serious because he is totally oblivious to his state and completely denies it when wise, rational men tell him that he is. Raskolnikov’s guilt has taken him from a wise, educated, scholar to being incapable of rational thought. As the story progresses, the guilt becomes increasingly heavier on Raskolnikov’s mind.

Others begin to notice this to including Petrovich who describes Raskolnikov as a “moth near a candle” who will keep “circling around [him], circling around [him]” all the time “narrowing the radius more and more, and-whop!”(352) Petrovich is aware of Raskolnikov’s state and he knows that Raskolnikov cannot live with his guilt. He knows like a moth around a candle that it is only a matter of time before the guilt is unbearable and Raskolnikov will have to confess everything. Raskolnikov’s guilt becomes his biggest enemy as it continues to break down his mind and leads him away from normal society.

As Raskolnikov becomes torn apart by his guilt, he begins to separate himself from society which leads to complete alienation from everybody. He becomes a man that is so different from everyone around him that he no longer belongs. With “a sweep of his arm”(96), a drastic realization falls on Raskolnikov as he flings the coin into the water. “It seemed to him, he had cut himself off from everyone and everything at that moment.”(96) Raskolnikov no longer puts value on what his society values the highest. He is terribly poor and hungry, but throws twenty cockpeckcs into the river and thus destroying any ties he still had with society. Because of his alienation, Raskolnikov is no longer able to express his feelings and emotions with anybody. When Raskolnikov claims of hearing things, Natasha tells him that “it’s the blood crying in [his] ears.”(96)

Unknowingly, she realizes his disconnection from society as she tells him “when there is no outlet for it and it gets clotted, [he] begins fancying things.”(96) The blood in his ears is a metaphor for his alienation and how when there is no outlet, meaning he has no one to talk to, it clots and he imagines things, which is his state of delirium. As Raskolnikov becomes detached from society, he begins to make his own world in his head where his ideals are his deciding factors. He even has reason for murder. He convinces himself that “it wasn’t a human being [he] killed” but rather he believes “it was a principle!”(223)

Raskolnikov believes he has become the world’s superman and truly done a good deed by riding the world of an “illness”(223) to society. By this point, Raskolnikov has no ties to society as he has created his own value system and believes he has a license to kill. Raskolnikov’s guilt changes him such that he breaks away from society, which snowballs into him being completely alienated with no one who thinks on an equal level.

Guilt is the main factor that drives Raskolnikov to insanity which leads to his alienation. Guilt attacks his physical heath making him drift in and out of consciousness, which makes him no longer function normally in society. During this, his mind is being consistently deteriorated by the guilt causing irrational thought. Raskolnikov eventually becomes alienated from society as he no longer thinks or acts like the people around him. Raskolnikov does not improve until he confesses and takes the consequences does he return to normal. Through Raskolnikov, Dostoevsky brilliantly shows the power that guilt truly has on a person.

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The Historical Context of Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky

May 28, 2020 by Essay Writer

Every great piece of literature is influenced or inspired by the time period in which it was written. Whether the author consciously or unconsciously intended to write about a specific milieu, it will always be evident in the text. This is because the author is always influenced by the point in history in which he occupies. The text is defined and characterized by the events and ideologies prevalent in an era. Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky is no exception. The book is a testament to the times in which Dostoevsky lived, discussing the problems and issues that dominated Russia during his time.

That age was marked by nihilism, and this was manifested throughout the story. This research paper aims to illustrate the historical context in which the novel was written. This paper will focus on the age of nihilism, but will also discuss other concepts which from Friedrich Nietzsche, such as will to power and superman. Russia, during the time of the author Fyodor Dostoevsky, was rather different from its neighbors in Europe (“Russia”).

The difference is in part due to its isolation. Significant historical events like the Renaissance, Enlightenment, and Reformation was responsible for the development of several Western European countries.

Those nations left behind the system of feudalism in favor for modernity. However, the transformation of the said countries did not affect Russia. The lack of cultural and social change in Russia was exacerbated by the invasions and attacks from the likes of the Mongols. This prompted the nation to be extremely skeptical of other countries (“Russia”). In Russia, political power was concentrated on a single figure: an emperor called the tsar (“Russia”). It was Tsar Ivan IV, or better known as Ivan the Terrible, who created what was supposed to be epitome of Russian government in the middle of the 16th century.

Those rulers who succeeded him, including Tsar Peter the Great and Tsarina Catherine the Great, encouraged what was called “westernization” (“Russia”). These rulers wanted to bring to Russia Western European culture and technology. Between the 1830s and 1860s, Dostoevsky was attending school, and was trying to make a name for himself as a writer. At that same period, Russia was engaged in an intellectual struggle. A group of individuals called the Westernizers consisted of educated people who believed that a major transformation was necessary for Russia to solve its social dilemmas and catch up with the rest of the world.

