Motifs In Crime And Punishment Essays

Napoleon Complex

You know Napoleon: short dude, big hat, habit of standing with his hand snugly in his vest (because that's cool). Well, Raskolnikov knows all about Napoleon as well:

[Raskolnikov:] "Yes, that's what it was! I wanted to become a Napoleon, that is why I killed her.... Do you understand now?"

Sonia: "N-no. […] Only speak, speak, I shall understand, I shall understand in myself!" (5.4.113-114)

Remember when Raskolnikov called the sketchy man in the park a "Svidrigaïlov"? Svidrigaïlov, for him, is a symbol of all men who want to abuse young girls. He speaks of Napoleon in the same way, as a symbol, the name not of a man but of a type of person.

Interestingly, in battle with Napoleon's army, thousands of Russian troops were killed, but Napoleon was eventually forced to retreat. But, before that, he had all of Europe in a state of terror. Imagine that power.

Raskolnikov sure does.

What gets him is that Napoleon had an inexhaustible supply of blood on his hands when he died. Yet, he's celebrated, worshiped, revered. So, if Raskolnikov can kill somebody and then be revered (after his death?), he'll be a Napoleon...or something like that.

Even though Raskolnikov explains over and over again how his Napoleon fixation gave him the idea to murder Alyona, the explanations always break down, and he admits it. Like here, after he explains it to Porfiry:

How can they digest it! It's too inartistic. "A Napoleon creep under an old woman's bed! Ugh, how loathsome!" (3.6.58)

Yeah, Raskolnikov. It is loathsome. You should have thought about that a wee bit earlier.

We dare you to find a chapter in Fyodor Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment without some form of the word "suffer" in it or without some person (or animal) suffering terrible physical and/or psychological pain. Suffering, often closely associated with poverty in this novel, is definitely a condition from which to escape. However, it's also possible proof of a person's goodness, and even a way to become "good." In Crime and Punishment, if a character isn't suffering, they're probably making somebody else suffer. Sound depressing? It is. Luckily, this classic isn't all gloom and doom—occasional patches of brightness and hope are there to be found, though you might have to look hard to see them.

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

Most of the suffering in Crime and Punishment is directly related to poverty.

Svidrigaïlov's suicide shows that he, too, was suffering terribly in the novel.


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