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Nature and Nurture in Crime and Punishment Essay

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Nature and Nurture in Crime and Punishment

 
  In the news today there is an article about a high-school boy who brought guns to school and shot several students. The parents of the victims are suing various computer game companies saying that the violent games present shooting and killing people as pleasurable and fail to portray realistic consequences. A representative of one of the companies released a statement saying that this is another example of individuals seeking to elude responsibility that has become so common in our society. This case is not about software. What is on trial is the age-old debate between nature and nurture, which also lies at the center of Fyodor Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment.

 

In his dream about the gray nag, Raskolnikov as an unshaped child is innately compassionate; he weeps for horses being cruelly beaten, but already society, in the form of his parents, begins to shape him, to train him, to numb his compassionate feelings for those in pain. His mother draws him away from the window when he sees such a horse pass and his father tells him when the men kill the nag "They're drunk, they're playing pranks, it's none of our business, come along" (59). Already Raskolnikov is being taught to rationalize murder, for all those people who watched and did not interfere are partly to blame as they rationalize that "it's none of our business."

 

Mikolka, the horse's murderer, also rationalizes his role; first, he defines the mare as property, not as life. Repeatedly he says "It's my goods" (57) while those who object refer to the horse not as an neuter object but as "her." Secondly, he attempts to justify the act through cold reasoning: "I might as well kill her, she's not worth her ...


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.... Even today as we scan the news we can still find the nature versus nurture issue addressed by Dostoevky still prevalent in our court cases and legal system.

 

Works Cited and Consulted:

 

Bloom, Harold. Modern Critical Interpretations. New York, New York: Chelsea House Publishers, 1988.

 

Dostoevsky, Fyodor. Crime and Punishment. New York: Random House, 1992.

 

Gale Research Co. Nineteenth Century Literature Criticism. Detroit, MI 1984, Vol. 7.

 

Kjetsaa, Geir. Fyodor Dostoyevsky, A Writer's Life. New York, New York: Viking Penguin Inc., 1987,

 

Magill, Frank. Masterplots. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Salem Press, 1976.

 

Terras, Victor. Handbook of Russian Literature. New Haven, CT; Yale University Press, 1985.

 

Timoney, John. Speech on Crime and Punishment. Mt. Holyoke College, November 10, 1994.

 


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