These people were primarily driven by German philosophy, as well as other social ideals derived from the Industrial revolution. The Westernizers were divided in their objectives and means. While some wanted reforms of a democratic nature, others felt the necessity to overthrow the tsarist regime in favor of a socialist government (“Russia”). Dostoevsky used to agree with the Westernizers (“Russia”). He participated in socialist discussions and has challenged the tsarist government of Nicholas I. As a result, he was arrested, and his incarceration caused a political and spiritual metanoia (“Russia”).

The novel is indeed a critique of his old beliefs. Dostoevsky lived in a time when nihilism was beginning to spread in Russia (Rode). In the novel, he was extremely critical of nihilism that had become prevalent in his country. In fact, it was through the protagonist Raskolnikov in which Dostoevsky demonstrated his opposition to nihilism. Nihilism is derived from the Latin word “nihil” which means nothing (Pratt). It conveys that which does not exist. The word “nihil” is found in “annihilate,” which means to destroy (Pratt). Its definition is characterized by a strong sense of skepticism and pessimism with regards to existence.

It upholds that values have no basis; thus, one should not believe in anything. It was German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche who was most identified with nihilism. According to Nietzsche in Will to Power, “there is simply no true world”; the world has no order until we give it order (qtd. in Pratt). Nietzschean nihilism promotes the destruction of all established truths in Western thought. He writes that nihilism is “not only the belief that everything deserves to perish; but one actually puts one’s shoulder to the plough; one destroys” (qtd. in Pratt).

What is destroyed in nihilism is the meaning and importance of life, as well as the values in which it was founded (Pratt). That is why Nietzsche believes that “the highest values devalue themselves” (qtd. in Pratt). Russia soon became preoccupied with nihilism, prompting the widespread disregard for figures of authority, such as family, state and most specially, the church (Pratt). Nihilism presented God and religions as those which hinder freedom, and thus rejects it completely. As a result, freedom of the individual became the highest priority. The individual was deemed as the only source of real knowledge.

Rationalism also became the major ideology (Pratt). Russian nihilism followed the basic notions of Nietzschean nihilism, but with a slight difference. Russian nihilism was also influenced by utilitarianism, which characterized action as that which should be beneficial to society (Rode). The character of Raskolnikov was a combination of both nihilism and utilitarianism; he is a man with a destructive potential who also chose to act for what he thinks would benefit society. There is another element to his character which is influenced by yet another Nietzschean concept: the superman.

However, before the concept of superman can be discussed, it is first important to delve into Nietzsche’s idea of will to power. Nietzsche’s will to power is often misinterpreted and misunderstood to have a negative connotation (Wahl). While this idea does promote the dominance of one over another, it is not the only thing that the idea implies. Will to power is Nietzsche’s way of describing how it is natural for all life forms search for power that gives them the capacity to maintain and grow. This power is also that which destroys life.

According to Nietzsche, it is this search for power and dominance is merely natural for the sustenance of life (Wahl). Will to power also entails an individual’s need to be free and to create (Wahl). In his book The Genealogy of Morals, Nietzsche states that every individual seeks to find an environment in which one’s creative power is best enhanced. The individual’s desire to be the best is a crucial characteristic of the Nietzschean will to power. In the long run, however, the will to power will render the individual weak in order to encourage another individual’s will.

The will to power which initially sought to strengthen itself will seek to find that which is beyond itself (Wahl). This is best exemplified by the character of Raskolnikov and Russian nihilism, which will be expounded on later. The superman of Nietzsche is best understood in light of nihilism and will to power. Nietzsche believes that the Christian dichotomy between good and evil and the values that come with it only obstructs man’s capacity for freedom and growth (Bradley). Besides, he asserts that these values are not founded on human experience.

As a result, Nietzsche presents his idea of superman; he is a person who makes his own system of values according to his needs and the world he occupies. He merely relies on what he thinks is good or evil, and succeeds in life in the process. Through the efforts of the superman, mankind and society will improve (Bradley). The sole source of values and knowledge for the superman is himself (Bradley). He defines what is good and evil. That which brings out the best in him is good, while that which hinders him from reaching his full potential is evil.

Because Nietzsche upholds that all is transitory, even the notion of what is good or evil continually changes. Due to these changes, the superman must continue to improve himself into a better version of himself (Bradley). With the existence of a superman, Nietzsche promotes a society which encourages the stronger individuals to succeed (Bradley). The superman is the means in which society is encouraged to break boundaries. Every person is important because it can enhance society’s potential to new heights. As a result, there is a much stronger society.

This is all due to a superman which disregards the baseless unworldly values and instead relies on his own strength (Bradley). In Crime and Punishment, the character of Raskolnikov is created as a result of Russian nihilism and the Nietzschean concept of will to power and superman (Rode). In the novel, his character states: An extraordinary man has a right—not officially, be it understood, but from and by his very individuality—to permit his conscience to overstep certain bounds, only so far as the realization of one of his ideas may require it. (Such an idea may from time to time be of advantage to humanity.

