Crime and Punishment - Style Essay

Crime And Punishment Style Term paper

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Chose a character who might-- on the basis of the character’s actions alone-- be considered evil or immoral. Explain both how and why the presentation of the character makes us react more sympathetically than we otherwise might.

In Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment, the character of Raskolnikov is one who may be considered evil or immoral for his actions, however his portrayal by the author is one that instills sympathy in the reader for the character due to his motives and personal, internal consequences he suffers for his crime of murder. There is considerable evidence supporting the view that Raskolnikov wants his theory surrounding the murder to be proven wrong, to get caught, and to be punished. This tells the reader that deep down, Raskolnikov knows in his heart what is wrong and right, and that he wants to be brought back down off his pedestal and enter back in to normal human society. Raskolnikov’s theory of the "superman" ;who is above all societal constraints and able to stamp out the weak and detrimental people in society for the common good, is one that is obviously skewed. This prompts Raskolnikov to doubt his reasoning for and consequent execution of the crime. He knows that his theory is wrong, but he has been created by the society in which he lives, which allows him to conjure up wild fantasies and delusions of grandeur. The sympathy Dostoyevsky enforces upon the reader for Raskolnikov is held by the overwhelming signs pointing towards the notion that he knows that he is wrong in his doings.

The first indication of Raskolnikov’s need for punishment for his crime appears in his preparation for the crime itself. It is by no means meticulous. To be sure no one will suspect him, he rehearses the crime, counts the steps to Alyona’s house, and even devises a noose to carry his axe. Yet as incredible as it may seem, he makes only the most elementary plans for securing the axe and returning it unseen. Everything rests upon Natasya’s absence from the kitchen at the precise moment he needs it. Obviously, Raskolnikov is attempting to set himself for failure in this crime so that he may be caught and brought back down and in to society again. The reader may also feel sympathy because Raskolnikov is looking for a way out of his destitute condition. And while his methods are not those of a normal person, the intention prevails, making him seem as if he knows the right solution, just not the path to it. Furthermore, he tries to sabotage his plans and takes a nap, oversleeping the time at which he knows his victim (Alyona) will be alone. Then he forgets to get rid of his hat, which can be easily identified as it draws attention to him. When he remembers the mistake, he does nothing to remedy this, simply leaving the hat on. Immediately following the murder, Raskolnikov realizes "…how many obstacles there still remained for him to surmount.", and "…the horror of what he had done." ;(63) This shows the beginning of Raskolnikov’s mental weakness, and also reinforces his true intentions for the crime. The attempts time and again by Raskolnikov to sabotage his own plans display a side of him that is far from evil. He is calculating, but not in the sense that he is trying to get away with the perfect murder. He is instead trying to commit the perfect failure.

Raskolnikov presents evidence of his true mental state, and that he wants to be exposed before his peers for the good of society, which allows the reader to see him not as evil, but terribly misguided as a tainted product of the world he has been forced in to. First, he forgets to lock the door and is forced to kill another woman who walks in unexpectedly during his crime. Next, with the door still open, he dallies several minutes washing his axe, taking even more time to scrutinize his clothing for traces of blood, all seemingly in the unconscious hope that someone will walk in on him. So Raskolnikov

seems to be leaning toward punishment rather than away from it. He returns to his room, pockets bulging with stolen articles, and falls asleep, forgetting to lock the door. From here on, he is continually leaving clues that encourage suspicion. The day after the murder he answers a summons to the police, which he expects deals with the murder. When he discovers that he is not suspected, he faints in order to arouse suspicion. This also displays Raskolnikov’s mental weakness, in that when placed in a compromising or surprising situation, he panics and does not know what to do. His fainting scene highlights his desperate cry for attention ;in this case suspicion of murder. This is a trait evident in a detached man who needs to feel that his life is worth something again. He then nearly confesses to his friend Zametov in a tavern, and later, while visiting the scene of the crime, gives the men working there his name and address. The police investigator Porfiry is then involved when Raskolnikov seeks him out and provokes suspicion towards him surrounding the murder. Significantly, when Porify visits him in his room and declares that he has no evidence that could convict him, the author states that: "The thought that Porify thought him innocent began to frighten him suddenly." ;(245) Porfiry discovers some new information, which acts as a catalyst, allowing him to see everything from a different perspective. All of Raskolnikov’s prior actions fall into place. Most importantly, the clues show Porfiry how to handle his suspect. Since Raskolnikov’s actions indicate a desire to be caught, all Porfiry has to do is let him know that he is suspected, and the culprit’s own temperament will do the rest. Porfiry uses mind games as a tool of detection,

"Knowing his visitor’s nervous irritability, the magistrate (Porfiry) had gone thoroughly into the subject, and had shown his hand a little too boldly, although his game was a certain one. What was the object Porfiry had in view? [He] undoubtedly planned something today." ;(256),

letting Raskolnikov lead himself into the trap inside his own mind to be caught. At last, when it seems to Raskolnikov that there are neither clues nor people who can incriminate him, he confesses. The successful game implemented by Porfiry shows that he acts as the representative for society. Dostoyevsky uses an intelligent, good-intentioned man as the physical manifestation for the society that is sympathetic to a man such as Raskolnikov in his mental collapse and subsequent reevaluation of his position as an equal human.

All of Raskolnikov’s actions can be attributed to a desire for a return to human society. He can sustain his belief in the superman theory only as long as his conception of society as a mass of automatons is unimpaired. After killing the old woman, he slowly begins to realize that his ideas smack of oversimplification. Although he tries to hold on to them, he senses that if the death of a "louse" ;can affect him so severely, there must be more to life and the human condition than a neatly thought-out theory. He does not know what it is, but intuitively feels that by suffering punishment he may discover it. All his inner conflict surrounding the crime and its consequences, as well as the way he treats himself in order to return to society, instill sympathy in the reader for him. The society that created Raskolnikov and his mental condition ironically is the same one that he longs to once again be a part of, and one able to forgive and sympathize with a creature born out of its own flaws. Dostoyevsky instills sympathy for his character through blame on society. He does not hope to condone his character’s actions, only to shift responsibility for Raskolnikov’s mental state on the society that for so long put him down and allowed theories and ideas of getting out of destitution to run rampant in his mind. The irony comes when that same society accepts and understands his cause for wanting to again be normal and function as an effective person.

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