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The Complexity Of Raskolnikov English Literature Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Literature
Wordcount: 1219 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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The root of Raskolnikov’s last name is “raskol” which means “schismatic,” or “to split”. Dostoyevsky lets his audience know right away that Raskolnikov has a split personality, when he goes from being absolutely terrified of his landlady to absurdly angry at her. Raskolnikov’s dual personality is emphasized again when he objects to Dunya’s marriage to Luzhin, announcing “If you marry Luzhin, I cease to look on you as a sister” (229). This is his humane, compassionate side speaking in which he envisions his sister sacrificing herself by entering into an unendurable marriage. Then only a few seconds later, he suddenly reverses, proclaiming “What am I making such a fuss for? Marry whom you like” (229). This particular reversal from compassionate to intellectual is initiated by Dunya’s terrible justification of her marriage, saying “If I ruin anyone, it is only myself. I am not committing a murder” (229). This statement reminds Raskolnikov of the murder he committed and makes him feel superior to those such as Dunya who haven t committed such terrible crimes, and therefore, he must not care whom Dunya marries. When an occurrence makes him think of dissatisfaction or hate, such as his first experience with the pawnbroker, his personality reflects those negative actions and he becomes a disturbed, murderous man. On the contrary, when a situation calls for compassion, he is a caring man who can is happy to help others. For example, when Marmeladov is killed, and Raskolnikov carries him home and gives all of his precious money to Marmeladov s family, even though he is desperate for money to pay off his rent. If not for the compassionate side of Raskolnikov, he would lose all support from the reader and likely become the antagonist rather than the protagonist.

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His dual personality is also seen when he plans and performs the actual murder. Even though Raskolnikov has been considering the murder for six weeks, he has concerned himself only with the general outlines of his plan and has not worked out actual details. Therefore, his difficulty later occurs because he “put off trifling details, until he could believe in it all” (73). Thus, he must commit the murder before he has completely planned it out. As a result to his poor planning he ends up with only an axe to commit the murder. When he finally murders Alyona he uses the blunt side of the axe and bludgeons the body repeatedly even after she is dead. In contrast, the murder of Lizaveta is quickly finished by a rapid stroke of the sharp side of the axe. In this dual murder, he has premeditatedly murdered Alyona, the cold wicked pawnbroker to prove a theory to himself. In the second murder, Lizaveta, who is friendly, humane, and compassionate, is instantaneously killed by accident. In a figurative manner, the two murders represent the dual aspects of Raskolnikov’s character. The murder of Alyona represents his malicious side because he used the blunt end to inflict as much pain as possible. Whereas Lizaveta s murder, shows a more compassionate side because he was upset he had to kill her, so he made it as quick and painless as possible by killing her in one swift stroke of the axe.

Raskolnikov believes men are in general divided by a law of nature into two categories, inferior (ordinary), that is, so to say, material that serves only to reproduce its kind, and (extraordinary) men who have the gift or the talent to utter a new word (243). Thus, Raskolnikov believes there are men in society who are below others, the drunken men, while other men are above the law, people such as himself. The justification for these extraordinary men to have the right to break the law is because if they are not held to a greater standard, they will cease to be great. The most obvious example of Raskolnikov s theory is when he commits the two murders. Raskolnikov feels this is an acceptable thing for him to do because he is an extraordinary man. As he faces the consequences of the murder he comes to realize he killed himself more than the old hag, and his theory no longer applies. Instead of being an extraordinary man, he now faces the isolation and guilt accompanied with murder.

One reason why Raskolnikov may have developed such a nihilistic theory is from his disturbing childhood memories. In one dream, Raskolnikov is in his childhood and he is walking with his father, and sees an old horse get brutally beaten to death by its owner, while being cheered on by nearby drunks. Raskolnikov then, feeling great compassion for the now dead horse, falls to the ground and begins hugging and kissing it. The death of the mare clearly had an impact on the psyche of Raskolnikov, especially when he was young. This experience, along with others caused Raskolnikov s morbid and violent view of mankind. In his traumatic experience, the drunken men cheering for the beating of the horse represent society, while the killer represents those who cause the injustices in the world. It is Raskolnikov s belief that it is up to the superior men to kill those who cause the injustices in the world, such as the man who killed the horse or the pawnbroker, if it will help the world. Once he has to face reality after committing the murder, he realizes his theory may not have been as true as he thought which leads him to a dark depression and isolation.

Throughout the story, Raskolnikov has several panic attacks and breakdowns. As soon as he got home from the murder he had turned everything over to the last threads and rags, and mistrusting himself, went through his search three times, doing whatever he could do to hide the evidence of his crime (86). From the moment he committed the murder, he became a slave to his guilt and fear. Raskolnikov plans to turn himself in several times throughout the novel, and each time he gets closer to actually doing so. It is obvious he is incredibly regretful of his crime and the guilt is like cancer eating away at his body. The immense stress causes Raskolnikov to act more bitter and impulsive to his friends and family and the compassion he once had slowly melts away. When his friend Razumihkin offers to help him, he snaps saying, “I don’t want your kindness. . .I may be ungrateful, perhaps I am mean and base, only leave me alone, all of you, for God’s sake leave me alone!! Leave me alone!” (177). Raskolnikov is so paranoid he just wants to isolate himself and wither away.

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In conclusion, Raskolnikov s dual personality causes him to act differently than he means and develop ideas that seem virtuous to him, but in the long run prove to be abysmal. His intentions always seem to be good, which is what keeps him in the favor of the reader. Unfortunate childhood events, poverty, and isolation lead him to draw up a theory that ends up being his demise. Dostoevsky s description of Raskolnikov fits that of Russia in the 19th century so well, it is impossible to ignore the fact he is commenting on the way Russia was operating. He uses Raskolnikov s fate as a model to predict the undesirable future if Russia has to come if it continuous its nihilistic, inconsiderate ways.


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