) (Dostoyevsky 193). In the above passage, Raskolnikov insinuates a reference to the Nietzschean superman that which defies convention according to what he thinks is right. Raskolnikov considers Napoleon as a superman; the former believes that the latter is a man of undeniable strength who rejects both human and moral laws. In the novel, Raskolnikov thought that he belonged to that remarkable group of “supermen” who defied rules of morality. This is the reason why he decided to kill the pawnbroker Alyona Ivanovna. Russian nihilism plays a part in Raskolnikov’s decision to kill Alyona.

Aside from his belief that is derived from the notion of superman, Raskolnikov was also inspired to act by a will to power. While will to power seeks to enhance its own power, it also seeks that which is beyond itself. Both the will to power and the idea of superman promote the development of the individual which eventually leads to a stronger society. The sense of utilitarianism inherent in Russian nihilism was manifested in Raskolnikov’s intention of murder. He decided to kill the pawnbroker Alyona when he heard two students talking about her. One of the students said: “Her oddness interests me but I tell you what I would do.

I would kill that damnable old hag, and take all she is possessed of, without any qualm of conscience” (Dostoyevsky 52). Upon hearing these words, Raskolnikov is overcome with the nihilistic thought of killing her on the basis of the students’ conversation. He soon assumes that her death would benefit society, concluding that indeed it was the right thing to do (Rode). However, after he has done the deed, he realized that he was not an extraordinary man who could challenge moral standards. He was soon consumed by guilt, so he had to resort to convincing himself that what he did was justified (Rode).

It was then proven that Raskolnikov could not sustain his nihilism, and neither was he a superman (Rode). Raskolnikov is not the only character in the novel which demonstrates the prevalent historical milieu of Dostoevsky’s time. Svidrigailov, the former employer of Raskolnikov’s sister Dnuya, also is an example of a Russian nihilist. In the novel, he said: “In vice at least there is something permanent, founded indeed upon nature and not dependent on fantasy” (qtd. in Rode). This implies that Svidrigailov also disregards religion in favor of human nature.

Yet another character which reveals the historical development during the age of nihilism was Luzhin. He was Dunya’s fiance. As a result of westernization in Russia during the time of Dostoevsky, foreign investors were invited into the country as part of an economic expansion in Russia. Hence, industrialization and urbanization are part of the age of nihilism. Personally, Dostoevsky disagreed with this kind of development, as he saw industrialization in particular as threatening to humanity. However, he did not hesitate to include a character with a standpoint different from his.

Luzhin represented the Westernizers ideology, those who were in favor of industrialization. He is a person who strongly believed that Russia can achieve progress by means of scientific and economic improvements. Luzhin said: But science says, “Love thyself above all because everything in the world is founded on self-interest. Follow this, and thou maintainest thy garment intact. ” Economic truth adds that the more society is organized on this theory – the theory of whole coats – the more solid and permanent are its foundations, and the more established are its personal affairs.

By following this principle, I find I attain everything; and, as for the naked, I see that they ultimately receive more than the half-coat, not as the outcome of charity and exceptional liberality, but of the effects of common progress. (Dostoyevsky 110). Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky is a result of the historical milieu in which it was included. The author belonged in a society wherein Russian nihilism was prevalent. Nihilism was generally destructive, as it sought to abolish all established truths. This resulted in the disregard for all authority figures, including the church, government and even the family.

Nihilism questioned all existing values, that which is without tangible foundation. This greatly undermined the power of religion and the belief in God. Then, there is Russian nihilism, which also incorporates a sense of utilitarianism in its doctrine. Nihilism is associated with Friedrich Nietzsche, whose philosophies also dominated the period in which Dostoevsky lived. He contributed two key concepts which influenced the novel, such as will to power and the superman. The protagonist of the novel was a manifestation of all these concepts.

Raskolnikov demonstrated Russian nihilism through the murder he committed which he did under the belief that his action was for the welfare of society. He exhibited the Nietzschean will to power and superman concepts through the act of killing itself, as he sought to test himself whether or not he was an extraordinary man. In the end, he proved that he was not, as he found that he cannot escape his conscience. In addition, there were also other characters in the novel that demonstrated nihilism. One of which was Svidrigailov. The age of nihilism which was the context of the novel also included industrialization and urbanization.

It was the character of Luzhin which demonstrated this element in the story. Indeed, Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky is defined by the historical milieu in which it was written. Dostoevsky is a product of that certain period in Russia which was marked by utter disregard for religious and political structures. He lived in an age of nihilism, and this period was captured in his text. Not only does the novel tell a great story, but it also conveys a period in time which made history. Works Cited Bradley, Derek. Nietzsche’s Superman. Michigan State University. 3 June 2008 <https://www. msu. edu/user/bradle45/nietzsche. htm>.

