In his book “Crime and Punishment”, Dostoevsky explores the path of Raskolnikov who has many problems and obstacles throughout his life. He commits murder and is faced with the long and mentally extremely painful journey of seeking redemption.
Raskolnikov believes that by a law of nature men have been “somewhat arbitrarily” divided into two groups of “ordinary” and “extraordinary”. Raskolnikov believes that the duty of the ordinary group is to just exist, in order to form the world and the society. The second group, those who are “extraordinary”, are a step above the normal. They have the ability to overstep normal bounds and violate the rights of those who are simply ordinary. They are the prime movers; they have a right to cross normal societal structures to accomplish those things that they have determined are valid in their conscience. Raskolnikov cites such “extraordinary men” as Newton, Mahomet, and Napoleon.
He tells us that Newton had the right to kill hundreds of men in order to bring to the world knowledge of his findings. Napoleon and other leaders created a new word. They overturned laws and created new ones. They had the right to uphold their new ideals, even if it meant killing innocent men. Therefore Raskolnicov believes that some “extraordinary” humans like himself have the right to oppose ordinary social laws in order to create a new social order.
“The first class of people preserve and people the world, the second move the world and lead it to its goal.” Raskolnikov also believes that both classes have an equal right to exist. Without “extraordinary” human race would be stuck. Without the “ordinary men” the efforts and ideas of “extraordinary” men would be nonexistent.
Both classes are important to the workings of the world. They are dependent upon one another.
Raskolnikov is obsessed with his “superman theory”. He is constantly trying
to prove that he is part of the “extraordinary” people in the world. He wants to become an important figure such as Napoleon. He believes that certain superior people in a society stand above the ordinary human and moral law. Based on his theory he believes that the murders he commits would make him a part of this high class. To test his thesis, he murders an old woman that is a greedy moneylender. He feels her death is no great loss to society because she preys upo...
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... he suffers the loss of conscience upon the self realization that he was after all just an “ordinary man” or even worse so, if he was truly an “extraordinary” one, then his theory had been an invalid waste of time. In order to protect his theory, he confessed and admitted to ordinariness. Raskolnikov is then sentenced for only seven years, due to “his abnormal mental condition.” Raskolnikov is tortured by the others for his disbelief in God, and rudeness to Sonia when she would visit. Raskolnikov’s attitude shifts when he dreams of a world that “was condemned to a terrible new strange plague,” it awakened him to the wrongness of it. Finally, the caring, good side of Raskolnikov defeats his evil side, as he turns to a life of Christianity with Sonia.
What Dostoevsky tries to show is that although Raskolnikov believes he is an “extraordinary” human being and thus commits the murders, he is no better or worse than an ordinary man. He cannot escape the consequence of his crimes, and he is not above the common human. On the one hand, Raskolnikov thinks of himself as a sort of superior human. On the other hand, he realizes as the novel progresses he is just a part of common humanity.
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