Theme Of Guilt In Crime And Punishment

Decent Essays
Guilt is a universal emotion that many feel after crime, wrongdoing or simple acts of unkindness. This is apparent in Fyodor Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment, where Rodion Raskolnikov’s growing remorse stems from the mediocrity he realizes in himself after he commits murder to test his Ubermensch-qualities. Rubbishing the thought of confessing and refusing to embrace his guilt, Dostoevsky uses Raskolnikov’s torn thoughts to explore the novel’s theme of revolution: he condemns nihilism as a way of coercing societal change, or for Raskolnikov, as a ploy to escape poverty, and suggests that his brisk downfall is largely a result his adherence to this radical philosophy. Raskolnikov continually struggles to come to terms with his emotional…show more content…
As a prolonged attempt to preserve his fragile ego, Raskolnikov’s experience with guilt reveals his weak self-esteem. Thus, although Raskolnikov fails his own test of strength, his double murder opens his eyes to the emotional vulnerability he did not expect to see in himself, instilling an ever-present sense of guilt that characterizes the remainder of the novel. As Raskolnikov’s internal struggle becomes evident, Dostoevsky uses Raskolnikov’s disoriented state to illustrate nihilism’s ineffectiveness as a catalyst for social change. Raskolnikov’s radical philosophy is initially used as justification of his murder, a gambit to escape St. Petersburg’s poverty crisis. By labeling the pawnbroker Alyona Ivanovna as a “louse” and being largely apathetic towards any emotional or social repercussions, it is suggested that her death is for the greater good of not only Raskolnikov, but the whole of society; this lack of emotional substance in his logic brands him as a cold-blooded utilitarianist. However, it is a different story after the murder, where even Raskolnikov begins to doubt the legitimacy of his own argument. He realizes that his adrenaline rush prevents him from stealing much of the pawnbroker’s money, and with what he does manage to salvage, it is hidden away, nullifying any constructive benefit he had hoped to provide. Additionally, the murder of the pawnbroker’s innocent sister Lizaveta, whom prior to the even Raskolnikov feels
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