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Published: 20-10-2019

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Utilitarianism in the Novel Crime and Punishment

“Which action would give the greatest number of men and women the greatest happiness?” is a query a utilitarian would ask him or herself before producing a selection. Utilitarianism is the belief technique in which an action is regarded ethically acceptable if that action advantages a large number of individuals. The novel Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky explores mid-nineteenth century utilitarianism as a motivation of characters’ actions, while demonstrating his personal point of view on the philosophy. Dostoyevsky is capable to reveal the accurate selfish and unselfish nature of characters, such as Raskolnikov and Sonya, through each and every of their makes use of of utilitarianism.

Very first, Raskolnikov selfishly utilizes utilitarianism to hide his accurate motivations behind murdering the pawnbroker, Alyona Ivanovna. Raskolnikov reasons to himself that Alyona Ivanovna is a bane to society by hoarding all of her funds as an alternative of helping the poor. By killing her and utilizing her income to help others, Raskolnikov decides that he would be carrying out a excellent deed. Raskolnikov initial gets the concept of murdering her when overhearing 1 man in a bar saying to one more, “A hundred thousand good deeds could be completed and helped, on that old woman’s funds which will be buried in a monastery! […] For one life thousands would be saved from corruption and decay” (Dostoyevsky 54). Here, the author emphasizes the adverse outcome of letting Alyona Ivanovna reside. Killing her would have beneficial benefits for the poor, who would be given another opportunity at life. Despite Raskolnikov’s utilitarian pretenses, his logic proves to be meaningless when he also kills Lizaveta Ivanovna, the pawnbroker’s innocent sister whose death would not have benefited any person. Additionally, Raskolnikov himself confesses later on that he truly killed Alyona Ivanovna in order to prove that he was an “extraordinary man” who can break moral barriers for the greater great. This shows that Raskolnikov did not totally accept his vulnerable predicament although he was destitute, he wanted to establish that he was nonetheless above other individuals and seize some sort of liberty by some signifies, even violence. In this instance, Dostoyevsky recognizes that utilitarianism could very easily be misused to disguise motivations behind ignoble actions.

Subsequent, Dounia’s decision to marry Pyotr Petrvich Luzhin is also primarily based on an unselfish kind of utilitarianism. Dounia was not in enjoy with her fiancé. In truth, Pulcheria even wrote in her letter to her son, Rodion Raskolnikov, “[Dounia] has been in a sort of fever for the final handful of days, and has currently made a typical strategy for your becoming in the finish an associate and even a companion in Pyotr Petrovich’s legal organization […] we have [great hopes] of his helping us to pay for your university studies” (Dostoyevsky 30-1). Dounia and Pulcheria have based their selection of Dounia’s marriage solely on the prospect of improvement of their family’s welfare. When Dounia, as a bride-to-be, ought to be preparing and becoming excited for her wedding, she instead excites herself more than the thought that her brother may get a prestigious job and finish his studies at the university. Raskolnikov, recognizing from the letter itself that Luzhin is not a generous man, reacts by saying, “It’s clear enough: for [Dounia’s self], for her comfort, to save her life she would not sell herself, but for somebody else she is carrying out it! […] That’s what it all amounts to for her brother, for her mother, she will sell herself! She will sell every little thing!” (Dostoyevsky 36). Dostoyevsky utilizes the dialogue of Pulcheria and Raskolnikov to reveal both the hopes of mother and daughter set on Luzhin, and Raskolnikov’s rejection and sense of self-pride. In a sense, however, this is another side of utilitarianism’s negative elements, with Raskolnikov in an anti-utilitarian position in this scenario. Therefore, Dostoyevsky demonstrates once once again that a utilitarian attitude and justification for actions that hurt individuals, Dounia in this case, can be dangerous and can finish up generating every person involved worse off. 

Dostoyevsky juxtaposes Pulcheria’s and Raskolnikov’s personalities via their dialogue. Even though Pulcheria has a motherly, family-oriented nature, Raskolnikov’s dialogue displays his excessive conceit and insecurity in accepting others’ assist. In addition, by choosing to marry Luzhin for her family’s sake, Dounia is picking the action that rewards the most individuals. She would sacrifice her happiness and a likelihood at marrying someone she really loves for her family’s happiness. Nonetheless, this program backfires later when she realizes that marrying Luzhin will not advantage her family members at all simply because of his miserly character. In this case, utilitarianism attempts to undo the problems of Raskolnikov’s family, and Dounia’s selfishness is reflected in the way she implements utilitarianism. It also highlights the differences in between Dounia and her brother, by contrasting Raskolnikov’s haughtiness with Dounia’s humility and honesty.

