Crime and Punishment
Extortion, Kidnapping, And Murder
When the baby’s nurse, Betty Gow went to check on baby Charlie, She discovered that he was missing. Upon the realization that the child was missing, Gow revealed the information to the parents, and the local authorities were contacted immediately and there began the search for the Lindbergh baby. Because of the nature of the case and the high profile family, the New Jersey State Police constantly found themselves battling with other jurisdictions even the FBI over who would handle the case. During the police’s initial investigation, they found an envelope with a note inside demanding a fifty-thousand-dollar ransom. The note had specific instructions on how to break the amount down into smaller bills and a delivery method to be scheduled a couple of days later.
The police also found fingerprints on the envelope, but due to the vast number of servants and smudging fingerprinting was of no use. They gathered more evidence such as soil-clay, scratches from a ladder, and chisel marks on the window sill. The most puzzling fact remains how the kidnappers were able to enter the home with everyone inside and pinpoint the exact room in which the child slept in. They also thought about why the family dog never made a commotion during the night of the kidnapping. Over the next two months, the police began to look at and interrogate suspects. The mother and father were ruled out and all suspicion ceased to exist. They then began to speculate that it could have been Anne’s sister Elisabeth or the servants, but they too were ruled out as suspects.
The police finally caught a break when a gentleman by the name of Bruno Hauptmann used a ten-dollar gold certificate (the ransom payment) at a nearby gasoline station. Bruno had been under surveillance by the authorities after he had been positively identified as the man that had been using the gold certificate. Then on September 19, 1934 he was arrested at his home and taken into custody. He was booked into the county jail where he was interrogated on his involvement in the death of the Lindbergh baby. While in custody the authorities compared Hauptmann’s handwriting to the writing of the ransom notes and got a match. Hauptmann’s initial appearance in court is where he was arraigned and entered a plea of not guilty on the first charge of extortion in the Supreme Court.
He was then later indicted on the charge of murder and kidnapping in Hunterdon County by the grand jury where he again pleads not guilty. He was remanded to the custody of Hunterdon County Jail where he would await trial. Hauptmann’s trial would continue to last five grueling weeks. Throughout the five weeks, the prosecution and the defense attorney’s would be pleading their case to the judge and jury. They would present all the evidence they gathered whether it be direct or circumstantial. On February 13, 1955, the jury had reached a verdict after only eleven hours of deliberation. The jury found the defendant, Hauptmann guilty of murder and kidnapping in the first degree. The consequences of crimes such as these would be capital punishment. This would involve death by electrocution.
Hauptmann was then remanded to New Jersey Department of Correction where he would await his day of execution while on death row. On April 03, 1936, Bruno Richard Hauptmann was electrocuted at the Trenton Penitentiary in New Jersey for his involvement in the kidnapping murder of the Lindbergh baby.
The Analysis Of The Book “Crime & Punishment in Black America: By James Forman Jr
Race in America
In today’s society, we do not spend our time thinking about those who were affected by the war on drugs and mass incarceration that happened many years ago. We are lucky enough to be living with the policies that were put in place for us so long ago. Being that I am a young white female who grew up in the early 2000s, I was not faced with nearly half the situations that the young black children raised in the 90s were faced with.
In the book, Crime and Punishment in Black America, by James Forman Jr. the reader is exposed to the hard times that many Black Americans experienced in past years and how their entire lives were changed by one small event. I found it very interesting how the author was able to show that “people, acting with the finest of intentions and the largest of hearts, could create a problem even more grievous than the one they were trying to solve.” This made me realize, that this problem is still occurring today on both large and small scales. Often times I see parents with little children trying to help them up after they have fallen down, but sometimes the parents go to pick up the child in a way that makes them fall down again, which is creating an even more of a problem that they are trying to solve. In the book, Crime and Punishment in Black America, the reader is exposed to the hard times that many Black Americans experienced in past years and how their entire lives they had to walk on egg shells to insure they would stay on the streets and out of trouble.
When we hear the word mass incarnation, people typically think of a large group of people who were convicted for a horrible crime. However, often times, innocent people end up incarnated due to our flawed justice system. For instance, this can be seen in the Introduction when Brandon is pleaded guilty. Brandon’s case was not looked into fairly, and he was sent to a juvenile. What the author doesn’t understand is that blacks are incarnating their own. Over the year as more and more policies have been written on this, there has been an extreme decrease in the number of innocent people being wrongly convicted.
In the mid-late 90’s, most of the people being locked up were African-Americans. These people were fighting for their neighborhoods, they argued for job and housing programs, and improvements in education. Many people have an ahistorical view on this time in history. They have not taken the time to research and fully understand what these African- American people were trying to accomplish. On the other hand, many people have also chosen to take the individualistic fallacy view in life. This is when people divide themselves into “racists” and “non-racists” categories.
The assumption is that you are either, or that one action can be considered racist and another action is not (Desmond, 2018). I will never allow myself to take an individualistic fallacy stand because I do not feel it is appropriate. How could one sometimes not take a racist view on something, but at other times you do? We also see this with jury’s in courtrooms. When they are hearing from a white person they might go into the case knowing they are not going to find them guilty, however when the person is black, sadly enough, things in people’s mind change. The movie, White Boy Rick, is very similar to some stories told in the book. Rick Wershe is a single father trying to raise two teenagers during not so good times. He finds himself caught with no choice other than to sell guns illegally in order to make some money for his children. When the FBI discovers this news, they allow one of his sons to become an undercover drug informant and they promised to keep his father out of prison. This is a prime example of an individualistic fallacy view.
This is seen as the FBI’s way of keeping a white man out of prison and in the community to continue to outnumber the blacks. Now, had this been an African- American family, things would have been different. Again, discussing mass incarnation, especially amongst African- American, they would have taken this opportunity to throw another person in prison.Later on in the book, Forman talks about the distinction between a “war on drugs” and “gun control”. There are many valid reasons that people would want to ensure that there is a clear dissection between these two as “guns pose a more direct and lethal threat to public safety than does any narcotic” (Fordman, 2017: 51). But, it is interesting to see that people who are found guilty for either of those are held in the same facility. In just about every black community at this time, there were a dozen new people found guilty of a crime each day.
Neighbors in these communities, strictly whites, took a stand and made it clear that they were going to call authority figures for any act they had seen done by an African- American person, that they felt was not the “norm.” They would see an African- American person walking to their car late at night and call the police to come do a search on them. But, if it was light outside and they knew they were locked inside their own home, they would not take action. This again is where we see individualistic fallacy comes into play. It is mind boggling, that some people choose to assume a person is living a normal, safe life one day, but the very next day they see that person and decide they need to take action against them.
Police in mostly black neighborhoods were seen treating many of the young children unfairly. Burtell Jefferson, makes a point to tell the story about the day he was driven home by a police officer while out playing with a football. Years later, “He could have wondered why the officer had picked up an innocent kid in the first place” (Forman, 2018: 130). We can now assume the answer, and sadly enough it was because of his skin color. This poor young child’s sociological imagination was completely thrown off. He was unable to clearly understand self and society and the roles they played in his childhood.
How would this child be able to determine where he fits in in society, if he cannot even go outside to play with a football? I find it very disturbing that so many innocent human beings were being treated this way years ago and nothing was done about it. It also took way too many long or books like this one, to be published. Locking up our own Crime and Punishment in Black America was published in 2017; were people unaware of these events beforehand or was no one brave enough to speak about it? I am so thankful that I was raised in an area that was inclusive to all skin colors and backgrounds. I was never faced with racist sneers from my own neighbors and I did not have to worry about my neighbors calling the police on me at night time. This makes it ten times harder to process that people’s lives were so negatively affected because of the war on drugs and mass incarcerations.
