Rodion Romanovitch Raskolnikov
Raskolnikov really loves people. Raskolnikov really hates people. Raskolnikov has a love/hate relationship with people. Dude's confused.
That's the obvious statement of the last two centuries, though: this guy's name has pretty much become synonymous with vacillating wildly between extremes.
And, it's kind of clear that that's Dostoevsky's intention. (Pro tip: never assume Dostoevsky is being anything less than masterful when it comes to intentional prose writing.) The very root of Raskolnikov's name is "raskol," which means "schism"—this is essentially like calling an English character Mr. Splitsman.
And not only does Big D (that's what we call Dostoevsky when we're feeling frisky) know that Raskolnikov is torn, other characters know it, too. In fact, Razumihin tells Dounia and Pulcheria:
"It's as though he were alternating between two characters." (3.2.32)
Oh, yeah: watch the number two throughout C & P. It's definitely associated with Raskolnikov. When we first meet Raskolnikov, he hasn't eaten in "two days." At the pawnbroker's house, there are "two gates" and "two courtyards." He last wrote his mom "two months" ago. He meets the abused drunk girl in the park at "two" in the afternoon.
The pawnbroker has on "two crosses" when Raskolnikov kills her, and Sonia later has "two crosses" when Raskolnikov is preparing to turn himself in to the police. But don't let all this double talk throw you. Raskolnikov is more than just two characters. He's more like a dozen, actually. That's part of why he's so fascinating.
Anyhow, we'll give you some of the facets of his character to get you started.
You can't miss the fact that Raskolnikov was "formerly a student" and that he wears an "old student's overcoat." Translation: he's not a snappy dresser.
He usually introduces himself simply as "a student," though sometimes he says "formerly a student," if he's in the mood. He dropped out of law school partly for economic reasons...but, as he admits, he could have found a way to scrape up the cash to finish his degree.
The perspective of the young student (dude's only 23) is important to this novel of "ideas." College students, in particular, are exposed to lots of ideas, many of them existential—that is, questioning and theorizing about the nature of existence. Sometimes after being exposed to stimulating ideas, students get stimulating ideas of their own or decide to see what happens when stimulating ideas they've heard, read, or thought about are put into practice.
But you know this. Who among us hasn't been stimulated by the idea of Pavlov and his dog and experimented with playing Whitesnake's "Here I Go Again" every time our roommate eats breakfast?
No one but us? Oh.
In any case: students. Usually, practical application can lead to invention, creation, and positive revolution. Students are thought of as the future, and many cultures put great hopes in education and the possibilities it affords the next generation.
But, in the case of Raskolnikov, there's a dark side to all this. And we mean pitch black—his ideas lead to two deaths.
He's a Student of Life...and Death
We're betting you know a student (or ex-student) who's a little off. (We all know this dude.)
If you go over to this guy's apartment, he's a) asleep, b) pretending to be asleep, or c) not home. He spends long periods of time "thinking" and calls it "working." He rarely showers or has clean clothes (fragrant!), and he lives in a crummy, depressing room. It's not clear how he spends his time, although he can be seen walking the streets at odd hours, mumbling loudly and possibly stumbling. Sometimes he's happy to see you; other times, he just wants to be left alone. His diet consists of ramen and gummi bears.
Sound familiar? Well, we just painted you a pretty exact picture of Raskolnikov—although our guy doesn't eat ramen because it hasn't been invented yet.
Raskolnikov wasn't always the kind of layabout whose most expensive piece of furniture is a set of blackout curtains. He once wrote an article, which Porfiry says is called "On Crime"...or something of the sort." An article? That's pretty impressive.
Too bad Raskolnikov seems to have pretty much forgotten about it. He's pretty set on being an ex-student rather than a student.
But this is important information—he used to be a productive person. For his article to have been published, he had to actually sit down, write it, and then send it in for submission. He had to have had his act together...at least a little.
Raskolnikov has also let his teaching jobs fly by the wayside. He's not sure of the practical value of being a teacher—his mother is borrowing money to support him, his sister is about to marry Mr. Wrong to help the family financially. He doesn't have time to fool around in academia, hoping to find a job when he's done.
