Psychoanalysis in Crime and Punishment

In a Marxist economy and society, Raskolnikov is a broke man who only cares about himself and alienates himself from the human society. He thinks of himself as better than everyone around him although he’s at the lower ends of the economy.The author Fyodor Dostoevsky explores the theme of redemption through suffering which is very prevalent in Crime and Punishment. His main character Raskolnikov, a brilliant student, believes that intellectually superior men can be above the law. In Crime and Punishment, the novel analyzes the thoughts of man through psychoanalysis school of thought from the main character Raskolnikov and is also a representation of the author’s mindset and personal thoughts while he was in a marxist economy.

Crime and Punishment serves as a long adventure through the mind of a ill minded murderer. It serves as a great pioneer for its time as it’s an introduction into the psychoanalysis school of thought and furthermore is considered the first great novel of Dostoevsky “mature” period of writing. The novel specifically focuses on the mental anguish and moral dilemmas of Rodion Raskolnikov, an impoverished ex-student in Saint Petersburg who formulates a plan to kill an unscrupulous pawnbroker for her money.In order to prove this theory, he decides to commit the perfect crime: a murder of the old pawnbroker and her sister, who has a shop which many people consistently shop at.

Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoevsky was born in Moscow, Russia, on November 11, 1821, as the son of a doctor. Dostoevsky was the second of seven children, and lived until 1881. He spent most of his time looking into literature and reading the latest authors; for which his love for literature became obsessive. And almost as obsessive was Dostoevsky’s preoccupation with death, for while he was away attending school, his father was killed by the serfs on their property. The murder that was invoked into young Dostoevsky life, inspired him to write about the subject of crime, and murder in particular. He was trained to be a military engineer, but he had a great displeasure for school although he loved literature. When he finished school, he rejected the career he was trained for and devoted himself to his writing instead.

Dostoyevsky was repulsed by Russian materialism, their utilitarian morality, their reduction of art to propaganda, and their denial of individual freedom and responsibility. For the remainder of his life, he maintained a deep sense of the danger of radical ideas, and so his post-Siberian works came to be resented by the Bolsheviks and held in suspicion by the Soviet regime as he put forth all those ideas to write Crime and Punishment. Dostoyevsky is best known for his multiple Notes from the Underground and for four novels, Crime and Punishment, The Idiot, The Possessed, and The Brothers Karamazov. The time period and place of which Dostoevsky writes Crime and Punishment is Russia in 1866 in a Marxist Society.

Crime and Punishment most thoroughly uses the school of thought method of psychoanalysis criticism. Psychoanalytic criticism builds on Freudian theories of psychology. The object of psychoanalytic literary criticism, at its very simplest, can be the psychoanalysis of the author or of a particularly interesting character in a given work. Throughout the story anyone can see how prevalent that idea is, as Dostoevsky own mindset, experiences and place of living all affected the setting and rules set forth of the economy within the book. The criticism is similar to psychoanalysis itself, closely following the analytic interpretive process discussed in Freud’s The Interpretation of Dreams and other works. Critics may view the fictional characters as psychological case studies, attempting to identify such Freudian concepts as the Oedipus complex, Freudian slips, Id, ego and superego, and so on, and demonstrate how they influence the thoughts and behaviors of fictional characters. One instance of a psychology being very relevant is the two very different personalities Raskolnikov displays throughout the story as at times he’s cold, unfeeling, inhumane, and exhibiting tremendous self-will where he displays that is he commits murder. An the very opposite side of the spectrum where he’s compassionate and a warm feeling person which is display by his interaction with Sonia after he offers to help her, then accepts her as someone that cares for him.

Freud believed that our unconscious was influenced by childhood events. Freud organized these events into developmental stages involving relationships with parents and drives of desire and pleasure where children focus “…on different parts of the body…starting with the mouth…shifting to the oral, anal, and phallic stages…” . These stages reflect base levels of desire, but they also involve fear of loss (loss of genitals, loss of affection from parents, loss of life) and repression: “…the expunging from consciousness of these unhappy psychological events”.

