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The Reasons for Raskolnikov’s Murder

Crime and Punishment is one of the most outstanding novels of the great Russian writer who lived and worked in the second half of the nineteenth century Fyodor Dostoyevsky. The psychological story about the crime and its consequences is in the center of the novel, but the main hero’s motives to commit this crime are quite unusual. The theory which pushes Raskolnikov, the main hero, to murder a pawnbroker Alyona Ivanovna is to be regarded as highly important for the development of the events.  It is very important to mention that the novel is unanimously accepted as a classical one, though the critiques’ views on some of the issues depicted in this psychological novel are disputable. One of such issues which bring on disputes, for instance, is Raskolnikov’s reasons and motives to commit a murder. Another disputable point is the attitude of the author himself towards Raskolnikov’s thoughts, reasons and motives.

Many researchers believe that the conception of duality of the motives is prevailing. The first motive is the theory of the “right of the strong”, which reflects the spirit of the time and was the emanation of the social nihilism theory: "I wanted to become a Napoleon, that is why I killed her"(245). In contrast to the previous one, the second Raskolnikov’s motive is the aspiration to do the good to people, the strong desire to help sister and save her from death and let himself make reparations for the crime he committed by being kind and make virtuous deeds.

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These motives can be followed when Dostoevsky depicted the thoughts of his hero while the genesis of his idea to kill. From the very beginning of the story the readers get to know that the hero had some “dream”, which was born long time ago, but later “had taken a new menacing and quite unfamiliar shape”(43). After he realized he had to put up the ring of his sister Dounia at the old pawnbroker Alyona Ivanovna, who “was sucking the life out of poor people” the dream to kill her was growing and growing (414). He believed that murdering such kind of person is not a sin at all. Furthermore, the conversation about “an awful old harpy” between the student and the officer he heard at the inn appeared to be another proof of his theory (58).

The “dream” bursted into flame again after Raskolnikov has got a letter from his mother. The thoughts that his sister was donating herself for his sake tortured his heart and once again met with his idea about the murder. The dream “has appeared in some new, strange, menacing shape, and he suddenly realized it” (73).

The next step to the murder committed by Raskolnikov can be considered his meeting with Marmeladov, whose life story impressed him a lot. The hero was no longer thinking of his own poverty, but was reassured again about awful world unfairness and was concerned about the Marmeladovs. The world seemed very unfair and he wanted to change it, he wanted to “insult this fat dandy” who tried to get use of a drunk 16-years- old girl on a boulevard (43).  This is how Raskolnikov gang up on the whole world and the pawnbroker old lady became an embodiment  of evil and violence to him. Therefore, Raskolnikov has killed her to simplify other people’s lives. But in such case he would consider himself to be a hero, a savior or at least not feel the qualms of consciousness. However, Raskolnikov felt guilty afterwards, and this stimulates the idea about existence of some other reasons for his deed. That’s why it is necessary to pay attention that half a year ago, after he gave up his studies at the university Raskolnikov has written an article "On Crime", which shortly introduced his theory about two groups of people: ordinary and extraordinary ones, who “are always bound to commit breaches of morals” (213). In addition, those, who are extraordinary have “an inner right to decide in his own conscience to overstep certain obstacles… for the practical fulfillment of his idea”, be it a human or blood; they have a right to kill (213). As a result, Raskolnikov wanted to prove to himself that he was an extraordinary person, who had a right to commit the crimes, to murder a person. All the above mentioned events pushing him to murder the old woman were only a try to justify and explain what he did. Consequently, It is obvious that only Rodion Raskolnikov’s personal views and creeds which motivating him to commit the crime.

On the other hand, the murder committed by him can be regarded as destined for him to get the “infinite happiness through terrible sufferings”, and realize the truth (436). As in the novel Dostoevsky reflects his assurance that the cardinal virtues are humility and obedience and life means sufferings (436).