He thinks he needs to act now—this confused thought becomes one among many confused thoughts for murdering the pawnbroker.
But, although his thoughts are confused, they're still very much flying around in his hot little brainpan. He's perpetually thinking. He's constantly questioning everything around him. He's eager for new information. He's willing to try new things.
In our book, that's the mark of a student rather than an ex-student.
The big question is: what has he "learned" from the course of study that we see him take in the novel? Well, the narrator tells us he's learned to be happy and that, after much suffering, he'll have a new and fabulous life when he gets out of jail. What do you think? Could he be happy after committing murder? Have his good deeds and suffering canceled out his crimes?
Good Citizen and Avenger of Justice
We know, we know. Dude's a murderer. How can he also be a good citizen and an avenger of justice?
Ha. Welcome to Dostoevskyland, Population: Morally Dubious Characters. We'd tell you that the weather's fine, but we'd be lying: it's Russia. It's always cloudy with a chance of freezing to death.
Let's look at Raskolnikov's "good deeds."
Sure, he might be a bit of a bungler, but he tries to help people. He's completely devoted to the Marmeladov family and tries to help them any way he can. He helps Razumihin stop drinking and get together with Dounia. He properly judges the characters of Svidrigaïlov and Luzhin and (sort of) assists in thwarting their dastardly plans. He (sort of) helps that abused drunk girl in the park.
And, as we learn in the epilogue, when he was a student, he gave away most of his money to another student who was in a bad way and "rescued two little children from a house on fire and was burnt in doing so" (Epilogue.1.4).
Even the pawnbroker's murder—which, on the record: not an act of goodness—was in many ways born of a desire to help people who are suffering. He's not even the first student to think of killing her...for the very same reason. Raskolnikov remembers how, right after he got the idea of murdering the pawnbroker, he overheard another student arguing in favor of it.
This is where Raskolnikov's uber-creepy dream of the murder of the horse becomes important. Refresher: in the dream, young Raskolnikov is powerless to save a poor horse that's being brutally beaten. When he wakes up, he thinks of the pawnbroker as the helpless horse and decides he can't possibly kill her that night at 7 p.m. as planned.
Then he sees Lizaveta, the pawnbroker's sister, in the Hay Market and finds out she'll be away from home at (you got it) 7 p.m. Since the pawnbroker will be home alone, Raskolnikov decides to go through with his plan.
And this seemingly irrational decision (sister's not home—murder time!) actually speaks to a sense of inner goodness within Raskolnikov. It's suggested that seeing Lizaveta (who we know is regularly beaten by her sister and is used as one of the arguments for murder made by the other student) shifted the dream symbols in his mind—the horse becomes Lizaveta, and to save her from being beaten to death (like the horse), he must kill her abuser.
Of course, this kind of justice is seriously challenged in the novel because Raskolnikov offs Lizaveta, too—the person he meant to protect. In fact, instead of being the solution to all his problems, the murders make his situation worse and actively thwart his ability to do good.
That's part of why Raskolnikov is so mad at himself in prison. Though it's not stated in blunt terms, he really believes that, if he hadn't killed Lizaveta, hadn't left clues, and had properly robbed the pawnbroker, his crime would have been like [insert superhero of your choice] killing [insert corresponding villain of your choice].
Warped logic? Heck yes. But logic that is fumbling toward a sense of goodness? Also yes.
No, we don't mean that, if Raskolnikov lived today, he'd be all about #cleaneating and #healthyliving. (Although who knows? Raskolnikov might really enjoy eating kale salads out of mason jars.)
Raskolnikov's "hypochondria" is talked about in half a dozen or so places in the novel. Thanks to the world of pop psychology, we think of hypochondriacs as people who constantly think they are sick and dying...even when they're perfectly healthy. Raskolnikov seems to be actually sick when he's sick, so it's a wee bit confusing that everybody says he's a hypochondriac.
