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Free Study Guide-Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky-Free Booknotes
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CHARACTER ANALYSIS

Raskolnikov's Intellect and Will Power:

Raskolnikov's character alternates between his cold, detached intellectualism that clearly represents his firm will power and control over the self, and his warm, compassionate side that highlights his submissive nature. It is the intellectual side of his character that prompts him to take such deliberate and premeditated action as to murder the two women. His theories about crime are shaped by his sharp intellect. In fact, he writes a brilliant article about people of extraordinary abilities who stand apart from and above ordinary human law.

Raskolnikov reveals an exaggerated notion of the self; he believes that he is a superior person, unlike the mass of humanity whose sole concern is to merely propagate their own species. Consequently, he holds that the extraordinary human can take the moral laws into his own hands to eliminate undesirable elements in society, such as the miserly moneylender, Alena Ivanovna. With her hoard of riches acquired from others' misfortunes, Raskolnikov could do some good for those who suffer in society. Hence, he decides to murder this parasitic old woman whose death, he feels, will be not a loss, but a blessing, to society. Unfortunately, he is also forced to kill her half-sister, Lizaveta, who enters the room before he can leave the scene of the crime.


Raskolnikov plans the first murder quite meticulously, even counting the number of steps from his apartment to the old lady's. However, he executes it in a rather haphazard, mechanical and almost impulsive fashion. He makes preparations to secure the axe and leaves for the old lady's apartment only at the very last moment. He arrives almost a half hour late, when Lizaveta could very well return from her appointment. After he does the deed, he lingers in the apartment searching for Alena's money, but he finds very little. He also forgets to shut the front door, and therefore has to murder Lizaveta when she enters unexpectedly. Later on, he hides the money and jewelry that he steals without counting or examining it, nor does he attempt to spend any of it.

All this reveals that he is hardly the hardened criminal type. After the heinous double murder, he is terribly disturbed by bouts of illness and fainting, by his recurrent nightmares, by the smell of fresh paint and by the memory of the blood-spattered crime scene. It is his weakness and suffering after the crime that makes Raskolnikov realize that he is not the superior or extraordinary person he thought he was. In his encounter with Porfiry, he is unable to divert the policeman's suspicions. He plays a kind of clever game with the police, arousing their suspicions and then trying to fool them. Porfiry attempts to convince Raskolnikov about the fallacy of his (Raskolnikov's) theories of crime. Porfiry recognizes the potential of Raskolnikov's intellect and his future capacity for doing good if he redeems himself through confession and suffering.

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