Crime and Punishment – Rodion Romanovich Raskolnikov

Through Part 3

“Pah, how easily I get upset! But perhaps that’s a good thing; I am playing a sick man . . .”
~Rodion Romanovich Raskolnikov, Chapter 5, Part 3

Raskolnikov interests me as a character because, in large part, he is rather unlikeable. And yet, at the same time, he is highly sympathetic – perhaps because, as the main character (I’m reluctant to label him the protagonist, though I suppose it’s true), we know him better than anyone else.

I’m reminded of the movie Secret Window (skip this paragraph if you don’t want a spoiler). Near the end, it turns out that the main character is the one responsible for murders that took place previously in the movie – and we watch him kill again. In the special features, the director talks about how, by the time we realize just what our protagonist is capable of, it’s too late – we’ve already put all our eggs in his basket. At that point, we have little choice but to keep rooting for him, since he’s the character that we’re emotionally invested in.

In Rodya’s case, it’s a little different – practically from the beginning, we know he’s going to kill someone. But since he gets probably 95% of the “screen time” in Crime and Punishment, we inevitably become emotionally invested in his success or failure.

I know that, way back in Part 1, I cringed when he bashed Alena Ivanovna’s head in – and then got irritated when, now that he’d finally gone and done the deed, he couldn’t manage to keep his cool long enough to actually steal something that might be useful.

As I read, it’s difficult to find his behavior anything but distasteful at times – clearly he’s completely deranged. He’s rude, self-absorbed, and, oh, yeah, homicidally insane. But, more than anything, I just want to smack him and tell him to keep his darn mouth shut – I mean, people are going to start getting suspicious if he keeps on yakking!

Perhaps part of it comes from the fact that, were he not regrettably off his rocker, Raskolnikov could be a likeable guy. I mean, Razumikhin seems quite taken with him. And we see, as they laugh and joke together on the way to Porfiry’s house, that he is not totally devoid of positive qualities – they’re just overwhelmed by his megalomania, nervousness, and guilt.

The one thing that kills me the most is his tendency for self-destruction. I mean, he practically confesses to Zametov before saying, “Oh, just kidding, ha ha.” And he actually comes up with the idea himself to go see Porfiry about getting the stuff back that he hawked to Alena. We find out later that they already suspected him (and why shouldn’t they, the way he’s been acting!), but still. I suppose it’s caused by guilt and a subconscious desire to get caught. He’s contemplated giving himself up to the police more than once – he just want it to be “over”.

The ironic part is that Raskolnikov thought he could commit his crime without getting caught because he knew, he just knew, that he wouldn’t be subject to the same mental paralysis as other, more ordinary criminals. Hah, we see how that turned out.

One last thing – I couldn’t help but be struck by the quote above. In fact, I almost laughed out loud. I think our dear Rodya’s doing rather more than “playing” at being sick.

For another analysis of Raskolnikov (and a more complete one, since I’m only halfway through), see:

Published in: on September 11, 2010 at 2:11 AM  Comments (2)  
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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Thanks for the referral to my blog, but I don’t know that I’d say my analysis is any more thorough or complete! So interesting that we have both embarked on the same project at nearly the same time. I can’t imagine trying to do it while in school too, so best of luck to you. I’ll be following because I’m curious how it goes for you 🙂

    • It is fun to think that someone else is working towards the same goal. I feel like I should say something about great minds thinking alike, but that might sound conceited . . . 0:)

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