Nihilism in Crime and Punishment Essay

612 Words Apr 24th, 2013 3 Pages
Themes of Nihilism in Crime and Punishment
Nihilism is one of the most difficult philosophies to accurately define because of its ambiguous nature. In its simplest form, one might consider it an extremely pessimistic form of skepticism in which the individual discounts even the idea of existence. Therefore, to a nihilist, all values, relationships, authority, beliefs, and emotions are baseless and empty. First popularized in Ivan Turgenev’s Fathers and Sons in 1862, nihilism is associated with a revolutionary movement that occurred in Russia from 1814 to 1876. The principles of nihilism often can be linked with those of utilitarianism, existentialism, and anarchism. Dostoevsky demonstrates his aversion to this philosophy through
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Throughout the story we are shown that he is not above the emotions and guilt that are the basic human reactions to an action as extreme as murder. His downfall comes because of this very fact, as he mentally and physically deteriorates under the stress of his culpability. His arrogance is proven to be the unfounded and foolhardy ideas of one who is truly a deeply insecure and unstable person (though Raskolnikov never truly realizes this).
Through Raskolnikov’s exemplification of the impracticality of this principle\, Dostoevsky makes his greatest point in Crime and Punishment. His commentary on the subject seeks to discredit the theory in the circumstance of an individual “superman” by displaying Raskolnikov as a character who is difficult for readers to identify with because of his inanity. Even Raskolnikov’s name is a symbol of nihilistic ideas, the word “raskol” meaning schism in Russian, illustrating the shift from an older school of thought (social utopianism) to a darker philosophy: nihilism and utilitarianism. Raskolnikov seems to fluctuate back and forth between the two philosophies, acting on one and then mentally chastising himself for it, immediately and almost erratically changing his mind. This symbolizes the more human side of him struggling…