One of the greatest tests of mankind is the test of extraordinaire, to see whether one is extraordinary or simply the average man. Published in 1866, Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment, set in St. Petersburg, Russia, describes the story of the young Russian student Raskolnikov, who through the murder of the Ivanovna sisters, attempts to identify himself as either the common man or the so-called “extraordinary” man. The extraordinary man is characterized by his ability to transgress moral laws to support his idea and to be self-serving and detached from the rest of society. They are higher than the average man in thought and in ideas: all men strive to be extraordinary. Though not truly an extraordinary man, Raskolnikov embodies a “superior” man, one who is able to think higher than the common man but whose reasoning behind motives deem him not worthy of the title “extraordinary,” as demonstrated by his different rationalizations and theories for his crime. Raskolnikov is not the average man. In fact, he has the potential to be the complete opposite, the esteemed “extraordinary” man, defined as one “who, above good and evil, may transgress any law that stands in the way of his uttering a ‘new word’” (Beebe 154). Among three possible motives that which during the course of the novel rise to his awareness and become reasons for his crime, the first motive is Raskolnikov’s wish to rob and murder Alyona Ivanovna to make him “a benefactor of mankind” (Beebe 152). Raskolnikov, who is driven by a subconscious, innate desire to see whether or not he is an extraordinary man, realizes in the beginning that “for one life, thousands would be saved from corruption and decay,” referring to murdering the old pawnbroker, Alyona Ivanovna, in order to benefit the rest of society (Dostoevsky 68). Although Raskolnikov initially believes this to be his motive, he realizes that there is a deeper motive, buried in his conscious when he speaks to Luzhin about utilitarianism and how “the more whole coats, so to say—the firmer are its foundations and the better is the common welfare” (Dostoevsky 148). Basically, being left with two half coats is worse than having one whole coat, and thus the idea of benefiting mankind is a useless and wasteful idea, according to the utilitarian theory. If Raskolnikov is truly an extraordinary man, he should not have to transgress moral law to care for the needs of mankind and society, but needs only to transgress moral law for himself. Raskolnikov sees that this first theory is inefficient and useless, as well as far below the expected standards of an extraordinary man. And if he had truly murdered Alyona and Lizaveta Ivanovna for the sake of the good of mankind, following his utilitarian theory which already is not up to par with the level that an extraordinary man should be thinking at, Raskolnikov should have checked the purse for money and made sure that the crime had gone as planned, if the crime is to steal from the rich and give to the needy. Yet, since Raskolnikov, driven by his supposed motive that he wants to become a “benefactor of mankind” (Beebe 152), commits the murders of the Ivanovna sisters with imperfections in his plan, the flaws in his execution of the crime indicate that this is not his primary motive. He eventually comes to the realization that he “murders for [his own sake]” (Squires 484) and not to benefit mankind, demonstrating that his first motive of wanting to become a benefactor to others is no longer valid in supporting whether or not he is extraordinary. In murdering for his own sake, Raskolnikov is one step closer to reaching the status of the extraordinary man. Raskolnikov’s second motive that impels him to commit the murder of the Ivanovna sisters is his desire to see whether or not he is an extraordinary man. His desire to test himself and see whether or not he is extraordinary makes him higher than the average man, making him a superior man. A superior man, similar to the...
Cited: Beebe, Maurice. "The Three Motives of Raskolnikov: A Reinterpretation of Crime and Punishment." College English 17.3 (1955): 151-58. Print.
Dostoevsky, Fyodor. Crime and Punishment. New York: Bantam Dell, 1987. Print.
Marchant, Peter. "The Mystery of Lizaveta." Modern Language Studies 4.2 (1974): 5-13. Print.
Squires, Paul Chatham. "Dostoevksy 's 'Raskolnikov ': The Criminalistic Protest." Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology 28.4 (1937): 478-94. Print.
Please join StudyMode to read the full document