- Emilysblog. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://blogs.lt.vt.edu/egc7/2013/10/25/race-and-fallacies/
- Forman, J. (2018). Locking up our own: Crime and punishment in black America. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
- Senior, J. (2017, April 11). ‘Locking Up Our Own,’ What Led to Mass Incarceration of Black Men. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/11/books/review-locking-up-our-own-james-forman-jr.html
- White Boy Rick (2018). (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.imdb.com/title/tt4537896/
Punishment Is Not a Solution
People started to apply variable rules to protect the social order since they began to live as a community. Moreover, they needed to prisons to protect the social order. Prisons used for different ambitious throughout history. When conditions and needs changed, types of prisons also changed. Moreover, it is the time to change again for prisons. Unfortunately, punishment system is not usable for this century. It is just as a revenge system, an eye for an eye. This system could not improve prisoners. This century needs different type system. Moreover, Mathiesen (2006) explains that the inmate is to be restored to his or her old prestige and prerogative, before the ‘fall’; moreover, the inmate presumes to have his or her pride. Therefore, prisons should be rehabilitory.
Some of people think that the punishment is necessary for prisons to be deterrent. However, it is not true. Bad attitudes cause worse attitudes. Punishment is not a solution. It postpones the violence. For example; Levan (2012) supports those favorable experiences, such as those that focus on restitution, training and cure, will be more probably to outcome in prisoner ably reintegrating into their group and becoming participating members of community. In contrast, punishment isolates prisoners from community. Firstly, it makes them an asocial person, when they return the society. For example; an inmate lived in prison which is punishment, for thirty years. He did not do any social or physical activity. He just lived. How could some people think that this inmate adapts the society after null thirty years? Secondly, punishment encourages the prisoners to reoffend, because punishment does not change anything for prisoner. Inmate is the same person mentally before going to the prison. If the aim is to make the prisons deterrent, punishment is not true way. Also Soderland, and Newman (2017) assert that there is chance and possibility to enhance sanity and welfare for inmate, which can cause to a decrease in reoffend. Punishment system should be removed for making prisoner an asocial and encouraging them to reoffend.
Some of the authorities suppose that there can be no reason for the prisoner not to be punished, because people could make a decision; therefore, to commit offers is the preference of inmate. Maybe this comment might be true in some ways. However, the effect of social environment is not ignored. People are the members of society. Moreover, their life shapes with their environment. Money (as cited in Humanism by Joe, n.d.) supports that children grow up in those environment are probably to work up flame and find out that severity is the method to overcome troubles. For example; a child grew up in the society where the robbery is the normal fact. Child thinks that the robbery is a usual for all the time. He/she does not aware of it is wrong, and he/she has never had chance to live different from his/her society. Therefore, nobody cannot decide to punish someone who are not thought independent of their environment.
Some people supports that prison turns into a kind of crime school where prisoners create social environment while they are rehabilitating. They think that prisoners could learn different types offend from each other, even they can be gang. However, it is wrong. The best example for it is the Bastoy Prison where prisoners do not learn any kind of offend from each other. In contrast, Nilsen (as cited in Sutter, 2012) explains that there, prisoners are edged on select to find out how to be better human.
What Influences The Celebrity Culture in Our Society
There are many factors in today’s world that influence the media and as a result this influence’s our beliefs in our everyday life and how our culture is set up. It is no secret that the few rich celebrities and those who have money and power live a lifestyle that none of us even come close to in our time. With this money and the lavish lifestyle that they live, celebrities and the rich and empowered are almost favored in society. They are able to walk away from scenes and crimes that they commit that would land all of us in jail for a long period of time. They are able to pay a certain amount of money and have whatever their given crime was expunged off their record and continue living their extravagant and lavish lifestyle. For normal, everyday people this is not the case. It is a fact that there is a higher privilege given to celebrities when it comes to crime and punishment and they are given special treatment that no average citizen would receive.
Justice is supposed to turn a blind eye in the eyes of judgement in the law and become a fair and equal opportunity for all, which when it comes to the cases of celebrities is anything but. There are many cases in which celebrities receive special treatment or punishments for crimes that they committed in which they are so clearly guilty of that no average citizen would ever walk away from free of charges. For example, the case of OJ Simpson there was such clear and pertinent evidence to find and convict him of this heinous and wrongful crime. “The glove found on OJ Simpson’s estate was only one of the nearly three dozen blood exhibits connecting Simpson to the murders. Abundant other evidence pointed to his guilt” (Alschuler 30). Even with all the evidence pointing to his guilt, OJ Simpson was able to walk free as if nothing had happened. Had this been any other person, they would have faced many years in jail. In the state of California, “First degree murder will have you facing 25 years to life in prison, second degree murder will have you facing 15 years to life in state prison and capital murder means that you face the possibility of execution” (Shouse 1). The fact that anyone else would have spent time in jail is relevant because of the jury members, “Three-quarters answered yes to the question, “Does the fact that OJ Simpson excelled at football make it unlikely in your mine that he could commit murder?” (Alschuler 33). The fact the most of the jury members think this puts an emphasis on celebrities as a whole but they are human just like us and if they commit a crime, they should have to pay the price just as any normal citizen would have to. It is unfair and wrongful that just because they are in the spotlight that they do not have to pay for their crimes and reap the consequences of their actions because murder is murder, it does not matter who committed it.
Another clear case of celebrities being given a higher privilege when it comes to crime and their punishment is the case of Rihanna and Chris Brown when R&B Song Writer and Singer, Chris Brown, assaulted and severely beat up his then girlfriend, Rihanna. It is no secret to anyone out there that Rihanna was clearly a victim of domestic abuse and violence and it has affected her in many ways. “Her post-assault performances and public image do not cohere with a therapeutic and state-sanctioned model of recovery from intimate partner violence, in which a healthy and conforming female subject emerges after being “saved” from her abuser” (Fleetwood 421). If there are clear and pointing factors to Brown’s guilt, including an effect on Rihanna’s life as a whole then why was he not facing or looking at the maximum or facing the greatest punishment allowed to domestic violence? According to California State Law on Domestic Violence, “The maximum jail sentence for a conviction under Code PC 243 (e)(1) is one year. Probation of up to three years is an alternative option, and it is a viable punishment for those who are first time offenders. Those on probation may also have to complete a Batterer’s Program, and must pay a fine of up to $2,000” (Collins 1). Brown merely walked away with none of these punishments but other countries were willing to fight back in order to promote the campaign for domestic violence. Brown had an upcoming tour in Australia around the same time in which the news broke about the beating of his girlfriend Rihanna. He was actually banned from getting into the country because of his actions. “And this week Brown, appealing the ban, argued that his mistakes from the past should not be held against him, but should serve as a lesson for others. ‘I would be more than grateful to come to Australia to raise awareness on domestic violence,’ he tweeted. ‘I am not the pink elephant in the room anymore.’”(Doherty 38). He should be responsible for his actions just as any other citizen would have to be. There should be no plea to allow him to continue to be preforming his tour while he should be sitting in jail for a year thinking about the crime that he committed. The law is the law and should be equally applied to all, not just a selective group of people.
There may be many reasons as to why celebrities get off with such an easier sentencing than everyday normal people and according to Patricia Sanchez Abril, it may have something to do with the fact of the business aspect of society that celebrities are a part of. It is no secret that celebrities are a part of multi-million dollar corporations and contracts which allow then to live lavish lifestyles that next to none of us will ever see. “Exploring fame across disciplines reveals shared quandaries regarding the definition of public–private boundaries, the rights of the famous, and their social and financial value in modern society.” (Abril 179) This means that when exploring the fame and the boundaries associated with them that people place a higher financial value of celebrities which makes it harder to make the pay for their crimes because they have enough money and so a large amount of money to just pay of their debt of the crime that they owe. This is why most celebrities can pay for their high bail outright because they make enough to support the lifestyle that they live and buy themselves a get out of jail for free card. There are also several other theories as to why celebrities and the higher elite class do not get the same punishment for the same crimes and it something referred to as the reverse-moral clause. “We define a reverse-morals clause as a reciprocal contractual warranty to a traditional morals clause’^ intended to protect the reputation of talent’ from the negative, unethical, immoral, and/o r criminal behavior of the endorsee-company or purchaser of talent’s endorsement” (Taylor 67). This essentially means that there is hardly anyways for a celebrity to actual pay the true price of their crimes or receive any negative reputation because the company there are signed with protects them and their talent. These celebrities sign with these big companies so that they are protected, under law from all the negative, unethical, immoral and/or criminal behavior that they so do commit. This gives an in depth explanation as to why it is easier for celebrities to get off with crimes easier because they have the backing of their companies. It is also said that “A celebrity is more than just a social actor whose name is well known and who garners large-scale public attention. The core of celebrity is the actor’s relationship with the public, as that relationship is documented in the media. Based on this relationship, the social actor attains economic value, and the public experiences a positive emotional response through the fulfillment of behavioral needs such as fantasy and affiliation” (Abril 181). This also largely explains the deeper meaning as to why these celebrities get off with their certain crimes or take a largely reduced sentencing than the average person. These celebrities are seen as having economic value in our society which is something that they would not be able to accomplish or produce sitting in a jail cell or being executed for their crime if it was severe enough. Since the celebrities in our culture are seen as having and providing economic value to society as a whole, this is another one of the many reason that there are able to get away with crimes without punishment.
