Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoevsky’s life was dark and dramatic as his novels were. His father’s drunken brutality led to his murder by his own serfs. At the age of 28 he was imprisoned for alleged subversion against Tsar Nicholas. He was in prison for ten years. While in prison he made many changes in his philosophies and it was greatly shown in his novels. “Man is a mystery. If you spend your entire life puzzling it out then do not say you have wasted your time.
I occupy myself with this because I want to be a man.” This quote is from a letter that Dostoevsky sent to his brother at the age of eighteen. The quote shows the mindset of the author. This mystery is what Crime and Punishment is about. Dostoevsky reveals this mystery through guilt. He shows that almost everybody has a sense of guilt. This guilt will not let you get away with the crime. This information brings me to a statement that I feel reflects the entire novel.
Through pain and suffering, guilt will bring confession.
Knowledge of crime or bad deeds lead to guilt. “ I was not delirious, I knew what I was doing,” he cried straining. “I was quite myself do you hear?” (Dostoevsky 310) This quote shows that Raskolnikov knew what he was doing and that he was guilty. Even through his extraordinary man theory he knows that he had done wrong. He would like to believe that he was in the right but in the back of his mind he knows that he is in the wrong. “Good God, am I going out of my senses?”(Dostoevsky 130) This shows that he doesn’t know what is happening to himself. He thought that he would have no remorse for this crime but he came out with a lot of guilt. The extraordinary man theory seemed to be a scapegoat for himself. There was not a really big need for the pawn-broker to be killed. She was not really hurting anyone. “In Crime and Punishment Raskolnikov constructed his whole theory of the extraordinary man for one purpose only, to justify in his own eyes a quick and easy way for profit. He had to come quickly, at the first good opportunity, to dishonest means of wealth. The question arose in his mind: how is one to explain this desire to oneself? As a weakness or a strength? It would have been much more simple and believable to explain it as a weakness, but it was much more pleasant for Raskolnikov to consider himself as a strong man and to justify his hand in someone else’s pocket by this shameful thinking” (Pisarev 157). Raskolnikov had to think this way in order to justify the murder to himself. Denial is what he was going through throughout the whole novel. He refused to believe that he was in the wrong so he made this theory to protect himself from his thoughts of confession.
There is a way to get away from the law but there is no way to get away from the guilt. “And everywhere there is recognition of the fact that behind the law there is guilt.” There are ways to fool the law but you can never get away from what you already know. It is impossible to remove from your conscience the wrongful deeds that you have done. There is no way to run away from your own thoughts. It was said in a essay of criticism that Dostoevsky was contemplating how to end the novel. The two decisions were suicide or confession. Confession was needed to fulfill the lesson of how guilt tears at a person and brings them to confession. “The feeling of disconnection and of isolation from mankind, which he had realized immediately on committing the crime, torments him to death”(Dostoevsky 69). Raskolnikov can’t even get the guilt of the murders out of his mind. The truth is tormenting and tearing at him. His only escape is confession. “The thought of criminal punishment hangs like Damocle’s sword over Raskolnikov’s head” (Pisarev 158). The only thing that keeps him from confessing is the punishment that he would receive. The thought of many years of suffering seemed unbearable to him. If you think about it, prison might actually be a better place for Raskolnikov. He will not have to worry about his financial problems and will be safe from committing another such crime. The prison cell is probably not much different than his own room that he rents.
The effects of guilt will tear at you both psychologically and physically. “He returned to his room, where he remained for four days in a high fever”(Kasdan 1197). This shows you how very bad the crime affected Raskolnikov. The guilt was to much for Raskolnikov to bear. His body was so overloaded from the mental anguish that he went into this deep fever. “I ask you the same question again: if you consider me guilty, why don’t you take me to prison”(Dostoevsky 286)? Raskolnikov almost seems as though he wants to get caught. If he was actually trying to get away with this crime, he wouldn’t talk like this to Porfiry who was trying to catch the murderer. He is playing with the law because he knows that it will only be a matter of time before he gets caught or can’t take it anymore and confesses. “If I had committed the crime”(Dostoevsky 147). Raskolnikov is acting very weird about the crime and I think that it should be very obvious that he was the murderer. I feel that this statement should have given the man that he was talking to the suspicion that Raskolnikov was somehow linked to the murder.
I have found that justice is always served. You might not get caught by the law but you will have to deal with your own guilt. I don’t feel that society today has such a realization of guilt. “It clearly indicates the consequences of sin” ( Howell 71). This novel shows the consequences of sin very well. The consequences are very bad. While reading this novel I thought to myself, could O. J. Simpson be going through the same thing at this time? Is he at the point of confession? Will he confess? This story that was written over one hundred years ago still applies to society today. A guilty conscience is a very difficult thing to live with.
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