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Inventing Reality: Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment

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Inventing Reality: Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment In what scholars consider Dostoevsky's finest masterpiece, the author deals with the problems raised on two levels of understanding in two different realities. One can distinguish the objective, outer world represented by the society and its norms and an inner reality uniquely created by each character as a response to the feeling of rejection he has from society. All the characters in Crime and Punishment are always tortured by the idea of "having nowhere to go" (15) which is precisely what triggers the development of an inner world. The one that actually introduces this concept is Marmeladov, a former titular councilor, who destroyed his life and that of his family because of his drinking addiction. During their only encounter, Marmeladov tells Raskolnikov his story. Although he is drunk, Marmeladov's ideas do make sense in the context of their society. He was forced to quit his job not only because of his vice, but also because of the corruption existent in their society. Marmeladov mentions that he "has no place to go" (18), and this situation triggers his feeling of abject destitution and poverty, which he considers worse vices than drinking. The fact that he is alcoholic originates in his impotence to find a place in reality where he can feel he belongs to. Dostoevsky portrays Marmeladov more as an unfortunate person than as one who hurts his family on purpose. ...read more.


However, the Marmeladovs are only the means through which Dostoevsky introduces this idea of "not finding a place in the world" in the context of the novel. The main character, Raskolnikov is constantly confronted with this problem. Having an essentially good soul, Rodion is actually influenced to commit murder by the corrupt society he inhabits. Like the Marmeladovs, Raskolnikov cannot accept his own reality, since it would mean accepting the fact that he is incapable to financially sustain his mother and sister. This is the reason he decided to completely reject the society that would make him ashamed of his impotence and entirely dedicate himself to demonstrating that he can raise above society. That is why he develops the theory of "extraordinary" people that have the right to "step over", to transgress both human nature and law in the name of an exceptional idea that could benefit a greater number of people. When talking to Porfiry, he explains that "an extraordinary man has the right...to allow his conscience to...step over certain obstacles, only in the event that the fulfillment his idea- perhaps salutary for the whole of mankind - calls for it..." (260). The method through which he wants to prove that he is indeed an "extraordinary" person is committing a murder without losing his temper and mathematical precision. So, since he cannot find a place and a purpose in their society, Raskolnikov decides to focus its efforts in the creation of this new idea which makes him become extremely engaged with his inner self. ...read more.


Hence, more than any other character, Svidrigailov is tormented by this inner world. Just like Raskolnikov, he has mortifying dreams that are an accurate depiction of the outer reality. Before he commits suicide, he dreams about saving a little girl who was beaten by her mother and who eventually loses her innocence. In a memorable description of the girl's sudden and strange transformation, Dostoevsky focuses on her face, as she starts laughing in an "unchildlike" manner, with an air of "depravity", until it becomes the "face of a Scarlet woman, the insolent face of a woman for sale, of the French sort" (509). Following the idea that dreams mirror reality, Svidrigailov's dream can represent the depiction of the highest degree of vice that ruined the Russian society at that time. It suggests that it corrupts even the na�ve figure of a child into becoming a prostitute, a person who would sell herself in order to survive. This degradation of the human being as reflected through the mind of Svidrigailov is triggered by the corruption already existent in the society. Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment is on one level a highly romantic novel, if we look at the role the subconscious, as reflected though dreams. Since they cannot find "somewhere to go" in the deeply hypocritical society, they decide to take refuge in their inner self, to create a new type of reality. The mind becomes the world they view as real, although most of the characters are tormented even through this new perspective. ...read more.

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