Psychology Behind a Criminal Mind

Topics: Crime and Punishment, Mind, Psychology Pages: 5 (1970 words) Published: April 8, 2012
Psychology Behind a Criminal Mind
Usually, a person has clear motives for committing a crime. In 1866, though, Fyodor Dostoevsky examines a man with no clear motives for murder in his Russian crime novel, Crime and Punishment. He writes of a man, Raskolnikov, who overhears some people hypothetically talking of killing an old, misanthropic pawnbroker, and using her money for better uses than she does herself. Raskolnikov actually considers this thought; then he murders the woman but does not care for the money after the murder. He then escapes the suspicion from the police of being the murderer. However, he does not escape punishment, for his guilt takes over his mind. He confesses later to the crime due to the life his guilt creates for him. The main topic of his novel is to analyze the mind of Raskolnikov. Dostoevsky then illustrates how a person must address his conscience in order to relieve guilt and return to a stable mind.

The Russian author Fyodor Dostoevsky was born in Moscow in 1821. In his most three popular novels he expresses the theme of crime. His writings greatly reflect his life as an adult as he incorporates real life experiences into them. When he was on his way to the Military Engineering Academy in his early years, he was deeply disturbed by a scene as he saw a man beat his horse to death. This experience had such an impact on his life that he wrote of the exact scene in his novel “Fyodor Dostoevsky”. Also, Dostoevsky himself can be seen in the novel in the protagonist, Raskolnikov, as both deal with the consequences of their actions from their own philosophical ideas (“Fyodor Dostoevsky”). By portraying himself in his works, he enables his readers to absorb the reading from a real life perspective. He then enhances his writings by incorporating the fascinating topic of psychology.

Furthermore, Dostoevsky also enhances his writings by differentiating his novel from the stereotypical crime novel when he makes known the murderer from the beginning instead of keeping it a mystery. He still remains consistent with the genre, though, as most crime novels possess the aspects of guilt and justice. These characteristics are what help Dostoevsky convey his theme of punishment from crime. However, Crime and Punishment not only falls under the genre of crime novels, but also a psychological drama. A characteristic to this genre is the internal conflict of self-vs. person which is seen throughout the entire novel as Raskolnikov constantly has arguments with himself when in dilemmas (LeBlanc). He reassures himself in these arguments, though, that the pawnbroker is better off dead, and he did not do anything bad. Dostoevsky examines the vague motives behind the crime in the mind of the criminal while still writing of a crime and the subsequent guilt. Additionally, Dostoevsky conveys a huge message with just the title of the novel, Crime and Punishment. In three simple words, he expresses his thoughts, and theme, of the entire novel: punishment will follow if a crime is committed. He then demonstrates how the forms of punishment can vary. Instead of Raskolnikov’s punishment being imprisonment as expected for such a crime, guilt becomes his castigation for the pointless murder he commits. Dostoevsky displays the characteristics of the psychological mind in his analysis of this guilty man. However, Dostoevsky was not the first person to do so. Psychology has been an interest to people, even dating back to the late BC time period. According to Richardson, the first people to use psychology were the Greeks, as Aristotle is known as the Greek philosopher and referred to as the “Father of Psychology”. He began to wonder how and why people do what they do. Richardson tells that in the eighteenth century, psychological studies were done by philosophers such as Descartes and Locke to show that the mind and body operate separately while influencing each other. This theory did not stop there, though.


Cited: Dostoevsky, Fyodor. Crime and Punishment. Ann Arbor: Edwards Borthers, 2009. Print.
“Fyodor Dostoevsky.” Gale Contexual Encyslopedia of World Literature. Vol. 2. Detroit: Gale, 2009. 486-493. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 5 Feb. 2012. <‌ps/‌>.
Kearney, Dutton. “Guilt in Crime and Punishment.” Encyclopedia of Themes in Literature. Ed. Jennifer McClinton-Temple. New York: Infobase, 2011. Bloom’s Literary Reference Online. Web. 5 Feb. 2012. < >.
LeBlanc, N L. "Psychological Dramas?" Absolute Write. N.p., 2012. Web. 29 Mar.
2012. <>.
Richardson, Deborah South. “Psychology.” World Book Advanced. World Book, 2012. Web. 16 Feb. 2012. < >.
Squires, Paul Chatham. “Dostoevsky’s ‘Raskolnikov’: The Criminalistic Protest.” Journal of Criminal Law and Criminaology (1931-1951) 28.4 (1937): 478-494. JSTOR. Web. 5 Feb. 2012. <>.
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