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Intellect and Emotion

In Fyodor Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment, the main character is a man with two contradicting personalities a dark grim side and a warm loving side. The terms dark and grim used loosely to describe his intellectual side. It was this side of him that allowed him to commit a great sin, a murder of an old pawnbroker. Raskolnikov wants to use intellect to act and react with. With it he is able to demonstrate logic, reasoning, planning, abstracting, analyzing and theorizing. His emotional side is hidden for most of the story, but when it surfaces it is powerful.

A critical part in the novel happens when Raskolnikov expresses his emotional side when he defends a helpless girl against a strong, short-tempered man. Raskolnikov engages in a fist fight with the man out of the kindness of his heart. After helping her, he was “at that moment stung” and questioned his actions. “Why did I go meddling in all that! Who am I to help anyone? Do I have any right to help? Let them all gobble each other alive – what is it to me?” Clearly this illustrates the imbalance acting out inside of him. This imbalance causes Raskolnikov to ostracize his emotional outbursts.

The clash between the two sides helps Raskolnikov commit the murders. His intellectual, emotionless side was able to murder without remorse. It should be noted that he had two victims, one was planned the other was not. The murder of Alyona, the cold detestable old pawnbroker, was planned. However, there was also an unexpected murder of her kind, gentle, sister-in-law, Lizaveta. It should be noted that the dual murders represent his dual personality. Raskolnikov was able to block his emtional side and used his intellect to commit the murder. This does not happen, for his emotional side takes part in the murder. Once again reinforcing the idea that these two cannot be separated.

Throughout the novel Raskolnikov thinks about his extraordinary man theory and its relation to the murder. His extraordinary man theory states that it is acceptable for an extraordinary man, like himself, to transcend the law. He had the right to kill a detestable part of society. However, he tries not to think about the murder of Lizaveta, because he has no means to justify it.

Dostoevsky creates two characters that represent the two sides of Raskolnikov, Sonya Marmeladov and Arkady Svidrigailov. Svidrigalov represents the emotionless, cruel side of Raskolnikov. Raskolnikov sees him as pure evil. However there are multiple similarities between the two characters. They both are criminals that have mental problems. They are both in love with women that they hope will lead to their salvation. They are also very generous with their money. Above all, Raskolnikov holds a strong hatred for Svidrigalov. Sonya, a prostitute, represents the kind caring side of Raskolnikov. At times he sees Sonya as beautiful, and the two seem in love. At times, however, he sees her as weak and stupid. Sonya is aware of his faltering emotional side and tries to help it. At the end of the novel Sonia was one of the main reasons why Raskolnikov confessed.

The detective investigating the murders, Porify, also helps Raskolnikov. He sees Raskolnikov as an extremely intelligent man who is a little misguided. He believes in Raskolnikov and thinks he will become successful and beneficial to society. With the help of Sonia and Porify to show Raskolnikov that intelligence must be used for good, I see the novel as a continuous struggle for Raskolnikov to correct the imbalance between his intellect and personality.


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