Imagery in Crime and Punishment

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It is common for individuals to look at others and whether it be subconsciously or consciously, judge, many without realizing the traits mocked in others are the same traits they themselves have. In Crime and Punishment By Fyodor Dostoevsky, Rodion Romanovitch Raskolnikov, is a student in St. Petersburg, Russia, who has a very conflicting personality, he is a man who believes himself to be extraordinary. Despite this, he unknowingly displays several ordinary traits which are represented in the many characters throughout the novel, some of which he despises, and it is in these ordinary traits that he falls to misery. This can be seen through his shared traits such as Marmeladov’s pridefulness, Luzhin’s materialism and utilitarianism, Svidrigailov’s egoism, and Sonya’s kindness.

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First is Raskolnikov’s pride seen in Katerina, which he attempts to use the murder to strengthen. Early in the novel, Raskolnikov meets the Marmeladov family, more specifically, Katerina Ivanovna Marmeladov a prideful woman, who was born in a prosperous family but unfortunately is both mentally and physically ill. “How fun and grand life was in Daddy’s house and how this drunkard [her husband] ruined me and will ruin you all! Papa was a state counselor and very nearly governor.” (165), through this, she displays the value of her wounded pride as she boasts about her ancestry and how degrading her current husband is. This pridefulness is reflected in Raskolnikov when he later converses with Porfiry Petrovich, a magistrate, about the murder and the article Raskolnikov wrote, to which he “replie[s] with defiant, haughty contempt.” and thinks with disgust, “Ugh, the brazen cheek of it all!” (247). This evidently shows Raskolnikov’s superior view of himself and how highly he values pride as he views shamelessness as being revolting. It is because of his pride that he tries to evince himself above others, which in turn, proves to himself that he is the ‘superman’ whom “[is] fully commit all manner of outrageous and criminal acts, and that they are, as it were, above the law.” (240), which he writes about in his article. This article is a major factor as to why Raskolnikov commits murder in the first place, which is to test whether his theory applies to him to prove his claim of being extraordinary. Which unfortunately results in the misery of his damaged pride after his experiment proves himself to be “no Napoleon” (393).

Secondly, there is an unexpected visit by Dunya’s fiancé, Pyotr Petrovitch Luzhin, who by every aspect, is instantly disliked by Raskolnikov. Luzhin, unknownst to Raskolnikov, represents the materialistic and utilitarian side in him. This trait is shown in Luzhin as he blames the reason Dunya calls off their marriage him to be “Never giving them money.” (340). He claims that “if only [he]’d given them fifteen hundred, say, to tide them over, to spend on trousseau an don gifts, on nice little boxes, toilet cases, cornelians, fabrics and all that tat from Knop’s and the English Shop, everything would have worked out a whole lot better” (340). Through this, Luzhin expresses his belief that money and possessions are the most important factor in a relationship and their well-being. It is in this materialism and utilitarianism that is also shown in Raskolnikov that is the claimed root of his crime as he states, “[Alyona] was the only sickness...I was in such a hurry to step right over...I didn’t murder a person, I murdered a principle!” (255). He does not see his actions as a morally wrong murder, but rather that it was for the world’s well-being as he explains that it would better benefit the world if Alyona died and thus his crime was justified.

Eventually, he expresses this belief again when he confronts Sonya about his crimes, to which she attempts to convince him that he must have good reasons, but he only replies, “I only killed a louse, Sonya, a useless, foul, noxious louse.” (390). This shows that he does not see his victim as a human but rather just a parasite that could do no good to the world. It is because of his utilitarianism that he believes his crime was to better the world by getting rid of a nuisance.

However, not long after he confronts Sonya, he realizes, “It wasn’t to acquire funds and power that [he] killed, so as to make [him]self a benefactor of humanity.” (393). He recognizes that his words of materialism and utilitarianism was only a feigned excuse to himself to justify his actions. His acknowledgment of this fact pushes him into anguish and guilt, as he feels he is going against his own ideals, and that ultimately his crime is for essentially no reason other than to kill.

