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“I teach you the Superman. Man is something that is to be surpassed. What have ye done to surpass man?” (Nietzsche) Such superman theory, idea which German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche develops already in the 1880s becomes a main concern of Dostoyevsky’s work Crime and Punishment. During nineteenth century such a theory blossoms—besides Friedrich Nietzsche, Georg Hegel contributed highly to the “so called” theory of extraordinary man. Although the background for Dostoyevsky’s novel is full of extraordinary ideas, what counter-arguments bring religion even more does religion ensures any further development of the book? Although the fact that Raskolnikovs foil character, Sonya, illustrates great devotion to God and brings religion into account, the theory that influences Dostoevsky’s writing still remains greater power. Rodion Romanovich Raskolnikov, the main protagonist of Crime and Punishent is in fact a desperate man. He appears psychically and emotionally wrecked but on the other hand he considers himself to be a superman, a man who is superior to other humans even more a man who sees himself above all moral rules which control the remaining society. According to his theory – each person can belong only into one of two branches; ordinary and extraordinary. The first group has the duty to be slavish, form the society and let other people to control them. The extraordinary group of few people, those are a step above normal, ordinary standards they can overstep even laws if such moves the world forward and in their eyes benefits the society. He considers himself a part of the
extraordinary group. In the novel Dostoyevsky gives us a big hint to Raskolnikov´s character in choosing such name for him. Part of the word – raskol, in Russian, means “split”. Raskolnikov and the novel itself demonstrate such duality in various way. On wan hand Raskolnikov respects people around him and tries to help them when he gives money to Marmeladov´s family, helps a young girl to get home. Such deeds simply feels right to do at that time and also by doing such noble deeds Dostoevky makes clear that Raskolnikov is deeply in his heart a generous person. The problem, the ambivalance rises a little bit later, in stead of feeling beneficial to the society comes deep regret of doing such deeds. Since he has the sense of ethics therefore apparently becomes a part of ordinary society he does not lack the consciousness of what is ethically right but he also has the characteristic of being self-centric. He wishes to be as Napoleon and other extraordinary man, step above but does he really believe in such group of people? He believes so therefore commits a double murder – again the path o dualism in this novel. By the way, the word for "crime" in Russian is "prestuplenie", which literally means "stepping across", or crossing the boundary in this case. But instead of feeling extraordinary he regrets such a crime and suffers until the end of the novel. It would seem that Dostoevsky is trying to demonstrate the fallacy of rational egoism by taking it to its logical conclusion in Raskolnikov's crime. R. himself states further on in his argument with Luzhin on p. 133-134 that to carry the theory all the way means that there really is no absolute moral boundary, and that "people may be killed." It is interesting to note, just on the side, that this exact philosophy was used by such leaders as Lenin, Stalin, and
Hitler, who believed that if someone was hindering their ability to govern for the "general welfare", the only logical conclusion would be to eliminate them (concentration camps, Siberia, Stalin's secret police, etc.)
“I didn’t kill a human being. A principle! I killed a principle!” (78). “Raskolnikov was not accustomed to crowds and…had been avoiding all forms of society, particularly of late” (10).
Raskolikov of Sonia “She’s a holy fool!” (317). “You must accept suffering and redeem yourself by it; that’s what you must do …. For broad understanding and deep feeling you need pain and suffering” (480).
These shifts between two distinct personalities give Raskolnikov two separate points of view. The novel is founded on the distinctions between the two points of view, and the reader gets both angles. Both Raskolnikov's generous, and evil actions are essential to his character because they allow the reader to identify with these two points of view and the two facets of his personality. In choosing Raskolnikov's name, Dostoevsky has given an important clue to his character. The word raskol, in Russian, means "schism" or "split." Dualism is key to Raskolnikov's character: he is torn between the desire of his mind to prove his theories through evil, and the necessity to satisfy his conscience by doing good (Nutall 160). Throughout Crime and Punishment, the reader
observes Raskolnikov undertake acts of extreme magnanimity, such as offering to pay for Marmeladov's funeral. And yet his character is ultimately defined by his one evil deed (Frank Dostoevsky 50). The ability of Raskolnikov to ultimately separate (at least temporarily) his conscience from his mind explains his ability to go through with the murderous act. In addition, Raskolnikov's split between reason and morality epitomizes Dostoevsky's view on the relationship between reason and ethics: that reason and morality are completely separate spheres. Despite the impact of rationalization, morality will remain objective and immutable because it is so universal and so far ingrained into the human spirit. No amount of reason, says Dostoevsky, can forever rid a man of his conscience (Frank Dostoevsky 251).
