Saturday, August 6, 2011

Crime and Punishment

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Generally, in some of the greatest works of literature, an important character in a novel may be considered evil or immoral on the basis of his actions alone. Such a character is Raskolnikov of Dostoevsky’s, Crime and Punishment-- a poverty-stricken young man who had who murdered an old pawnbroker. Despite such an immoral act, Raskolnikov is often viewed by the reader as a sympathetic character due to the manner in which his crime haunted him. Furthermore, he committed acts of kindness which also promote sympathy in the reader.

Raskolnikov’s evil can be seen through the nature of pawnbroker’s (Alyona Ivanova) murder, as opposed to that of her sister (Lizaveta Ivanova). Alyona’s murder was much more brutal that Lizaveta, in that she took several hits with the ax whereas Lizaveta took only one. Therefore, even thought the pawnbroker was already dead, Raskolnikov had so much rage and malicious intentions for her that he continued to strike her

Then he dealt another and another blow

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with the blunt side and on the same spot.

The blood gushed as from an overturned glass…

On the other hand, Lizaveta was struck once and murdered only out of necessity as she was unexpectedly home

The axe fell with the sharp edge just on

the skull and split at one blow

all the top of the head. She fell heavily at once…

Fear gained ore and more mastery over him,

especially after his second, quite unexpected murder.

The immorality of Raskolnikov’s character is evident not only in his committing murder, but also theft. After murdering Alyona, he proceeded to take her jewelry and other valuables

…probably all pledges, unredeemed or

waiting to be redeemed�bracelets, chains,

ear-rings, pins…without delay, he began filling

up the pockets of his trousers and overcoat

without examining or undoing the parcels…

although this crime is much less significant than a murder, it still contributes to the idea that Raskolnikov is an immoral character.

Although the combination of such evil and malicious acts committed by Raskolnikov should spur the reader’s great hatred of him, some may actually feel sympathetic toward him. He is an extremely poor young man, who wore rags and did not have enough food. given this information, a reader may feel sorry for Raskolnikov, despite his immoral deeds, because it is often said that those who are so poor are left with very few, if not any choices in life. Therefore, by murdering the pawnbroker and stealing her valuables, he may have been securing his own survival. Furthermore, Raskolnikov committed acts of kindness which may also serve to spur a reader’s sympathy. For example, he went out of his way to help a young girl who he thought was going to be taken advantage of by a strange man. Based on his actions alone, Raskolnikov may be considered evil and immoral. However, given his situation and occurrences of contrasting behavior, a reader may react more sympathetically than otherwise expected.

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