Comparing Existentialism in Crime and Punishment and Invisible Man

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Existentialism in Crime and Punishment and Invisible Man

The works of Dostoevsky and Ellison are both obvious existential novels, but they exist on two different levels of existentialism. In Invisible Man the invisible narrator has to deal with the enemy of a chaotic and prejudice world around him. In contrast, Roskolnokov, in Crime And Punishment, is his own enemy, and struggles with his two separate identities. One which feels he is superior to ordinary men and the other which is kind, caring and sensitive to those around him. Existentialists are responsible for their own actions and their own fates. While the outside world affects their lives, these characters inevitably choose their own fates; which are all quite different.

Invisible Man is a novel, which takes the reader through a whirlwind of surrealism. The narrator goes on a torturous roller coaster of events, all of which confuse his opinion of himself even more. Like Crime and Punishment, Invisible Man is a novel that takes the main character through events that define the shape of the character's being. The narrator gets swept away into many different identities and by making each one of those false he comes closer to his true self. He becomes a preacher and has an affair with a married woman almost at the same time. Falsifying these identities brings him one step closer to finding himself. The reaction that the narrator has to different events also establishes his position in life, his fate. Many times in Invisible Man the narrator takes an undeserved punishment and goes about his life. When Dr. Bledsoe finds out about him and Mr. Norton's little trip, though the narrator doesn't know it yet, he is corrected by being kicked out of the college. Wh...

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... he has through Sonia's love and the love of Christ. By confessing his crime and serving his sentence he is ultimately redeemed.

Existentialism is evident in the lives of the characters. They each go through trials and struggle to find their true selves. The Invisible Man didn't like what he found and decided to become a hermit. Roskolnikov found himself through Christianity and another person's love. And in doing so became a better person. Each of these works deals with existentialism in different aspects, and each is a search for true self.

Works Cited:

Dostoevsky, Fyodor. Crime and Punishment. Tr. The Coulson. W-W-Norton & Company. New York-London, 1989.

Ellison, Ralph. Invisible Man. Vintage International Edition, New York. 1990.

O'Malley, Robert. New Essays on Invisible Man. Cambridge University Press, New York. 1988.

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