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Published: 14-09-2019

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Svidrigailov's terrible dreams

In his novel Crime and Punishment, Fyodor Dostoevsky makes use of nightmares to develop the story of Arkady Ivanovich Svidrigailov, the depraved sensualist, to its dnouement, in which he fully accepts his dire circumstance and its inevitable outcome. Svidrigailov is utilised as a foil to Raskolnikov and represents what the young student could turn into must he continue to transgress the moral line. Dostoevsky develops this theme through the use of Svidrigailov’s 3 nightmares, each of which shows that no one can continually ignore moral law with out suffering grave consequences.

These three nightmares directly follow an encounter between Svidrigailov and Dounia, the only woman Svidrigailov has ever genuinely loved. Svidrigailov locks Dounia in a room and fixes her with a lecherous appear. In self-defense, Dounia pulls out a revolver and fires 3 times. She is an capable shot but purposefully misses him with each and every bullet. Dounia’s show of mercy, her unwillingness to cross the moral line, has a profound impact on Svidrigailov, who feels “a weight . . . rolled from his heart, . . . the deliverance from one more feeling, darker and much more bitter” (458-459). Svidrigailov is so moved by Dounia’s example that he temporarily suppresses his inclination to immorality, giving her the crucial to the area and urging her to make haste away from him. To Dounia, “there seemed a terrible significance in the tone of that ‘make haste,'” for she could not be confident for how lengthy morality, manifested in his wish to be genuinely loved by her, would triumph more than his other impulses – such as his want to force his way on her – which are contending in “the terrible, dumb struggle in his heart” (459). Svidrigailov, in this rare state of morality when he leaves Dounia, walks via the stormy night of St. Petersburg, and at some point settles down for the night in the unwelcoming hotel area where he will have his three nightmares.

The hotel area is cramped, filthy, scantly furnished, and unpleasant. The space can effortlessly be described by the identical words employed to describe Raskolnikov’s garret, “more like a cupboard than a room” (1). This similarity, coupled with the fact that “[Svidrigailov begins] to feel feverish” shortly right after his arrival in his area, serves to emphasize further the similarity among the scenarios of Svidrigailov and Raskolnikov (465).

In the very first dream, Svidrigailov is roused from sleep by a tiny mouse scurrying on his bed, under his sheets, and inside his bedclothes. Svidrigailov struggles to catch the mouse, but he can only do so temporarily prior to it when again eludes his grasp. Svidrigailov finally awakens, muttering, “How disgusting” (467). The rodent, which revolts Svidrigailov with its tiny, dirty feet crawling all over his skin, symbolizes Svidrigailov’s equally revolting lasciviousness, which is enough to make someone’s skin crawl. Though, due to Dounia, Svidrigailov has temporarily suppressed his lewdness, he is effectively aware that in this vice “there is anything permanent, founded certainly upon nature and not on fantasy, anything present in the blood like an ever-burning ember” (434). This dream reminds Svidrigailov that no matter how tough he could struggle, he will inevitably return to his old methods.

Svidrigailov’s second dream stands in sharp contrast to the rest of the novel in terms of the imagery which Dostoevsky employs. Till this point and soon after it, Dostoevsky makes use of only drab grays and sickly yellows to describe the squalor of St. Petersburg’s Hay Industry. Nevertheless, in Svidrigailov’s second dream, Dostoevsky writes of an idyllic nation cottage, overgrown with fragrant flowers, on a warm, lovely Trinity Day. Svidrigailov finds himself inside this cottage, standing subsequent to “nosegays of tender, white, heavily fragrant narcissus bending more than their vibrant, green, thick lengthy stalks” (468). Svidrigailov is “reluctant to move away from [the narcissuses],” the flowers named after a man who met his death due to his intense self-absorption. Svidrigailov eventually forces himself up the stairs and into a flower and hey-strewn room with a tiny coffin in the middle. Dostoevsky mentions the coffin “was covered with white silk and edged with a thick white frill wreaths of flowers surrounded it on all sides,” employing the colour white and the floral imagery to symbolize the purity stolen from the girl who, in a white muslin dress, lies amongst the flowers in the coffin (468). This girl, in sharp contrast to the innocence her surroundings imply she should have had, wears a “smile on pale lips of unchildish misery . . . She [is] only fourteen, but her heart . . . [had been] crushed by an insult that had smirched that angel purity with unmerited disgrace” (468). Svidrigailov, hunting upon the girl whom he had triggered to drown herself, is sharply aware of his function in this tragedy. Unwilling to dwell in misery and guilt any longer, Svidrigailov throws open a window, enabling the wind to lash furiously against his face and chest, rousing himself and, he hopes, precluding any a lot more painful nightmares.

