Crime and Punishment

Raskolnikov’s Dichotomy

Fyodor Dostoyevsky, in his work Crime and Punishment, makes it clear from the beginning that Raskolnikov, his somewhat unconventional protagonist, is in a “disturbed state of mind” (Dostoyevsky, 13). Derived from the Russian word for “schism,” Raskolnikov’s name itself is suggestive of his twofold personality. Raskolnikov’s dichotomous personality reveals itself primarily in his reaction to his crime, his treatment of his mother and sister, his dealings with Sonya, and his attitude towards human contact. The “extraordinary man” side of Raskolnikov’s personality shows us the destructive nature of self-absorption, which he eventually succeeds in escaping from, due to the softer and more emotional side of his personality.

Even though Raskolnikov consistently tries to rationalize and justify his crime, the murder oppresses him with a sense of self-revulsion as he realizes the foolishness of his egotistical “extraordinary man” theory. Raskolnikov considers himself as part of an elite “superman” echelon, who posses the unofficial right to commit a crime, if the act leads to the benefit of mankind. He “[allows] his conscience to step across certain…obstacles” and places himself above social mores, committing an intentional murder...

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