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Essay on The Struggle in Crime and Punishment

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The Struggle in Crime and Punishment


Reading this book makes you ill because from the beginning to the end you watch as psychological forces eat away at the thoughts and actions of their victim causing him to finally confess to the hideous crime he has committed. The story is basically the struggle between Raskolnikov's Napoleon-übermensch theory and his conscience which make him confess to his crime. Dostoevsky's genius is in describing how Raskolnikov struggles in his thoughts and actions. His thoughts become increasingly disjointed and desperate and his actions show that he has an increasing need to escape the uncertainty of being convicted, to talk about the crime, to confess, and to suffer for his crime. It is even at times humorous the extent to which Raskolnikov at times becomes confused in his bungled yet undiscovered crime. Here after the police call about a routine visit:

'But this is unheard of! I have never had anything to do with the police! And why should it happen just to-day?' he thought, tormented with indecision. 'Oh, Lord, at least let it be over soon!' He could almost have knelt down and prayed, but he laughed at his own impulse; he must put his trust in himself, not in prayer. He began to dress hurriedly. 'If I'm done for, I'm done for! It's all one . . .I'll put the sock on!' he thought suddenly, 'it will get more dirt rubbed into it and all the stains will disappear.' But no sooner had he put it on than he dragged it off with horror and loathing.

Porfiry is a master of the psychological forces which he knows will run Raskolnikov down slowly and steadily. He trusts in the fact that laws aren't just handed down to us but that they mark out human nature and must be followed. He seems to be the mas...


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...s not just an existential battle ground for individual desires and interests to fight themselves out without any real underlying moral structure but that there is hope for a social, moral fiber and a belief in eternal things. It is a 20th-century-like book with a positive twist--still pertinent today.

This book was also Russian through and through. You get a good piece of an interesting time in Russian history (after the freeing of the serfs) and the philosophy and thought that was going on at the time. St. Petersburg is quite a unique city and the Russian a unique culture. This book captures a piece of both.

 "All I can say is, it nearly finished me. It was like having an illness."  -- Robert Louis Stevenson on reading Crime and Punishment.

Works Cited:

Dostoevsky, Fyodor. Crime and Punishment. Trans. Constance Garnett. New York: Modern Library, 1950.


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