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Raskolnikov lives in a tiny little closet of a room. He sleeps on a ragged couch in his clothes using his overcoat as a blanket and rags as a pillow because he cannot afford anything else. He had to drop out of the university because of lack of money. He cannot pay his rent and his landlady has stopped sending him food and stopped cleaning his room. Raskolnikov's living conditions further emphasize the wretched condition he was in both physically and mentally. Dostoevsky's description of Raskolnikov's surroundings contribute to our understanding of Raskolnikov and help us get to know him because they are a reflection of his personality.

Raskolnikov is intelligent. He was studying law at university and was doing well in it but lack of money forced him to drop out. At times he seems very kind and considerate. He leaves money for Marmeladov's family and he tries to help a young drunken girl in the street. But while helping the drunken girl he has a complete personality shift and no longer cares what happens to her. He becomes very cold and indifferent. This instability can be seen throughout Parts One and Two as his personality shifts from one to the other. At times Raskolnikov cannot even think of killing Alena but a little while later he is coldly plotting her death. He tells himself that money will do more good in his hands than in hers. He will help the poor with it whereas she wouldn't. He figured no one will miss her when she dies.

When Raskolnikov kills the old woman, he is able to keep some semblance of control--while still nervous (his hands shake), he is able to think and plan. Raskolnikov has convinced himself that her murder is not a "crime"--she is a horrible, spiteful old woman who does more harm than anything. By killing her and taking her money, Raskolnikov thinks he can become a "great man" and help others. By telling himself that a greater good will come of his actions, he is able to reconcile himself with the thought of murder. But when Raskolnikov kills Lizaveta--an unpremeditated act, done at the moment to cover up the old woman's murder--everything falls apart. With Lizaveta, it is no longer a matter of committing a violent act against an evil woman to save others, but the taking of a completely innocent life. Lizaveta is completely harmless (child-like) and has been mistreated all of her life. Lizaveta is the type of person Raskolnikov wanted to SAVE with Alena's money. When Raskolnikov kills Lizaveta, he has no intellectual theories to hide behind. He is faced with his own act for what it was--murder.

Raskolnikov's dream about Mikolka and the horse was a foreshadowing of Lizaveta's murder. The horse had done nothing and did not deserve to be brutally killed. Lizaveta is the same way--she is harmless and has done nothing to deserve murder. Mikolka kills the horse because he is trying to make it fit his plans--he wants his horse to pull all his buddies at a gallop to impress them. Raskolnikov kills Lizaveta to conform to his plan--he wants to murder Alena and take her money and having an eyewitness would ruin that. Lizaveta is murdered so that she cannot implicate Raskolnikov so that he may become the "great man."

Role of guilt in Crime and Punishment: The beginnings of guilt first appear in Raskolnikov BEFORE he commits his crime. His guilt begins when he begins to plan the murder of the pawnbroker. Raskolnikov cannot decide whether or not to committ the murder--whenever he does decide to murder the pawnbroker, Raskolnikov becomes even more distracted and indifferent. After the murder, Raskolnikov's guilt increases. He becomes very ill, sinking into delirium. His guilt causes an intense preoccupation with the murder and his own guilt.

I've been enjoying Razumikhin's character very much. Early on in Crime and Punishment, we've been introduced to characters less than desirable--Marmeladov who drinks away his family's money, his wife Katerina who constantly berates her husband, the pawnbroker who takes advantage of other's misfortunes, and, of course, Raskolnikov himself wo displays good qualities but is also a murderer. But Rasumikhin is pure kindness. He does everything in his power to help Raskolnikov even though Raskolnikov doesn't seem to appreciate it and constantly rebukes him for it. And Razumikhin helps Raskolnikov's family simply because they are dear to Raskolnikov.

I'm also really enjoying Porfiry. He presents himself as a bit of a bumbling fool (he's constantly laughing and bustling about and trying to appear overly friendly)--but he is, in fact, very intelligent. He knows EXACTLY what he's doing. He has pegged Raskolnikov's character and is playing off Raskolnikov to get him to confess. But he does all this while seeming like nothing more than a genial little man who is trying to be friendly. Porfiry keeps Raskolnikov constantly on edge--Raskolnikov doesn't know quite what to believe about Porfiry (does he know or doesn't he?). And that is exactly what Porfiry wants. By keeping Raskolnikov on edge and questioning, Raskolnikov is more likely to slip up and give himself away.