That's because the pop psychology use of the word wasn't around in Dostoevsky's time. See, the hypochondrium are regions of the abdomen. People used to believe that gloominess and melancholy in humans came from problems in those regions—so a real hypochondriac is just an extremely gloomy, even morbid, person.
And Raskolnikov is the gloomiest, most morbid person we can think of.
This was considered a physical, medical condition capable of causing someone who had it to commit acts they might normally not commit. So, this goes to the "temporary insanity" defense that keeps Raskolnikov from getting a heavier sentence. Not that he would ever use that excuse. It's just what everybody else says.
In any case, the epilogue suggests that Raskolnikov gets "cured" of his hypochondria after his long stay in the prison hospital. That's why he's finally able to feel love for Sonia—because his tummy has stopped making his brain all gray and miserable.
He's a Machine
And that's not a compliment.
Did you notice that Raskolnikov often does things "mechanically"? Dude's basically a robot. This is first mentioned in the scene after Raskolnikov's flashback to the other student arguing that society would benefit from the murder of the pawnbroker. See:
He ate a little, three or four spoonfuls, without appetite, as it were mechanically. (1.6.41)
The word also shows up in the actual murder scene:
He had not a minute more to lose. He pulled the axe quite out, swung it with both arms, scarcely conscious of himself, and almost without effort, almost mechanically, brought the blunt side down on her head. (1.7.21)
This idea of Raskolnikov as a machine expresses a common fear that often accompanies advances and potential advances in technology and industry. We think of machine anxiety in terms of the singularity and people falling in love with robots...because those are the machines that we as a culture are currently afraid of. But the idea of machines as cold and unfeeling has been around for a long time—you've probably read books and seen movies (think The Terminator and The Matrix) where this anxiety is explored less subtly than in here.
But how does this connect to Raskolnikov? One way to look at it is that he becomes machine-like when he forgets that Alyona the pawnbroker is a person. He loses his will under the sway of his murderous idea and becomes controlled by it.
So does R-man become less machine, more man by the end of the book? Maybe, maybe not. The word "mechanically" also throws some questions our way concerning Raskolnikov's religious situation at the end. This is what we're told:
Under his pillow lay the New Testament. He took it up mechanically. (Epilogue.2.27)
Yikes. It doesn't sound like he's quite as moved by the book as Sonia is.
Then, the narrator tells us, "Till now he had not opened it." The next paragraph begins, "He did not open it now." That's some awkward, clumsy, and contradictory phrasing...which might be a good reflection of Raskolnikov's feelings about religion at the end of the novel.
(It also might be an indication that Raskolnikov has given his body over to the robot overlords. Fanfic, anyone?)
If you've Google searched Raskolnikov, you've probably seen the term "nihilism" used alongside his name...right under "raskolnikov character analysis." (Happy to help.)
Lit crit pro tip: any time you see "ism" associated with a major character, you're going to want to do some research to find out what's going on. Lucky for you, we're here to give you some solid basics on nihilism and then examine how it applies to Raskolnikov.
In this case, our best friend, the Oxford English Dictionary, is a big help to us. Here are some basic definitions:
Total rejection of prevailing religious beliefs, moral principles, laws, etc., often from a sense of despair and the belief that life is devoid of meaning. Also more generally […]: negativity, destructiveness, hostility to accepted beliefs or established institutions. (Source)
Raskolnikov certainly seems to reject "prevailing […] moral principles" and laws. By killing Alyona (and believing it's for the greater good), he has rejected society's traditional morality and has ignored society's laws against murder, as well.
But don't think we're going to stop feeding you sweet, sweet definitions now. In terms of Russian nihilism, the Oxford English Dictionary gives us this:
Usu. in form Nihilist. A supporter of a revolutionary movement in 19th-cent. and early 20th-cent. Russia, which rejected all systems of government, sought the complete overthrow of the established order, and was willing to use terrorism to achieve this end. Also (in extended use): a terrorist, a revolutionary. (Source)
Everything sounds okay (and Raskolnikov-y) until we get to the terrorism part. Let's look at this closely.
