In Crime and Punishment, Dostoevsky examines this behavior. Raskolnikov, a character who seems to be losing an internal battle between good and evil, morality and confusion, inhabits nineteenth-century St. Petersburg—a setting of destitution where those who control the limited flow of resources are despised by those who must beg. This environment directly influences his actions. A place of economic and social change, Russia was the ideal breeding ground for Raskolnikov to develop his troublesome qualities: distrust, pride, arrogance, and ambition. The true crime, as the readers discover, is not the murder—that is merely the result. The true crime, and the punishment that ensues, is Raskolnikov’s refusal to follow the strong and moral example of the supporting characters—of Sonia, of Razumikhin, of Dunia. By having his schismatic protagonist’s psyche reflect this schismatic time, Dostoevsky shows his readers that a socioeconomic divide in society can cloud the reasonable morality of a nation’s citizens, and that sometimes this ambiguity can have dire consequences, including murder itself. Furthermore, he proves that the true duty of an individual under duress, as Raskolnikov was, is to see beyond unfai...
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This final point was a realization many pages in the making. Raskolnikov, having been influenced catastrophically by his environment, chose to travel down a path of moral ambiguity, a path where right and wrong were corrupted by the want of basic amenities. Thus, he murdered the pawnbroker—object of his hatred—, despised Luzhin, and even distrusted those who solely acted in his interest. The socioeconomic divide plaguing Russia near the 1860s helped to cause these problems, and, as Dostoevsky proves, can be quite dangerous if individuals forgo their morality. Consequently, the only path to redemption for them, and Raskolnikov, was to embrace their traditional values and morals. Crime and Punishment shows that the true test is not to exist in perfection, but to trudge through a life of difficulty while still maintaining some degree of perfection in character.
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