“Crime and Punishment (Historical Context). ” Notes on Novels. 2006. Answers. com. 3 June 2008 <http://www. answers. com/topic/crime-and-punishment-novel-5>. Dostoyevsky, Fyodor. Crime and Punishment. London, England: Penguin Popular Classics, 1997. Pratt, Alan. “Nihilism. ” The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. 2006. 3 June 2008 <http://www. iep. utm. edu/n/nihilism. htm>. Rode, Sonia. Raskolnikov’s Philosophical Evolution. 30 Dec. 2007. 3 June 2008 <http://anilrode. com/highschool/writing/raskolnikov. htm>. Wahl, Shane. “Nietzsche’s Will to Power. ” Froyd. net. 3 March 2005. 3 June 2008 <http://www. froyd. net/philosophy/philo4. htm>.

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Crime and punishment morally ambigous character

May 28, 2020 by Essay Writer

Several morally ambiguous characters played different vital roles in Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky. In fact, most characters illustrated in this twisted novel can be evaluated as possesing “good” and “evil” qualities. Sonia Marmeladov is especially ambiguous and important in this novel. Her contradicting social and moral statuses along with her contrasting roles as a saintly liberator and sinner allowed Sonia to play a crucial role throughout the novel. Not only that but her character further strengthens the theme of religious awakening.

At times Sonia’s character becomes hard to categorize as “good” or “evil” because of her actions. The first descriptions the reader gets of Sonia are from her drunk father, Marmeladov. She has lived her life with little money, poor housing conidtions described as having “every sign of povery” (294). Sonia tries to make an honest living by making linen shirts but “do you suppose that a respectable poor girl can earn much by hard work? Not fifteen farthings a day can she earn”(15).

Not merely enough to support a family along with her drunk father’s habits. So Sonia eventually becomes a prositute in order to to support her family and gains a “yellow ticket” (16) This is what gained Sonia her title as a sinner and which puts her character at question. However, Marmeladov explains to Raskolnikov how Sonia goes to them “mostly after dark, she comforts Katerina Ivanorna and gives her all she can”( 16). This part of Sonia’s character depicts her as a loving daughter willing to sacrifice herself to save her family.

This portrayal in some ways resembles Christ as “He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness. ” He sarcrificed himself as she sacrifies herself. Does that change the fact that she is committing a sin? No of course not and that is exactly where the conflict of her morality takes place. The world sees her in “such an attire”(163)which puts her to shame in her “guady finery” (163) Yet the reader sees a young, timid girl who was pushed to take drastic decisions in her life.

It is Sonia’s actions which are “evil” but her purpose and pure soul make her more saintly than most of the character’s in the novel. Because her character plays this role, it is her who helps Raskolnikov find his religious faith and who leads him to finally come clean later on in the book. Another circumstance where Sonya is morally ambiguous is where she has to decide to either have a relationship with Raskolnikov, or leave him out of the picture when he tells her that it is he who murdered the pawnbroker.

Sonya knows that it is right to help Raskolnikov because he could be lost and go even deeper into his madness. However, Sonya knows that Raskolnikov is a killer and it would be wrong to be associated with somebody who knowingly commits sins as extravagant as murder. Sonya is also aware that Raskolnikov has issues and his madness could drive him to do other things that could lead to even worse consequences. Sonia does tell Raskolnikov that he must turn himself in and confess his sins but she also hugs him and kisses him as to comfort him.

Her odd response is to tell Raskolnikov “I will follow you, I will follow you everywhere…… I’ll follow you to Siberia” (407). As she tries to find a valid excuse as to why he killed those women, she finds that there was no good intentions in his mind, yet she still sticks by Raskolnikov’s side. This response leaves the reader wondering whether Sonia is doing this to help a lost soul and play her role as a saintly liberator or does her love blind her and is she simply not caring that what Raskolnikov committed was murder.

However, even though the last part of the book depicts Sonia as an accomplice to a morally wrong crime, the epilogue illustrates her as a saintly liberator. In Siberia, the image which she carried back in part one and part two of the book are stripped and she is loved by the prisoners in the camp. They even called her “little mother Sofya Semyonovna”(538), and although it is clearly stated that Sonia herself did nothing special to be liked, their preference for her depicts that they sensed her moral “goodness. ” Without direct statement, Sonia herself was the reason why Raskolnikov felt in some way his religious reawakening.

Through her unconditional love, she and her role made this “story of a gradual renewal of a man” (542) happen. Dostoevsky theme of religion was carried on and developed by Sonia’s character through her moral ambiguity. Though her character appears to be immoral in several cases, in the epilogue the reader sees how it all comes together and how Doestoevsky uses Sonya illustrates important social and political issues that were of concern to him, such as the treatment of women, the effects of poverty, the importance of religious faith, and the importance of devotion to family.