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Overall, the indefiniteness in the novel is not fully taken down. Explaining the murder motivation there are two motives left, which can be regarded as uncoordinated with each other or are as dialectically connected and complementing each other accordingly. Raskolnikov’s desire is to be a “kind Napoleon”, but it is impossible. This word combination itself is quite contradictive, and this is the essence of the character of the main hero. All Raskolnikov’s motives to murder are based on deep, complicated contradictions, which are to be studied carefully.

Firstly, these contradictions are to be searched in Raskolnikov’s soul. The author has on purpose given him such last name, which means “the split” in Russian and shows readers the inner split in Raskolnikov’s soul. Nevertheless, this split does not mean the struggle between good and evil motives of the murder, this is how Raskolnikov believes, but in reality he deceives himself. His soul is split into two parts struggling with each other, one part struggles for the crime, for its soundness, another- against the crime and the wrong aims. Another evidence of contrariety of Raskolnikov’s character is his greatness and open heartedness in his relations with the Marmeladovs, with his own family, but at the same time his cruelty and inhumanity towards his victim. Dostoevsky describes Raskolnikov’s character as quite changeable, he can become almost a different person after a minute, even his dreams are opposite as one dream was warning him from murder, another one- makes him understand he has to commit it. The words of the hero are also split and contradicting: “cursed dream”, “dull delight”, “bloodshed in the name of conscience” (200-217). The words from these word combinations can be split into two groups: cursed, dull, bloodshed from one side and dream, delight, consciousness from another one. Such order would be usual for an ordinary person, but not for Raskolnikov whose consciousness is split. This is why there is a struggle of all these contradictive notions inside his mind; the hero feels this struggle, but explains it in a wrong way to himself, he deceives himself regarding it as opposition of the right aims to wrong means.

Possibly, the motive of Raskolnikov’s crime was influenced by the fatal city Petersburg. The atmosphere of the narrow dusty streets really is stuffy as well as of the small Raskolnikov’s room reminding a coffin – all this have given birth to the dreams and ideas in his mind and destroyed him at the same time “There are no other cities like Petersburg having so dull, strange influences on the human soul" (75). Though it has destroyed his personality, but not as a hero who has forces to struggle the world for the aim, which he regarded as right, but afterwards he had to make up his mind to the existing rules. It seems to him that it is impossible to change something in this world and laughs at “the happiness of all” theory as he does not believe it (225). Finally, this causes the tragedy- the inner defeat of the hero, his “enslavement” by the dirty streets, secluded streets. His moral views and values are changed under the influence of Petersburg. Another step of his ill mind is his arithmetic about one death which would make better hundreds of lives and considered a great amount of circumstances he met to be fatal. Therefore, the circumstances having such impact and making Raskolnikov get down to such an “untraditional mean” to solve the problems are as follows: full despair, being unable to help his sister, to help the Marmeladovs, the sixteen-year-old girl. 

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In reality, all the tortures he felt even before the crime let the hero see that he can not kill and feel no   qualms of conscience. But at the moment Raskolnikov has almost got rid of the idea and asked God to show him the right way he comes to the place where he hears his sentence. Therefore, he makes a decision to sacrifice himself in sake of others. He chooses to be a humanity savior, who would stand over the crowd and would have right for everything. In reality his mission is implemented in a different way, Raskolnikov is a n example of a Napoleon- obsessed intelligenzia representatives, who shows its inhumanity and inutility. If in the beginning the kindness stood against the crime it has given up afterwards. Therefore, the “kindness” can not be regarded as the motive of this crime. Raskolnikov killed for himself, to prove his theory and to prove he was not a usual person.

Therefore, it is obvious to a reader and critics that the motives of the crime committed by Raskolnikov really were very complicated and even ambiguous. Its complexity really makes the novel a difficult and psychological one as the reasons to make some deeds are born in the hero’s mind, be it in unconsciously or consciously. Dostoevsky tried to analyze deeply the psychology of his hero and explain all his actions in a proper way, which would reveal the peculiarities of the modern for him Russian society.

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