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19th Century Theories in Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment

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19th Century Theories in Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment


"I teach you the Superman. Man is something that has to be

surpassed. What have you done to surpass him?" These words said by

Friedrich Nietzsche encompass the theories present in Dostoevsky's

nineteenth century novel, Crime and Punishment. Fyodor Dostoevsky, living

a life of suffering himself, created the character of Raskolnikov with the

preconceptions of his own sorrowful and struggling life. Throughout his

exile in Siberia from 1849-1859, his sentiments of suffering, sorrow, and

the common man surfaced and heightened, inspiring him to begin writing

Crime and Punishment in 1859.


      The main motif in this novel is that of suffering. It is apparent

that all characters, major and minor, experience some sort of internal or

external affliction. The overall theme of the work is that all mortal men

suffer, and that salvation can not be obtained unless this anguish is

present. Dostoevsky's protagonist, Raskolnikov, must evolve and realize

this fact to overcome his conflicts and reach the salvation of peace and

tranquillity. Volumes and volumes of critique can be written on where this

suffering originated, but Dostoevsky's main concentration and focus is not

where, but why suffering must exist and how this suffering can be

overcome. This is seen from the fact that throughout the six sections of

the novel, only one section is focused on the origin of the torment - the

Crime, and the remaining five sections are concentrated on Raskolnikov's

path to overcoming this anguish - the Punishment.


      By focusing solely on the punishment, the internal an...

... middle of paper ...

... all serve a justified purpose in benefiting his moral and rational states. He overcomes the common man through the salvation he obtains from this linear evolution of trials. He suffers not from Marxist classes, but from internal struggle, excluding him as a member of the proletariat, or common man. Though not physically or emotionally fit to survive, his confession becomes his salvation, his survival, and his disclaimer in the Darwin theory of surviving. The common man may survive because he is fit to survive, but Raskolnikov survives because he chooses to survive. Unlike Freud's theory that the everyday man lives his life through his ego, Raskolnikov makes his decisions based on his superego, doing things not just because it would be rational, but because that it the way it should be done.  So then, "Is Raskolnikov a Superman?" Yes.



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