Friday, February 17, 2012

Crazy or confused?

Somehow I feel like I subconsciously disagree with everyone in the class that says Raskolnikov is crazy. It is true that he comes of as somehow mentally disturbed, and Dostojevski made a great effort to make him sound as though he’s crazy, but I was not particularly convinced.
Dostojevski described Raskolnikov’s mind and thought process in great detail, which is why, I think, people might consider him irrational. The thoughts, views, opinions and judgments that go through his head, when vocalized, would make everyone think he’s ready for the insane asylum. But that’s exactly the point, the man never articulates his most inner and intimate thoughts and neither does anyone else in this world. Most of these thoughts are just passing ideas that never even take form in reality. It’s all very stream-of-consciousness-esque and I’m quite certain we would find every single one of us at least slightly disturbed, if we could look into each other’s head for as much as five minutes.

To me it seemed more like Raskolnikov wants to be crazy, or at least be perceived by society as crazy, when he, in fact, is not. He’s just a confused individual, whose mind is trapped inside some adolescent idea that he can’t shake. He wants to be special, he wants to be someone, opposed to being a part of the herd, which is a strangely romantic notion due to the fact this book is considered to be written in the style of psychological realism.

In my opinion the only reason he actually commits the murder is because he wants to prove once and for all that he is special, or forever give up that notion. Somehow he got the idea in his head that homicide is the only way he can achieve that, so I think in his head the idea of killing a person and thus proving his “worth” to himself and everyone around him became so abstracted from the actual act of murder that he didn’t even realize what he was doing until the deed was done. 


  1. I find your argument about the state of Raskilnikov's sanity compelling. Raskilnikov clearly wants to be a special person, and killing the two women was part of this desire. In his confession with Sonya, we find that Raskilnikov has realized that either he is not special or that his theory is wrong, because he feels guilty for the murders, which if he was actually special and killing for the sake of the greater good, he shouldn't feel guilty in theory.

    And while I do think that Raskilnikov cannot simply be spoken of as crazy and that it is more complicated than that, I think that Dostoevsky is really good at making people's motivations seem rational even if they wouldn't be for us. People don't do things unless they think they make sense, and people are often deemed crazy if these things contradict the status quo.

  2. I think Raskolnikov tends to fall into his bouts of insanity as a sort of defense mechanism. He doesn't ever appear to be actually insane, rather he just tends to act delirious as a way of not having to deal with uncomfortable situations.

  3. I think that one thing which might muddle our ability to judge Raskolnikov's sanity is actually the fact that we get to see so much of his mind irrespective of his actions. Like you say, this is not the sort of insight we can possibly have concerning real people in the world, and so the folks we call insane are being labeled based on nothing (for the most part) but what they say and do. In Rakolnikov's actions we have a murderer, and someone who spends a large portion of his time in apparent fever and delirium. I think we might be more likely to label him as insane if we didn't get some of his internal monologue to pull his actions together.

  4. I agree with Scott. There are some parts of the novel where Dostojevski shows Raskolnikov thinking and acting very clearly and in other parts, when it's convenient, Raskolnikov is shown as being very confused. It is clear that Raskolnikov is an intelligent man so I don't completely buy that he didn't know what he was doing when he committed the murder. He had set idea before he entered the apartment and even tries to justify his actions later in the novel.

  5. First thanks for expressing your discomfort with "crazy" comments. You're right, they're just a reaction what "normal" would be -- and in my opinion, what is considered scientific and "rational." However, I agree with Kate that the murder is thought out and planned. I don't believe that his feverish state caused him to act abnormally to the point where he is unaware of his actions because that distinction really just assigns his murder to another state, beyond his typical mindset. I very much find his whole mindset unified and enjoyable. To some extent, I think we're forgetting that he is really experiencing his life, day to day, which cannot be said for the other characters. Raskalnikov, though emotional and somewhat temperamental, seems to be embracing the wild elements of his life and the world around. And as a result, appears to some as the one driving them.

  6. Laura: I’m definitely leaning more to the side that Raskolnikov (or more like Dostojevski) had something with the whole Napoleon theory, but ended up finding out he’s just not one of these special people. This desire to know if he was or was not was so overcoming, I would almost say the murder was in a way “needed” to free his mind of the idea.

    Scott: Maybe he’s just pretending to be insane, for the sake of being insane/special?

    Cory: That’s a great point, I never thought about it like that. What if all the people we call insane actually have a very sane rationale for doing whatever they did that made us label them as insane?

    Kate: I think he knew what he was doing when he planned it and when he actually did it as well, but I don’t think he realized exactly how bad of a deed it was, because he seems to have justified it as a means to an end in his head. He thought about the murder for such a long time, he completely stripped the act of it’s meaning.

    Gabe: So you’re basically saying that Raskolnikov is living life. Yep, I can agree with that. I think of his crime as an enlightening experience, or a sort of catharsis to his life in general.