In conclusion, there are many factors that influence the celebrity culture in our society and why when it comes to crime and punishment that they are given a higher privilege than the average citizen would receive. There are many reasons as to why and there is no sign of anything changing soon. “Traditionally, the economic value or market price of the entertainment industry and its various components was seen as intangible and difficult to measure” (Choi 314). This reaffirms the fact that since these things are difficult to means the celebrities bring such a high economic value and market price to the entertainment industry that they will always be favored in society. The sole fact that they also have a lot of money and can afford to buy out their mistakes also contributes to the fact of why the policies are so different when it comes to crime and punishment for them. “Punishment has become, more than anything else, an ongoing national morality play” (Kennedy 1288). In other words, everyday citizens get outraged when justice is not served properly amongst celebrities for their crimes and punishments but yet we do nothing about it because love to watch the saga unfold which leads into a never ending unfair cycle. “Celebrity is characterized by the elicitation of positive emotional responses (Rindova et al., 2006), which are derived from the actor’s positive valence (Trope and Liberman, 2000) for the audience to the extent that he/she helps fulfil various behavioural goals, including satisfying a need for gossip, fantasy, identification and attachment (Adler and Adler, 1989; Gamson, 1994; O’Guinn, 2000)” (Colapinto 221). So there is clear evidence that supports the fact that celebrities get out of crimes and face less punishment if no punishment because they bring a positive economic drive in our economy and if the specific celebrity is bring about content that us viewers indulge in, then it is satisfying our needs allowing us to overlook the main problem in society that a crime is a crime and all members of society, famous or not should have to pay the price.
Doom And Redemption in Macbeth And Crime And Punishment
Doom and redemption are two choices that result from different actions. Characters in Macbeth by Shakespeare and Crime and Punishment by Dostoevsky commit crimes. In Macbeth a morally virtuous man commits a sin because he has an unchecked ambition. In Crime and Punishment, Raskolnikov is a righteous protagonist who committed murder based on his decision making. Even though both characters had different choices in committing murder, both share a commonality in their decisions. Macbeth committed murder because he was tempted by the future that led him down the path of misery. Unlike Macbeth, Raskolnikov committed murder when he was fully aware of his actions. Macbeth ignored warning that led him to his doom, while Raskolnikov looked towards redemption.
Macbeth contains lessons such as Dante’s premise in corrupting the soul that commits sin. Morality is the main theme because when the soul is corrupted it leads to misery. Macbeth’s misfortunes began when he encountered the witches with Banquo. They prophesize that Macbeth is King of Scotland, that leads to Macbeth awakening his unchecked ambitions. Banquo is the voice of reason because he disregards the half-truth prophecy. Macbeth had a choice in ignoring the prophecy of the witches, but did not because he had ambition. Banquo pointed out that anything that occurs in Nature comes from God, but when it is altered it is viewed as Devil’s work. Shakespeare gives us imagery of this “…you should be women, And yet your beards forbid me to interpret That you are so” (Shakespeare, p 15). Lady Macbeth manipulated Macbeth into murdering Duncan by completely diminishing him into the path of misery.
Cruelty and Masculinity-Macbeth
The witches and Lady Macbeth cause Macbeth to descend into madness. Lady Macbeth physically hurts and psychologically manipulates Macbeth. Macbeth’s conscious warns him that it is wrong to murder the King, however Lady Macbeth makes him question his masculinity. She psychologically manipulates Macbeth’s morality by making him seem like a puppet. “look like th’ innocent flower, But be the serpent under’t” (Shakespeare, pg 32). The snake represents Macbeth because it foreshadows his temptation and committing of sin. They represent folle a deux, in translation the madness of two, which means they can get results by committing murder. Manipulation is seen throughout the play that leads to one having more influence over the decision making for the person with a weaker will. Women are capable of committing violent crimes as well. Lady Macbeth manipulates her husband because she is struggling for power.
Lady Macbeth gave Macbeth the knife with intent for him to murder. Macbeth chose to ignore the signs in saving himself from living an empty existence. When Macbeth hallucinated about the dagger, it represented his soul warning him not commit the evil act. The final warning Macbeth received came from God who told him to not commit the sin. He was hesitant and that shows him feeling morally wrong for his actions. Macbeth lost his humanity when he committed murder because Lady Macbeth. When Lady Macbeth and Macbeth approached Duncan in his bedroom, the dynamic of their relationship changed after they committed the sin of murder.
Lady Macbeth did not want to directly murder Duncan but she failed to put herself in that situation. “Had he not resembled My father as he slept, I had done’t” (Shakespeare, pg 52). Lady Macbeth lacked imagination because she had lost her humanity in actually killing the King. Since she was not true with herself it caused her to go into madness because of guilt. After committing that act, Macbeth went from having a conscious to feeling nothing. In Dante’s idea, when you go against your soul in committing a crime, than it is a crime against God and your soul. Guilt represents God’s punishment and the mind becomes a personal Hell because it is not escapable.
Kingship vs. Tyranny-Macbeth
When Macbeth took the throne, he became paranoid that he would be overthrown. Paranoia causes isolation when an evil act such as murder is committed because no one can comfort that guilt that is within an individual. It was easier for Macbeth to commit evil because he felt alone and that no one wanted to help him. Macbeth even kills his comrades for the sake of his throne which shows that he becomes blind to kindness. His redemptions have been extinguished because he lost his chances. Macbeth was not happy with himself even though he succeeded in overthrowing his cousin and killing his best friend.
Macbeth and Lady Macbeth murdered more than one individual and they experienced blood on their hands and it became to symbolize guilt. Macbeth experienced guilt when he killed Duncan. “Will all great Neptune’s ocean wash this blood Clean from my hand?” (Shakespeare, pg 56). Blood is an important symbol in the play because even though Macbeth feels guilty, his soul is corrupt. Banquo’s ghost represented Macbeth having a sealed fate down the dark path if his ambitions remained unchecked. Lady Macbeth faced a similar fate because she pressured Macbeth to murder Duncan. Lady Macbeth has a guilt-ridden conscious because she has a broken soul and blood on her hands. “Here’s the smell of blood still: all the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little hand” (Shakespeare, pg 140). She begins to suffer from sleepwalking and is on the edge of insanity because she sees blood on her hands. Macbeth exhibits coldness when he is under threat of being overthrown by the forces. “To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow” (Shakespeare, pg 153). He dreads living and does not care about the death of Lady Macbeth. His reaction to her death is that he blatantly disregards her existence.
Macbeth’s downfall was his responsibility because he was blind to his ambitions and ignorant to the fact that the witches were the Devil’s messengers. Lady Macbeth forced Macbeth to the path of sin when they murdered Duncan. The murder was a temptation of their selfishness. Macbeth was ambitious in wanting more that resulted in his misery. Dante’s premise is that an individual should be happy with God’s will because he has his own plans for fate. In the beginning, Macbeth was a moral person but through the play he loses his morality. He denies his better half in finding peace with what the King provided him with after winning the battle. His denial leads him down the dark path of doom.