Remember, Russia was going through a period of extreme transition during the time Crime and Punishment was written. Every aspect of society and its organization was being called into question. Revolutionaries held the very idea of government responsible for the kinds of misery and poverty we see in Crime and Punishment and wanted to get rid of government and let the people rule. Many revolutionaries believed that violence was necessary in order to succeed in their cause.
Raskolnikov isn't connected with nihilism by name until almost the end of the novel. When he goes to turn himself in, he and Ilya have the following conversation:
[Ilya:] "For you, one may say, all the attractions of life nihil est ["nothing is," in Latin]—you are an ascetic, a monk, a hermit!...A book, a pen behind your ear, a learned research […] There are a great many Nihilists about nowadays, you know, and indeed it is not to be wondered at. What sort of days are they? I ask you. But we thought...you are not a Nihilist of course? Answer me openly, openly!"
[Raskolnikov:] "N-no..." (6.8.48-50)
What are we to make of this stuttered denial? Assuming that his "idea" (the one he writes about in his essay and acts on in murdering Alyona and Lizaveta) is his version of nihilism, he's failed miserably at it. He has realized that he's not a Napoleon or a "great" man.
His stuttered denial could mean that he isn't a nihilist because he failed at nihilism, or because he no longer believes in it—or a combination of the two. It could also mean that Raskolnikov doesn't know whether he is one or not, or simply that he doesn't want to talk about it with Ilya.
After all, no one ever accused Raskolnikov of being open about his feelings.Rodion Romanovitch Raskolnikov Timeline
Crime and Punishment and Raskolnikov's article, On Crime
- Length: 3487 words (10 double-spaced pages)
- Rating: Excellent
Crime and Punishment and Raskolnikov's article, "On Crime"
Raskolnikov's article, "On Crime," is vital to the understanding of his beliefs. This article also has a profound effect on Crime and Punishment as a whole, the subject matter being one of the main themes of the novel. The idea of the "extraordinary man" is referred to literally throughout the book, but also notable is the subconscious effect the idea has on Raskolnikov. Sometimes Raskolnikov is not even aware of this influence. It is important to note originality, or the ability to "utter a new word," as a defining characteristic of the extraordinary man. Therefore, we must take into account the presence of similar ideas, those of Pisarev, Nietzsche, and nihilism, as these might bring to light the possibility that Raskolnikov is not original, a possibility that haunts him throughout the novel.
Within the article Raskolnikov analyzes the psychology of a criminal before and after the crime. This main portion of the article is not discussed, but it is likely that the psychological explanation that Porfiry gives Raskolnikov later, in the examination, is very similar. During this later examination, Raskolnikov appears resentful, but never disputes what Porfiry tells him, perhaps because it is a regurgitation of Raskolnikov's own thoughts. In the last meeting of the two men, Porfiry admits that he liked the article very much, and actually felt a connection with it. The one part of the main body of the article that is mentioned is "that the perpetration of a crime is always accompanied by illness" (225). Porfiry comments that this idea is very original; Raskolnikov welcomes this praise.
Shortly, Porfiry moves on to the main topic of their discussion, a topic only mentioned briefly in the article, the idea that "certain persons...have a perfect right to commit breaches of morality and crimes" (225). Raskolnikov immediately realizes that Porfiry is intentionally exaggerating the idea, and "decided to take up the challenge" (226). Dostoevsky lets the reader know that the conversation will be a battle of wits. The ensuing argumentative dialogue makes the passage very entertaining, especially in contrast to later interviews between the two, in which Porfiry does nearly all the talking (he loves to hear himself talk). Raskolnikov attempts to clarify his idea, explaining that the "extraordinary" people have the right, but are not bound, to "overstep obstacles" if it is "essential" for the fulfillment of their idea.
How to Cite this Page
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Raskolnikov Crime Punishment Profound Effect Subject Matter Subconscious Notable Originality Characteristic Meeting
He recognizes that these ideas should be for the benefit of all humanity. We have to take note of the words Raskolnikov uses, for he does not adhere to his own guidelines. He doesn't need to kill Alyona, unless for money - but this is never proven to be his motive, nor is Raskolnikov sure of his idea.
