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Self-Identity in Crime and Punishment Essay


A conception of oneself may never be perfect or correct, which causes the conception to become a misconception. Misconceptions are often seen negative, but what many do not understand is what is learned from the consequences of a misconception. From the works of Fyodor Dostoevsky, Crime and Punishment forms a story of a man not just committing a murder, but also centralizes the man acquiring an idea of himself that initially becomes his crime. Dostoevsky uses the point of view of Raskolnikov to depict the superhuman idea of his character that causes him to be isolated and drives him into the theme of his need of love to connect back to humanity.

In the beginning of the novel, the reader is acknowledged with Raskolnikovs thoughts of murdering the pawnbroker. Dostoevsky puts the reader into the mind of Raskolnikov revealing his concept of being superhuman. His thoughts of being superior over society and its laws reveals to the readers that Raskolnikov sees nothing wrong with the murder he plans to carry out. The reasoning behind his actions is shown through Raskolnikovs point of view, proving that he wants to convince himself that his actions are indeed just. For example, when Raskolnikov encounters the student and officers conversation in a bar he happened to hear just such a discussion and such ideas at the very moment when his own brain was just conceiving (66). Raskolnikov sees this as some guiding hint to go along with his murderous plan (67). Raskolnikov feels he has to justify his actions in order to fulfill his attempt to establish the truth of his superiority as a superhuman.

In contrast, the readers begin to observe a flaw in his superhuman idea when Raskolnikovs mentality of guilt starts to spur out of control. Once again, Dostoevsky uses Raskolnikovs point of view to set the reader in the mind of Raskolnikov. Through Raskolnikovs childhood dream, bits of guilt and doubt develop his failure of his idea of being superhuman. His vision of watching the mule getting beaten and tortured begins to haunt his mind with the image of killing the pawnbroker. Although there is no flaw in all that reasoning, that all that [he] concluded [in the novel] is clear as day, true as arithmetic My God! Still [he] couldnt bring [himself] to it! [He] couldnt stand it and that irritation forms the underlying foundation in his misconception of himself (60). The guilt that he feels is a symbol of how he fails to be able to go through with the murder as a superhuman. He fails to prove his superiority over society and he also fails to justify his idea of being superhuman.

Eventually through the novel, Raskolnikovs thought of superiority causes his pride to form a barrier between him and humanity. He had become so completely absorbed in himself and isolated from everyone else that he dreaded meeting not only his landlady, but anyone at all (5). Raskolnikov chooses to be isolated from society from the beginning of the novel. As the novel continues Raskolnikov rejects many connections to humanity, such as Dunya, his mother, Razumikhin and Sonya. They care for him immensely, but his pride causes him to push them away and even hurts them. There is a sense of selfish that Raskolnikov acquires. With his idea of being superhuman, he has no essential need to be connected with humanity because he is superior to them. Raskolnikov appears to struggle with his alienation from society through the progression of the novel. Alone, he is unable to find redemption from his consequences brought forth by his misconception of himself. It is not until the end of the novel when Raskolnikov finally allows himself to have a human connection to another which then he finds redemption from his crime. Everything, even his crime, his sentence and imprisonment, seemed to him now in the first rush of feeling an external, strange fact with which he had no concern (521). He is finally released from the obsession and suffering of his crime and is brought back to humanity through his connection and love with Sonya.

Sonyas love does not only aide Raskolnikov into redeeming himself of his crime and sins, but it also allows him to accept society unfairness. His thought of being superior with his pride played on the issue of poverty in Russia and society around him. Raskolnikov sees society as cruel and unjust. The Marmeladovs are key examples in the novel. Raskolnikov observes their lives of desperation and survival. The fact that Sonya must go into prostitution to support her family angers him. When Marmeladov dies, he witnesses Katerinas difficulties in raising her family and in time, she goes mad. Raskolnikov recognizes her anger towards god when she states, I have no sins. God must forgive me without that. He knows how I have suffered And if He wont forgive me, I dont care! (412). When she finally dies, Raskolnikov realizes that society is hopeless in faith and God. He sees societys ugliness which eases his acceptance of his idea of superiority. But with his love for Sonya that connects him back to this world he found to be useless, Raskolnikov is able to accept society as it is and return back to humanity.

Raskolnikovs misconception leads him to find the need for love, which forms one of the themes of Crime and Punishment, but it also creates the overall meaning behind the title of the novel. People mistaken the title to reflect the murder he committed as his crime and his punishment to be his eight year imprisonment, but it is simply not that superficial. Raskolnikovs misconception of himself initiates the motive to test the truth in his idea by committing the murder. This is his true crime. His punishment was his struggle over his obsession over the crime, causing his mentality to deteriorate and become unstable. he suddenly glanced again at Razumikhin, as if by accident, and could no longer control himself: his stifled laughter broke out the more irresistibly the more he tried to restrain it (237). Raskolnikov is unable to control his own actions because of his obsession over his crime and this results in him being incapable of finding redemption, creating his true punishment.

A conception about oneself is never perfect or correct, that is why there is such a thing as a misconception. Consequences of misconceptions cause one to learn from their outlook on life and themselves. As did Raskolnikov, when he was able to realize his misconception caused his separation from humanity and love. Experiencing mistakes and consequences grants corrections that allow one to better his life and avoid the concept of crime and punishment.

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