Get help now

A Description of Fate in Crime and Punishment, a Novel by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Academic anxiety?

Get original paper in 3 hours and nail the task

Get help now

124 experts online

Fate seems to be something recognized in many aspects of the lives of humans. People in love will often claim that fate brought them together, as well as claiming its significance in finances and other social commodities. In Crime and Punishment, Fyodor Dostoevsky exposes fate as several things: a deception, a crutch, an excuse, a scapegoat, a deceiver, a manipulator, and even a destroyer. Doom-saying aside, Dostoevsky’s fundamental statement on the nature of reality argues that all people have the freedom to choose their own destinies, and that “fate” is merely a collective illusion created by the human need for excuses and blame.

Dostoevsky describes Crime and Punishment as the story of a young man at the whims of the strange, unfinished ideas that float in the atmosphere. Dostoevsky trains the spotlight unflinchingly on the Raskolnikov. Dostoevsky wraps every scene around the Russian youth, somehow incorporating him in the vast majority of the forty-one chapters in the book. In doing so, Dostoevsky encircles every theme around and ties every symbolic connection to Raskolnikov. Through him, the purest and best-developed statements of Dostoevsky’s purpose can be found. By examining his unique mental state and the complex foundations of his mental condition, it is clear that fate is merely an illusion.

Raskolnikov is a torn man, schismatic by nature: “Raskol’nik” is Russian for “divided.” When compared to level-headed companions like Razumikhin or Zossimov, Raskolnikov divides the world into two distinct groups: the intellectual and the emotional; the rational and the abstract. His sides are easily distinguishable early on. For example, when he gives money freely to a wandering girl in danger, “in an instant a complete revulsion of feeling came over him.” The revulsion is no doubt symbolic of the internal struggle for control between rationalizing and compassionate. It is important to note, however, that this struggle is not gradual; on the contrary, it is both violent and abrupt. In his first drink-induced dream, Raskolnikov even separates his two identities into a bloodthirsty peasant and an innocent child. The split is real, and may even be considered Raskolnikov’s defining characteristic.

Aside from being psychologically fascinating, Raskolnikov’s mental schism sets the stage for Dostoevsky’s comments on the nature of reality. Raskolnikov’s calculating and rationalizing mind completely controls his actions leading up to and during the murder. Moments before the murder, he assures himself “as regards to the moral question, that his analysis [is] complete; his casuistry [has] become keen as a razor, and he [can] not find rational objections in himself.” His rational mind is made up. However, his emotional mind cannot fathom such causeless slaughter, for “indeed, if it [has] ever happened that everything to the least point could [be] considered and finally settled…he would renounce it all as something absurd, monstrous and impossible.” The two sides are intensely at odds on the subject of the murder. But the murder goes on, however sloppily. Why? How does one emerge champion? One has a trick up its sleeve: the excuse of “fate.”

Raskolnikov goes into a state of shock after hearing that the pawnbroker will be left alone, feeling “suddenly in his whole being that he [has] no more freedom of thought, no will, and that everything [is] suddenly and irrevocably decide.” On the surface, this quotation is the crying wolf for an argument in favor of a fated universe. But one must evaluate its true value to both of Raskolnikov’s mental sides. The window of opportunity for the murder arrives at a time of intense psychological competition for superiority. The emotional complaints of “How loathsome it all is! What filthy things my heart is capable of! Yes, filthy above all, disgusting, loathsome it all is!” are silenced-or at least mitigated-by the “guidance of fate.” The argument for a predetermined universe is the last, best chip with which the rationalizing mind barters. Unfortunately for the pawnbroker and her sister, the emotional mind took the bait and sat out the murders.

Svidrigailov is another perfect example of Dostoevsky’s message; he is a man untouched by fate, and never resorts to deluding himself with or blaming fate. He has complete control of himself from his beginning to his end. In life he follows whatever interests him. In a heated discussion with Raskolnikov in a tavern, Svidrigailov exposes his thoughts on life by arguing, “Tell me, what should I restrain myself for? Why should I give up women, because I have a passion for them…in this there is something permanent, founded indeed upon nature and not dependent on fantasy.” He never takes “no” for an answer. He goes to the ends of the earth to please himself and makes the choices necessary to lead him there.

Even in death he expresses his freedom, killing himself how, when and where he desires. When the tower guard cries, “You can’t do it here, it’s not the place,” Svidrigailov calmly answers, “Well, brother, I don’t mind that. It’s a good place.” In death, as in life, Svidrigailov is his own man. When he is down in the deepest pit of his life, after Dunia rejects him, he refrains from blaming fate as Raskolnikov does and chooses rather to end his own life. Svidrigailov believes fully in free will and receives a world of self-decided opportunities.

Dostoevsky calls fate an excuse; he argues it is nothing more than an item with which the mind plays games. He exposes fate as a mere scapegoat for people in trouble. His scathing criticism confirms the reader’s disbelief of fate, but leaves one waiting for something to replace it. Only through comprehensive character-by-character analysis will one discover Dostoevsky’s final message: that all people have free will to decide their own future, but only to the extent that they alone can determine it. The characters Raskolnikov and Svidrigailov show that the varying degrees of free will are based on the varying degrees of belief in free will.

This essay was written by a fellow student. You may use it as a guide or sample for writing your own paper, but remember to cite it correctly. Don’t submit it as your own as it will be considered plagiarism.

Need custom essay sample written special for your assignment?

Choose skilled expert on your subject and get original paper with free plagiarism report

Order custom paper Without paying upfront

A Description of Fate in Crime and Punishment, a Novel by Fyodor Dostoyevsky. (2022, Nov 29). Retrieved from

We use cookies to give you the best experience possible. By continuing we’ll assume you’re on board with our cookie policy

Hi, my name is Amy 👋

In case you can't find a relevant example, our professional writers are ready to help you write a unique paper. Just talk to our smart assistant Amy and she'll connect you with the best match.

Get help with your paper