Raskolnikov cites certain leaders - Lycurgus, Solon, Mahomet, Napoleon - as criminals. He asserts this simple fact by showing that if these leaders created new laws, they must have broken the old ones in doing so, not to mention that they killed as well. Raskolnikov vaguely refers to the moral quirk that killing many honorable men - those who are fighting for their respective cause - is not a crime, yet killing one person, and a dishonorable one at that, is without a doubt a criminal offense. In order to get out of the so-called "common rut," one must be a criminal, and if he is extraordinary he ought to do so. Much later in the novel, the reader learns that the urge to take the first step, out of the rut, is one of Raskolnikov's underlying motives.
Without going into many sub-divisions, Raskolnikov divides people into two categories. There are the masses, the ordinary, who love to be controlled and serve only to reproduce. (Interestingly, the men who are generally accepted as extraordinary do not have children and, to go even further, are rather disgusted with the thought of reproduction). Then there are the extraordinary, who have "the gift or talent to utter a new word" (227). The theme of the "new word" weighs heavily on Raskolnikov when he reflects on whether he is an extraordinary or not. These extraordinary ones transgress the law, destroying (not necessarily physically) the present for a better future. Raskolnikov holds that both groups have an equal right to exist.
Raskolnikov ends the speech strangely and emphatically, saying "vive la guerre eternelle - till the New Jerusalem, of course!" (227). This translates 'live the eternal war' (alluding to life), until one goes to heaven. This statement prompts Porfiry to ask a few religious questions. He asks if Raskolnikov believes in heaven, in God, and in the story of Lazarus, to which Raskolnikov answers firmly each time, "I do." This confuses Porfiry, who has been thinking Raskolnikov more of an atheist, but these questions prove he is not. Raskolnikov's literal belief in the Bible is instrumental in bringing about his confession. As Raskolnikov points out to Sonia, there are three ways to go: suicide, insanity, or depravity, but he doesn't realize at the time how strong her faith is. Dostoevsky portrays his own belief by making religion the saving grace.
Porfiry makes the witty remark that if the extraordinary are not executed, they begin executing others. The witticism exchanged shows that the two intellectuals are enjoying their conversation thus far. Porfiry asks for some external definition of the extraordinary. Raskolnikov doesn't get around to answering this, but clearly there are no external signs. Napoleon, for instance, was a very small man in stature. The deciding factor is intelligence. The extraordinary ones simply know it.
There is a relationship between intelligence and crime. Pisarev shares this conviction, that "crime is placed on exactly the same footing as outstanding intellectual achievement or important transformations of social life." Porfiry wonders what happens when a member of one category imagines himself in the other. Raskolnikov asserts that this can only happen among the ordinary, probably because he considers them much less intelligent. These ordinaries might break the law, but Raskolnikov says, "you really need not be uneasy, for they never go very far" (228). This proves true of Raskolnikov.
Another of Porfiry's concerns is the number of extraordinary ones, as a great amount would be very dangerous. Raskolnikov answers that they are extremely rare. He assumes there is a law of nature controlling the output of extraordinary ones:
The vast mass of mankind is
mere material, and only exists in
order by some crossing of races
and stocks, to bring into the
world at last perhaps one man
out of a thousand with a spark of
independence. One in ten
thousand perhaps - I speak
roughly, approximately - is born
with some independence, and
with still greater independence
one in a hundred thousand. The
man of genius is one of millions,
and the great geniuses, the crown
of humanity, appear on earth
perhaps one in many thousand
Razumihin breaks into the conversation for the first time at this point. He confirms that the theory of ordinary/extraordinary persons is not new, "but what is really original in all this, and is exclusively your own, to my horror, is that you sanction bloodshed in the name of conscience" (229). Often the "new word" of an extraordinary is a twist on someone else's doctrine. The general themes of these new words are somewhat consistent, about humanity, society, religion, etc. The ideas frighten people, and they might bother an ordinary person just to think about it, supporting the belief that only a select few would be able to come up with the new ideas.
