AP Literature and Composition
27 May 2011
We Are Not So Different, You and I
Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment is a psychologically charged novel in which the primary element that plagues the protagonist, Rodion Raskolnikov, is not a person but rather an idea; his own idea. Raskolnikov has an unhealthy obsession with rendering himself into what he perceives as the ideal, supreme human being, an übermensch. Raskolnikov forms for himself a theory in which he will live purely according to his own will and transcend the social norms and moralities that dominate society. Raskolnikov suggests that acts commonly regarded as immoral are to be reserved for a certain rank of “extraordinary” men. Raskolnikov’s faith in his theory is put to the test when he meets a man that is utterly amoral, seemingly unrepentant, and the very epitome of his “extraordinary” man, Arkady Ivanovitch Svidrigaïlov. Svidrigaïlov is a man characterized by his immunity to moral responsibility. Superficially he is a man with a calm and collected demeanor with a certain refined nature about him. Raskolnikov himself refers to Svidrigaïlov as a “man of very good breeding or at least know[s] how on occasion to behave like one” (p. 256, Part 4, Chapter 1). Svidrigaïlov’s “good breeding” is but a thin veil that enshrouds his true character; that of a hedonist absorbed in his own pursuits of personal pleasure to the point of complete and total licentiousness. However, he is a patient man and he uses this fact to his advantage in order to better disguise his various plots and intrigues. His efforts have proven to be extremely successful in regards to the several murders that he committed over the years; including the suggestion that he poisoned his own wife. While any normal person’s psyche would be torn to shreds in the tireless effort of maintaining a lifestyle based around lies to conceal their inner hedonist, Svidrigaïlov fails to exhibit any degree of...