Raskolnikov: Surely it is not beginning already! Surely it is not my punishment coming upon me? It is! (Dostoevsky, chapter 2)
One of the greatest Russian writers Fyodor Dostoevsky sought to show a way of moral renewal of the human society. A human being is the center of life; the sight of the writer is arrested to individuality. Crime and Punishment is one of his novels that emerge from intensive thoughts about the value of human life and the moral limits of willfulness.
The plot is centered around the main character, Rodion Raskolnikov, whose mind is busy with the crime theory. Raskolnikov is very poor; he can pay neither his education at the university nor his own accommodation. His mother and sister are also poor. Soon he learns that his sister Dunya Raskolnikova is ready to marry a person she does not love for the sake of money to help her family. It was the final nail in the coffin of his patients. Raskolnikov commits a deliberate murder of an old woman-moneylender and the compelled murder of her sister, the witness.
However, Raskolnikov cannot use the stolen things; he hides them. An awful life of a criminal begins since then. The delicate psychology and the judgment of his own actions are colorfully depicted by Dostoevsky. More new heroes are involved in the action of the novel. He meets a lonely, intimidated poor girl Sonia Marmeladova, who became a prostitute in order to support her family and in whom he finds a soul mate and support.
One feels the severity and hopelessness of life of the main hero starting from the very first pages of the novel. The former student Raskolnikov lives in a tiny room “ under the roof of a high five-story house”. The main characteristics of the room represented in the novel are narrowness and tightness. The hero, who lives in such a room, feels spiritual emptiness and loneliness. Throughout the novel Raskolnikov is selfishly fenced off from other people; only at the end of the novel does he come to be sympathetic with the whole world. Starting from this moment, his spiritual revival begins.
The murder committed by Raskolnikov is described in the novel. The meaning of the title Crime and Punishment implies the fact that punishment is inevitable. The one who commits a crime is always responsible before the law. Nobody can escape from his own voice of conscience. One cannot escape from him- or herself. Therefore, punishment is important. When a person is punished, he or she feels relief.
‘Crime? What crime?’ he cried in sudden fury. That I killed a vile noxious insect, an old pawnbroker woman, of use to no one!… Killing her was atonement for forty sins. She was sucking the life out of poor people. Was that a crime? (Dostoevsky, chapter 7).
Crime becomes one of the most important attributes of the time, a modern phenomenon for the writer. He sees the cause of it in the human degradation, in the moral decline of society. The old values that the old generation of Russian people had been brought up on fell away; life generates various social theories, propagandizing the idea of the revolutionary struggle for a fine bright future. Atheism becomes popular.
Pushing his hero to commit the murder, Dostoevsky seeks to realize the causes of such a cruel idea occurring in Raskolnikov’s consciousness. The environment plays a very important role for Raskolnikov. However, it also influences Sonia Marmeladova, Katerina Ivanovna, and many others. Why are they not murderers? The essence of the crime lies not only in the fact that Raskolnikov kills the old woman-moneylender but also in the fact that he allows this murder for himself, gets a false idea of who should live and who should not. According to Dostoevsky, only God has a right to decide human destinies. Therefore, Rodion Raskolnikov places himself in the position of God, mentally compares himself to Him. Thus, what are the consequences of this?
According to the writer, legal punishment that exists in society does not make any sense. It can only cause the feeling of even greater embitterment. The torments of conscience, the feeling of a constant moral dissatisfaction become a punishment for Dostoevsky’s heroes. A person comes to the clarification of things only when he or she finds God in himself and becomes a person who realizes what a moral ideal is. This is possible only in the case a criminal finds inner resources for communication with a person who can show this moral ideal. Sonia becomes such a person for Raskolnikov.
If he has a conscience he will suffer for his mistake. That will be punishment – as well as the prison (Dostoevsky, chapter 19).
The most terrible punishment for a person is the fact that he loses the opportunity to stay with people. Having committed a murder that was meant to be completely justified by the “theory”, Raskolnikov feels separated from his mother and sister; he cannot communicate on a par with them. Why? The reason is that Raskolnikov realizes he is a criminal, a person who has no more right to lead a normal life. However, this generates another crime: Raskolnikov actually kills his mother. The crime is never committed only once; it always involves new crimes.
It is impossible to avoid punishment. Punishment includes the measures the state takes regarding the person who commits the crime. Punishment is the social consequence of the crime. It represents the coercion applied to the one who committed a crime. The coercion of punishment implies causing or promising to cause any kind of deprivation or suffering to the criminal; therefore, any punishment cuts across with anything that the punished person is in possession of – his property, freedom, honor, rights, corporal inviolability, and sometimes even his life.