The Extraordinary Man in Dostoevsky's "Crime and Punishment"

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The extraordinary man in Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment is presented in three fashions: the first is Dostoevsky's theory of the extraordinary man, the second is the main character's, Raskolnikov's notion of himself as an extraordinary man and the third is Dostoevsky's view of the protagonist's attachment to his self-identification with the extraordinary. Dostoevsky's ideas about the extraordinary man are given in Raskolnikov's speech to Porfiry Petrovich on pages 242 and 243. Dostoevsky's view is expressed as Raskolnikov's, and is concerned with defining what exactly an extraordinary man is. Lending the protagonist definition, however, does not signify the author's acceptance of Raskolnikov's supposed extraordinariness. Dostoevsky satirizes Raskolnikov's declaration of having extraordinary qualities inasmuch as he conjoins the adjective, extraordinary, with dream states, transformations, delirium and chance. The last way in which the extraordinary man is presented is through Raskolnikov's self-representation, his interpretation of events and his attempt to reconcile his ideas with his actions. Dostoevsky is not satirizing the idea of an extraordinary man; on the contrary, he is proposing it as a possibility- a possibility that is hardly possible. This unlikelihood is described with the statistics given in Raskolnikov's speech to Porfiry: "People with new ideas, people with the faintest capacity for saying something new, are extremely few in number, extraordinarily so, in fact" (page 245). Rather than the concept of the extraordinary man, Dostoevsky is satirizing people who think that they have the right to act like extraordinary men; the characters of Raskolnikov and Svidrigailov are representative of such people, and their ult... ... middle of paper ... ...oevsky allows the possibility of being extraordinary is Porfiry, who looks "with extraordinary simplicity at Raskolnikov (which startled him and instantly put him on his guard)" (314). Porfiry's "extraordinary simplicity" frightens Raskolnikov because he realizes that he is in the presence of someone higher than him: he is in the presence of someone who makes him unconsciously recognize his ordinariness. Dostoevsky wrote a novel about a fool, and his intended audience is the fools who think they see the extraordinary in themselves. In the guise of Raskolnikov's speech to Porfiry, Dostoevsky defines what an extraordinary man is for those who not only do not know, but who pretend that they do know (i.e., Raskolnikov). The intention of the speech is to make such people reflect and, in reflecting, learn their ordinary place in the world, much like Raskolnikov does.
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