Moral Conflicts in Crime and Punishment Essay

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Moral Conflicts in Fydor Dostoyevsky's Crime and Punishment

Crime and Punishment by Fydor Dostoyevsky has been hailed as the greatest literary work in the Western hemisphere. Crime and Punishment was written in pre-Communist Russia under the Tsar. Dostoyevsky's writing shows insight into the human mind that is at once frightening and frighteningly real. His main character, around who all other characters are introduced, is Rodion Romanovitch Raskolnikov.

Raskolnikov murders an old pawnbroker woman for seemingly no reason at all. His sister and mother move to St. Petersburg following his sister's engagement to a man whom Raskolnikov was extremely displeased. Raskolnikov undergoes severe mental trauma, and falls ill after the
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Dostoyevsky gives the reader no such comfort. The reader wants to see Raskolnikov have some good excuse for killing the old woman, some sense of moral justification of the act so we can turn his accusers into "bad guys" and himself and his friends the "good guys". The reader gets nothing of the sort, Crime and Punishment is no fairy tale. The suspense in Crime and Punishment is caused by Dostoyevsky's superb characters, and the longing for a moral sense of right and wrong.

In a normal novel, there is a protagonist that the Western reader wants to identify with himself. Everyone wants to think of themselves as have some redeeming value in their lives, and for the most part, people usually think the good in them outweighs the bad. So how come in many Western novels the bad guy is thoroughly and totally corrupt and evil. The antagonist in Western literature today has become someone who the reader can look at and hate. Raskolnikov is definitely the protagonist, for clearly the action of the novel centers around him. But can he be called the "good guy"? He does terrible things on impulse, but his urge for doing good and kind acts is just as impulsive. He saves a family from certain destitution, and helps many people before he is sent to Siberia at the end of the novel. The reader wants to identify with Raskolnikov, but can't because of the murders. The reader also can't side against Raskolnikov and identify with Porifry Petrovitch, the
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