Svidrigailov is determined to leave the hotel, go to the park, and “choose a wonderful bush there drenched with rain” below which he will kill himself (469). Even so, he is stopped from creating his exit by “a little girl, not a lot more than five-years old, shivering and crying, with her garments as wet as a soaking home-flannel” (469). Moved to pity by such a pathetic sight, Svidrigailov requires the girl into his area, removes her drenched clothes, and tucks her into his bed. Nevertheless, right after she is in bed, the girl undergoes a strange transformation. The flush of her cheeks “[appears] coarser and brighter than rosy cheeks of childhood, . . . like the flush from drinking . . . Her crimson lips [turn into] hot and glowing” (470). Dostoevsky’s use of red imagery suggests that the girl possesses a sexuality which would more appropriately be identified in a prostitute, to which the girl bears a resemblance that Svidrigailov starts to see soon after noticing one thing “shameless, provocative in that fairly unchildish face. It was depravity, it was the face of a harlot . . . Both eyes opened wide, laughed, inviting him” (470). Svidrigailov is disgusted by the depravity he sees in this girl though usually “the monstrous difference in age and improvement excites [his] sensuality,” seeing a girl as young as 5 in such a state inspires revulsion even in Svidrigailov (444). He is moved to anger by the girl and attempts to hit her, even although the anger he feels is directed at himself for being so depraved this episode, which is a nightmare from which he wakes up just as he tries to hit the girl, forces Svidrigailov to face the consequences of his actions, that each and every young life he touches is stripped of its innocence and thrust into depravity.

Svidrigailov, now fully awake, sits in his hotel area, unsuccessfully attempting to grab at the flies hovering about his veal. Nevertheless, “realising that he [is] engaged in this exciting pursuit, he [begins],” because life [is] bearing a strange resemblance to the 1st of his dreams, in which he unsuccessfully grabbed at a mouse trying to nibble at his veal. Realizing the truth in his dreams, he is filled with horror at his own depravity. Svidrigailov, who had when said, “Everyone thinks of himself, and he lives most gaily who knows ideal how to deceive himself,” is no longer capable to deceive himself nor live gaily following dreams such as these (444).

Svidrigailov leaves the hotel in order to discover a appropriate location at which to kill himself. Svidrigailov, possessing lived so extended in vice, knows it is also late for him to turn back. If he continues to live, he will only continue to transgress the moral line and wade further into depravity, something which he will not enable ironically, he has absolutely nothing else for which to reside: “If I hadn’t this [vice], I might have to shoot myself” (435). Svidrigailov, nonetheless beneath the manage of morality due to the influence of Dounia and the horror of the three nightmares, shoots himself ahead of “the terrible, dumb struggle in his heart” amongst his morality and immorality has a likelihood to resolve itself, considering that there is no question in his mind which side will at some point triumph (459).

Svidrigailov’s death emphasizes one of the major themes of the novel, that no one particular can continue to transgress the moral line with out suffering. Svidrigailov knows that his sinful actions will a single day lead him somewhere fatal, but he delays his fate via his extreme self-absorption and unwillingness to notice the consequences his actions had on the globe around him. Ironically, it is his own dreams which bring Svidrigailov back to reality. Dostoevsky also utilizes the nightmares, along with a number of other parallels, to show the similarity amongst the situations of Svidrigailov and Raskolnikov. On several occasions, Svidrigailov warns of the grave consequence need to Raskolnikov continue to overstep the moral line: a option between life in Siberia or a bullet in the head. Svidrigailov is speaking from first-hand knowledge when he urges the transgressor to seek redemption since he knows ahead of lengthy Raskolnikov will have sunk so far into depravity there will be no option left for him to make.
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