Idea of Superman-Crime and Punishment
In Crime and Punishment the Crystal Palace is a palace that is a trap. It contains everything that the individual wants, however, it comes at a price, which is to give up on one’s freedom of choice. Raskolnikov takes on a role of Ubermensch by trying to get out of the restriction of not having a free choice. Dostoevsky introduced the idea of Ubermench or Superman as a way to describe the person who is beyond good and evil. It is also a person who does not follow the rules in society. Raskolnikov views himself as Ubermensch because of his knowledge in law that makes him feel superior in getting away with murdering Alyona. Before Raskolnikov is committed of the murder of Alyona, Porfiry Petrovich confronted Raskolnikov about an article he wrote when he studied law. “And the extraordinary have the right to commit any crime and break every kind of law just because they are extraordinary” (Dostoevsky, pg. 219). Raskolnikov acted in his own self-interest and viewed himself as Superman.
Crime and Punishment represents 18th century nihilism as a dominant paradigm in Russia. Nihilism represents a concept that is the basis of epistemological bottom, which means that there is no philosophical foundation of belief. Raskolnikov has nihilist traits because he does not care about the emotions of other people and wants to kill Alyona for himself and for the good of society. “Kill her, take her money, on condition that you dedicate yourself with its help to service humanity and the common good” (Dostoevsky, pg 56). The motive in killing the pawnbroker was not a result of necessity in improving his living conditions. Raskolnikov confesses to Sonya about the murders because he wanted to break the mold of society by exercising his right. However, once he committed the murder, he felt overwhelmed by guilt that led him to illness.
Raskolnikov is aware of his feelings when he murders the two women. He feels that he committed a sin in the dream because he views a master who beats a horse to death in a field. “Hit her on the nose and across the eyes, beat her across” (Dostoevsky pg 49). Raskolnikov does not realize that he murders the innocent Lizavetta. She represents a holy church symbol who did not confine to the 18th century religious premise. Raskolnikov murdered Lizavetta and it was a sin. After the murder, he dreams that his landlady is murdered by a policeman that he meets at the police station. Dostoevsky wants Raskolnikov to be aware of his actions by making him know the true gravity of crimes he committed. The detective is seen as an Ubermensch figure because he believes that he is above the law and can kill on free will.
Alienation of Society
After Raskolnikov commits the murders, he exhibited the same response as Macbeth because he isolated himself from everyone because of guilt. His friends and family noticed his isolation and they saved him from plunging over by showing him love. Before committing murder, Raskolnikov cringed when he thought in killing another person and tried to take it out of his mind. When Raskolnikov heard about the horrible things that the pawnbroker was doing at the public house, he had external voices that influenced him into killing her. However, Raskolnikov is morally aware of his actions and greed does not blind him. Macbeth also did not see anything other than the crown on his head.
Sonya symbolizes Raskolnikov’s redemption because she is timid when she meets him. She has an epitome of wisdom because she knows right from wrong, unlike Raskolnikov who is more about logic and calculation. Sonya exercises her limited freedom by sacrificing herself because of the wellbeing of her family. This type of love is agape, which means divine love or unconditional love that has no boundaries. Sonya redeems Raskolnikov because she makes him see his actions and wrong he was about killing those two women. She brought him down from thinking that he was superior to anyone else to just thing that he is the same as everyone else.
Unlike Macbeth, Raskolnikov saved himself because he put others first rather than himself. He tries to save his sisters’ fate by chasing away an unfit suitor as well as making sure that the father of Sonya has a proper burial. Raskolnikov does these small acts of kindness as a way to redeem his character but not fully redeeming his soul. However, Detective Porich suspects him in the murder of the two women and this unknowingly brings him closer to salvation. When Raskolnikov goes to Sonya, he is in a complete frenzy, and decides to ask her to read him the story of Lazarus from the Gospels. “Jesus saith unto them, Loose him, and let him go” (Dostoevsky, pg 277). Dostoevsky is foreshadowing the salvation of Raskolnikov and that he will be born again once he fully confronts his crimes. His confessions allowed his soul to release the pressure, but Sonya viewed that Raskolnikov can be saved if he turns himself in. As a form of redemption, Raskolnikov gets convicted in murdering the two women and is sent to Siberia. Just as in the story of Lazarus, his soul is reborn in the cold tundra. Before he leaves to Siberia Sonya presents him with a cross, and that is a representation that Raskolnikov has found his way back to God by confronting his crimes.
Similarities and Differences of Raskolnikov and Macbeth
Greed from pawnbroker’s money did not consume Raskolnikov but rather wanted to feel superior of everyone else. Macbeth was full of ambition and power for Duncan’s throne. Macbeth felt guilty for his actions that Lady Macbeth caused. Unlike Sonya, Lady Macbeth was contributor to Macbeth’s demise and was not the voice of reason but the voice of sin. However, Sonya represented Raskolnikov’s light at the end of the tunnel because she and his family and friends surrounded him with love. Raskolnikov was completely aware of his actions unlike Macbeth who faced manipulation by Lady Macbeth and started losing his humanity. The commonality that they share was that they were morally aware that their crimes could destroy them.
Isolability in Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment
Though its many pages and complex themes and ideas may be frustrating to undergraduate students, it cannot be denied that Fyodor Dostoevsky’s novel Crime and Punishment is anything less than a literary masterpiece. It explores a myriad of themes – the psychology of crime, nihilism, poverty, the idea of a “superman,” transcendent Christian values, the journey to redemption, alienation from society. While isolation may not be quite as apparent as a few of these other themes, it is equal, perhaps even superior, in importance. Indeed, it may be said that it is isolation that causes Raskolnikov, the protagonist, to commit his crimes and then it is isolation that ultimately leads him to the beginnings of his journey to redemption.
Raskolnikov, an impoverished student who is entertaining the nihilistic ideals that were sweeping St. Petersburg during his time, is in a severe place of isolation. He lives in relentless poverty which separates him from the majority of society. He has one only friend, Razumikhin, and he does not appear to cultivate a close or meaningful relationship with Razumikhin. The relationship with his own mother and sister is also one that is strained and distant. Additionally, he has begun to subscribe to ideals that, by their very nature, will isolate him from society because they place little to no value on other humans and they place him in a different category than other humans. Thus, his isolation from society is both practical and ideological. Oddly enough, the very factor that caused him to commit his horrendous crimes, isolation, is the concept that brings him to redemption. First, he needs to acknowledge the evil in his actions and feel remorse, regret and guilt as a result. Then, he needs to repent of his crimes and suffer for his crimes as an act of restitution. These two processes will bring him to redemption, but they are internal battles. Ultimately, internal battles must be fought alone – they must be fought in isolation.
Raskolnikov’s isolation from society is firstly demonstrated in a practical sense. One of the very first things we learn about him is that he is “over his head in debt to the landlady” and that he is “so badly dressed that another man, even an accustomed one, would have been ashamed to go out in such rags during the daytime” (Dostoevsky 3-4). This is the description of a man who is enduring extreme poverty. Poverty, in and of itself, is something that creates distance and separation for a few simple reasons. For one, a person who lives in poverty is a person who must spend the majority of his/her time and his/her mental and physical energy attempting to get and to keep the basic things necessary for survival. This makes for a person who has little time or energy to devote to the cultivation of meaningful relationships. Additionally, poverty is something that tempts people to accept crime as something that is not so bad because it may be necessary for survival. Indeed, one of the things that makes Raskolnikov’s crime more appealing to him is the potentiality of acquiring a little extra money. And crime necessarily dehumanizes or at least devalues other people in the mind of the criminal, because it makes use of another person as a means to an end, rather than the person being an end in and of himself/herself. Thus, Raskolnikov, as an extremely poor individual, is shown to be separated from society.
A second example of Raskolnikov’s isolation from society is the utter lack of a social life. He is young, he is a student, he is described to be good looking and intelligent. There is no reason why he should not have friends and a romantic relationship or two. But the only friend to whom we are introduced in this novel is Razumikhin and it is noted that Raskolnikov “had almost no friends while he was at the university, kept aloof from everyone, visited no one, and had difficulty receiving visitors;” however, “he became close with Razumikhin–that is, not really close, but he was more sociable, more frank with him” (51). Their relationship is portrayed as a very strained one and they argue frequently. At one point during the sickness that followed Raskolnikov’s crimes, during which Razumikhin made great efforts to help him, they bump into one another on a porch and are surprised to see one another and the interchange that follows is painfully pregnant with hurt and anger:
“So here’s where you!” he shouted at the top of his lungs. “Ran away from your sick-bed! And I even looked for you under the sofa! We went to the attic! I almost gave Nastasya a beating because of you … And here’s where he is! Rodka! What is the meaning of this! Tell the whole truth! Confess! Do you hear?”