Porfiry decides to test Raskolnikov's patience. He says he is afraid of the practical possibility that a man pictures himself as a future Mahomet, and begins to remove all obstacles. Raskolnikov consents that such cases arise, but what can he do about it? "The vain and foolish are particularly apt to fall into that snare; young people especially" (230). Ironically this description is what Raskolnikov later pictures he is, when he finally concludes that he was wrong. Raskolnikov continues that society is protected by assorted punishments, so that this mistake isn't a common occurrence. Raskolnikov believes the criminal will get what he deserves. He will suffer for his mistake and for his victim, as well as by his punishment.
At the end of the interview, Raskolnikov makes an observation incongruent with the rest of the conversation, that "pain and suffering are always inevitable for a large intelligence and a deep heart" (230). Dostoevsky points out that the tone of this statement is "dreamy," also contrasting with the rest of the conversation. Perhaps Raskolnikov already suspects that this is his fate. Later in the book Raskolnikov loses sight of his own beliefs, pretending that he is depraved for the sake of protecting himself. We know though, even at this early stage, that he won't need the motivation of Porfiry or Sonia to make him confess. He will bring suffering upon himself of his own accord.
Raskolnikov realizes his mood has changed greatly since his entrance, and although he doesn't mention it, he knows he has given a clue to Porfiry. Catching this psychological clue, Porfiry expresses his "playful, psychological idea," that in Raskolnikov's writing he might have considered himself an extraordinary. Indeed, Raskolnikov's article is in some ways, at the least, quite original. Raskolnikov answers, "Quite possibly," but once again more important is the tone he employs. He says it, as Dostoevsky writes, "contemptuously." Porfiry, if he doesn't already know, will soon find out that Raskolnikov is much too intelligent to be trapped. He won't slip up on a trifling detail and in doing so prove his own guilt. On the other hand, it is Raskolnikov's pride that will give him away, and perhaps it is this moment when he gives Porfiry the answer. It is pride also, as Raskolnikov tells Dounia, that prevents him from surrendering even when he is prepared to face suffering.
The article is brought up again in several instances later in the book. When Porfiry comes to Raskolnikov's flat to make everything clear, he mentions how he felt about the article. He tells Raskolnikov sincerely, "Your article is absurd and fantastic, but there's a transparent sincerity, a youthful incorruptible pride and the daring of despair in it" (389). Porfiry knows before meeting Raskolnikov that, as he says, "that man won't go the common way" (389). The mere acquaintance of Raskolnikov to the pawnbroker is enough to arouse Porfiry's suspicion. Porfiry admits that the article touches something close to home in his heart, proving that the men are very similar. Porfiry likes Raskolnikov, and urges him to surrender to mitigate the sentence. Pulcheria also reads the article, and although she doesn't completely understand it, she nonetheless sees its inherent power and originality. She proclaims that she knows Raskolnikov "will soon be one of the leading - if not the leading man - in the world of Russian thought" (442).
The outside opinion of Raskolnikov's theory is that it is original. This pacifies him, at least for the moment. What bothers Raskolnikov more than anything is his subconscious fear that he is not an extraordinary, because his idea was unoriginal. He is brought to anger when Porfiry tells him, "You made up a theory and then were ashamed that it broke down and turned out to be not at all original" (395). Then Raskolnikov is "disgusted" when Svidrigailov makes a similar comment:
"the Schiller in you is in revolt every moment, and now you tell me not
to listen at doors. If that's how you feel, go and inform the police that
you had this mischance: you made a little mistake in your theory. But if
you are convinced that one mustn't listen at doors, but one may murder
old women at one's pleasure, you'd better be off to America and make haste" (418).