Porfiry's meeting with Raskolnikov was a good look at Porfiry's abilities. Porfiry recites to Raskolnikov, under the guise of telling him what the real murderer will do, everything Raskolnikov has done so far. Raskolnikov cannot be sure if Porfiry truely knows and becomes more and more upset (and likely to give himself away). He even manages to the "mistake" with Nikolay to his advantage. Raskolnikov thinks Porfiry badgered Nikolay into a confession and is now trying to do the same to him. {Prof marginal comments between this paragraph and next: Good entries}

Raskolnikov is drawn to Sonya--he feels the need to confide in her. Sonya is a sinner, just as Raskolnikov is. But she has something he does not--a deep and unwavering belief in God. She suffers to help her family. Her great love for her family helps her survive her suffering. And she believes God will standy by her and protect her because of this. Even though Sonya has a very low place in society because of her "immorality," she remains good and kind and hopeful. Her goodness is one of the things that attracts Raskolnikov. But Raskolnikov is also drawn to Svidrigaylov. Svidrigaylov is the exact opposite of Sonya. He lives only for his own pleasure, uncaring of who he hurts. Svidrigaylov has the ability to be one of the "great men" Raskolnikov theorizes about (and who he was seeing if he could become).

Dostoevsky gives us a nice contrast between the two people (Svidrigaylov and Sonya) Raskolnikov is drawn to. Sonya, on the one hand, is good and kind and moral (despite her occupation). But Svidrigaylov is cold and calculating and immoral, without conscience. As we read about Raskolnikov's interactions with these two, we have to wonder which one he will become. Will he follow Sonya's goodness or Svidrigaylov's evilness?

Dreams: In Raskolnikov's first dream, he is a child walking with his father. He sees a man, Mikolka, beating his cart horse, trying to make her pull a load much too heavy for her. Mikolka kills the horse, horrifying young Raskolnikov. In his dream, Raskolnikov attacks Mikolka because of the senseless death of the horse. But Raskolnikov's father pulls young Raskolnikov away, telling him that its none of their business. This dream occurs before Raskolnikov commits the murder of the pawnbroker and Lizaveta. The images of the horse being beaten with the ax shows that Raskolnikov's thoughts are dominated by his plan to murder the pawnbroker with an axe. The aspects of his dream represent the different parts and people of his plan. Mikolka represents Raskolnikov himself. {Prof marginal comments: downward pointing arrow from this point towards bottom of page}. Mikolka has killed the horse for his own "benefit"--to prove he is more powerful than it and to save his pride. Raskolnikov plans to murder the pawnbroker for his own benefit (although that is not his rationale). He claims that he will murder to help those around him, but by "helping" others he will be bringing himself power and money. The horse in many ways represents the pawnbroker. Just as the killing of the horse was Mikolka's way of saving his pride, the killing of the pawnbroker would save Raskolnikov's pride and raise him from poverty. The horse had done nothing to deserve such a brutal death; she just happened to be in teh wrong place. The pawnbroker became the focus of Raskolnikov's plans by chance. Looking back on the dream after the murder, the horse could also represent Lizaveta. Both the horse and Lizaveta were innocent and undeserving of death. Young Raskolnikov is Raskolnikov's conscience. Young Raskolnikov knows the murder of the horse is wrong and protests it. Raskolnikov's conscience bothers him about what he plans to do and many times he decides against murder. But he always changes his mind and the plans for the murder continue. Raskolnikov's father in the dream represents Raskolnikov's theory that some men have the right to do anything to gain power. This theory continually suppresses Raskolnikov's conscience when it tells him murder is wrong. In the same way, the father from the dream tells young Raskolnikov, the conscience, to leave things alone.

After the murders, Raskolnikov has another dream. In this dream, Raskolnikov is following a man in a trench coat down the street. He follows the man into an apartment building and finds himself in the pawnbroker's apartment. The pawnbroker is sitting in a chair laughing and Raskolnikov begins beating her with the ax but she refuses to die. Raskolnikov hears noises from the bedroom and is certain there is someone there. He continues to beat the pawnbroker and soon everyone is laughing at him. A crowd has gathered around him and they are all laughing. This dream occurs after the murders have occured showing that his thoughts are still dominated by the murders. The pawnbroker in this dream represents Raskolnikov's own conscience. The pawnbroker's laughter disturbs Raskolnikov. It angers him. Raskolnikov's conscience has been bothering him about the murders--it has made him ill and withdrawn. The fact that his conscience is disturbing him despite the fact that he believes he was right angers him. Raskolnikov does not want to admit that he may have been wrong. The ax in his dream represents his theory. Using the ax, Raskolnikov tries to beat down the pawnbroker and silence her. In the same way, Raskolnikov's conscience tells him he's done wrong, but he uses his theory to try and defeat his conscience. But just as he is unable to stop the pawnbroker in his dream, he is unable to make his conscience leave him alone.

{Prof comments at bottom: Good observations}

Date: 2011-10-01 02:42 am (UTC)
From: [personal profile] ex_redrain387
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