Sunday, January 30, 2011

Crime and Punishment

Crime and Punishment is an interesting book to explore in the terms of success and perseverance. Can we really say that Raskolnikov succeeded? And if so, what did he conquer? Or did he fail?

Each character in Crime and Punishment is impure, just as all people are. There are no completely "good" characters or "bad" but struggling to remain in the middle. Although the route Raskolnikov takes is "criminal", he attempts to prove a point and follows it through to completion.

He has published an article on crime, one that few take notice of yet illustrates his motives from months even before the murder. Raskolnikov elaborates:
"As for my division of people into ordinary and extraordinary, I acknowledge that it's somewhat arbitrary, bit I don't insist upon exact numbers. I only believe in my leading idea that men are in general divided by a law of nature into two categories, inferior (ordinary), that is, so to say, material that serves only to reproduce its kind, and men who have a gift or the talent to utter a new word...The first category is always the man of the present, the second the man of the future. The first preserve the world and the people in it, the second move the world and lead it to its goal" (227).

This long, elaborate passage sheds a spot light onto Raskolnikov's mission in his murder, to prove if he himself is an extraordinary man so as to "move the world" towards its goals. Does he persevere? In a way, he does. He conceives this idea, wrestles with it and decides to test it. As he experiences such psychological anguish he continues to struggle with accepting the fact that he is not an extraordinary man but punished as an ordinary one. In a way he prevails in the simple conception and execution of an idea with the courage to test such a risky hypothesis with his own life. He gains a new understanding and knowledge of the world through his grappling. Raskolnikov kisses the feet of Sonia saying, " I did not bow down to you, I bowed down to all the suffering of humanity" (279). He is in search of understanding and grasping what it means to be human, what is means to suffer, and how the world moves forward.

In a way it could also be seen that Raskolnikov fails, settling into a "comfortable" life in Siberia with Sonia. He let's go of his theory and complies with the comforts of the world and the following of custom. He fails psychologically as he drives himself mad, unable to fully regain his footing again. And he could be viewed as a failure to society, committing murder for what he views is right instead of following the law. But he succeeds in a sort of courage others may not ever have, to challenge the system and try and answer it: " wasn’t a human being I killed, it was a principle! So I killed the principle, but I didn’t step over, I stayed on this side...All I managed to do was kill. And I didn’t even manage that, as it turns out..." His ultimate failure comes from staying "on this side," for not stepping over but allowing himself to be tied up in the rules of society.

Through Raskolnikov's struggle with his theory, he finds success through the passion and commitment he gives to his idea but failure creeps in when he is unable to reach completion and remains on the side of complacency. Therefore, through passion and commitment there can be success, as long as we don't stub our toe before we fulfill the plan.

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