Sonya displays unselfish utilitarianism by becoming a prostitute in order to assistance her poverty-stricken loved ones. Her father, a drunkard, is perpetually unemployed. Any job he gains, he loses quickly following. It is up to Sonya to bring home money, and for that reason food to the table, so the family members can survive. When Raskolnikov visits Sonya for the 1st time, he says to her, “But you are a great sinner, accurate […] and your worst sin is that you have destroyed and betrayed yourself for nothing. Isn’t that fearful? […] It would be greater, a thousand instances better and wiser to leap into the water and finish it all!”(Dostoyevsky 255). Sonya responds to him, “But what would become of them?” (Dostoyevsky 255). Sonya does not thoughts in the least that Raskolnikov insults her so directly she appears to consider what he is saying is accurate. The author juxtaposes Raskolnikov’s and Sonya’s personalities in this instance. The reality that Raskolnikov is so forthright with the way in which he requires liberties when speaking with Sonya demonstrates his arrogance. This contrasts sharply with her humility and moral innocence. She understands that though her prostitution does not support her loved ones rise out of poverty, it is only simply because of her that they are able to survive. She has sold herself for her family members, and it becomes apparent to the reader that she would go to even greater lengths in order to secure a better future for her family members. As each Raskolnikov and Sonya know, even suicide would only serve to put her out of her misery, but it would not assist her family members in any way. By undertaking the utmost that she can to assist her loved ones, Sonya is applying a utilitarian calculus to her life. She becomes a martyr for her beloved family members, and by accepting the duty of breadwinner, she demonstrates her capabilities of empathy and understanding, the very attributes that Raskolnikov lacks. 

Lastly, Svidrigailov displays unselfish utilitarianism soon after he realizes that he only causes pain to Dounia and that she will continue to refuses his love. Soon, Svidrigailov performs various acts of charity and very good deeds just before his suicide, for the purpose of injecting his existence with which means. He takes Sonya’s siblings to an orphanage and secures their nicely-getting, providing Sonya three thousand rubles to use to travel to Siberia with Raskolnikov when he is imprisoned, and providing fifteen thousand rubles to his fiancée’s family members. When Sonya’s father dies, Svidrigailov even tells Raskolnikov, “I will undertake all the arrangements, the funeral and that. You know it is a question of income and, as I told you, I have lots to spare” (Dostoyevsky 343). Furthermore, he lies to absolutely everyone that he is going off to America for some time. This lie enables him to disappear without having query and to die without having opposition to his suicide. His generous acts give his death a utilitarian meaning as his death leaves other people far better off. Finally, even his suicide is a utilitarian act. By dying, he is removing himself from Dounia’s life, in which he had only caused unhappiness and struggles. Svidrigailov’s acts of utilitarianism are different from others’ acts in that he performs them as a result of becoming a changed man. Even although Svidrigailov’s true nature is not generous, he becomes so as soon as he realizes he has no point in life any longer. General, Svidrigailov’s true personality ultimately succumbs to utilitarianism. The author’s decision of creating Svidrigailov a dynamic character permits Dostoyevsky to portray a diverse potential application of utilitarianism. The author recognizes that the utilitarian outlook could also be employed in an attempt to atone. Moreover, utilitarianism utilized in a purely unselfish way can provide for some men and women a greater, a lot more meaningful life.

The lesson Dosteyevsky leaves the reader with is that sacrifice is important to utilitarianism, and the sacrifice is not often worth the reward. The pawnbroker’s life is sacrificed to supposedly help society Dounia attempts to sacrifice her married life for her family’s welfare Sonya sacrifices her life for her family’s survival and Svidrigailov sacrifices his personal funds and life to aid other people. All through Crime and Punishment, utilitarianism demonstrates the accurate nature of a character via his or her willingness to sacrifice. In addition, the author’s use of juxtaposition and characters’ behavior enables Dostoyevsky to convey his own viewpoint that ideologies, such as utilitarianism, ought to not be followed blindly and are helpful or not based on the specifics of a given predicament. 
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