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Commentary on Crime and Punishment Essay


In the context of this passage in the book Crime and Punishment, another one of Raskolnikovs dreams are carried out. Dostoyevsky reflects Raskolnikovs nightmare not so much with his feeling of guilt but with the fear of his actions and the fact that there is no justification behind it. Even before Raskolnikov has his nightmare, the strangers simple, direct labeling of him as a murderer makes the grandiose identity on his psychological self. In his nightmare however, he cannot pretend that he acted as a savior to the world in killing Alyona Ivanovna. Indeed, the nightmare forces him to confront his mediocrity; that Alyona Ivanovna laughs at him when he tries to kill her reveals to him his impotency and inadequacy.

In this extract Dostoyevsky describes another nightmare, when Raskolnikov is on a crowded street and happens to encounter a stranger who waves at him. Raskolnikov crosses the street to meet him and ends up following him into Alyonas apartment. As he stands there in the darkness of the apartment, with his heart thumping, he locates a womans cloak hanging. As he approaches it he finds a woman sitting in a chair hunched over. He takes out the axe from his coat and throws a few blows at her head but she doesnt seem to respond and soon starts laughing. Enraged, he hits her over and over, but with no effect; the laughing starts to grow as more people appear in front of him. People crowd into the entryway, and on the streets watching him silently. He tries to scream as he wakes up from the nightmare but still cannot seem to get a grasp of the reality around him.

Dostoyevskys portrays this passage clearly with the dream that symbolizes Raskolnikovs psychological state. The fragile state of a confused mind that Raskolnikov is faced with is exposed through his dreams and emotions of paranoia and guilt. His past keeps haunting him as he tries to kill each aspect of crime he has committed. As read in the passage, Raskolnikov tries to hit the old woman even before he knows she is laughing at him; this can be interpreted as signifying that he is trying to kill the idea of Alyona and the disconcerting recurrence of the murder case in his everyday interactions. Once he sees her laughing, however, the blows become less mechanical and more emotive. The laughter attacks his pride and symbolizes his humiliation in not having achieved the so called greatness or a savior to the world. He has recognized that his crime is petty, and despises himself for it; but to be despised by the world, as he must when he is caught, is the ultimate humiliation and he cannot stand that.

This being a crime novel, and a piece of writing which Dostoyevsky wrote to reflect on human psychology, gives the readers a clear background on Raskolnikovs state of mind throughout the book. The predominant mood of paranoia and guilt engulfed upon Raskolnikov are prominent in this extract. In the dream there is a dominant feature of schism or dual personality. As he is first described in the dream by Dostoyevsky as melancholy and anxious, but later as he is lead to Alyonas apartment by the stranger he splits into a murderous, violent and disturbed being. The meaning of the name Raskolnikov in Russian, is a schism, or split; raskolnik is "one who splits" or dissenter, this being the reason as to why the author uses such a name to describe the protagonists character even better.

The beginning of this book dealt with the focused theme of crime. As we get into the book and into these chapters, the theme of punishment and guilt is focused. This passage in particular directs at the level of insanity in Raskolnikovs head, as we can see the emerging pain seeping out of him slowly through his nightmares. Dostoyevsky clearly enables the reader to capture the extract as a dream. As the style of his writing throughout this extract becomes abstractly fluid with a very straightforward acceptance of impossibilities such as Alyona Ivanovna being alive and impervious to axe blows. Indeed, Raskolnikovs hitting her is remarkable as he takes out the axe which he happens to have under his arm. Dostoyevskys style of description also becomes dominant at this point as he uses an abundant amount of adjectives to describe the setting of the city while Raskolnikov is walking as well as the stairs leading up to Alyonas apartment. Dostoyevsky repeats the word melancholy to describe Raskolnikovs mood at the beginning of the extract and also in the middle to describe the moonlight. There was the window on the first floor; the mysterious and melancholy moonlight shone through the panes. Here was the second floor. Oh! This was the same flat where the painters had been working Imagery is used by the author to portray a certain degree of suspense as Raskolnikov heads up the stairs once again to the spot of crime where his dreams and emotions keep leading to. Most of the passage is personified as though the author gives life into everything that is there in that murder spot emphasizing the depth of the crime. the stillness comes from the moon, thought Raskolnikov; she must be asking riddles now such a line personifies the moon as a source of the stillness that is within the walls of that room which reflects on the time and setting of the murder committed.

Dostoyevsky uses Raskolnikovs dreams to suggest and deal with the psychological parts of this book. Each of which carrying a symbolic meaning dealing with aspect of guilt as a punishment. This dream, in particular, deals with psychological difficulties faced as a result of the crime committed by Raskolnikov. However, his intention of being a savior to the world or acting as a Napoleon for this crime does not help as he suffers greatly from the paranoia and reaches a stage of critical hypochondria as demonstrated through his dreams. This passage adds a critical value to the book itself, also has a major impact of the themes of crime and punishment as suggested by the title of the book.

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