“It means that I’m sick to death of all of you, and I want to be alone,” Raskolnikov replied calmly.
“Alone? When you still can’t walk, when your mug is white as a sheet, and you can barely breathe! Fool! … What were you doing in the ‘Crystal Palace’? Confess immediately!”
“Let me be!” said Raskolnikov, and he tried to pass by. This now drove Razumikhin into a rage: he seized him firmly by the shoulder” (Dostoevsky 166).
This is just one example of a bitter fight between the two of them. The significance here is that Razumikhin wants to help Raskolnikov through his sickness and he wants to be there for him, but Raskolnikov refuses. Raskolnikov insists on being alone; he wants to isolate himself, even from the one friend that he does have.
Raskolnikov’s relationship with his mother and sister is similar to his relationship with Razumikhin. It is not so full of contempt and argumentation, but it is equally distant and equally strained. It is evident from the letter that his mother sends to him, the contents of which include the details of a proposal of marriage for his sister, that they do not frequently see or hear from one another. Indeed, she says that “it is over two months now since I’ve spoken with you in writing, and I myself have suffered from it, and even spent some sleepless nights thinking. But you surely will not blame me for this unwilling silence of mine” (Dostoevsky 30). And then, she closes her letter with a slightly sad sentiment: “Remember, my dear, in your childhood, when your father was alive, how you prattled out your prayers sitting on my knee, and how happy we all were then! Goodbye, or, better, till we meet again! I embrace you very, very warmly, and send you countless kisses” (39). These words indicate a relationship that is removed, remote, formal. The love she and her daughter feel for Raskolnikov is apparent (“Love your sister Dunya, Rodya; love her as she loves you, and know that she loves you boundlessly, more than herself” ), but there is a longing for happier days. Raskolnikov’s response to his mother’s letter is strange – he is tormented by it (40). He does not send a loving reply; instead, he becomes angered by his sister’s potential marriage. He does not reciprocate the love of his mother and sister; he isolates himself even from his own family.
To make his isolation even more severe, Raskolnikov distances himself from society on an ideological level. He begins to consider the doctrines of nihilism which deny any meaning or value in life, people or a deity. We first get the idea that he is toying with some new beliefs when he says “I want to attempt such a thing, and at the same time I’m afraid of such trifles!” He continues, “Hm … yes … man has it all in his hands, and it all slips through his fingers from sheer cowardice” and then adds, “Am I really capable of that? Is that something serious? No, not serious at all. I’m just toying with it, for the sake of fantasy. A plaything! Yes, a plaything, if you like!” (Dostoevsky 3-4). The ‘that’ to which he is referring is the crime he is planning to commit. He finds nothing serious about it because the woman whom he will kill is “a stupid, meaningless, worthless, wicked, sick old crone, no good to anyone and, on the contrary, harmful to everyone, who doesn’t know herself why she’s alive” (65). He finds no intrinsic value in her; thus, he has determined that “what he had plotted was not a crime” (71). Committing this crime is his way of experimenting with the idea of people being devoid of value and worth. Now, if he finds no intrinsic value in himself, in other people or in the world around him, what would motivate him to cultivate a meaningful relationship with someone? There would be no reason, really; for if there is no value in another person, than there is certainly no value in a friendship, a romantic relationship or a familial relationship with another person, a person whom he determines to be worthless.
Another aspect of nihilism that creates distance is the idea of a ‘superhuman.’ Raskolnikov believes himself to be above the laws and rules that govern the rest of humanity. He is described to be “immersed in himself” (Dostoevsky 3), “not used to crowds” (11) and in one scene where he has a conversation with a drunk in a tavern, “at the first word actually addressed to him he suddenly felt his usual unpleasant and irritable feeling of loathing towards any stranger who touched or merely wanted to touch his person” (12-13). His feelings of superiority are clear:
“He was very poor and somehow haughtily proud and unsociable, as though he were keeping something to himself. It seemed to some of his friends that he looked upon them all as children, from above, as though he were ahead of them all in development, in knowledge, and in convictions, and that he regarded their convictions and interests as something inferior” (51).
He sees himself as being a kind of ‘superhuman’ – a person who is above the law and above others. Thus, he places himself on a different level than other people, so he has no point of commonality with other people. If he views himself as being set apart from all, or at least most, other humans, than he has no one to whom he can relate. His ideology isolates him from others.
So it is the isolation of his life, both practically and ideologically, that causes Raskolnikov to commit his crimes. He can relate to no one because he views people as worthless, or at best, as a means to an end and because he views himself as being on a different level than other people. Because people are of no value to him, he sees nothing wrong with taking away their lives and because he believes himself to be some sort of ‘superhuman,’ he determines that he can live outside of universal rules of morality and decency and be a law unto himself. This is the role that isolation plays in the committing of the crimes of Raskolnikov. But it is also isolation that leads him to suffer for his crimes, to feel guilt for his crimes and, finally, to repent of his crimes and to acknowledge his wrongdoings. Thus, we may say that though isolation caused him to commit his crimes, it also helped him to begin his journey to redemption.
Almost immediately after his crimes, Raskolnikov begins to suffer. When he wakes up the morning after the murders, he is terrified that he has left some evidence somewhere and he will be found out. He is especially nervous that “perhaps all his clothes were covered with blood, perhaps there were stains all over them, and he simply did not see, did not notice them” (Dostoevsky 91) and so, “chilled and shivering, he began taking everything off and examining it all again more thoroughly” (89). He also becomes very sick and “a terrible chill seized him; but the chill was also caused by a fever that had begun long ago in his sleep. Now, however, he was suddenly stricken with such shivering that his teeth almost flew out and everything in him came loose” (89). Furthermore, his illness is described as “a feverish condition, with moments of delirium and semi-awareness” (117). More important and more intense than his physical suffering, however, is his mental suffering. He experiences great emotional turmoil and confusion and “the conviction that everything, even memory, even simple reasoning-power was abandoning him, began to torment him unbearably” (90). “What,” he says, “can it be starting already, can the reckoning come so soon” (91)? His anguish is extreme and is experienced in solitude. No one else can feel his physical sickness and no one else can endure his mental torment. This aspect of isolation has a positive effect – it leads him to feel guilt for his sins which brings him one step closer to the road to redemption.
For all of Raskolnikov’s suffering, it seems to take quite a while for him to feel any guilt. Often, he simply determines that he is physically sick and uses the excuse that the woman whom he killed was nothing but a louse and a worthless person, and so, there was nothing wrong with what he did. Ultimately, however, the suffering takes its toll. In one scene, he is with his mother and sister and is arguing with his sister. In response to an accusation from him, she cries out passionately, “if I ruin anyone, it will only be myself … I haven’t gone and put a knife into anyone yet! … Why are you looking at me like that? Why did you get so pale? Rodya, what’s wrong? Rodya, dear!” and Raskolnikov faints (233). When Dunya remarks that there is no blood on her hands, Raskolnikov feels extremely uncomfortable, to the point of fainting, because he cannot say the same. In a scene following, Raskolnikov overtakes a man in the street who had inquired after him. The man calls him a murderer. Raskolnikov’s mutters a response to him, “barely audibly” and then,
“with slow, weakened steps, with trembling knees and as if terribly cold, Raskolnikov returned and went upstairs to his closet. He took off his cap, put it on the table, and stood motionlessly beside it for about ten minutes. Then, powerless, he lay down on the sofa and painfully, with a weak moan, stretched out on it; his eyes were closed. He lay that way for about half an hour” (272).
Now that someone has confronted him with his evil deeds and has portrayed his deeds properly – as the murder of a valuable person – his guilt is undeniable and his suffering, both physical and mental, is tremendous. Just like his suffering, his guilt is something that he must experience on his own. No one can feel the guilt of anyone else. Only the person suffering from guilt can truly feel it in its entirety. Raskolnikov feels his guilt in solitude; he is isolated in his suffering and he is isolated in his guilt and this is what allows for him to repent of his crimes and to acknowledge the immorality of them.
