Dreams in Crime and Punishment

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Eli Jackson
European Literature
4/23/12

Dreams are used In Fyodor Dostoevsky’s novel Crime and Punishment as a tool that adds depth and insight. In the novel, symbolism in the dreams is used to develop Raskolnikov’s character, and to establish recurring themes. The dreams also add a window into the subconscious of Raskolnikov, so that he might better be understood by the reader. Without the two most important dreams, Raskolnikov’s character would not have been nearly as well understood. The complex dreams greatly added to the novel and to the development of Raskolnikov as a character.

Raskolnikov’s first dream in the novel shows his split personality through two different characters. Mikolka is an aspect of Raskolnikov, and represents his cruelty, while the child represents his goodness and innocence. Mikolka wants an old mare to pull a cart full of people, even though he knows she will not be able to. He starts beating her savagely to try to get her to move the cart and obviously doesn’t care a bit for the mare. He even says “I feel as if I could kill her. She’s just eating her head off (59).” Mikolka thinks that killing her isn’t a bad thing, and rationalizes it in the same way that Raskolnikov rationalizes the murder of Alyona Ivanovna. He doesn’t see the horse as a living creature, but just something that the world would be fine without. While Mikolka is beating this mare, an old man shouts at him “Are you a Christian, you devil? (60)” Raskolnikov’s fears about losing his faith and being a sinner are manifested through this old man. Throughout the rest of the novel, Raskolnikov finds it hard to face God, and to think of himself as a Christian. He feels that he has sinned too greatly and cannot be forgiven. This dream is where these fears of losing his faith are first established as a recurring theme. After Mikolka finally kills the mare, people in the crowd shout out “You butchered her... No mistake about it, you are not a Christian (61).” The...
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