The main character of the novel Crime and Punishment by Feodor Dostoevsky, Raskolnikov, is in reality has two totally contradicting personalities. One part of him is intellectual. He is cold, unfeeling and inhumane. He exibits tremendous self-will. It is this side that enables him to commit the most terrible crime imaginable – taking another human life. The other part of his personality is warm and compassionate. This is the side of him that does charitable acts and fights out against the evil in his society.
The confusion in Raskolnikovs soul is best seen when he tries to help a girl in the street who has been raped and left to the whims of anyone who finds her. Raskolnikov tries to protect her from the evil of the street, gut then stops himself when he is revulsed by the wickedness of his society. Why did I take it upon myself to interfere? Was it for me to try to help? Let them eat one another alive – what is it to me? At one time Raskolnikov is both caring and concerned and yet he is able to push aside the whole affair by being totally indifferent. This is how Raskolnikov is able to commit his crime. His intellectual side ignores his conscience and is able to commit the crime in a rational and orderly way. It is his dual character that serves as his punishment. One side of him is able to commit the murders so the other must bear the punishment. He is tortured by the cruelty in mankind and yet he himself is able to repeat it.
Ralkolnokove justifies his crime through a philosophy that he has come up with. The man with power is the man to rule over all others. But this power is only given to those who dare to take it. Raskolnikov wanted to see if he had the courage to take that power. He also had to battle with his rationalization of the murbers. He claimed that since Alyona, the first murder victim, was such a parasite to people,it was all right to kill her. He never mentions his other victim, Lizaveta, because she was the sweet and harmless one whose murder he cannot face.
The two other characters of the novel who represent these two different sides are Sonya Marmeladov and Svidrigailov. Sonya is the warm side of Raskolnikov. She is a prostitute forced into that field because her father drinks away all of the money in the family. She is meek and submissive. She will give her father her last copeck even if
he comes to her totally drunk. Raskolnikov is at once attracted to and
repulsed by this personality. Svidrigailov is the cold and detached personality that Raskolnikov both loathes and embraces.
The goal of the novel is to make Raskolnikov into one character.Sonya helps bring Raskolnikov back into his emotional, humane side.Through her suffering, she shows him that it is important to have a love for all humanity and that no person should ever be able to exist like a parasite off of another person. Porifery, the official investigating the crime, acts as the intellectual who shows Roskolnikov that all intellect must be used for the good of mankind.
As said before the character Raskolnikov in the novel Crime and Punishment is among one of the most realistic and believable characters I have ever read about. He is also the most confusing and distraught man I have been introduced to this entire year. Raskolnikov possesses the most varying personality imaginable and this makes the reasoning behind his actions a mystery, especially in the case of the murder. Determining the rationale in killing the old pawnbroker is a complex process that necessitates deep thought from the reader. It is also a difficult point to argue because Dostoevskys novel is so intensely detailed that different readers can emphasize different aspects of the book in order to attempt to explain Raskolnikovs deeds.
Guilt as well as intellectual reasoning prove to be the main motivating factors behind the crime of Raskolnikov. Throughout the novel his actions are usually a result of his striking intelligence or his tormenting conscience, or in the situation of the murder, both. Raskolnikovs idea to kill the old pawnbroker stems from a theory he was developing. It was probable that during his studies at the university he was aquatinted with the popular philosophies of two German thinkers of the time.
One of these philosophers is George Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, who had formulated a conception of an exceptional individual he called a superman. Hegels superman exists for good purposes. He stands above and beyond the ordinary man and works for the good of all men. The most controversial part of this superman theory that Raskolnikov obviously adopts is the Machiavellian belief that the end justifies the mean. This means that anything that could have a beneficial outcome for many should be considered regardless of the sacrifice of the few. If the intent is noble the method will be justified. According to Hegel, any damaging part of a community should be removed, and one tiny crime will be wiped clean by the good deeds that occur because of it.
Another prevalent German theorist was Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche who had a differing opinion of the superman. His idea was that the superman does not live for benefit of society, but instead for his own personal satisfaction. Nobility never prompts any of his aims. Nietzsche was a devout atheist who believed that either no God exists or that He was dead, so his superman is a man who, without fear of God, exerts his own desires completely. He has the strongest will and is able to force his power over others simply to gratify himself or assert dominance. The Nietzschean superman does not need consolation from anyone and is able to live totally alone. The wishes of others should never affect the powerful will of the superman.
When Raskolnikov was developing his own superman theory he borrowed elements from both Nietzsche and Hegel, then applied them to his situation in order his own vague hypothesis. To Raskolnikov, all men fall into two categories, the ordinary and the extraordinary. Ordinary men are inferior to the extraordinary, and they live in submission. They have no authority to break any laws and they live only to reproduce more of their own kind.
On the other hand, the extraordinary man is bound by no rules. He lives by no laws just because he is extraordinary. Raskolnikov thinks that being great relies on breaking from the common mold of society. This includes breaking the laws made by and for the ordinary people. He feels that when one complies to public law he ceases to be a great man. Since the achievements of the superman will eventually benefit all of mankind he has the fundamental right to decide whether to abide to laws or not. He has the position to overstep any obstacle that stands in the way of fulfilling his potential. He feels that extraordinary men that act in this fashion drive civilization forward to new levels of accomplishment.
