Crime and Punishment By: Tom Burke E-mail: In the novel Crime and Punishment, Dostoevsky portrays the main character, Raskolnikov, in a complex and unique fashion. He could have been portrayed as the good guy, bad guy, or just your average man on the street, but Raskolnikov is displayed with more than one persona. It would have been much easier for Raskolnikov to explain his weakness, but it was more pleasant for him to consider himself a strong man (Chizhevsky 164). Raskolnikov s dream reveals that his personality is complex and double sided.
His range of actions and emotions are more of a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde type character. On the outside, he appears to be in control of his raging homicidal tendencies, but he is full of turmoil on the inside. Raskolnikov s dream presents these different personas Dostoevsky has given him. His dream also gives the reader a good, inside look into Raskolnikov s interior conflicts (Chizhevsky 191).
In the beginning of his dream, Raskolnikov is out in the street. He seems to be wandering around aimlessly, with no recollection of what he is supposed to be doing or why he is there. Meanwhile, everyone else in the dream is carrying on like nothing is wrong. Before delving into the significance of this scene, the reader must note how important control is to him.
He is an extremely proud man, and needs to be in control of himself and everything around him at all times (Magill 222). In his view, everything in his life should revolve around him. The beginning of the dream represents the loss of this control in his life. It seems that no matter what he says or does, the world will continue to spin, and the people on it continue to go about their everyday business.
He can almost be compared to the young teenage girl that he finds wandering in the street due to the fact that any actions that this young girl takes makes no difference on the outside world (Chizhevsky 201). It is as though he has been psychologically raped by the murders he has committed, but at this point he is still unaware that he is no longer in control of his situation. No matter how he wants to feel or act, he cannot help his instinctual habits and desires (Mikhailovski 121). For instance, his health starts to fail him and he has this compulsive desire to reveal himself to the authorities and public by turning himself in. His actions show his lack of control over whether or not he gives himself away.
It is hard to tell whether Raskolnikov consciously realizes this or not. Through his own self-absorbed ways he tries to come up with every possible excuse as to why he is feeling the intense emotional conflict going on inside of him (Mikhailovski 135). He blames his irritation on bad company, hunger, the lack of sleep, etc. Raskolnikov s anxiety has to grow not only by the day, but by the hour. And this basically drives him to insanity (Hapgood 4798). He does the best he can to fool himself into believing he has not lost control.
However, for the reasons mentioned above, it is said that Raskolnikov never had control in the first place. In the next part of his dream, Raskolnikov sees the man that had called him a murderer earlier in the book. The man beckons to him as though he knows Raskolnikov. This part of the dream is an indirect interpretation of Raskolnikov s fear of exposure (Hapgood 4493) Raskolnikov is way too much of a critic to be a good actor.
He thinks that other can see into him as he sees into them (Hapgood 4801). As he follows the man, he is unsure if the man is beckoning to him or not. This compares to his real-life fear of not knowing if people are aware that he is the murderer. Many times throughout the book, Raskolnikov grows weak, because he thinks that he has been found out. However, the way he feels in his dream is very different, because he follows the man in the long coat even though he believes that the man knows he is a murderer, instead of fearing him as he would in (Mikhailovski 143). To a certain level, he wants to be found out, in his dream and in real-life.
Even though it is a heinous crime he has committed, his own self-absorption blocks any sort of guilt we would assume a murderer should feel. It is a common known fact that most victims or victims family members want the perpetrator to feel some sort of guilt or remorse, but Raskolnikov feels nothing for the victims. His self-absorption gives him this sort of pride for having expunged, what he considers, the scum of the Earth (Magill 222). Basically, his major conflict is not about remorse for what he has done.
It is between his instinctive desire to confess and his stronger instinct of self-protection. I find it rather hard to interpret the scene in his dream where he tries to kill the old pawnbroker. This is a very significant scene, because it illuminates Raskolnikov s fear of inferiority. At first he feels sorry for her, because he thinks she is afraid. This alone symbolizes Raskolnikov s feelings of superiority. The fact that he tries to kill her again signifies that he does not have any remorse for what he did, and that he would probably do it again if he could do it over.
It is as though he is showing that he is better than her, and she deserves to die (Mikhailovski 145). The old woman s laughter is another representation of Raskolnikov s subconscious trying to justify killing her. She laughs at him as though she is mocking him for being so incompetent. As said before, her laughter challenges his superiority.
In Raskolnikov s mind, it is more reason to kill her (Hapgood 4801). In the final scene of his dream, Raskolnikov is surrounded by people and becomes terrified. This is said to signify the foreshadowing of the inevitable. He is going to be found out, and there is really nothing he can do or say that is going to stop his final fall.
The conditions of his surroundings have come beyond the strength of our impatient and irritable hero (Magill 165). There is also a deeper meaning that I also found to be true, though I think it could be debated. Those people could possibly represent his subconscious looking at him from a third person perspective. They stare at him in silence and expectation and they seem to be staring at him accusingly (Mikhailovski 147). It is at this point he has lost the control that he has been struggling to keep the entire novel. It could be that he, even for the slightest moment, he realizes the immorality of the act he has committed.
It is here that he wants to get away. He wants to hide from himself. He wants to run away from his guilt and the reality of what he has done. It is at this point that he wakes up. That is how he gets away from himself. He wakes up and begins what he has been doing up to that point.
He tries to put his fears in the back of his mind and forget the dream ever happened even though, Raskolnikov s struggle with society is hard and hopeless because his own faith and strength is broken (Mikhailovski 94). Although Raskolnikov s dream lasts for only about a page and a half of the book, it reveals all of his interior conflicts. Through this dream he battles with his fears of guilt, exposure, and the immorality of the crime he committed. The reader gets a good inside look into how murder has deteriorated his mental state. This dream also dives deep into his subconscious. Because of this, he is forced to deal with aspects of himself he does not want to deal with.
I really would like to know, if the dream had not ended so abruptly, where would it have gone Would he have faced himself, or would he run away again Sadly, we will never know.