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Guilt in Crime and Punishment Essay

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Guilt in Crime and Punishment  


In Crime and Punishment, Fyodor Dostoyevsky tells a story of a young man that has been forced out of his studies at a university, by poverty. In these circumstances, he develops his theory of an extraordinary man (Frank 62). This conjecture is composed of the ideas that all great men must climb over obstacles in their way to reach their highest potential and benefit human kind. In Raskolnikov's life, the great obstacle is his lack of money, and the way to get over this obstacle is to kill a pawnbroker that he knows. The victim is a rich, stingy, and heartless old crone, and by killing her, taking this evil from the world, Roskolnikov does many great deeds for mankind (Jackson 99),(Kjetsaa 182).

"The little old crone is nonsense!' [Raskolnikov] thought, ardently and impetuously. 'The old woman was a mistake perhaps, but she's not the point! The old woman was merely a sickness…I was in a hurry to step over…it wasn't a human being I killed, it was a principle!" (C&P, Pevear 274).

Consciously, Raskolnikov refuses to accept guilt for committing the crime because he believes that there is nothing to be sorry for. Subconsciously, he knows that he has taken a human life and must suffer the consequences. His guilt and suffering because of it can be seen in his delirium. Right after Raskolnikov kills the pawnbroker he falls ill. When he sleeps, he has nightmares; when he walks, he sees ghosts. These visions are his subconscious telling him that he is wrong for not taking fault and confessing his sin.

In his delirium Raskolnikov believes that he sees ghosts. "And just now I imagined that perhaps I really am mad and was only seeing a ghost"(C&P, Pevear 295). He believes that he has seen a ...


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...e Sonia (C&P, Pevear 547-549). This is where he begins to appreciate her goodness and purity and to learn to enjoy life and to abandon his egoistic theory. The chosen people are the ones that are like Sonia, kind, quiet and faithful, not the rationalists and superior ones (Mortimer 116). So in this dream, Raskolnikov sees that for his unrepentant thoughts, he would die in the pestilence.

Through Raskolnikov's fears, the reader is able to see that he does feel guilt. When he is awake and sober in mind, he is an egoist and believes that he is extraordinary. It is through his visions of ghosts and phantoms, that one can feel the guilt haunting him. Through his dreams, he sees for himself that his beliefs are wrong.

Works Cited:

Dostoevsky, Fyodor M. Crime and Punishment. Trans. Jessie Coulson. Ed. George Gibian. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 1989.


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