Sunday, February 12, 2012

Raskolnikov and reality

So far, Raskolnikov has more or less thrown social conventions and laws aside and has done whatever he wants. He considers himself better than other people (for example, the drunk man) and thus sees himself as being above the law and above societal conventions, and his pride prevents him from being able to understand or relate to other people. In some ways, he seems to live outside of our common sense of reality. Despite having moments of clear-headedness and sensibility, he doesn’t seem to think about possible consequences of his actions and rationalizes his wrong-doings in order to feel good about them. He seems to see other people as expendable for his benefit. For example, he rationalizes the murder of two innocent people by his poverty.

However, his emotional instability and frenzied behavior, particularly immediately after the murders, leads the reader to think that maybe he has more “human” in him than he thought. Maybe in the coming sections, he will realize that he’s not as different as he thought and become guilty about his actions. Or maybe he will go the other way and disassociate himself even farther from reality than he was. What do you think?


  1. In the second book of "Crime and Punishment" after Raskolnikov has murdered the two women, he becomes violently ill and frenzied as you have mentioned. It is so strange because on the one hand I sense that he feels guilty about the whole thing, because right after he murdered the two women he didn't even thoroughly collect all of the valuables and money they had, and those that he did take he gets rid of. In addition, when he goes to the police station about not paying his rent, he almost confesses to the whole thing. Despite these actions however, his thoughts during this time are mostly related to his fear of being found out. Therefore, it feels more like he is in a stage of self-preservation without much space for guilt. I am not sure how he will develop from here, but my guess is that he will slip further and further into his own reality with his own rules, and farther away from the outside world that he sees as only punishing him in one way or another.

  2. Frankly, I think Raskolnikov comes off as being at least partially crazy in the second part of the novel. It seems that his moments of clear-headedness and rational thought become fewer and further apart while he revels in the fact that he committed the murders and the police are prosecuting the wrong people. No rational murderer would openly discuss the possibility that he committed the crime, which Raskolnikov does. Basically, I find that it is really difficult to make sense of Rasknolnikov. Hopefully things become more clear as the novel progresses!

  3. In terms of his ability to understand and relate to other people, I do think Raskolnikov really wishes he could do a better job. We talked last time about his propensity for throwing away money at other people's problems, and in part two the habit only seems to get worse, giving 20 roubles to Marmeladov's family (and running through the street after the accident yelling "I'll pay" as well). It seems as though its just about the only way he knows to show kindness. Perhaps that's part of why being completely broke is so painful for him.

  4. I agree that Raskolnikov seems to rely heavily on money as a mechanism for doing good, but I think it is very significant that he tells Marmeladov's family that he will return to check on them the next day. By doing so he is empathizing with people outside of his family and making a commitment into the future--two things he rarely, if ever, does. I think this could mark the beginning of a shift in his character.

  5. I think Raskolnikov is going to continue to lose touch with reality. Though I think his poverty contributed to the murders, I'm not convinced that was his entire motive, especially since he didn't even manage to take all of the old woman's money, and what he did take he hid away instead of using any of it. He also seems repulsed by Razmunikin's attempt to spend money on him. I'm not sure what his real motive is, though, or if he's not too far gone for a motive to be intelligible. He's fascinating to read about but his thought process is hard to follow.

  6. Although at this point, we know the ending of the novel, I still think it is important to reflect on Raskolnikov's changing views of rationality and irrationality throughout the novel. At the beginning, especially following the murders, Raskolnikov seemed to err on the side of irrational. However, by the end of the novel, Raskolnikov is mostly rational. Was his confession the only thing that changed the balance between rationality and irrationality in his character? Do you think that his outward appearance now matches his inward emotions?

  7. Lara: I really like your point that Raskolnikov is so preoccupied with keeping himself safe that he doesn't have time to feel guilt. That's a really great way to look at it.

    Alex: I agree that he seems super crazy, and unfortunately I don't think he gets much clearer throughout the novel!

    Cory: That's a good point. At the beginning of the novel, I had a theory that perhaps he was purposely using his money irresponsibly because if he were wealthy, he would have no excuse to be as crazy as he is. Although this never really panned into a valid thesis throughout the rest of the book, I think it's a good way to look at his poverty and what he does to maintain it.

    Scott: Good point, though unfortunately I don't think it ended up being much of a turning point for him.

    Shannon: Yeah, he clearly did continue to lose touch. It's a good point that he didn't seem to commit the murder for the money--and as we later discussed in class, it seems that the murder was more of an attempt for him to convince himself that he is extraordinary than anything else.

    Katy: It seemed to me like Raskolnikov kind of gave up toward the end of the novel. He clearly realizes he's *not* extraordinary, and thus maybe just allows himself to think and act as an ordinary person.

    Lastly, I wanted to mention that although we have talked a lot about rationality and irrationality, I don't think that that's the best word choice. I think although he tries to rationally explain himself, nothing he does is particularly rational. I like the word choice of logical/illogical or sane/insane better than rational/irrational.