Nature and Nurture in Crime and Punishment Essay

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Nature and Nurture in Crime and Punishment


In the news today there is an article about a high-school boy who brought guns to school and shot several students. The parents of the victims are suing various computer game companies saying that the violent games present shooting and killing people as pleasurable and fail to portray realistic consequences. A representative of one of the companies released a statement saying that this is another example of individuals seeking to elude responsibility that has become so common in our society. This case is not about software. What is on trial is the age-old debate between nature and nurture, which also lies at the center of Fyodor Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment.



In his dream
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Elsewhere in the book we see a similar computation defined for us. At a tavern Raskolnikov overhears a student discussing the hypothetical murder of Alyona Ivanovna:



Kill her and take her money, so that afterwards with its help you can devote yourself to the service of all mankind and the common cause: What do you think, wouldn't thousands of good deeds make up for one tiny little crime? For one life, thousands of lives saved from decay and corruption. One death for hundreds of lives-it's simple arithmetic! (65)



Yet when the officer asks "but tell me: Would you yourself kill the old woman, or not?" the student replies "Of course not!" (66) because despite his talk the student realizes that there is more to murder than logic. He recognizes the magnitude of ending a life in cold blood, as does Raskolnikov, despite all his rationalization.



After the murder Raskolnikov thinks "I should have known . . . and how, knowing myself, anticipating myself, did I dare take an axe and bloody my hands! I had to have known beforehand . . . Eh! But I did know before hand" (273-274).



After the dream Raskolnikov decides not to kill Alyona, and immediately feels better because the decision is in keeping with his naturally compassionate…

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