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Moral Value of Crime Through the Psychological Battle in Crime and Punishment, a Novel by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

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Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s novel Crime and Punishment outlines the moral value of crime through a psychological battle between what is seen as extraordinary and ordinary. The main character Raskolnikov (Rask) believes he knows the difference between the world’s most powerful people and the rest of the population. He tests out his own theory on himself through the brutal murder of two women, making out to be that he sees himself as one of the world’s great. However, his arrogance in proving his extraordinariness could be his fatal flaw. Rask believes himself to be extraordinary; however through the course of the novel his actions reveal that someone much more powerful is the moving force behind all living creation.

Crime and Punishment focuses on psychological factors that influence society as a whole. These influences are what cause people to do the things to do, such as murdering someone to prove a point. Rask publishes a paper called On Crime which outlines all of his beliefs on the “psychology of a criminal before and after the crime” (Dostoyevsky 205). He discusses several points through the course of the paper, but the most relevant to the text is his theory on extraordinary vs ordinary people. “In his article all men are divided into ‘ordinary’ and ‘extraordinary.’ Ordinary men have to live in submission, have no right to transgress the law, because, they are ordinary. But extraordinary men have a right to commit any crime and to transgress the law in any way, just because they are extraordinary” (Dostoyevsky 205). Rask sees the world in black and white, believing whoever sees grey on the subject of who are extraordinary vs who is ordinary is the average person.

According to Rask, there are very few extraordinary people in the world because the “greatest geniuses, the crown of humanity, appear on earth perhaps one in many thousand millions” (Dostoyevsky 209). Even though Rask makes it clear that there is rare chance of being extraordinary, he believes himself to be unlike any ordinary person.

After Rask published his paper, he decided that he needed to prove that his theory was legitimate. Therefore, when the opportunity arose for him to kill his pawnbroker, Alyona, he immediately pursued her. By the end of that night, he had killed Alyona and her sister Lizaveta, causing him to believe that he just proved his point.

According to On Crime, “extraordinary men have the inner right to decide in his own conscience to overstep certain obstacles” (Dostoyevsky 206). Rask saw the two women simply as obstacles in his life, and by killing them he believes to be extraordinary. Furthermore, he thinks himself extraordinary because of what he published, and only extraordinary people have “the talent to utter a new word”; this is somewhat disproved by Porfiry who states that “it is like what we’ve read and heard a thousand times already” (Dostoyevsky 209). Rask believes himself to extraordinary by his own standards, but looking at his actions and words on a bigger scale prove that he is an ordinary man trying to be extraordinary.

Most importantly, he proves his ordinariness because he says that extraordinary people have the right to kill anyone without any consequences, yet when he confesses to Sonia he says “the devil led me on then and he has shown me since that I had not the right to take that path, because I am just such a louse as all the rest” (Dostoyevsky 330). If he was really extraordinary, he would feel no guilt about committing the murders and would not be blaming the devil for his actions. Rask wants to be extraordinary, but unfortunately an ordinary person cannot try to be extraordinary without having to pay for their actions. In conclusion, Rask is not extraordinary, but there is an extraordinary force that is present throughout the text.

Although a very psychological and sociological novel, Crime and Punishment contains a consistent theme of religion that brings out a different aspect of the book. When talking about extraordinary and ordinary beings, the audience comes to the realization that none of the characters in the novel are extraordinary. This brings in the religion aspect, because while there are no extraordinary characters, there are extraordinary thoughts shown through references to the bible. Porfiry asked Rask if he believes in God, in which he replied “I do.. Literally” (Dostoyevsky 207). Because Rask truly thinks that God exists in all senses, he should realized that most of his explanations for an extraordinary person match up perfectly with how the bible describes God.

When Rask says that extraordinary people are the “men of the future” and they “move the world and lead it to its goal,” this correlates to God because he is the past, present, and future, and is also the guiding force behind all creation (Dostoyevsky 207). Although Rask says he believes in God, he does not act upon his word until he asks Sonia to read to him the Lazarus story. This is a story from the bible in which God raises a man from the dead. Only someone with true extraordinariness could raise the dead and make all people see the light. In conclusion, Dostoyevsky tied in religious aspects because he wanted to show the extraordinariness in God alone, because only God has the power of an extraordinary being.

Throughout Crime and Punishment, Rask tries to unconsciously prove that he is extraordinary; however, it becomes clear that God is the real extraordinary being in the novel. Rask immediately is disproven to be extraordinary because he does not follow his own criteria for being extraordinary. While he is ordinary, God is extraordinary. Religion and the extraordinary and ordinary themes go together because Dostoyevsky wanted to prove that no man could be as powerful as God.

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Moral Value of Crime Through the Psychological Battle in Crime and Punishment, a Novel by Fyodor Dostoyevsky. (2022, Nov 29). Retrieved from

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