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Crime and Punishment

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Raskolnikov's article, "On Crime," is vital to the understanding of his beliefs. This article also has a profound effect on Crime and Punishment as a whole, the subject matter being one of the main themes of the novel. The idea of the "extraordinary man" is referred to literally throughout the book, but also notable is the subconscious effect the idea has on Raskolnikov. Sometimes Raskolnikov is not even aware of this influence. It is important to note originality, or the ability to "utter a new word," as a defining characteristic of the extraordinary man. Therefore, we must take into account the presence of similar ideas, those of Pisarev, Nietzsche, and nihilism, as these might bring to light the possibility that Raskolnikov is not original, a possibility that haunts him throughout the novel.

Within the article Raskolnikov analyzes the psychology of a criminal before and after the crime. This main portion of the article is not discussed, but it is likely that the psychological explanation that Porfiry gives Raskolnikov later, in the examination, is very similar. During this later examination, Raskolnikov appears resentful, but never disputes what Porfiry tells him, perhaps because it is a regurgitation of Raskolnikov's own thoughts. In the last meeting of the two men, Porfiry admits that he liked the article very much, and actually felt a connection with it. The one part of the main body of the article that is mentioned is "that the perpetration of a crime is always accompanied by illness" (225). Porfiry comments that this idea is very original; Raskolnikov welcomes this praise.

Shortly, Porfiry moves on to the main topic of their discussion, a topic only mentioned briefly in the article, the idea that "certain persons...have a perfect right to commit breaches of morality and crimes" (225). Raskolnikov immediately realizes that Porfiry is intentionally exaggerating the idea, and "decided to take up the challenge" (226). Dostoevsky lets the reader know...

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