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Existentialism in Dostoevsky's Novel Crime and Punishment
An fascinating characteristic of Crime and Punishment as an ideological novel is that standard social rationale and morality become inverted for Raskolnikov in that he is able to justify and commit his crime while simultaneously judging and condemning the evils in other characters. Moreover, the evils he perceives – excluding these of Svidrigalov – are not traditionally regarded immoral evils. For instance, Sonya’s and Dunya’s self-sacrifice would generally be considered a noble characteristic. Even so, interestingly adequate, in terms of Raskolnikov’s existential views, self-sacrifice becomes the greatest crime of all.
Elements of the psychological novel come into play as Dostoyevsky traces Raskolnikov’s thought-approach throughout the conception, perpetration, and repercussions of his crime. Particularly, Raskolnikov’s dreams function to reflect his varying psychological states as it relates to the murder he fails in his attempts to make use of common philosophical, social, and political ideologies to rationalize his crime, and, eventually, is left with only his psychological suffering. There are a total of three dreams, every single involving the violent beating of a person or animal even though a crowd appears on. In the initial dream, a lowly drunken peasant is beating a horse. The crowd has a mixed reaction to the beating some disapprove, some simply look on, and some participate in the beating Raskolnikov, even though only a kid in the dream, actively attempts to quit the beating. In the second dream, the assistant superintendent is beating Raskolnikov’s landlady. The crowd looks on and is uniformly shocked, but no a single attempts to intervene, including Raskolnikov. In his third dream, Raskolnikov beats the old woman whom he murdered while bystanders look on and laugh. All three dreams are preceded by either the believed or the presence of Razumikhin, who can be mentioned to represent honesty, innocence, and morality in the novel. This coincidence can be believed to come from Razumikhin coming to symbolize Raskolnikov’s conscience protesting his attempts to justify his crime therefore, Raskolnikov grows increasingly annoyed with Razumikhin. Razumikhin’s unwavering faith in Raskolnikov’s inherent goodness is loathsome to Raskolnikov, especially following he has committed his crime.
Prior to his initial dream, Raskolnikov contemplates going to Razumikhin, who is described as “remarkable for in no way taking any of his failures to heart and in no way becoming unduly cast down by any circumstances, even so straitened” (70). Raskolnikov initially rejects the notion of going to see him, “The query why he was now going to see Razumikhin worried him a lot more than he realized he was anxiously trying to uncover some ominous which means in this, it would appear, fairly ordinary action” (71). He then decides to postpone his trip to Razumikhin’s until soon after he has committed the murder. At the believed of the murder, he becomes horrified, and decides not to do it. Then, Raskolnikov’s first dream occurs, right after walking around contemplating each the murder and the possibility of going to Razumikhin for financial assistance. In the dream, Raskolnikov (as a young boy) witnesses a furious peasant in a mob whipping an old mare and beating it with a hatchet till it dies. The young Raskolnikov is horrified, a lot more so due to the fact the peasant insists that the mare is his “property” and he may do what ever he wishes with it (76). Raskolnikov’s reaction to the beating of the mare strongly contradicts his contemplations of committing murder. After he wakes, he is reaffirmed in his personal horror at the believed of the murder. He says to himself, “Good God!. . . is it achievable that I will genuinely take a hatchet, hit her on the head with it . . . is it feasible?” (78). In this way, the dream symbolizes Raskolnikov’s split psyche. The stress for Raskolnikov in this predicament becomes the conflict amongst his somewhat weak sense of morality and his idea that, as Porfiry puts it, “certain men and women . . . have a best proper to commit all sort of enormities and crimes and that they are, as it had been, above the law” (275). Porfiry additional elaborates on Raskolnikov’s suggestions among the ordinary and the extraordinary. Raskolnikov defends his tips with utilitarianism: “…the extraordinary man has a right—not an officially sanctioned right, of course—to permit his conscience to overstep specific obstacles, but only if it is absolutely necessary for the fulfillment of his thought on which fairly possibly the welfare of all mankind might depend” (276).
