In Fyodor Dostoevsky’s psychological novel, Crime and Punishment, the suffering and isolation of the late nineteenth century Russia becomes reality. As a young man who has left his studies in the university, Raskolnikov finds himself wallowing in poverty and self-pity.
With his dreams of becoming a prominent “Napoleon” of Russia destroyed, he feels that he is one of the many worthless citizens that he has learned to detest. Feeling that he must support his mother and sister by proving himself to be a hero to society, Raskolnikov initiates the solution to his situation. By killing and robbing a detested pawnbroker, and by escaping all punishment, he will display his position as the extraordinary man who has transcended humanity to become a superman. As Friedrich Nietzshe’s theory suggests, Raskolnikov will become one of the “extraordinary men (who) have the right to commit any crime and to transgress the law in any way, just because they are extraordinary” (Dostoevsky, 225). As Arkady Svidrigailov has appeared to do, he hopes to surpass all emotions relating to the hideous crime and create a new superhuman life for himself. His plan fails miserably with the discovery of his crime by the detectives and with his own confession. Sent to live in Siberia to serve for the crime, Raskolnikov repents and reaches for love. It is in the dreams that Dostoevsky makes his telling point against the theory of the extraordinary man.
During the period of time that Raskolnikov spends planning the crime that will transform him into one of Nietzshe’s supermen, Dostoevsky visits him with a dream that signifies his inability to reach his goal. Raskolnikov forces himself to be...
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Dostoevsky, Fyodor. Crime and Punishment. Trans. Constance Garnett. New York: Bantam Book, 1981.
Gallagher, Jay. “Dostoevsky as Philosopher: A Lecture.” 28 November 1995. 15 January 1999. http://www.philosophy.ucdavis.edu.
Mochulsky, Konstantin. Dostoevsky: His Life and Work. Tran. Michael A. Minihan. Princeton University Press, 1967. 300-313.
Rahv, Philip. “Dostoevsky in Crime and Punishment.” Dostoevsky: A Collection of Critical Essays. Ed. Rene Wellek. New Jersey: Prentice Hall Inc, 1962. 18 – 37.
Tanguay, Edward. “Monster and Victim Reversed.” 23 February 1997. 15 January 1999.
Telesco, Patricia. The Language of Dreams. California: The Crossing Press, 1997. 137.
Van de Castle, Robert. Our Dreaming Mind. New York: Ballantine Books, 1994. 128–131.
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