Suffering to Achieve Happiness in Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment

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In such poor living conditions, those that the slums of Russia has to offer, the characters in Fyodor Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment1 struggle, living day to day. Raskolnikov, the protagonist, experiences multiple layers of suffering (the thought of his murder causes him greater suffering than does his poverty) as does Sonia and Katerina Ivanovna (1). Through these characters as well as Porfiry Petrovitch, Dostoevsky wants the reader to understand that suffering is the cost of happiness and he uses it to ultimately obliterate Raskolnikov’s theory of an ubermensch which allows him to experience infinite love. The character’s suffering is thrown in the readers face right from the beginning. Raskolnikov’s suffering has two apparent layers, “he was crushed by poverty, but the anxieties of his position had of late ceased to weigh upon him” (1). It seems that the suffering caused from his current state of mind is so great that he does not even feel the suffering caused by his poverty. Throughout Crime and Punishment Raskolnikov’s main point of suffering is caused by his inability to let others know of the crime he has committed and as a result he alienates himself from those who show him compassion (156). As the novel progresses he decides to tell Sonia because expressing his crimes would alleviate some of the suffering, however, her morals encompass the idea that it is inconceivable to “go on living” without suffering and “expiation” (416). At this confession, the reader is presented with a righteous character (probably the most) that does not judge Raskolnikov for what he has done but instead sympathizes and tells him that turning himself in and bearing the consequences will relieve him of the suffering caused mentally. Anothe... ... middle of paper ... ... that he is the killer (338). Suffering and its role in Crime and Punishment are centered on Raskolnikov, his “infinite love” for Sonia, and the “repay[ment for] all her sufferings” (542). Sonia, the eighteen-year-old stepdaughter of Katerina Ivanovna, does not want to be sucked into prostitution but is forced to because of the living conditions her family is faced with (17). The situation that Raskolnikov believes Sonia to be in fosters the misconception that she is just as bad as he, thus he confronts her about it. Raskolnikov does not realize that his shallow thoughts add to her suffering and he takes her for granted until she becomes ill (540). Sonia’s suffering is final pivot that turns Raskolnikov’s perception of an ubermensch. Now, it is Raskolnikov turn to pay for his new life, the life that will only come after “great striving, [and] great suffering” (542).

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