Even so, Raskolnikov’s try to use the ideology of utilitarianism to justify murder is undermined by his horror at the beating of the horse in his dream. Even though he tries to justify the murder of the old woman making use of the aforementioned principles, he can not escape his horror at the thought of truly having to go via the motions of committing the crime. His initial dream exemplifies this aspect of his psyche, the aspect dominated by Razumikhin’s character and his conscience. This comes into conflict with the dream because the peasant that is beating the horse is not an “extraordinary” man and the killing of a horse does not serve any higher excellent. Even so, the crowd in this dream does not entirely disapprove the beating of the horse some even participate. This appears to imply that part of society supports the crime, although it is senseless and basically evil, adding one more layer of confusion. Raskolnikov, in the dream, is horrified that the men and women are allowing the beating to continue, hence undermining the reasoning for his personal murder. When he awakes, he is entirely convinced that it is impossible for him to commit the crime.
Right after the dream, however, Raskolnikov has an expertise that bizarrely unites religiosity and utilitarianism in his justification for crime. He inexplicably requires a detour on his way home and in a “sort of predestined turning point of his fate” he learns that Lisaveta Ivanovna is to be away from house during the planned time of the murder of her sister (79-80). Upon learning this, Raskolnikov “suddenly felt with all his getting that he no longer possessed any freedom of reasoning or of will, and that every little thing was all of a sudden and irrevocably settled” (81). Therefore, Raskolnikov, forgetting about his dream and Razumikhin, rationalizes the murder by attempting to dismiss his totally free will and alternatively rely on predetermination.
Raskolnikov’s second dream occurs right after the murder. He returns home after burying the stolen items and going to Razumikhin. It is important to note that while going to Razumikhin, Raskolnikov becomes overwhelmed with rage, “it had not occurred to Raskolnikov that he would have to meet him face to face” he cannot bear to meet Razumikhin face to face because he represents his conscience (130). On his way residence, he is beaten in the street by “a driver of a carriage… [who] hit him quite painfully across the back with his whip” (131), significantly like the mare from his first dream. When he lastly arrives at property, he “undress[es] and trembling like a winded horse, he [lies] down on the sofa… and right away [falls] into a heavy slumber” (133). Coincidentally, the animal imagery surrounding the second dream links it with the very first 1. He then dreams that his landlady is brutally beaten on the stairs. Like his prior reaction, he is horrified and “could not picture such brutality, such frenzy” (133). The crowd, representing society, appears on in shock, but not a single person attempts to intervene. They are also weak to intervene they merely view the assistant superintendent as a monster, which is what Raskolnikov possibly fears he has grow to be.
Following Raskolnikov has made the selection and committed the murder, he need to face the damaging consequences of his actions. From a utilitarian point of view, the selection that Raskolnikov produced may have served the higher great nonetheless, the psychological repercussions – the unfavorable consequences and state of suffering – which the murder brings onto Raskolnikov, heavily overshadow any “good” which may have come from his crime. This is exemplified by his dream, which horrifies him, and however which is about a crime not completely dissimilar to his own. He can not see a purpose, let alone a greater excellent, for the beating of his landlady.