To expand on the importance of originality, my own theory suggests that an author bases his best characters on himself. The characters of Raskolnikov, Porfiry, and Svidrigailov are very similar, and reflect Dostoevsky. There are so many obvious similarities between Dostoevsky and Raskolnikov. Svidrigailov is like the author in his aristocratic views. Porfiry is somewhat like a father figure, examining Raskolnikov as Dostoevsky examines his own youth. So Dostoevsky too, perhaps feared unoriginality. In one sense Dostoevsky was very original, writing from the third person perspective of an omniscient being that always stays with Raskolnikov. But in his theory of the extraordinary man, Dostoevsky was not completely original. He seems to have learned some of this idea from Pisarev, who elevates the character Basarov, from Turgenev's novel Fathers and Children, "to the level of a Nietzschean superman, standing beyond good and evil" (Frank xiv). Dostoevsky's own fear of unoriginality and fear of failure is seen in Raskolnikov.
But Raskolnikov is not unoriginal. His conviction that he was not wrong grows, which he expresses to Dounia and later reflects on in prison. Raskolnikov begins to see more clearly that his idea was original; therefore he is an extraordinary, and therefore he is right. When first confessing to Sonia, Raskolnikov is still unsure of his motives, thinking of several possibilities, but later when he talks to Dounia he is well aware of his driving forces.
I too wanted to do good to men
and would have done hundreds,
thousands of good deeds to make
up for that one piece of stupidity,
not stupidity even, simply
clumsiness, for the idea was by
no means so stupid as it seems
now that it has failed...
(Everything seems stupid when it
fails.) By that stupidity I only
wanted to put myself into an
independent position, to take
thee first step, to obtain means,
and then everything would have
been smoothed over by benefits
immeasurable in comparison. (447)
Raskolnikov is convinced (and I too) that it was his compassion, his "deep heart" that failed him in achieving his potential as an extraordinary. In prison he comes to the conclusion, "It was only in that that he recognized his criminality, only in the fact that he had been unsuccessful and had confessed it" (467). He could have gotten away with murder, especially after Svidrigailov's suicide. Porfiry had perfect psychological explanations, but the one fact he supposedly had up his sleeve was never shown and I believe it didn't exist. In the dramatic situation of the novel, I wanted Raskolnikov to confess, for his mother and his sister, for Sonia, for Razumihin, and even for Porfiry. His sentence would be mitigated, and as Porfiry pointed out, Raskolnikov had his whole life ahead of him still. If it weren't for his loved ones, if he had nothing to turn to, so to speak, I think he could have gotten away with it and he could have become a Napoleon. It was only the first step.
In the much-criticized epilogue, the only part I disliked is how Raskolnikov gives up his theory in the end. In the dream, a plague infects all of mankind, making every individual both mad and intellectual, an extraordinary. Everyone is so sure of himself that he kills others, and everything falls apart. Raskolnikov realizes the vulgarity of his belief and so changes. As the book finishes, Raskolnikov is a nice guy, capable of love and faith, but I don't think this is an equal trade for being an extraordinary; perhaps one can be so versatile as to possess both attributes. This dream exaggerates Raskolnikov's theory and whole-heartedly adopts the principles of nihilism, that there is no objective ground of truth, and existence is senseless.
The reader must be careful when examining the theme of nihilism in the article and the novel. In many ways Raskolnikov is a nihilist: he doesn't believe in traditional values, he thinks the existence of ordinary people is senseless and only useful in the most simplistic way, and he believes that conditions of the social organization are so bad as to make destruction desirable. Dostoevsky is not preaching nihilism, but warns against the dangers inherent in it, despite seeing the impulses of young radicals, like his Raskolnikov, as self-sacrificing and altruistic. In a letter to his friend Katkov, Dostoevsky writes, "you know they are helpless against these stupidities [radical ideology] and take them for perfection." For this reason Dostoevsky makes Raskolnikov come to the final conclusion that his idea is incompatible with itself - one cannot go about helping humanity through being unkind to everyone, and that he is wrong. The character of Razumihin - honorable, intelligent, compassionate, altruistic and so on - is the ideal of Dostoevsky or Nietzsche.