In this fashion Raskolnikov justifies his crime. The Alyona is an evil old pawnbroker who hurts people who come to her for pawning, therefore he reasons that murdering her would eliminating a harmful member of society. Alyona also has loads of valuables that would otherwise be wasted if he did not take it upon himself to distribute them to the needy. Raskolnikov permits violence in the name of conscience.
However, it is not in Raskolnikovs nature to rely entirely on his intellectual reasoning to exonerate his crime. Guilt plays a major role in motivating him to kill Alyona. His intense love for his family, and the desperate circumstances that were emerging was probably the deciding factor that drove Raskolnikov to actually commit the crime. His stubborn love for Dunya made him take action against her impending marriage to Luzhin. He was not the type of man to allow his family to suffer while he stood aside helpless. I feel that this was the straw that broke the camels back and impelled him to take action.
It is extremely important to understand that Raskolnikov had not completely worked out his theory at the time of the murder. All of his individual ideas were there, but many connection discrepancies arise. The theory is essentially contradictory sometimes because he had not totally devised his plan before he committed the homicide. One main contradiction in the theory is that he believes the murder was executed for the benefit of all men, but then in turn, believes that, as a superman, he should not be concerned with the plight of the ordinary man.Incomplete understanding of his own thoughts such as this leads Raslkolnikov to the possibility of confession and redemtion.
Raslkolnikov uses Napoleon as an example of his extraordinary man throughout the book. He feels that he symbolizes the superman because he stood above common law, and had the nerve to commit nefarious acts in order to reach his goals. However, Raskolnikov does not consider another possibility who fits the mold of the extraordinary superman.
Svidrigailov represents an almost perfect embodiment of the superman. He is a cold intellectual who emphasizes his own will above all else. Everything Svidrigailov does is done to either give him pleasure or place him above the normal morality. When Dunya denies him love, though, he finally comes to realize that he is truly unable to stand alone above everyone else without companionship. Where Svidrigailov falls short, so does Raskolnikov. Consequently, when he tries to stand alone, like a Nietzschean superman, he finds that he cannot bear to be cut off from the rest of humanity. This drives Raskolnikov to confess his crime in order to again become a member of society. Solitude opens him to the prospect of confession, and he in turn admits his crime as well as his own shortcoming to Sonia.
The essential factors of psycho-analysis that are important in a interpretation of Raskolnikov’s behavior in the novel Crime and Punishment, and whose conflict results in Raskolnikov’s becoming a criminal are the id, the superego, and the ego. We see that these three parts of Raskolnikovs psyche attribute to his strange behavior and in the end his fate as a criminal.
Before beginning an assessment of Raskolnikovs psyche we must discuss Raskolnikov’s background, he is an intellectual, a student, and we see obvious effects of an over used intellect throughout the novel. Although Raskolnikov is an intellectual at the beginning and throughout the novel, when we see a flashback to his childhood, we see a dramatic scene where Raskolnikov show’s great compassion towards a horse. A conflict between intellect and compassion is a central point of the book. The conflict arises because intellect is not very good at being compassionate, and compassion is generally not logical. This is one of the imposing factors within the psyche of Raskolnikov.
Although Raskolnikov’s compassion can be classified neatly under superego, morality principal. Intellect does not fit directly into opposition with it under id. Intellect would best be classified under ego, reality principal. The main job being to find a balance between id and superego. A very good example of this mediation, is after Raskolnikov gives money to Sonia. This is an extreme extension of his superego, the ego lets it slide by. But after Raskolnikov’s ego or intellect analyzes this action he realizes it has broken the balance too much and he regrets it. Almost the same thing happens when Raskolnikov kills the old woman. After the ego analyzes it, the ego disapproves, again a tipping of the scale.
A contributing factor to Raskolnikovs chaotic psyche and major factor in the morose attitude of Raskolnikov is his desperate surroundings. We are greeted with dark, dirty, desolate, city where there is no hope anywhere. He is surrounded by drunkards and prostitutes, there are only a few people within the novel who have even an inkling of contentment. Living in this environment it is understandable how he could be so miserable.
Getting back to criminality, we see that the criminal could most likely be said to be lacking superego, and be a person ruled by the id. But this is not really the case. Crime is a symbolic expression of tensions and conflicts in the psyche of the criminal (Introduction to Criminology, 2) There is nothing but a conflict, that for the most part has resulted in a stalemate. But every now and again, one part of the psyche takes power and this leads to Raskolnikov’s erratic behavior. Raskolnikovs behavior is merely a result of conflict between two extremes, leading him to be so kind yet so cruel at times.
One thing which has not been discussed is Raskolnikovs theory that the extraordinary person need not adhere to law. Without going into too much detail this could be said to be an attempt by Raskolnikov to rationalize the desires of his id with his intellect. Leading him to the strange conclusion that it is justified to kill someone if it is beneficial to certain people.
In conclusion, Raskolnikov is the product of a cruel and desperate society and tortured by a chaotic psyche, and eventually his erratic behavior leads him to his downfall.