Resurrection of Lazarus in Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment


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Resurrection of Lazarus in Crime and Punishment

In Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment, Raskalnikov undergoes a period of extreme psychological upheaval. By comparing this death and rebirth of Raskalnikov's psyche to the story of the resurrection of Lazarus, Dostoevsky emphasizes not only the gravity of his crimes, but also the importance of acceptance of guilt.

From the moment when Raskalnikov murders the old woman, his personality begins to change drastically. Dostoevsky challenges the reader to understand the madness which ensues by first demonstrating that the ideas and convictions to which Raskalnikov clung died along with the women. While the reader struggles with this realization, Dostoevsky incorporates the Biblical legend of Lazarus as a symbolic mirror for Raskalnikov's mind. By connecting the two, the reader encounters the foreshadowing of a rebirth of morals and beliefs, though what form this may assume remains cryptic. As references to Lazarus continue to occur, the feeling of parallelism increases in intensity. Just as Raskalnikov slowly struggled through madness, Lazarus lay dying of a terrible disease. When Lazarus eventually dies, Raskalnikov mimes this by teetering on the edge of insanity, the death of the mind. Eventually Sonya begins to pull Raskalnikov back to reality by relieving a portion of his guilt. As his Christ figure, she accomplishes this by providing the moral and spiritual sturdiness which Raskalnikov lost after his debasement during the murders. Sonya affects him not by active manipulation, but via her basic character, just as Christ personified his beliefs through the manner in which he lived his life. No matter what Raskalnikov says or does to her, she accepts it and looks to God to forgive him, just as Jesus does in the Bible. This eventually convinces Raskalnikov that what he did was in fact a crime and that he must repent for it and"seek atonement".

Through this realization, Raskalnikov decides he must redeem himself not only in the eyes of the law, but in the eye of God as well. By foreswearing his old philosophy and accepting his guilt, Raskalnikov again mirrors Lazarus's acceptance of Jesus as his savior. While Lazarus accepts his new life through his rebirth, Raskalnikov acknowledges his guilt and therefore allows his mind to begin life anew.

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Raskalnikov's symbolic gesture of accepting Sonya's cross reinforces and clarifies his link to Lazarus. Raskalnikov's final realization of his love for Sonya summarizes the moral of the Christian philosophy that through love of Christ comes eternal life. This final act allows a definite conclusion to both the tale of Lazarus and the story of Raskalnikov. By withholding the ultimate destination of Raskalnikov's life, Dostoevsky keeps the foreshadowing mostly obscure until both the reader and Raskalnikov are prepared to accept all of its ramifications.

 


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