Egoism in Crime and Punishment


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Egoism in Crime and Punishment

 

   An egocentric attitude can be seen in Fyodor Dostoyevsky's Crime and Punishment.  Dostoyevsky's young Raskolnikov is staggeringly arrogant.  Raskolnikov commits a murder and a failed robbery in the story.  His journey in overcoming his ego can be seen through his initial crime, denial of failure, and acceptance of mistakes.

 

    Raskolnikov commits his initial crime out of arrogance.  "The old hag is nothing.... I killed not a human being," he says. (245)  Raskolnikov feels that he has justification for killing the pawn broker.  He thinks that the woman has no reason to live.  He believes that the woman is less than a human, and that he is a superior being.  Raskolnikov thinks that he has a right to kill.

 

    After the botched crime Raskolnikov is plagued his failures.  "He was conscious at the time that he had forgotten something that he ought not forget, and he tortured himself." (107)  After he carelessly kills both women, and allows for the evidence to be found, Raskolnikov realizes he did not commit the perfect crime.  This devastates his ego, so he tries to cling to his previous self perception.  He is also plagued with feelings of guilt.  His guilt, combined with the mistakes he made during the crime, shatter his self perception of perfection.  

 

    When Raskolnikov surrenders he accepts his mistakes and rejects his self-centered attitude.  "It was I who killed the old woman and her sister, Lizaveta, with an axe, and robbed them," Raskolnikov confesses. (476) With his surrender he not only accepts his methodical mistakes in the execution of the crime, but he sees something beyond himself.  He begins to see the magnitude and horror of his act.  He had taken a life.  By realizing the immorality of his crime and rejecting his self glorifying mind set, Raskolnikov accepts his own humanity.  

 

    In Dostoyevsky's Crime and Punishment, Raskolnikov's initial crime, failure, and acceptance of mistakes are his road to overcoming his ego, as well as self discovery.

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  It is after all this that Raskolnikov realizes his own humanity and the humanity of others.  In the end, Raskolnikov conquered his ego and began to see others as equals.  Egoism truly is one of the world's greatest problems.  Pride spurs wars and conflict.  Superiority complexes prevent the understanding of others, and often result in isolation from others and a narrow world view.  As J. Petit-Senn said, "In all that surrounds him the egotist sees only the frame of his own portrait."

 


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