However, more complex variations of psychoanalytic criticism are possible. The concepts of psychoanalysis can be deployed with reference to the narrative or poetic structure itself, without requiring access to the authorial psyche. Or the founding texts of psychoanalysis may themselves be treated as literature, and re-read for the light cast by their formal qualities on their theoretical content. Freud argued that we develop defenses: selective perception, selective memory, denial, displacement, projection, regression, fear of intimacy, and fear of death, among others. Although like all forms of literary criticism, psychoanalytic criticism can yield useful clues to the sometime baffling symbols, actions, and settings in a literary work; however, like all forms of literary criticism, it has its limits. For one thing, some critics rely on psycho criticism as a “one size fits all” approach, when other literary scholars argue that no one approach can adequately illuminate or interpret a complex work of art. This ties in well as with multiple characters have different psychologies and different ways to handle things. Such as the vast difference of psyches between Raskolnikov and Sonia. When Sonia faces issues and is in a very difficult financial situation, she does something that would demoralize herself because she has to save her family and this action would make her less than others. While on the other hand, as Raskolnikov believes he’s superior to all others, he does unthinkable things in killing multiple people because of the things he felt that he required and had to get. The psychoanalytical criticism is in use throughout the whole of crime and punishment to examine the psychology of the main character.
Crime and Punishment is written in the third person. However, Dostoyevsky’s narrative focus shifts throughout the novel. The novel explicitly describes the protagonist Rodion Romanovich Raskolnikov fluctuating mental state as he commits a brutal crime, becomes tortured by guilt, and finally turns himself in. The root of Raskolnikov’s family name comes from the Russian word for schism. This is a clue toward Raskolnikov’s character. He is torn between two philosophies. One philosophical thought allows him to step beyond the plane of normal, or ordinary, men. He recognizes the boundaries created by the laws of man and God. The other supports a belief that Raskolnikov is better than the common man; therefore, he is extraordinary. As such, he has the arrogance to believe he is almost like a god. Which is displayed when his psychology gives him a justification of killing Alyona because she was a parasite to people.

The theme of redemption is one that is shown in Crime and Punishment as the main character Raskolnikov experiences it.Raskolnikov has committed multiple crimes and unjustly acts but he was fine until he met the prostitute Sonia. As he hides his dirty and grimy actions from her guilt began to take over his mind. As he continues to feel more and more guilt, paranoia struck him next as his mind tricked him to believe that everyone knows of his guiltiness. As he almost reached the brink of madness he confesses to Sonia. In the novel, the warm and compassionate side of him which is now fully invoked after his relationship with Sonia develops and she urges him to confess all his sins. Although he only did it to ease the pain for Sonia, Raskolnikov began his path to redemption. In the end, he is redeemed by Sonia, as she promises him that she would also go to Siberia, where he will be imprisoned after he had confessed to the police.

Crime and Punishment is widely credited as the first psychological novel and in many passages, Dostoyevsky is concerned with the state of mind of the central character, Rodion Romanovich Raskolnikov. He uses examples of imagery, figurative language and foreshadowing in Crime and Punishment such as when the book describes him scrubbing clean the axe he used to murder the women with water to “come clean”. As well as dramatic and verbal irony tone and mood, such as for example when a young man goes to the room after Raskolnikov Raskolnikov murders Alyona and Lizaveta with an ax. As the young man comes to the door and doesn’t realize that the two women are dead and the murderer is also inside the room, the man attempts to come in and says, “What’s up? Are they asleep or murdered?…Hey, Alyona Ivanovna, old witch! Lizaveta Ivanovna, hey, my beauty! open the door! Oh, damn them! Are they asleep or what?” This is an example of dramatic irony because the audience is aware of the murders, but the man is not. While readers are largely limited to Raskolnikov’s inner thoughts, this use of perspective provides readers with intimate perspective on the relationships between Raskolnikov and others, emphasizing both the internal and external conflicts he faces.

Dostoevsky provides an interesting piece of literature through Crime and Punishment where he provides an interesting look into the psychology of a man who thinks he’s is superior to all others while also being lowered and stricken by problems. He progresses the story through the changing of his main character mental state. It is a outstanding work of literature which provides a interesting look at the world in a Marxist type society. It gives interesting thoughts of characters and their interactions and conflicts between each other and in themselves. Although at times, some may consider the actions that was took by certain characters are unrealistic and over the top such as actually murdering people and justifying it because you considered them bad people. It would definitely be recommended to anyone who enjoys reading and hearing about the working of the mind.

Throughout Crime and Punishment, the mind of multiple characters are looked within and dissected through the means of psychoanalysis, the story helps to give a realistic feel of the author’s personal view of the world and his fantasies of his interpretation. B. Through its school of thought, Raskolnikov mind is dissected and his decisions are put under scrutiny as he does multiple inhumane things such as murder and treating people like they are nothing until he meets someone that changes him.

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