Raskolnikov is finally driven to repentance by Sonya, his lover. She tells him to “go to the crossroads, bow down to people, kiss the earth, because you have sinned before it as well, and say aloud to the whole world: ‘I am a murderer!’” and he does, amidst a number of people who assume that he is drunk (525). On the very last page of the novel, Raskolnikov finally confesses his crime to a police official, Ilya Petrovich, with these words: “It was I who killed the official’s old widow and her sister Lizaveta with an axe and robbed them” (531). It is noted in the epilogue that he does nothing to defend himself or make excuses for his actions and when asked what motivated him to confess, “he answered directly that it was sincere repentance” (536). Without the advice and encouragement from Sonya, he may never have confessed his crime, but it was Raskolnikov, ultimately and finally, who confessed. No person can confess for another person. This is yet another aspect of his isolation.
In the final resolution of the plot, Raskolnikov acknowledges, in isolation, the evil in his deeds. One of the first times that he realizes this is when he is confessing what he has done to his sister, Dunya. She is shocked that he is able to defend himself, but “as he was uttering this last exclamation [in defense of himself], his eyes suddenly met Dunya’s, and so great, so great was the anguish for him in those eyes that he came involuntarily to his senses” (519). When he is exiled to Siberia as a punishment for his crimes, he and Sonya are separated for a little while when they both become sick. During this time of aloneness, Raskolnikov has a dream in which all people all using one another and are living as if there is no truth or value in anyone or anything; no one can get along and “everyone and everything was perishing” (547). When he wakes from this dream, Raskolnikov is “pained” and “tormented” by the realization that that is how he had been living his life. He understands the error of his ways. Sonya comes to see him again when she is no longer sick and he is a changed man; he throws himself at her feet and “infinite happiness lit up in her eyes; she understood, and for her there was no longer any doubt that he loved her, loved her infinitely, and that at last the moment had come …” and in their faces “shone the dawn of a renewed future, of a complete resurrection into a new life. They were resurrected by love; the heart of each held infinite sources of life for the heart of the others” (549). He has finally acknowledged his crime, but he has done this on his own; he has come to this conclusion while he spends time away from Sonya. He needed to determine this for himself, else it would have been disingenuous.
Ultimately, isolation causes Raskolnikov to realize that he is in love with Sonya. Being in love with her necessarily disproves his previous nihilistic ideals because it puts him on the same level as her. Because he now understands and acknowledges that people do have value and that he is not some sort of superior human who is on a different level than other humans, he has finally found common ground with another person and can relate to someone else, he is finally able to recognize his love for Sonya. The isolation that had once caused him to separate himself philosophically from society which allowed for him to commit his crimes against society, now becomes the factor that goes along with his guilt, his suffering, his confession and his acknowledgement of wrongdoing. It becomes the thing that perpetrates his reentrance into society.
Dostoevsky, Fyodor. Crime and Punishment. New York: Random House, Inc, 1993. Print.
The Manifestation of Dialogic Mode in the Book
“Kill her, take her money and with the help of it devote oneself to the service of humanity and the good of all. Would not one tiny crime be wiped out by thousands of good deeds? One death, and a hundred lives in exchange.” (Dostoevsky, 69)
At precisely the right moment, Raskolnikov stumbles into a ‘miserable little tavern’ and overhears these eerily fateful words between a student and an officer. The student goes on to argue that it is the role of a select few – extraordinary persons – to ‘correct and direct nature’ in instances where it would benefit the whole; yet when friend challenges him, he quickly and feebly remarks that he is only ‘arguing for justice’ and could never commit such a base act – thus demoting himself to the grade of inferior, ordinary folk. Indirectly, however, the student has unknowingly incited the act that he supports only in theory, by nurturing and vindicating the very same idea that had been growing within the eavesdropping Raskolnikov. Indeed, the fated timing of this encounter further convinces Raskolnikov that it is a ‘guiding hint’ of an ‘inescapable pre-ordainment,’ which compounds his budding belief that he is of the extraordinary few that are permitted to breach moral codes in certain, extreme cases.
It is revealed later that this decisive conversation he overhears in the tavern echoes in exact parallels to the radical theses of Raskolnikov’s utilitarian article “On Crime.” The identical propositions and argumentation of the conversation to the thoughts and writings of Raskolnikov are too coincidental to be dismissed as simply fate, and they may even indicate a certain schizophrenic psychosis within Raskolnikov, whereby the conversation in the bar actually occurred within his head. Though this would suggest a much more serious mental illness than is ever explicitly ascribed to Raskolnikov, it is not an entirely unperceivable speculation – and it becomes even more plausible after Svidrigailov’s shocking account of Raskolnikov’s behavior in public: “You look and evidently see nothing before nor beside you. At last you begin moving your lips and talking to yourself, and sometimes you wave your hand and declaim at the last stand still in the middle of the road.” (Dostoevsky, 462)
This new vantage presents a detached portrayal of Raskolnikov’s condition, void of Raskolnikov’s influence – which exposes him – and reveals a more recognizable manifestation of insanity than is ever alluded to in his narration. While his illness has previously been limited to seizures and fits of paranoia, here we are given a crucial piece of evidence that jeopardizes the final shreds of credibility that Raskolnikov clings on to in defense of his rationality and sanity – which in effect jeopardizes the rationality of his theories. Yet, while the notions of fate and reliability of narration are critical and fascinating motifs in this excerpt and in the novel as a whole, the most important thing that can be extracted from this conversation in the tavern is the reiteration and compounding of utilitarianism as the main theme of the novel – as one to be wrestled with and dialogically engaged with until it is considered from every angle. Indeed, ultimately the dialogic mode of Crime and Punishment serves Dostoevsky as a means of reinforcing and reconsidering his own personal beliefs; and by leaving some of these key beliefs standing at the end of the novel, while letting others collapse, he indicates that his convictions are firmly rooted, examined, and substantiated.
During the entirety of Raskolnikov’s first conversation with Porfiry it is difficult not to buy in to Raskolnikov’s utilitarian theory which grants extraordinary men ‘the inner right to decide in his own conscience to overstep certain obstacles, [when it] benefits the whole of the community (260).” He continues in convincing defense of his article by speaking in elaborate terms about the betterment of society, while glorifying those with the courage to stand for change; saying such things as: “[the extraordinary] seek in varied ways the destruction of the present for the sake of the better (261).” In perhaps the most critical defense of his position Raskolnikov enters into lecture about the importance of and privileges granted to such extraordinary men: “Leaders of men such as Lycurgus, Solon, Mahomet, Napoleon, and so on, were all without exception criminals…They did not stop short at bloodshed, if that bloodshed where of use for their cause. It’s remarkable in fact, that the majority of these leaders of humanity were guilty of terrible carnage. I maintain that all great men, must from their very nature be criminals…otherwise it’s hard for them to get out of the common rut; and to remain in the common rut is what they can’t submit to” (Dostoevsky, 260).
Not only does Raskolnikov make a convincing case for utilitarianism during this defense of his disquisition, he also, by dividing society into two categories, provokes the audience into active thought and participation with his theory. It is impossible as a reader, after all, not to fancy oneself a member of the extraordinary, after such propagandizing as: “People with new ideas, people with the faintest capacity for saying something new, are extremely few in number, extraordinarily so in fact.” How can one submit, after such inspirational persuasion, to an ordinary class of people, a people who “are of conservative temperament, [who] live under control and love to be controlled (261)?” By making such an appealing case for the extraordinary class of people, and by supplementing his defense of murder with historically supported and logically justified arguments for the ‘sanction of bloodshed by conscience’, Dostoevsky creates a very strong case for a utilitarian motto “the greatest good for the greatest number of people.” And he builds it up, and milks it – in theory – from each and every angle, and finally puts it into practice. Then he lets it fall.
