The Brothers Karamazov

Crime and Punishment: The Superman 12th Grade

In Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s renowned novel Crime and Punishment, the radical theories of Raskolnikov (the protagonist) are a principal point of interest. One theory in particular, that of the so-called superman (a modern appellation, not Dostoyevsky’s own), drives the plot from the background; it leads Raskolnikov to commit the fateful murder, and is thereafter used by him to justify his actions. His publication of this theory, moreover, is a major piece of evidence that leads Porfiry (the brilliant police inspector) to his conclusion about the identity of the murderer. It also demonstrates the pure utilitarian amorality of Raskolnikov’s thinking, one of the most important facets of his psychological character and disposition. As it is advocated by the protagonist, it superficially seems at least plausible that the author might be a proponent of this theory as well. By looking at how the hypothesis is tested throughout the course of the novel and by comparing it to other works by the same author, however, it is clear that Dostoyevsky neither advocates nor condones the superman theory.

In order to properly understand the application of this superman theory throughout Crime and Punishment, one must first clearly understand its...

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