The influence of Nietzsche and his theory of superman on the novel is nonexistent. Nietzsche's first published works came in 1865, and they were essays on Aristotle. Nietzsche's first personal theories were seen in 1867, a year after the publication of Crime and Punishment. The theory of the superman is expounded in Thus Spoke Zarathustra, published in 1885. Instead, the inverse is seen, that Dostoevsky had a profound influence on Nietzsche. In separating humanity into the two categories, Nietzsche applauds Caesar, Napoleon, Goethe, Dostoevsky, and the Sophists as healthier and stronger types.
To look at the relationship in this new way, it is interesting to see how Raskolnikov might have affected Nietzsche's principles. Nietzsche is a nihilist, like the former Raskolnikov, supposing that we invent "truths" for the purpose of security. Both Raskolnikov and Nietzsche rebel against these truths. Nietzsche's theory of the "will to power" as a cause of one developing his own morals and behavior is seen frequently in Raskolnikov. Although Nietzsche is an atheist, part of his purpose is to draw people away from escapism, heavenly otherworlds, and to show people their inherent freedom, much like the purpose of Raskolnikov's extraordinary. Nietzsche refers to the idea of the extraordinary as a "superman", one who is psychologically healthier beyond the common human condition. "What is the ape to man? A laughingstock or a painful embarrassment. And man shall be just that to the superman." The ideas differ in that Nietzsche's superman truly loves life, while Raskolnikov's extraordinary does not necessarily have this characteristic, but is more altruistic, accepting suffering. Nietzsche challenges the deeply entrenched moral idea that exploitation and destruction are objectionable behaviors - alluding to the Napoleon that Raskolnikov wants to be.
On some points, Raskolnikov and Nietzsche both agree and disagree, mainly on the topics of religion. Nietzsche says that traditional ideals set forth as morally good within Christianity are products of self-deception, and feelings of guilt arise because of this unhealthy Christian morality. Ultimately, Raskolnikov's contradiction arises because he can't combine or choose between his theory and religion. There are also some points on which Nietzsche opposes Raskolnikov. He is a hedonist, an atheist, and most significantly, one who believes that the superman must be healthy and powerful. However, in his unpublished manuscripts his superman is more like the extraordinary, characterized by spectacular mental capacities and willpower.
A philosopher that influences Dostoevsky and consequently Nietzsche is Pisarev. In many ways Dostoevsky disagrees with Pisarev, who is a materialist, rejects idealism, and does not believe in God. Pisarev adopts a practical atheism, in which his "new man" is concerned with improving society. Raskolnikov also has this as a motive, though ironically he believes in God and takes an unethical approach, whereas Pisarev looks for a passionate, ethical way to do things. Raskolnikov and Pisarev also differ in that Pisarev believes in a man-society relationship in which one will help others for the sake of self-satisfaction. Quite the opposite, Raskolnikov is a recluse, and usually gets angry with himself after a charitable gesture. The nihilistic view that Raskolnikov shares with Pisarev is that freedom must be attained in order to improve society. This leads into the theory of Pisarev that influences Raskolnikov's article. Pisarev separates people into "the mass" and "other people," generally described in the same fashion as Raskolnikov's respective categories. He says the "others" have the right to transgress moral law, as it encroaches on the liberty of others. Raskolnikov, slightly differently, restricts his transgression to legal crime. I would contend that Raskolnikov has very strong morals, but that they are rather untraditional.
Standing back to look at everything as a whole (which Nietzsche says is impossible), we can see that Raskolnikov's article "On Crime" is based on a unification of various thoughts, interwoven with original concepts. The article is the foundation of Raskolnikov's very strong beliefs, and thus heightens the reader's awareness of Raskolnikov's state of mind. With this great depth of character, Crime and Punishment reveals timeless characteristics of society, the individual, and of course, the themes of crime and punishment. From all this we can infer that the article strengthens the power of the novel. Researching the influences and beliefs that shape the article and novel provides even more depth of understanding. The reader can experience first hand the "will to power", gaining even more knowledge than the omniscient narrator of the story. The reader becomes an extraordinary.