Crime and Punishment
by Fyodor Dostoevsky The passage in "Crime and Punishment", by Fyodor Dostoevsky which best represents the rest of the story is found in Part Five, Chapter IV, page 350, second to last paragraph. At this point in the story, Raskolnikov has revealed to Sonya that he is the murderer, and is trying to explain to her his reasons for this action. He tells her of his theory that if one has the ability to do a monumental action, and only the lives of a few people stand in the way of this goal, then it is permissible to end the lives of those people. Raskolnikov refers to two types of people in his theory. The first type are regular humans, who must abide by the rules that are set for them by the laws of nature and of man. There is, however, a second type of people who do not have to live by these rules. These are the Superhumans, who are destined to do amazing things, and therefore cannot be restricted by any petty laws. It is in this second group which Raskolnikov places himself. In order to complete his destiny of doing a great thing, Raskolnikov needs three thousand rubles, which he does not have because he is poor. In his town of St. Petersburg there is a moneylender who is very mean and whom Raskolnikov views as a bane on humanity. He fosters the idea that by killing her and taking her money, not only could he raise the necessary funds, but he could also rid the earth of such a horrible person. Raskolnikov compares himself to such people as Alexander the Great and Napoleon. He tells of how they had to kill some innocent people in order to achieve their goals, just as he has to kill the moneylender. In the aforementioned passage, he explains to Sonya that Napoleon would never have even thought of such minute details as innocent people, because he was always totally focused on the major picture at hand. In addition to this point, Raskolnikov also says that had Napoleon had to kill this woman, "he would have strangled her, without giving her a moment to speak, and without a moment's hesitation." What this means is Napoleon would not have looked upon this murder as a sin, but rather would have thought it to be a great opportunity. Moreover he would not bother to hear the woman's complaints or reasoning, for they would be insignificant coming from such an un-monumental person. This passage does more, however, than explain Raskolnikov's theory, it also tells why Raskolnikov failed to "fulfill his destiny." For as he is talking to Sonya, he realizes that he is not one of the Superhumans, for he was not able to overlook the fact that he took someone else's life. This is the real point that Dostoevsky is trying to make. The theory is not something that anyone can use. One cannot, as Raskolnikov did, call himself a Superhuman just because he thinks he is. So Dostoevsky is saying that virtually every human being in history is only a "normal human," and that only a handful of people in history will be able to overlook human life in pursuit of a goal. Raskolnikov is an example of an extremely smart person who is unable to achieve the next level, and can only get a glimpse what it is like. Dostoevsky is sending a message with this story. It seems a little corny, but he is telling the reader that it is impossible to murder without having any remorse. He knows this because it was with this story that he tried to do it, yet he failed. So Dostoevsky is telling the common, intellectual reader who might have some Napoleonic-like dreams that it cannot be done. This story is an anti-murder story, and this passage is the crux of it.