The first time we hear of Jesus Christ is from Marmeladov, a drunk in a bar (3/4 of the way through part I, ch. II, p. 20 in my edition). We are introduced to the notion of mercy overcoming the cold, selfish, rational demands of justice. The entire paragraph starting with "Why am I to be pitied..." is the essence of Christian mercy. For a remarkable parallel, refer to the story of the adulterous woman in the Bible, John ch.8 v111. We learn of the Christian notion of self-sacrifice through Sonya, who sacrifices literally everything she has, including her own virtue, to save her family from starvation. Such characters as Sonya cannot be clified in terms of Pyotr Petrovich's rational egoism. That theory cannot explain actions such as hers - they just don't fit in anywhere, they are beyond those terms of rational explanation. It seems as though Dostoevsky uses Pyotr Petrovich as the embodiment of one side of the spectrum and Sonya as the embodiment of the other, and that
Raskolnikov kind of splits between the two. "Raskol" in Russian literally means "split" or "schism". At the beginning of the novel, D. uses R. to portray the essence of rational egoism, with occasional flashes of mercy, such as when he gives money to Marmeladov's family or pays for the taxi to get the drunk girl home safely. Through his psychological punishment, we see the fallacy in rational egoism, and then ultimately we see R. as the manifestation of the true redemptive power of Christianity, the opposite end of the spectrum, through which he truly finds ultimate freedom and joy. CITE (NIETZCHE)
Sonia and Raskolnikov are two characters that interact with each other in the novel, Crime and Punishment. They interact on multiple levels, sharing several likenesses. Both of these characters are attimes selfsacrificing, both are struggling for meaning in a dreary existence, and both are generally unhappy people, but brighten and seem to enjoy each other's presenceeven when Raskolnikov is berating her religion. What is selfsacrifice, for which these characters and so many people around the world engage in? It is a desire to help those around us more than we wish to help ourselves.
Due in part to their selfsacrificing lives, both characters are also trying to search for meaning in the dreary existence which they are subjected to. Sonia finds this meaning in the Bible, in a belief in God. Raskolnikov writes a theory. He finds solace in thinking that he himself is a godlike creature, he believes he is extraordinary. A belief in being a subject of the Divine and thinking that
there are two divisions of men is extremely close. Both of these characters also have their meaning attacked. Porfiry Petrovich attacks and picks for holes in the theory of Raskolnikov. Perhaps as a reaction to this, Raskolnikov picks holes in the support for meaning in Sonia's life God, the Bible, and her faith. The final glues that continually attracts these two characters is the fact that all their morbid similarities bring them together so that they actually enjoy each other's presence. Although Raskolnikov berates her religion mercilessly, there have been at least two other major instances in which Raskolnikov has showered great charity and love upon the head of Sonia and her family. Raskolnikov lives life according to his theory in his mind, unfortunately he is not able to realize behaviors that aligned with his moral code. Therefore by his own code, not even ours or societies, he is morally bankrupt. Yet Sonia and Raskolnikov enjoy each other's presence and timemisery loves company.
Christianity stood in the way of the superman, and Nietzsche scorned Christianity as a "slave morality." Dostoyevsky's view of the superman is absolutely opposed to Nietzsche's. For Dostoyevsky, following the "superman" theory to its natural conclusion inevitably leads to death, destruction, chaos, and misery. Rather than seeing Christianity as a "slave mentality,".
Although Raskolnikov is far too arrogant throughout the majority of the novel to come to terms with religion or his conception of God, all around him there are a number of religious messages come at him from Sonia and others. The presence of religion offers readers a unique paradox because on the one hand, this novel is about an essentially
godless person who commits an awful and grave sin. For this essay, examine the ways in which this might be a religious parable. Make connections between biblical characters (Cain and Abel, Mary Magdalene, etc) and if you want to be more complex, consider these issues in light of the context of Dostoevsky’s life and religious conversion
The best example of this is that its lead character, Rodion Romanovitch Raskolnikov, is not a realistic villain, but an archetype- and really a symbol. The sound of his name connotes his being a rascal or rapscallion, and in Russian raskolnik even means to be divided, or schismatic. His swings between guilt and mendacious evil are better seen as devices serving the drama of the narrative than as any true portrait of a sociopath- be it a modern serial killer, a gangster, or any other form. Raskolnikov has many seeming virtues- he loves his mother and sister, he has saved people from death, he protects a young girl from a would-be john, and treats the drunken Marmeladov and his clan with respect. Yet, he also views himself as above the law of man, perhaps because of these virtues, and his undoing and seeming acceptance of Christianity by tale’s end has been seen as suggesting that he has submitted only to the higher law of God, one which even Napoleonic supermen, as he fancies himself to be, must give in to. This idea of the higher man has also led to a Nietszchean interpretation of the book, even though it preceded that philosophy.
Raskolnikov ends the speech strangely and emphatically, saying "vive la guerre eternelle - till the New Jerusalem, of course!" (227). This translates 'live the eternal war' (alluding to life), until one goes to heaven. This statement prompts Porfiry to ask a few
religious questions. He asks if Raskolnikov believes in heaven, in God, and in the story of Lazarus, to which Raskolnikov answers firmly each time, "I do." This confuses Porfiry, who has been thinking Raskolnikov more of an atheist, but these questions prove he is not. Raskolnikov's literal belief in the Bible is instrumental in bringing about his confession. As Raskolnikov points out to Sonia, there are three ways to go: suicide, insanity, or depravity, but he doesn't realize at the time how strong her faith is. Dostoevsky portrays his own belief by making religion the saving grace.
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