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Raskolnikov's Split Personality

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Raskolnikov's Split Personality

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  • October 16, 2006
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In 1957, C.H. Thigpen and H.M. Checkley wrote The Three Faces of Eve, loosely based on one of their patients, and popularized the term "Split Personality." This condition, more formally known as Dissociative Identity Disorder, continues to capture the imagination of many people through movies such as "Me, Myself, and Irene," but it was much earlier that the idea of multiple personalities in one body entered popular culture. Robert Louis Stevenson wrote The Strange case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde in the nineteenth century, and in a couple of decades earlier Dostoevsky was writing Crime and Punishment which, while it does not portray a classic case of Dissociative Identity Disorder (formerly known as Multiple Personality Disorder), does depict the main character, Raskolnikov, to be split between an emotion ego and a logic ego. The conflict between these two sides of his character drives him insane and causes him to sink into apathy until one personality wins out over the other.

Raskolnikov's dream of the murder of a mare demonstrates his split personality. The dream revolves around three very different main characters (the child, Mikolka, and the horse); all of these characters are versions of Raskolnikov. The character that Raskolnikov identifies as himself is a small child who is moved by the violence of the murderous mob to "put his arms round her bleeding dead head and [kiss] it, [kiss] the eyes and [kiss] the lips" (57). When he wakes up he is still in the persona of the little boy, his emotional side, who is horrified by the violence he has been contemplating, saying that "I knew that I could never bring myself to it" (57), but his other, more intellectual side can and does bring himself to murder Alyona Ivanovna. Mikolka, who beats his mare to death on the theory that he can destroy what is his own, represents this side of Raskolnikov. He makes his theory clear by repeatedly shouting, "My property!" (56). This supposedly logical theory does not,...