The fall of Raskolnikov, though predictable, is very complex and important. Indeed, the reasons for the failure of Raskolnikov’s utilitarian experiment allow Dostoevsky to explore and eventually conclude that the flaws in his theory do not outweigh its benefits; he therefore finally asserts that it is never justifiable to murder, even in extreme cases. Though Raskolnikov makes convincing cases for his theory in both his article and in the defense of his article to Porfiry, it cannot stand the test of practice. Ultimately, Raskolnikov’s concedes that the experiment failed in his case because he had not been granted the right to kill: “the devil led me on and he has shown me since that I had not the right to take that path (414).” He continues by saying, “Did I murder the old woman? I murdered myself not her! I crushed myself once and for all, for ever (414)…” The brutal toll that the murder takes on his conscience indicates that Raskolnikov understands that his theory should remain a theory – that it is not something to be attempted.
A last stand is made for his utilitarian theory, when in the first epilogue Raskolnikov laments to himself, “But those men succeeded and so they were right, and I didn’t, and so I had no right to take that step.” At this point it seems Dostoevsky has ruled that the theory should be considered on a case-by-case basis (rather than making a blanket statement for or against utilitarianism,) by leaving Raskolnikov unrepentant. But this proves to be a façade, as the wheels had already begun to fall off when Raskolnikov considered the idea of running away from his punishment instead of becoming a martyr for his cause; Porfiry notes, “You’ve ceased to believe in your theory already, what will you run away with?” To this point, Raskolnikov cannot even muster a response; he turns to leave from the conversation – corrected and ashamed. And finally in the last few pages of the novel, Dostoevsky resolves his neutrality towards Raskolnikov’s theory, by having him open his eyes, repent of his crime, and submit to punishment. It is of paramount importance that Dostoevsky includes the repentance of Raskolnikov in the end of the second epilogue, because in so doing he is able to silence the last standing voice for his theory, which in effect kills it.
Dostoevsky then, by considering and ultimately condemning utilitarian ‘humanitarianism,’ to reinforces what he believes to be the main influence of Raskolnikov’s murder. Namely, the implicit influence that environment has on behavior. The reader is constantly reminded of the ‘cupboard’ of a room in which Raskolnikov lives, amongst a grim and gloomy Petersburg backdrop. Still, Dostoevsky makes sure to drive the point home by including many less subtle hints about the influence of environment within the dialogue. Svidrigailov for instance, mentions at one point that, “This is a town of crazy people. There are few places where there are so many gloomy, strong and queer influences on the soul of a man as in Petersburg. The mere influences of climate mean so much.” In a similar vein, Porfiry says, “Petersburg had great effect on him” in reference to the murderer of the pawnbroker.
Yet the most direct statement regarding the influence of environment on criminal behavior – and one that resonates closely with Dostoevsky’s own beliefs before he was sent to Siberia – is the socialist doctrine brought up in a discussion between Porfiry, Raskolnikov and Razumihin:
“Everything with them is ‘the influence of environment,’ and nothing else. Their favorite phrase! From which follows that, if society is normally organized, all crime will cease at once, since there will be nothing to protest against and all men will become righteous in one instant.”
This statement compounds the reoccurring argument for influence of environment on behavior, and though parts of it are dismissed as purely hypothetical (that is, the perfectly organized society,) the root of the matter remains – that the influence of environment on behavior is powerful and unavoidable. Lastly, during his trial Raskolnikov states that the cause of his crime was “his miserable position, his poverty and his helplessness (528).” In case the reader missed all of the other signs, Dostoevsky makes it as straightforward as possible. By including this theme so directly, and so often, Dostoevsky makes it clear that poverty, social circumstances and environment are all serious contributors to criminal behavior, though he carefully asserts that they do not justify crime, by having Raskolnikov caught and punished at the end of the novel.
It is perhaps one of the most fascinating and impressive aspects of Crime and Punishment, that Fyodor Dostoevsky goes to such great lengths in proposing the benefits of perspectives and theories he actually disagrees with in real life. He does so with the theme of religion – by having Raskolnikov convincingly challenge Sonia’s faith – when Dostoevsky is himself a devout Orthodox Christian. He also does so by exhaustively supporting a utilitarian theory that he condemns in real life. Dostoevsky’s ability to critically evaluate his different beliefs, through his writing, is most impressive because it shows that he knows every side of the arguments he engages with. Indeed, the dialogic nature of his examination of different issues is a testament to his willingness to see issues from the side of his opponents, and it allows him to strengthen his own views by testing them against their strongest counterpoints. In this way, Dostoevsky uses his novel as a therapeutic device, by which writing serves as an outlet for the consideration of the ideas that are important to him and to his society. This quality of Dostoevsky’s writing is part of what makes it so compelling, engaging, and ultimately so valuable – instead of being told what to think or having the author’s beliefs imposed upon us, we are given impartial evidence from both sides of an argument, and are left to wrestle with them. We, as readers, are credited for our ability to reason and engage with complex issues – and are simply guided by the wonderful imagination and vision of Fyodor Dostoevsky.
Dostoevsky, F. Crime and Punishment. New York, 2003: Bantam Dell.
The Importance of Minor Characters in Crime and Punishment
Anyone who has had any exposure to theatre has at least once heard the colloquialism, “there are no small parts, only small actors.” Some may mock this platitude, pointing out the fact that, of course there are small parts; most literary works contain several “bit parts.” But the root of this statement is true: no matter how “small” a character’s part may be, that character makes a contribution, large or small, to the story. And in Fyodor Dostoevsky’s classic work, Crime and Punishment, a central character that provides a key turning point has only two brief appearances.
Alyona Ivanovna is a pawnbroker and moneylender. This acceptable existence, vaguely awkward for a woman, in the beginning of the novel leads one to first want to disregard her as a mere surface character. But as the story unfolds, it becomes quite clear that both Alyona Ivanovna and her despicable character are a vital part of Raskolnikov’s plot to achieve extraordinary status.
To begin with, Alyona Ivanovna first presents a problem for Raskolnikov at her murder, albeit quite indirectly. While he is bludgeoning Alyona Ivanovna with the butt end of an axe, her sister Lizaveta returns from an errand and happens upon the horrifying scene. Startled by her arrival, Raskolnikov turns to her and murders her as well. This event equips Raskolnikov with two dilemmas: he has not only killed one woman, but two, the second of whom he had no intention of harming, and the fact that he murdered Lizaveta could spoil his theory of the Extraordinary Man, the Ubermensch. As a result of this possibility, Raskolnikov comes to more or less ignore his murder of Lizaveta.
Through the progression of Raskolnikov’s experience, several holes in his theory lead the reader to believe that Raskolnikov is not, in fact, an Extraordinary Man. These can be tied directly to Alyona Ivanovna, or to her murder. It becomes apparent that perhaps Alyona Ivanovna was not quite the despicable and nasty character she first appeared to be to Raskolnikov, or at the very least not worth murdering. While in his mind she was a wicked miser withholding money from the destitute of St. Petersburg, she, too, was one of the destitute. She was not a mighty money collector robbing from the poor who needed to be destroyed. She was simply “a louse.”
A second example of Raskolnikov’s unworthiness of the title Ubermensch is he first sets out upon this crime intending to take the money Alyona Ivanovna has been hoarding from the impoverished masses and use it to save dozens of families and individuals from starvation, or perhaps to continue his own education, eventually bettering the lives of many others. But in his panic after the murders, he seizes nearly no money at all, and fails to even see how much he has taken or the value of the items he took. Instead, he hides them under a rock in a side alley. In this way he fails to achieve his original aim.
Finally, Raskolnikov destroys his possibility of being extraordinary at the very scene of Alyona Ivanovna’s murder by directly violating one of the limitations he himself set upon the Ubermensch: the Extraordinary Man should make no mistakings in the acting out of his mission. Unlike his Ubermensch, Raskolnikov overlooks several things in the playing out of his “valiant” act. From the beginning, he is running late on his time span, arriving at Alyona Ivanovna’s apartments long after he should have. Secondly, not only did he not lock the door, but he did not even shut it properly, practically asking Lizaveta to walk in on his dastardly deed. Also, he did not even achieve his original aim of aiding the suffering majority of St. Petersburg by retrieving nearly no money from Alyona Ivanovna’s trunk. Lastly, his final escape from Alyona Ivanovna’s building is less than grand, with his nearly escaping discovery of his crime twice. Slightly less than extraordinary.
