Crime and Punishment Essay

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By the end of Dostoyesky’s Crime and Punishment, the reader is no longer under the illusion of the possible existence of “extraordinary” men. For an open-minded reader, and even perhaps the closed-minded ones too, the book is a journey through Raskolnikov’s proposed theory on crime. It is a theory based on the ideas that had “been printed and read a thousand times”(313) by both Hegel and Nietzsche. Hegel, a German philosopher, influenced Dostoyesky with his utilitarian emphasis on the ends rather than the means whereby a superman existed as one that stood above the ordinary man, but worked for the benefit of all mankind. Nietsche’s more selfish philosophy focused on the rights to power which allowed one to act in a Hegelian manner. In committing his crime, Raskolnikov experienced the ultimate punishment as he realized that his existence was not that of the “extraordinary” man presented in his theory. In chapter five of part three in Crime and Punishment, this theory is outlined by its creator, Raskolnikov. Such an innovative theory would clearly have placed him in the “extraordinary” category, but when he fails to meet its standards, by submitting to the common law through his confession, the theory crumbles right before the reader’s eyes.
The majority of Raskolnikov’s theory seems logical until the reader arrives at its single essential flaw. Raskolnikov’s idea that “the enactment of a crime is invariably accompanied by illness”(311) was one aspect of the theory which, through its accuracy in Raskolnikov’s crime, seemed to lend validity to the entirety of the theory; several brief experiences with “faintness” on the character Raskolnikov’s behalf, insinuate the veracity of his ideas.
After inferring from the rationality of Raskolnikov’s hypothesis on illness that the rest of his working theory would too be correct, the reader is led down a path of definite expectations for his/her “extraordinary” narrator. This path would have been one whereby Raskolnikov was able to implement widespread well being as a result of his murders. Furthermore, he would have been able to avoid submission to the common law of the “ordinary” people in order to preserve his greatness.
This is not, in fact, what happens though. Rather, Raskolnikov is forced to confess by several factors including the very fear of being discovered. This fear is emphasized to illustrate his displacement from the “extraordinary” man; an “extraordinary” man would not have possessed such fears since he would know that he had a right to execute such actions .
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