Crime and Punishment


In Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment, Raskolnikov's dream about 
the mare can be used as a vehicle to probe deep into his mentality to 
discover how he really feels inside. The dream suggests that 
Raskolnikov is a "split" man; after all, his name in Russian means 
"split". He has a cruel and thoughtless side as well as a caring, 
compassionate side to his personality. Through the dream and the 
symbols therein, a reader can cast Raskolnikov, as well as other 
characters from Crime And Puni shment, into any of the various parts 
in the dream. Each part that a character takes on leads to a different 
conclusion about that character. Raskolnikov himself "fits" into the 
positions of Mikolka, the child, and the mare.

 If Mikolka, the drunken owner of the mare, were to represent 
Raskolnikov, then the mare would most probably represent Alyona 
Ivanovna. The senseless beating of the mare by Mikolka is similar to 
the brutal attack on Alyona by Rodion. (It should be noted that both 
Alyona and the mare were female.) These heartless attacks foreshadow 
the crime that Raskolnikov is contemplating. Dostoevsky unveils 
Raskolnikov's cruel side during this dream, if it is to be interpreted 
in this way.

 On the same token, Raskolnikov's compassionate side could be 
represented by the little boy. The child, watching the beating,
realizes the absurdity of it. He even rushes to Mikolka, ready to 
punish him for killing the mare. This illustrate s Rodion's internal
struggle while contemplating the murder of Alyona. His humane side, 
the child, tells him to live and let live. And his "extraordinary" 
side, according to his definition, tells him that he should eliminate 
Alyona altogether, for the good of man kind.

 On the other side of the coin, Raskolnikov could be represented by 
the mare itself. However, the burden which the mare must carry (the 
cart, the people, etc.) could represent two separate things, depending 
on if it is viewed in context befor e or after the actual murder. 
Before the murder, the burden could represent the moral question that 
is plaguing Rodion. Should he kill Alyona? Or should he leave her be? 
Because of the importance of this question to Raskolnikov, it weighs 
him dow n heavily at first. However, later on, he rashly decides to 
kill Alyona.

 If looked upon after the murder, the load on the mare in the dream 
could represent the mental burden placed on Rodion. He had a burden of 
guilt on him, and he could not justify the murder according to his own 
theory. Therefore, he was torme nted by the otherwise insignificant 
statements and actions of others in the novel. Even though Porfiry 
Petrovitch did not have many of the people purposely harassing 
Raskolnikov by mentioning various facets of the murder, it was as if 
those who were "beating" the truth out of him were pawns of Porfiry 
(or that of truth and the law in general), just as those beating the 
life out of the mare were pawns of Mikolka (or that of cruelty). By 
this reasoning, a parallel may also be drawn between the m are and 

 This is not to say that the dream does not have other 
significances. It is possible that Mikolka represents Porfiry also. 
Mikolka beat the mare until it died; Porfiry beat Raskolnikov mentally 
until he confessed. There are also other inte rpretations that can
be made.

 Despite other possible interpretations, Raskolnikov may be 
represented by all three main characters in the dream: Mikolka, the
child, and the mare. Each representation brings to mind a new side of 
Rodion Romanovitch that must be considered in order to understand him 

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