Raskolnikov’s third dream occurs when he returns home soon after frenziedly leaving Razumikhin and encountering the artisan in the street. Raskolnikov’s spilt psyche runs rampant in this scene. He fears providing himself away, and but is frustrated with Razumikhin for not noticing his guilt, “Razumikhin is right here, and however he does not look to have noticed something. That innocent booby never ever notices anything!” (271). Raskolnikov—or, at least, a portion of Raskolnikov—wants his conscience to prevail, desires Razumikhin to figure it out, and desires to be held accountable for his crime. In the midst of Raskolnikov’s contradictory thoughts, behaviors and anxiety more than his crime, there is an ideological debate in between Porfiry and Razumikhin. Razumikhin argues: …The socialists lessen every thing to one particular widespread cause—environment. Atmosphere is the root of all evil… Human nature isn’t supposed to exist… That is why they dislike the living approach of life so a lot!… Human nature desires life… You can not jump over human nature by logic alone! Logic can only foresee 3 possibilities, but there is a complete million of them! Disregard the million and minimize it all to a question of comfort? What an simple solution to the difficulty! So temptingly clear and no want to feel at all. (273)
Razumikhin is generating an argument for the process of living, for embracing human nature and the human situation, and for the value of the individual’s capability to select. This is basically an existential argument. Porfiry dismisses Razumikhin’s existential views and ideals and, taking a nihilistic attitude, retorts, “environment indicates a lot in crime” (273).
Right away preceding Raskolnikov’s third dream, he starts to doubt nihilism and he rejects utilitarianism. Lying on his sofa, he thinks: “I was in a great hurry to step over—I didn’t kill a human being—I killed a principle! Yes, I killed a principle all proper, but I did not step over—I remained on this side. All I could do was kill! And it seems I couldn’t even do that! A principle? Why was that innocent fool Razumikhin abusing the socialists? They’re an industrious people—practical males, engaged in the business of bringing about ‘the happiness of all.’ No, I reside only as soon as, and I shan’t ever reside once more: I do not want to wait for ‘the happiness of all.’ I want to live, or else I may as effectively be dead” (291).
Raskolnikov’s try to pacify himself concerning his crime, “I didn’t kill a human being—I killed a principle!” is primarily an attempt to adopt a nihilistic attitude. He doubts himself, nonetheless, by questioning, “A principle?” By rejecting the notion of the “happiness of all,” Raskolnikov is primarily rejecting the utilitarianism he had previously clung to. He then proceeds to slip into his third dream, which is linked to the previous two dreams by the recurring image of the horse, “Oh, how properly I realize the prophet with his sword on a horse” (292). In this dream, Raskolnikov returns to the old woman’s apartment and beats her with an axe. There is a crowd present in this dream, as properly. Alternatively of participating, disapproving, or getting shocked, however, they are laughing at him. This dovetails with Raskolnikov’s recent rejection of utilitarianism and was foreshadowed in the prior scene with Razumikhin and Porfiry. Porfiry asked Raskolnikov what happens when an ordinary man mistakes himself for an extraordinary man. Raskolnikov told him: “…that does occur fairly often… very a lot of them, owing to some whim of nature which has not been denied even to the cow, like to envision themselves sophisticated folks, “destroyers,” and do their utmost to proclaim the “new word” themselves… But I don’t think there is any actual danger here, and it really shouldn’t be concerned you at all, for they by no means get really far” (278-9).
Raskolnikov hence articulates what has currently begun to take place to him – his inability to get quite far – and foreshadows his own doom. In addition, the fact that society is laughing at him and his crime undermines his presupposition that he was an “extraordinary” man.
In the end, Raskolnikov’s conscience and spirituality overwhelm the other components of his psyche and he confesses to his crime and he in the end fails in his attempts to make use of philosophies such as utilitarianism and nihilism to justify his action. At some point, he can no longer endure the psychological and existential sufferings and is driven to confession and to the acceptance of social punishment. Raskolnikov also foreshadowed this in his conversation with Razumikhin and Porfiry, “Whoever has a conscience will no doubt endure, if he realizes his error. That is his punishment – on prime of penal servitude” (281). In conclusion, Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment can be study as an ideological novel. Dostoyevsky deconstructs the dominant ideologies of the time, using the medium of the options and the psyche of the criminal Raskolnikov. He examines the methods in which several of the main contemporary philosophies fail to explain the cultural phenomena of criminality. In the refutation of those philosophies, he creates an primarily existential novel.
Dostoyevsky, Fyodor. Crime and Punishment. Suffolk: Penguin, 1976.
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