Crime and Punishment was the second of Dostoevsky’s most important, mature fictional works. It was first published in the conservative journal The Russian Messenger, appearing in twelve monthly installments in 1866. Dostoevsky left three full notebooks of materials pertinent to Crime and Punishment. These have been published under the title The Notebooks for Crime and Punishment, edited and translated by Edward Wasiolek. Reviewing the first installment, an anonymous critic declared that “the novel promises to be one of the most important works of [Dostoyevsky].” A Russian critic of the time, Nikolai Strakhov, later recalled that Crime and Punishment was “the only book the addicts of reading talked about.”(Strakhov, 1971, p.68) Another important assessment of the novel was given by Russian critic Vasily Rozanov in 1893. Rozanov remarked on the power with which Dostoyevsky gave readers a glimpse into the criminal soul. According to Rozanov, the book “lets us feel criminality with all the inner fibers of our being.” Rozanov found that “the general mood of the novel… is far more remarkable than any of its individual episodes.”(Rozanov, 1906, p.36-37) As Dostoyevsky’s work became more widely known, it began to influence writers outside of Russia. Robert Louis Stevenson was an early British admirer of Dostoyevsky. In 1886 he declared that Crime and Punishment was “the greatest book I have read in ten years.”(Stevenson, 2006, p.120)
Rodion Romanovich Raskolnikov is the fictional protagonist of Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky. The story is told almost exclusively from his point of view. The name Raskolnikov derives from the Russian raskolnik meaning “divided”. The name Rodion comes from Greek and indicates an inhabitant of Rhodes.
Rodion Raskolnikov is poor, lonely, yarn meditative, a good soul in his fund. He dedicates himself body and soul to reasoning. This leads him to the conclusion that he is a rare human, that he is outside the law and above it. For Rodion, laws are made for the mediocre people to listen to them. Napoleon is the obsession of Raskolnikov. Strakhov (1971) did an analyze on Raskolnikov’s character and conclude that he had three possible reasons for the killing. The first one refers to Raskolnikov’s misery and the fact that he needed money. The second points out that he was obsessed with Napoleon and he wanted to play the role of a great man in history. He was influenced by his role models:
…further on my article, I remember insisting on the idea that all legislators and rulers of men commencing with the earliest, down to Lycurgus, Solon, Mahomet, Napoleon, etc. have one and all been criminals for whilst giving laws, they have naturally broken through older ones which had been faithfully observed by society and transmitted by its progenitors. These men most certainly never hesitated to shed blood as soon as they saw the advantages of doing so.(p.193-194)
The following statement was made when Raskolnikov tried to figure out why did he kill:
I was ambitious to become a Napoleon; that was why I committed the murder. The fact is that one day I asked myself the following question supposing Napoleon to have been in my place. Supposing that to advance his career had neither Toulon nor Egypt nor the crossing of Mont Blanc, but in lieu of all he these brilliant exploits was on the point of committing a murder with a view to secure his future would he have recoiled at act of killing an old woman and robbing her of three thousand Roubles? Would he have agreed that such a deed was too much wanting in prestige and much too a criminal one? I finally came to the conclusion that he not only would have but that he would not have understood the possibility of such a thing. Every other expedient being out of his reach he would not have flinched,he would have done so without the smallest scruple.(p.329-330)
Last motive would be that Raskolnikov had an intellectual pride.( Strakhov, 1971, p.100) He thinks he has the right to do what he wants and how he wants. He’s obsessed with the idea of power. Rodion`s individualism pushes him to the belief that he has a mission to regenerate the world. He believes that reason is something evil. Another critic, Vvedensky (1890) thought that Raskolnikov could have made a living as a translator or a tutor , but he simply chose not to. Vvedenskij pointed out as further confirm that it was very strange, if Raskolnikov committed his crime for gain, that he immediately hid away the loot and determined not to make any use of it. Vvedenskij was one of the first to note the importance of Raskolnikov’s dreams, especially the dream about the killing of the overburdened horse in Part I. He used this dream as proof that Dostoevsky traced Raskolnikov’s true motivation for the murder to the unhappiness of his childhood. ( Vvedensky, 1890, p.105-106)
The old woman loan shark named Alyona Ivanovna represents for Raskolnikov the tyranny, which must be eliminated in order to liberate the others from suffering. Thinking, he comes to the conclusion that the old lady must be killed. He needs to confirm to himself the idea that he can do whatever he wants. He’s convinced of the idea that he must kill for the good of humanity. Although, the calculated details of the crime, he killed two people instead of one. Lizaveta Ivanovna was murdered so there can be no witness. After the murder, all the things that led to it seemed absurd. He falls into a despair of shame. In the Rodion Raskolnikov’s soul, something strange happened after the murder: the tendency to confess the truth. Finally, urged by his sister and Sonia, the women he was in love with, Rodion confesses his crime. He turns to Sonya as a fellow transgressor of social norms, but he fails to recognize that her sin is much different from his: while she truly sacrifices herself for the sake of others, he essentially commits his crime for his sake alone. Moral consciousness appears here. The desire of the protagonist to confess his crime. Raskolnikov’s behavior following the confession of the crime reminds of another character the robber in Charles Dickens’ novel, Oliver Twist after he had killed Nancy, the lady who used to act as their great informant:
For now, a vision came before him, as constant and more terrible than that from which he had escaped. Those widely staring eyes, so lustreless and so glassy, that he had better borne to see them than think upon them, appeared in the midst of the darkness: light in themselves, but giving light to nothing. There were but two, but they were everywhere. If he shut out the sight, there came the room with every-well known object-some, indeed, that he would have forgotten, if he had gone over its contents from memory-each in its own accustomed place. The body was in its place, and its eyes were as he saw them when he stole away. He got up, and rushed into the field without. The figure was behind him. He reentered the shed, and shrunk down once more. The eyes were there before he had lain himself along. (p.360)
He’s still part of the good men, which are not possessed by the evil spirit. Raskolnikov is sentenced to exile in Siberia, accompanied by Sonia, where he begins his mental and spiritual rehabilitation.
Rodion Raskolnikov is one of my favorite characters because he is the perfect example that people can redeem even though they do terrible things like murder for example. We don`t have the right to take someone`s life, but sometimes our judgment can be clouded and we end up doing this terrible thing. If that person is aware of what she or he had done and asks for forgiveness I think we should try to give her or him a second chance even if it is so hard. Rodion is the example that shows that with the help of God and with the help of people that care about us, we can change the course of our life.