In many ways, Alyona Ivanovna’s brief appearance deeply affects the course of Raskolnikov’s journey. Though mostly through her death, Alyona Ivanovna’s character has great influence on Raskolnikov’s conscience. This influence demonstrates to the reader that there are, in fact, no small parts.
The First Part of the Novel – The Symbolism of Raskolnikov’s Dream
In “Part One” of Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s famous 19th century novel Crime and Punishment, the beleaguered former-student Raskolnikov feverishly contemplates committing a “vile” crime, which is eventually revealed as the murder of local pawnbroker Alyona. Raskolnikov’s inner turmoil as he considers this crime takes the form of an ominous, frenzied delirium, manifested primarily by somatic symptoms. While this sickness paints a clear picture of Raskolnikov’s sense of agitation and unrest, it fails to elucidate any rational explanation of the terrible but nondescript crime he contemplates. This inability to vocalize his intentions leaves Raskolnikov feeling deeply conflicted but ultimately paralyzed to make any decision.
Before Raskolnikov can take any true action, he must acknowledge his murderous desires to himself. His drunken dream on the lawn serves as a clear turning point in this internal battle. It’s primary event — the beating to death of a mare unable to pull her heavy cart — stands in for Raskolnikov’s own potential crime and the conflict between its two main characters is analogous to Raskolnikov’s deep internal confliction. Able to symbolically articulate both his murderous desires and his resulting inner turmoil through a dream, Raskolnikoff overcomes his inability to explicitly name his crime, eliminating a vital internal barrier within himself and driving him towards his ultimate completion of the act.
Prompted by the letter from his mother, Raskolnikov’s dream returns him from the chaotic desperation of his adult life to his childhood, a place of clearer reality: “a setting so truthlike and filled with details so delicate [it] makes a powerful impression on the deranged nervous system” (106). Within this “singular actuality” of the dream, Raskolnikoff can finally articulate (through symbolism) his own inner turmoil regarding the crime he plans to commit (106). The initial description of the town’s landscape as “gray and heavy” with “a dark blur on the very edge of the horizon” and the presence of the graveyard creates a foreboding, arcane atmosphere that directly mirrors the reticent nature of Raskolnikov’s own internal world (107). Raskolnikoff navigates this dark landscape as a young boy, both attracted to and frightened by the “horrible figures” within the town (108). This too reflects Raskolnikov’s present internal conflict, as he obsesses over the “loathsome…thing” he wants to do but also remains so “intensely repulsed” by it, he cannot actually name the crime (19).
Raskolnikov’s sense of self polarizes further as the dream continues and his young, dream self takes interest in a group of peasants who plan to beat a “thin, sorrel” mare to death as she is unable to pull her heavy cart. It is here that the metaphor becomes clear (108). This beating represents the crime Raskolnikov considers committing. And Raskolnikov’s own representation is split between Mikolka, the mare’s owner, and his younger self. As Mikolka, Raskolnikov feels the mare is useless to society if she cannot perform her task and, therefore, should be beaten to death. As a child, however, Raskolnikov stands under the literal shadow of his father and the church (both moral influences on him ) and is overwhelmed with a sense of moral outrage, unable to understand why the people would torture “the poor horse” (115). This situation foreshadows Raskolnikov’s plans to murder pawnbroker Alyona, whom he feels is useless and parasitic (much like Mikiola does the mare). Similarly, the polarity between young Raskolnikov and Milkola demonstrates how deeply conflicted he feels about committing this crime. While the dream fails to resolve Raskolnikov’s conflicting feelings regarding the murder itself, its projects that confliction into an active visual, forcing him to witness his own inner turmoil. This confrontation of himself ultimately translates into a newfound ability to name him crime — Raskolnikov declaring, as he wakes up, his desire to “take an axe [and]…strike [Alyona] on the head, split her skull open” (116). This pivotal breakthrough ultimately leaves him with but one decision left to make — whether or not to kill the pawnbroker — a choice that he makes with new decisiveness, now that he has already admitted his true desire.
While most of part one is characterized by a furtive, unrevealing atmosphere of trouble to come, the dream signifies a major turning point that brings a new sense of clarity to both Raskolnikov and the audience about the true origins of his delirium. Finally confronted with the truth of his intentions and the polarity of his feelings, Raskolnikoff becomes newly able to articulate his criminal desires. Not only does this set the stage for Raskolnikov’s ultimate decision to murder the woman, but also works to define dreams within the novel as moments of ironic clarity, cutting through the fog of somatic delirium and revealing Raskolnikov’s true, controlling emotions.
“Gangs Form in Response to a Breakdown of Law and Order” analysis
Introduction: In the article “Gangs Form in Response to a Breakdown of Law and Order” it discussed various topics that show how they are trying to prove their statement. The reason why I chose this article was that I was looking for something that was controversial and that affected more people than most thought, and to give a deeper meaning and hopefully open the eyes of some. “Crime Causes Gangs”, “Gang as Protection”, and “A Failure of Government” are the topics that I am the most influential for my research paper (Sobel and Osoba 2009).
Body 1: When thinking about criminal activity most usually associate it with the presence of gangs, but it is actually the opposite, gangs were originally created because of crime is present in many communities.
According to Sobel and Osoba “the failure of government to protect the rights of individuals from violence committed by youths” and “By banding together under the threat of mutual retaliation, potential victims of youth violence can secure increased safety.” (Sobel and Osoba 2009) In my personal opinion, this shows that how the failure of the police following certain procedures in certain neighborhoods can cause a rift in the community because everywhere will do what they need to do when it boils down to the basic necessities of survival, to protect themselves and those they care for.
So when facing multiple encounters from rivals and other those who are being attacked will soon form their own group to protect themselves. They enforce rules in the community just like a government but use force in more of an aggressive, violent, and “barbaric” type of fashion.
Body 2: The concept is that people would join a gang to feel protected and safe from their rivals. This method has been around for multiple ages and is used by multiple organizations. “All protection firms and organizations, from the mafia to private security to traditional governments, use coercion, retaliatory violence, and predatory violence to enforce certain rules of conduct and to enforce and protect the rights of their members.” Sobel and Osoba state that “The gang’s use of retaliatory violence against someone who aggresses against a gang member actually results in a lower level of total violence as it creates a strong incentive for individuals not to initiate violence, to begin with, because of the fear of retaliation by the gang” (Sobel and Osoba 2009). Therefore, this is like when someone has a lot of siblings and people are scared to mess with them because the older siblings are going to correct anyone who steps out of line. This effect carries over to the use of gang protection and they use the “eye for an eye” method when it comes to retaliation or does two times as much damage to show they’re not to be messed with.
Body 3: The next point made that caught my eye was how they showed the connection between violence and gang activity. “The popular perception that gangs cause violent crime is based on tenuous casual observations. Although gangs and violence do seem to frequently coexist, such cross-sectional correlations do not imply causality. Our results provide strong evidence that violent crime causes an increase in gang membership and not vice versa. Thus, areas with higher rates of violent crime will also experience higher rates of gang membership as a result of the increased violence” (Sobel and Osoba 2009). Generally, the average person would take the idea of linking gang activity and violence and running with it without thinking of the background history associated with it. This style of thought process reminds me of how people link the increase of ice cream sales to the increase in murder rates. Those two usually make people do a double take since they are on two completely different ends of their respective spectrum, but they are brought together because both increases when temperature increases. Proving that one should not just take ideas, theories, and thoughts and just run with them. One should do their own personal research on a topic that is controversial before taking certain things and creating a mental fixation on the topic.
Closing: In conclusion, the article gave plenty of ideas to open the eyes of many. It shows what caused gangs to be created, gives an explanation of why they were created and even gave a few examples of earlier “organizations” that used similar tactics that gangs use today. Finally, I hope that those three bodies or work that were carefully drawn out over the course of 4 weeks gave the viewer the pleasure of coming to a better understanding of what caused the original gangs to be founded.