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‘Crime And Punishment’ | Analysis

May 28, 2020 by Essay Writer

The title is referring to Raskolnikov’s crime, which was the murder of Alyona Ivanovna. The novel also chronicles the punishment Raskolnikov suffers following the murder. The punishment is mental and it is not until the very end that the punishment becomes physical

Part 1 is concerned with the planning and performing of the crime while the rest of the novel details Raskolnikov’s punishment

With every crime that is committed, a punishment must follow, even if the person is not caught or the punishment is not physical


  • Fyodor Dostoevsky published this novel in 1866
  • It was published in 12 monthly installments in a Russian literary journal
  • In 1849, Dostoevsky was arrested and spent 8 months in prison,
  • He was sentenced to death by shooting squads
  • However, the execution did not take place was only meant to punish the prisoners psychologically
  • Dostoevsky then spent four years in a labor camp in Siberia
  • Raskolnikov’s time in a Siberian prison, described in the Epilogue is based off of Dostoevsky’s own experiences
  • His imprisonment also influenced the tone and mood of Crime and Punishment


Raskolnikov is the protagonist of the story.

He kills the pawnbroker, Alyona, not for financial reasons but because he believes himself to be superior.

Raskolnikov believes that he is above the law and that he is the great Napoleon. After the crime he realizes that he is not a Napoleon and he begins his long internal struggle. He is constantly stuck between trying to remain innocent by keeping the murder a secret and just confessing his crime to the police. It is only after Sonia’s intervention that Raskolnikov publically confesses. In the end, he is sent to a prison in Siberia.

Sonia Marmeledov is the daughter of the drunk, Semyon. Because of their family’s poverty, Sonia becomes a prostitute so that she may support her family. Despite this, Sonia maintains her strong faith. Later in the story, she aids Raskolnikov in his quest for redemption. After he confesses, Sonia accompanies Raskolnikov to Siberia.

Dmitri Razumikhin is can be seen as foil to Raskolnikov. Even though he is Raskolnikov’s loyal friend, the two are nearly opposite. He shows much kindness and supports Raskolnikov when he is mentally unstable. Just like Raskolnikov, he too is an ex-student. In the novel’s conclusion, he marries Dounia, Raskolnikov’s sister.

Porfiry Petrovich is the detective in charge of investigating the murders of Lizaveta and Alyona. He also tries to get Raskolnikov to confess by using psychological mindgames and manipulation. Porfiry is certain that Raskolnikov is the one behind the murders even though he has no concrete evidence. He wants Raskolnikov to voluntarily admit to the crimes.


There are two main conflicts in Crime and Punishment. The first is an internal conflict and it is Raskolnikov’s choice to kill the pawnbroker. He think in his mind that he is above regular humans, a kind of superman, and that his deed he will do will benefit everyone. Raskolnikov attempts to rationalize the killing, but after the slaughter, he soon realizes that he cannot handle the guilt that accompanies the crime. As he struggles to keep an innocent composure, his mental condition becomes unstable. Raskolnikov’s internal conflict permeates the whole novel while his overwhelming guilt tears him apart from the inside. Only with Sonia’s guidance is he able to choose to confess and lift up his burden.

The other big conflict belongs to Dounia. She is initially engaged to Luzhin, most likely to support her brother and mother. She has to deal with his snobbish behavior and Raskolnikov’s disapproval of the marriage. After she realizes Luzhin’s true selfish nature, she deserts him. However, another man, Svidriagailov, pursues her. With courage, she defiantly resists him and even convinces him that she can never love him. After all of the hardship, Dounia has to overcome, she is rewarded with a happy marriage to Razumikhin.

Opening chapter or scene:

The novel begins on a hot, muggy day in summer. The setting is St. Petersburg, Russia.

A man living in impoverished conditions leaves a house. He starts to ramble on in a random and rapid fashion.

He seems stuck between doing some deed and not doing it. As he approaches a building he seems to be going through a mental run through of the deed.

A old woman, a pawnbroker, lets him enter the building. He introduces himself as Raskolnikov.

While in the room he notices every little thing. After a conversation with the lady, Raskolnikov leaves.

He feels agitated and enters a tavern. While he is contemplating his actions, he looks over at a retired official.

The opening chapter introduces Raskolnikov and his disturbed state of mind. It also tells us the setting and how the setting actually irritates Raskolnikov even more.

All of the contemplating that Raskolnikov is doing right now is foreshadowing the crimes he will soon commit. His target is introduced as well.


After the events of the opening chapter, Semyon Marmeledov and his family’s unfortunate financial situation is introduced.

Dounia and Pulcheria Alexandrovna also send Raskolnikov a letter explaining Dounia’s engagement to Luzhin, selfish but semi-wealthy lawyer.

The inciting incident occurs when Raskolnikov learns that the pawnbroker is going to be alone in her house. This Raskolnikov a chance to kill her.

Raskolnikov murders the pawnbroker but also kills her innocent half-sister. He quickly flees the scene, traumatized by what he did.

Throughout the novel’s rising action , Raskolnikov is mentally unstable. He went to the police station and nearly confesses the crime

Svidrigailov and Luzhin both arrive. Raskolnikov dislikes both of them, Luzhin because of the attitude in marrying Dounia and Svidrigailov because he previously tried to seduce Dounia

Raskolnikov is interviewed by Porfiry who suspects Raskolnikov of the murders. Around this time he meets Sonia. Sonia is the only person whom Raskolnikov has any meaningful realationship.

