Raskolnikov’s Rift: Alienating and Enriching
Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment centers on Raskolnikov, a man who chooses to murder a common pawnbroker while he struggles with guilt, alienation, and pride. The choice to commit murder creates a division between Raskolnikov and society because he violates the moral laws governing society. In Crime and Punishment, the rift between Raskolnikov and society is both alienating and enriching for his character and demonstrates Dostoevsky’s opinion of an individual’s place in society. The rift between Raskolnikov and the rest of society is introduced when he first describes his “extraordinary man” theory. Raskolnikov develops his theory during a specific time when he has isolated himself in his room to contemplate solutions to his life problems. Raskolnikov studies how other “great” men in history have solved their problems. He points out “that the majority of those benefactors and guiding spirits of mankind were particularly fearsome bloodletters” (309). Napoleon is specifically referenced. Raskolnikov believes that some men, like Napoleon, are “extraordinary,” or above the moral rules that govern the rest of society. As a result, “great” men, similar to Napoleon, are entitled to do as they please. As Raskolnikov considers committing murder, he justifies this behavior saying, “One death to a hundred lives…the old woman is harmful. She’s wearing another person’s life out” (80-1). Raskolnikov believes that he fits in this “extraordinary” category, therefore making it acceptable for him to murder Alyona, the common pawnbroker. He believes himself to be a “great” man, acting for a higher purpose beyond conventional moral law. This theory proves to be inaccurate, thus creating the breach between Raskolnikov and society’s views of acceptable moral behavior. Pride factors strongly into the division between Raskolnikov and society and his resulting alienation. For example, Raskolnikov asks...
Cited: Dostoevsky, Fyodor. Crime and Punishment. London: Penguin Books, 2003. Print.
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