By the end of Dostoyeskys Crime and Punishment, the reader is no longer under the illusion of the possible existence of extraordinary men. For an open-minded reader, and even perhaps the closed-minded ones too, the book is a journey through Raskolnikovs proposed theory on crime. It is a theory based on the ideas that had been printed and read a thousand times(313) by both Hegel and Nietzsche. Hegel, a German philosopher, influenced Dostoyesky with his utilitarian emphasis on the ends rather than the means whereby a superman existed as one that stood above the ordinary man, but worked for the benefit of all mankind. Nietsches more selfish philosophy focused on the rights to power which allowed one to act in a Hegelian manner. In committing his crime, Raskolnikov experienced the ultimate punishment as he realized that his existence was not that of the extraordinary man presented in his theory. In chapter five of part three in Crime and Punishment, this theory is outlined by its creator, Raskolnikov. Such an innovative theory would clearly have placed him in the extraordinary category, but when he fails to meet its standards, by submitting to the common law through his confession, the theory crumbles right before the readers eyes.
The majority of Raskolnikovs theory seems logical until the reader arrives at its single essential flaw. Raskolnikovs idea that the enactment of a crime is invariably accompanied by illness(311) was one aspect of the theory which, through its accuracy in Raskolnikovs crime, seemed to lend validity to the entirety of the theory; several brief experiences with faintness on the character Raskolnikovs behalf, insinuate the veracity of his ideas.
After inferring from the rationality of Raskolnikovs hypothesis on illness that the rest of his working theory would too be correct, the reader is led down a path of definite expectations for his/her extraordinary narrator. This path would have been one whereby Raskolnikov was able to implement widespread well being as a result of his murders. Furthermore, he would have been able to avoid submission to the common law of the ordinary people in order to preserve his greatness.
This is not, in fact, what happens though. Rather, Raskolnikov is forced to confess by several factors including the very fear of being discovered. This fear is emphasized to illustrate his displacement from the extraordinary man; an extraordinary man would not have possessed such fears since he would know that he had a right to execute such actions . When Raskolnikov eventually does confess, first to Sonia and then to Porfiry, the novel climaxes as the reader abandons all hope for the existence of any truth amidst the theory of the extraordinary.
After his confession, Raskolnikov experienced the physical punishments for his actions; however, far more painstaking was his previous punishment as he suffered the loss of a conscience battle upon the self realization that he was after all just an ordinary man or that, even worse so, if he was indeed an extraordinary one, that his theory had been an invalid waste of time. In a subconscious effort to protect his lifelong work, he confessed, thus admitting to ordinariness, yet preserving the credibility of his theory.
In these last efforts to prevent the destruction of his theory, it is clear that Raskolnikovs attempt to put off trifling details until he personally experienced a murder in the shoes of an extraordinary man was a failure. Though he tried to justify the flawed theory by becoming the ordinary man, the reader can see that his actual theory, not his title, was to blame; the end does not always justify the means especially in the case of murder.
Dostoevskys irony lays within Raskolnikovs apparent lack of guilt for Lizavetas murder. He seldom thinks of her murder, but is consumed by the culpable thoughts of having killed Alyona. The ironic aspect is that he had intended to kill Alyona and murdering her would have been justifiable according to his theory considering that she was thought to be foul, sinful, and bitter. Lizaveta on he other hand was a kind, warm, and loving character causing no harm to the world. Raskolnikovs sympathy towards Aylona rather than Lizaveta reflects his own evil nature in that he was unable to relate to the characteristics of good.
By reflecting upon Raskolnikovs evil nature, Dotoyevsy makes use of tone in his efforts to reject Raskolnikovs theory. The once open-minded reader is left to forever disregard untested theories as a result of the failure of Raskolnikovs ideas on the extraordinary man.Words
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