Porfiry interviews Raskolnikov again. Raskolnikov also reveals Luzhin’s fraud to Dounia.

Raskolnikov, breaking under pressure, tells Sonia about the crime. Svidrigailov overhears this information and tries to rape Dounia.

Dounia rebels against him and he laters commits suicide upon learning that she can never love him.

The climax of the story takes place when Raskolnikov finally confesses to the murder after a little encouragement from Sonia.


All of the falling action occurs in the epilogue. Dounia and Razumikhin get married.

Raskolnikov, on the other hand, is sentenced to eight years of imprisonment in Siberia.

Sonia follows him there and provides support and guidance.

Although Raskolnikov initially struggles, he begins the path to redemption with the help and presence of Sonia.

The conclusion seems a little weak and out of placed compared to the rest of the novel. It is appropriate because it explains Raskolnikov’s recovery and regeneration. It however is not entirely necessary. The novel would have been if it had ended with the public confession.


One theme of the novel could be the idea of the superhuman. In the beginning, Raskolnikov believed that he was one of these supermen that could transcend human rules and laws. This was his reasoning for killing the pawnbroker. It is only after committing the crime did he realize that he could not handle the emotional repercussion. Raskolnikov learned the hard way that he was not another Napoleon.

Another theme of the novel could be that of isolation. When Raskolnikov kills, he commits an act that goes against the very nature of humanity thus isolating him from the rest of the world. He is emotionally alienated and feels very lonely after the crime. The pride and superiority that the feels even further separates him. It is only when Raskolnikov is able to confess to the crime, he is ready to be reintegrated back into society


The cross that Sonia gives to Raskolnikov is a symbol. It represents all of the pain, suffering, and guilt that Raskolnikov bears before he confesses. The cross actually belonged to Lizaveta, who gave it Sonia before she died. Just like how Jesus carried his cross through the town to Calvary to be crucified, Raskolnikov also carries his cross as he walks across town to the police station to make his confession

The crowded, cluttered, and dirty city of St. Petersburg could represent the state of mind of Raskolnikov. Similar to how he cannot escape the city, he cannot escape or let go of his delirious mental condition. It is only when he moves away from St. Petersburg and into Siberia that he is able to return to his normal state of mind

Sonia herself is a sort of Christ figure. When she first discovers that Raskolnikov is the murderer, she does not condemn him. She encourages him to confess. Also when Raskolnikov exits the police station thinking that he was safely keep his innocence, it is the sight of Sonia that makes to return to confess.

Parallel events/parallel works:

In Bless Me Ultima, Antonio loses his innocence when he sees the murders of Lupito and Narcisso. Losing his innocence makes Antonio self reflect, similar to what Raskolnikov does when commits his crime. Both get after their traumatic experiences.

In The Stranger, Meursault goes to prison for killing an Arab. Both Raskolnikov and Meursault do not find prison to be too difficult and they even find it a place where they can find peace and relief. Neither of them are particularly afraid of going to jail.

Dostoevsky also went to prison in Siberia which was exactly what happened to Raskolnikov

While Dostoevsky was writing the montly installments of Crime and Punishment, he had to write another book. If he did not finish the other novel, he would lose his publishing rights.

He published The Gambler and Crime and Punishment within months of each other


  • The novel is split into 6 parts and an epilogue. Only one part is devoted to the actually crime. A majority of the novel is Raskolnikov’s punishment
  • The novel is classified as a psychological fiction
  • Dostoevsky dives deep into Raskolnikov’s mind and talks about human suffering and his motives
  • The text itself is mostly simple and direct compared to the elegant style of other pieces of literature written during the 1860s
  • The tone of novel is tragic and despairing

Significant lines:

“I’ve known Rodion for a year and a half: sullen, gloomy, arrogant, proud; recently (and maybe much earlier) insecure and hypochondriac. Magnanimous and kind. Doesn’t like voicing his feelings, and would rather do something cruel than speak his heart out in words. At times, however, he’s not hypochondriac at all, but just inhumanly cold and callous, as if there really were two opposite characters in him, changing places with each other.” – Razumikhin’s description of Raskolnikov. It is actually quite accurate.

“all at once, in that same moment, she understood everything. Infinite happiness lit up in her eyes; she understood, and for her there was no longer any doubt that he loved her, loved her infinitely, and that at last the moment had come” – Sonia realizing in the epilogue that Raskolnikov truly does love her

“Surely it isn’t beginning already! Surely it isn’t my punishment coming upon me? It is!” – Raskolnikov says this right after he commits the murder. He senses the punishment that is to come for his terrible deed.

