March 31, 2013
Term Paper: Part 1
It has been said that despite technological advances and society’s progress, emotions have always been the same; even the earliest cavemen felt happiness, sadness, guilt, and so on. Written in 1864, Fyodor Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment highlights the mental plight that Rodion Raskolnikov faces after committing murder. Although the novel was written almost 150 years ago, Rodia’s struggles can be understood by anyone thousands of years ago, as well as anyone thousands of years in the future because guilt is nothing new.
Guilt, which is defined as: the fact of having committed a specified or implied offense or crime, stems from the acceptance that one in fact committed a crime. In Rodia’s case he faces such a heavy battle in his mind because he goes through two separate phases throughout the whole novel. One phase is the one in which he believes that he did nothing wrong and that Alliona deserved to be killed because she was not a good person. Phase one is one in which his guilt is only subconscious because his conscious mind believes that he did something right and he makes himself believe that he is above all others and in a sense heroic. Phase two is the one that brings him the most pain- the one in which he acknowledges that he committed one of the most heinous acts that a human could commit. Conscious guilt is the corollary of phase two. This mental split between the two phases builds up in his subconscious and does not let him live a normal life. He spends days on end battling whether or not he should cede to the guilt and confess to the crime and therefore face punishment, or if he should try to burry the hatchet and continue living his life. However, every time that he tries to listen to the part of his brain telling him to run away from the pain and get over it the guilt returns to torment him.
In portraying guilt through Rodia’s downward spiral in the 1800s, Dostoevsky proved to understand society and the human mind. There are many articles written on the psychological and physiological effects of guilt and many of those effects directly mirror everything that Rodia went through in the novel; his inconsistency of emotions and his oversensitivity are typical of someone living with guilt. The fact that he has to constantly hear about the crime continues to stimulate his questioning of his morality.
Guilt peaks when one has loved ones whose expectations one has to live up to. Rodia’s struggle increases whenever his mother and sister are around because he loves them and knows that he cannot let them down by being known as a murderer. As a result of that, he has to deceive them, which adds onto his guilt, thus making everything even harder for him. Rodia’s guilt consumes him more and more with each struggle that comes his family’s way.