Question: Describe Raskolnikov as a dual character in Crime and Punishment. Or, discuss Raskolnikov’s split personality.


Fyodor Dostoevsky (1821-1881) portrays Rodian Raskolnikov as a man torn in two worlds. One is his ability to cool and count. The other half shows kindness and humility. This dualism creates unrest and conflict in the novel “Crime and Punishment”.

The dichotomy

Dostoevsky has purposefully named the main character in his novel Crime and Punishment. The origin of Raskolnikov’s family name comes from the Russian word ‘schism’ which means hatred or differentiation. This is a clue to Raskolnikov’s character. He is torn between two philosophies. A philosophical thought allows him to set foot outside the plan of ordinary men. He recognizes the boundaries created by the law of man and God. The other supports the belief that he is better than ordinary people. Therefore, he believes that he is like a god.

The egoistic and arrogant man

Raskolnikov is a poor, unemployed student who fights for survival. He owes money to his landlady. He does not have money for food or clothes. He rents a very small, confined space that has room for his couch and a little more. Despite all this, Raskolnikov sees himself as a significant thinker. He believes that he can contribute to the benefit of society. Part of this belief is strengthened by the people around him. Mostly, it comes from his education. He does believe that people are somehow divided into the ordinary and the extraordinary category. He makes his idea about ‘the extraordinary’ clear by stating that they have ”their own right, to…step over certain obstacles.”

To Raskolnikov, this impediment is illustrated by the pawnbroker Alyona Ivanovna. He has visited her sundry times and knows that she has money. He believes that killing her will result in, ”thousands of lives saved from decay and corruption.” Even after killing her, he remarks that ”The old hag is nothing…I killed not a human being.” Alyona ”was merely a sickness…I was in a hurry to step over.” Raskolnikov places himself among the extraordinary, giving him the right to step over moral boundaries in the best interest of humanity.

Benevolent for others

Raskolnikov’s true self struggles against the immorality of being ‘extraordinary’. He is a loving son and a good friend. From this, his acts of kindness and great love for others are influenced. Twice, he helps out the family of Semyon Marmeladov. On his first visit to Marmeladov’s house, he sees the poverty in which they live. He provides the family twenty roubles secretly. The narrator explains:

”whatever coppers he happened to find…and puts them unobserved on the windowsill.”

Later, when Marmeladov is dying, he tells Marmeladov’s wife not to ”worry (about the costs), I’ll pay.” Raskolnikov gives money that he desperately needs to others who have a greater need. He thinks of others before himself.

Suffering and resolution

From the very beginning of the novel, Raskolnikov has already accumulated so much spiteful contempt in his soul. Even so, he crossed a moral line when he killed Alyona Ivanovna.” In his view, “committing a crime is always accompanied by illness.” Rasklinkov has repeatedly admitted that he is “very ill.” He is under torment as he attempts to reconcile these two sides of his character. So, a mental battle always exists in his heart for control. As he crosses the line, he feels that it is impossible to go back. It begins with suffering. The torment of keeping his crime secret from everyone eats Raskolniko continuously. Raskolnikov feels that he is not extraordinary because he is not able to endure his sufferings that is why he goes for confession. Thus his excessive feelings of guilt make it plain to him that he is not above other men.

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Finally, Rodion Raskolnikov is certainly a man torn between two worlds. There is the academic side, which relies on logic to understand the world. This puts him in a position to consider himself an extraordinary man, one who can transgress the laws of man and God when it becomes necessary. This comes into conflict with the kind and compassionate spirit of Raskolnikov.

SR Sarker
SR Sarker
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