Thirdly, after Luzhin accepts his failure, there is another surprise visitation by a man named Arkady Ivanovitch Svidrigailov, he is born of self-gratification and represents the egotistical side of Raskolnikov. Svidrigailov, is unable to admit he is wrong and does not see a will power above his own. Thus in his final act of proving his defiance and triumph over the world, he dies of his own accord, by committing suiside. Before he does so, he tells a nearby guard, “It’s a nice place, and if someone asks you, tell them I’ve gone to America.” (481). He sends himself to the land of the free. This egotistical act of deviance against a higher will, shows that Svidrigailov is, in a way, the ‘superman’ that Raskolnikov wants to prove himself to be, but does not have the same strong will to become. Despite that, Raskolnikov is still similarly egotistical, as it is his ego that his superman theory came from, “[He] wanted to become a Napoleon, that’s why [he] killed.” (389). The idea of being worshipped and revered for murder, like Napoleon, is due to Raskolnikov’s belief that he is special and all he had to do is prove it with murder.

This egoism is also shown previously when Raskolnikov first learns of Dunya’s engagement, he comes to the conclusion that they thought, “Rodion Romanovich Raskolnikov and no one else… No sacrifice is too great for such a son - not even that of a daughter like Dunya!” (41). He states his grandeur through his own words, not anyone else's. Later, when Dunya confronts him on his thoughts of her fiancé, Raskolnikov explains that he does not need her sacrifice, to which she replies, “You seem to think that I’m sacrificing myself to someone and for someone. But that’s not the case at all.” (215). Thus, confirming that, without proof, Raskolnikov believes himself to be special enough for his sister to sacrifice her future for, confirming that he does have an underlying belief that society revolves around him, even though that is not the case at all. Additionally, after Dunya shuts him down, he tries to convince himself that, “She’s lying!... Too proud by half! Can’t admit she wants to do good!” (215). It is his ego that prevents him from acknowledging that he is wrong, thus he concludes that Dunya is the one lying and he is still correct on his assumptions of her sacrifice.

Lastly, despite all previous traits, Raskolnikov has a selfless side in him. When Raskolnikov meets Marmeldov’s daughter Sonya, a young religious girl. She is very selfless, this is shown when Raskolnikov confesses his crime to her and she replies “I’ll follow you wherever! O lord!...How unhappy I am!...Why, why didn’t I know you before?“ (386), showing her kindness and self-sacrifice as she just learns she is talking with her friend’s murderer, yet she is still willing to stay by his side. While previously, Raskolnikov, despite his own economic hardships, unpremeditatedly offers money to the Marmeladov's upon witnessing their poverty, “No sooner was he on the stairs than he had second thoughts and almost went back. ‘What a stupid thing to do,’” (25), it is unfortunately because the kindness he possesses, conflicting with his egoism and materialism that causes discourse within him resulting in great amounts of, mental torment, and regret. This is shown again, not long after when he tries to help a young lady and offers her money to take a taxi home, “They can eat eachother alive - what’s it to me? And how dare I give those twenty copecks away?” (47), He does a kind, selfless gesture but at the same time, his ego conflicts with his actions causing him to regret his actions, adding to the growth of his mental torment.

Furthermore, this torment is seen for the first time when Raskolnikov first thinks of murder, the selfless part of him said “How could I ever think of something so awful? What filth my heart can sink to!” (9), even before the murder, the thought of killing someone was tormenting him, he frequently allternates between his two distict selves, the one that planned the murder and the one appalled by it. This mental torment is seen since the beginning of the novel, but is not entirely all bad, it is because of his moral side that he suffers, but it is because he suffers that he tries to redeem himself.

In conclusion, it is throughout Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostovesky that it becomes clear that Raskolnikov is not the superman he wishes to be, and that many of the traits he dislikes in others are the same traits he, himself, displays. It is the same pridefulness of the Marmelodov’s, utilitarianism and materialism as Luzhin, egoism similar to Svidrigailov, and selflessness seen in Sonya, that send him to his misery. However, it is ultimately, due to his selflessness that he is able to accept his punishment, and repent for his crime.

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