“The old woman was a mistake perhaps, but she’s not the point! The old woman was merely a sickness . . . I was in a hurry to step over . . . it wasn’t a human being I killed, it was a principle!” – Raskolnikov trying to rationalize killing Alyona so that his murder seems acceptable

“Not far from the entrance, stood Sonia, pale and horror-stricken. He stood still before her. There was a look of poignant agony, of despair, in her face. She clasped her hands. His lips worked in an ugly, meaningless smile. He stood still a minute, grinned and went back to the police office” – Just the sight of Sonia’s sadness causes Raskolnikov to go back to the police office to confess

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Dreams in Crime & Punishment

May 28, 2020 by Essay Writer

Dreams are a continuous sense of disconnection from reality to let us be what we cannot be and to fulfill our unconscious desires. In Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment, the depiction of dreams is seen in a deeper level, which is portrayed as symbolism to Raskolnikov’s, the protagonist, different perspectives about the world and also foreshadows a lot of significant events in the story.

Dostoevsky explores the complexity of Rodion Raskolnikov’s dreams and how it depicts Raskolnikov’s psychological processing of the things he does especially his crime.

Raskolnikov’s first dream shows a lame mare that men ferociously beat up while he is watching as a young Raskolnikov.

The portrayal of the younger version of Raskolnikov watching the terrible murder of the horse symbolizes his innocence while the murderous death of the mare symbolizes and foreshadows the brutal death of Alyona Ivanovna, the pawnbroker. In his third dream, it symbolizes the formation of his guilt as his crime of violently killing the Ivanovna sisters haunts him.

Moreover, in his last dream, there is a disease that spreads among people and drives them insane, making them believe that they are the only intelligent people. These infected people end up killing each other. This represents his realization of finally believing that his extraordinary theory about himself is wrong.

He realizes that if each person thinks that they are the most intelligent person then they would fight each other and turn against humanity. Therefore, these dreams are very crucial for the moral and psychological growth of the protagonist, Rodion Raskolnikov, in this book.

The first dream of Raskolnikov shows his dual personality. It shows two distinct conflicts between his pure heart and corrupted mind that are manifested from his dream of the lame mare. Raskolnikov’s dream is set back to the time of his youth. In his dream, he passes by a group of peasants led by Mikolka who tells his friends to get to his cart and forces a lame mare to pull them.

When the mare is too weak to pull them, Mikolka and his friends start to beat and whip the mare until it cannot breathe anymore. The young Raskolnikov witnesses all of these and “made his way [while] screaming, through the crowd to the sorrel nag, put his arms around [the mare’s] bleeding dead head and kissed it… then he jumped up and flew in a frenzy with his little fists out at Mikolka”(Dostoevsky 61-62 ).

The young innocent child in the dream represents the virtuous side of Raskolnikov as he expresses his warmth and sympathy towards the dying mare by kissing it. He is flabbergasted by the savagery of Mikolka, and he feels pity because the mare could not fight back or even save its life. This is similar to a lot of characters in the book such as Sonya, Dounia and most especially Raskolnikov since they are all beaten up by poverty.

When Raskolnikov wakes up from his dream, he suddenly contemplates a murder and asks himself: “Shall I really take an axe … strike her on the head [and] split her skull open … that I shall tread in the sticky warm blood, break the lock, steal, trembles [and] hide, all soaked in blood … with the axe … Good God, can it be?”(Dostoevsky 62). The violent killing of the horse is comparable and foreshadows the brutal attack of Raskolnikov to Alyona Ivanovna, the pawnbroker.

In his own interpretation, the dream portrays his plan on killing the pawnbroker by doing the same thing that Mikolka did to the skinny old horse.Therefore, the dream serves as a representation of Raskolnikov’s will to kill Alyona and the guilt he will feel after it is done.This dream depicts Raskolnikov’s compressed emotions and thoughts which binds his innocence with madness.

In his third dream, guilt and paranoia cause distress to Raskolnikov even when he is asleep. In his dream, he returns to the apartment where he killed Alyona Ivanovna and her sister, Lizaveta. As he walks through the apartment, he notices a coat misplaced and as he lifts it up, he sees the bloody face of Alyona.

Out of fear, “[Raskolnikov] was overcome with frenzy and began hitting the old woman on the head with all his force, but at every blow of the axe, the laughter and whispering from the bedroom grew louder and the old woman was simply shaking with mirth. He was rushing away, but the passage was full of people”(Dostoevsky 278). He hits the old woman’s head just like what he did in reality, but in his dream, she did not die.

Alyona Ivanovna becomes the physical manifestation of Raskolnikov’s moral sense. He tries to keep her away to avoid the feeling of guilt, but Alyona just laughs at him as she tries to tell him that he will never be free as long as the murder is resolved. Therefore, as this dream haunts him, Raskolnikov becomes a prisoner of his own mind and feeling of guilt.

In his last dream, it disproves his feelings of being superior over common men. Raskolnikov believes that there are two types of people that coexist in the world. The first one is the ordinary men which he defines as “men that have to live in submission, have no right to transgress the law, because … they are ordinary”( Dostoevsky 259).

On the other hand is extraordinary men, which he defines as “men that have a right to commit any crime and to transgress the law in any way , just because they are extraordinary”( Dostoevsky 259).

This is why his last dream becomes significant to Raskolnikov’s new realization about humanity. In his dream, microscopic bugs invade the country and “each thought that he alone had the truth and was wretched looking at the others, beat himself on the breast, wept and wrung his hands.

