Dostoevsky’s “Crime and Punishment” essay

Eternal questions always interested people regardless their personality, religious believes, nationality, education and other factors. Among such questions we can point out the question of crime and punishment that is always actual and needs a qualified respond and writers are those who could carry this question to the wide audience that could help to better understanding of both phenomena. As for me the world’s literature knows a person who achieved a great success in solution of the dilemma of crime and punishment this is F.M. Dostoevsky, a Russian classical writer well-known all over the world by many of his work but in the first instance by his novel Crime and Punishment that brought him the world’s glory.

In his work Dostoevsky reveals his highly philosophical point of view and his perception of life as well as the mentality of the whole Russian people, its psychology and culture. The main theme of the novel is a dualistic nature of the principle character Raskolnikov. The basis of the novel is his experience, his self-analysis and reflections. All events are closely connected to Raskolnikov and it even seems that other characters are created with only one aim to achieve to discover the inner world of the main hero and in comparison with others to understand his behavior and his way of thinking.

The main character is a very complicated person who seeks his own way in life. Raskolnikov is a dualistic person: on the one hand, he thinks that he is a superman who can do everything and, on the other hand he can’t help from feeling pity to sufferings of other people and from self-torturing. That is because of his arrogance he determines to commit the crime though he tries to justify it for himself he can’t commit it without any reason. His arrogant attitude to others leads to the following reflections about his actions: Why am I going there? Am I capable of that? Is that serious? It is not serious at all. It’s simply a fantasy to amuse myself; a plaything! Yes, maybe it is a plaything. (Crime and Punishment.  Ch1, p.2). His crime seems to be a revolt against all human principles and as Pushkin said that there is nothing more terrible than Russian revolt. And indeed Raskolnikov’s crime is really cruel and terrible.

But then, on committing the crime he suffers, he looks for explanation of his crime because he killed not only a pawnbroker but also her sister Lizaveta, an innocent old woman and this fact is unbearable for him. He suggests different motives of his crime but practically immediately he rejects them. His spiritual sufferings are terrible. He is pursued by strange dreams and self-torturing. By the way, dreams play a very important role which is emphasized by Dostoevsky. Moreover, they are quite difficult for perception because they may be interpreted in different ways and sometimes it is difficult to say if they are real or not. For example, the dream about the death of the horse (Crime and Punishment. Ch.5) may be interpreted in several ways. Here we can associate Raskolnikov either with the boy, or the horse, or the murdering peasant, or even all three at once. Nonetheless, it is obvious that such dreams help us to understand deep psychological characteristics of the hero, and probably his motives and feelings. That was certainly the innovation made by Dostoevsky.

Returning to the sufferance of Raskolnikov I think that one of the main and real reason of his crime was his self-isolation, the contrast that he created between him and other people. Probably it was his free will, his concept of crimes of principle that resulted in murder and robbing the pawnbroker. Such ideas led to isolation of Raskolnikov from other people who couldn’t understand him. I think it is quite a symbolic thing because it reveals psychology and character of the whole nation. I believe that explanation of this may be found in the history of Russia because it is not a secret that Russia was an isolated country for a long time and it developed in a different way than European countries. The lack of contacts with Europe and outer world was the result of several factors: firstly, Russia’s geographical position for this country couldn’t develop its sea contact because there was no sea outlet for Russia for many centuries; secondly, it was exhausted by Mongols’ invasion which threw this country back in its development for several centuries. That is why Russia differed greatly from its European neighbors: it didn’t have traditional for occidental countries feudalism in its proper sense but it had traditions of serfdom established for many years ahead in people’s psychology. Thus, Russia was influenced by oriental despotism and its desire to European integration (since the reign of Peter I). These two controversial parts of Russian character and mentality found its expression in the image of Raskolnikov.

So the crime was the result of Raskolnikov’s incarceration within himself and, as a result, by his arrogance and strong belief in his superpower. But did he remain the same after the crime? Obviously no. The murder of an innocent person ruined all his reasonable motives which permitted him to commit the crime. Consequently, he looks for somebody who could help him. And as for me the greatest impact on Raskolnikov’s decision to tell the truth produced Sonia and Porfiry. Though we can’t deny that others also played a certain role in it, for example Dunia who was blackmailed by Svidrigailov whose suicide, in its turn, assured Raskolnikov that any crime would be punished.

But Sonia and Porfiry played the principle role here.

Sonia is a person who, being physically immoral (she is a prostitute), remains a spiritually pure person who believes that God will reward her suffering because she does it for her family’s sake. She is a symbol of a traditional Russian strong religious belief in almighty God. She persuades Raskolnikov in efficacy of redemption and she insists that he must repent of his crime: Go at once, this very minute, stand at the cross-roads, bow down, first kiss the earth which you have defiled, and then bow down to all the world and say to all men aloud, I am a murderer!’ Then God will send you life again. (Crime and Punishment.  Ch.30, p.361). Thus, she believes that sufferings are inevitable and even useful and here we notice that the author stands on the same ground.

As for Profiry, he is Raskolnikov’s intellectual equal. He analyzes the psychology of the criminal, he wants to understand his motives. He is sure that a criminal must realize his own guilt only then punishment may be effective: If he has a conscience he will suffer for his mistake. That will be punishment as well as the prison. (Crime and Punishment.  Ch.19, p.230). Here we see a typical Russian character for whom inner world, the state of mind, the soul are more important than external world.

Thus, the author has a strong belief that through criminal’s realization of his guilt, through spiritual punishment and sufferings the criminal may come to redemption and, consequently, his soul will be saved because for Dostoevsky crime and punishment also have moral and spiritual dimensions. So he is against the primitive principle eye for eye tooth for tooth’. He is for conscious spiritual punishment that can be stronger than physical one. In this aspect he is close to L.Tolstoy’s idea that violence won’t destroy evil.

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