They did not know how to judge and could not agree what to consider evil and what good; they did not know whom to blame, whom to justify. Men killed each other in a sort of senseless spite” ( Dostoevsky 539). People that are infected think that they themselves are the sole possessors of intelligence. This causes chaos, famine, and people to kill each other. They are only a few survivors to renew their destroyed humanity.

Moreover, this dream represents his realization of finally believing that his extraordinary theory is wrong. He believes that he is an extraordinary man with no rules to follow or can break the law without being punished. Because of this, he thinks that he will not feel any remorse after killing Alyona Ivanovna.

Therefore, this dream makes him realize that if each person thought that they are the most intelligent person then they would fight each other and turn against humanity. He finally accepts that he is just a normal person who has rules to follow and things to repent just like anybody else.

To top it all, Dostoevsky uses dreams to depict Raskolnikov’s feelings and perspectives on things especially the murder. The young Raskolnikov in his first dream, represents his innocence, which shows that even from the start, he does not have the full confidence that he can actually commit murder. In his third dream, his guilt is finally haunting him. Because of the murder he commits, his actions become erratic and his dreams become his punisher.

This proves that he is actually not an “extraordinary man” because as he tries to kill Alyona in his dream, she just laughs at him which torments his mind more. In his last dream, which I think is the most significant dream among all the dreams, represents Raskolnikov’s acceptance that he is wrong about his “extraordinary theory”.

He finally believes that he is just a normal person like anyone. Because of all his dreams, it urges him to confess his crime and to finally accept the reality that he is not as superior as he thinks he is. He can finally set himself free from the guilt and believe that murder is not right even for anyone.

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Crime and Punishment: Resurrection

June 17, 2019 by Essay Writer

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.

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Superman is dead! Dostoyevsky’s View of the Ubermensch Theory

June 10, 2019 by Essay Writer

“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.” [1] 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 equal‹there 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.” [2] 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. [3] 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.” [4] 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.” [5] 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. [6]Dostoyevsky paints a negative portrait of these two men‹the 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. [7] 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 another‹morally 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.” [8] 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 another‹everyone 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.” [9] 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. [10] 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.” [11] 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. [12]Alyosha treated everyone with equality and generosity‹he is Dostoyevsky’s ideal character.Dostoyevsky has shown two extremes with Karamazov and Svidrigalov, and Alyosha. Because Karamazov and Svidrigalov live as Supermen‹making their first priority fulfillment of selfish desires‹they 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 groups‹the 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.” [13] 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!” [14] 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 being‹as 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 Karamazov‹people like Alyosha‹benefit 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 areŠ” [15]The last line of the book is Dostoyevsky’s voice as well as the children’s: “Hurrah for Alyosha!” [16]Endnotes[1] Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Crime and Punishment, trans. Sidney Monas (New York: New American Library, 1968) 256.[2] Ibid., p. 293.[3] Ibid., p. 279.[4] Michael Holquist “How Sons Become Fathers” Fyodor Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov, Ed. Harold Bloom (New Haven: Chelsea House Publishers, 1988) 41.[5] Fyodor Dostoyevsky, The Brothers Karamazov, trans. Constance Garnett (New York: New American Library,1958) 19.[6] Ibid., p. 104.[7] Harold Bloom, Fyodor Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov (New Haven: Chelsea House Publishers, 1988) 1.[8] Ernest J. Simmons, Russian Realism (Bloomington: Indiana University Press,1965) 117.[9] Dostoyevsky, The Brothers Karamazov, p. 308.[10] Ibid., p. 340.[11] Ibid., p. 510.[12] Ibid., p. 99.[13] Marc Slonim, An Outline of Russian Literature (New York: Oxford University Press, 1958) 135.[14] Dostoyevsky, Crime and Punishment, p. 271.[15] Dostoyevsky, The Brothers Karamazov, p. 728.[16] Ibid., p. 729.

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Deconstructing Madness in Crime and Punishment and Don Quixote

June 3, 2019 by Essay Writer

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 revengeŠwhen there are more than twenty of them, and we are only twoŠ?” (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 intelligenceŠthat 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 senseŠin his conversation and in his answers” and “only [loses] his stirrupsŠon 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 dietŠon [which] he spent three-quarters of his income” and essentially “nothing to doŠ[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 actionŠimpelled 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 amendŠ” (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 stairsŠto 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 himŠHe jumped, so weak had his nerves become this time” (Dostoevsky 6) . Even Raskolnikov’s first transcribed thoughts – which babble about babbling – echo with insanity: ” ŒI learned to babble over this past month, lying in a corner day in and day out, thinking aboutŠcuckooland’ ” (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 raptureŠ 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 tearsŠbut 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 beforehandŠEh! but I did know beforehand!” (Dostoevsky 274). Raskolnikov perhaps comes closest to understanding by concluding that he “just wanted to dareŠthat’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 womanŠfor 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.

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