Raskolnikov's Split Personality

Topics: Personality psychology, Dissociative identity disorder, Dissociation Pages: 5 (1687 words) Published: October 16, 2006
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, however, actually make sense in practice, and the slaughter of the horse comes off more as a mindless, drunken act than a thought-out, reasonable execution. In the same way, Raskolnikov's crime, despite all his reasoning, is a hopeless attempt to prove a theory which is ultimately flawed.

The flawed nature of his theory is shown in another dream in the epilogue: "Some new sorts of microbes were attacking the bodies of men, […] Men attacked by them became at once mad and furious. But never had men considered themselves so intellectual and so completely in possession of the truth as these sufferers, never had they considered their decisions, their scientific conclusions, their moral convictions so infallible." (502) This horrible plague is, in fact, a vision of the world if everyone acted like Raskolnikov, justifying unjustifiable deeds and allowing their intellect to lead them into being "mad and furious." The victims of this disease, like Raskolnikov, believe themselves to be "intellectual" and their convictions to be "infallible," but they have concluded all of this without confirming that their "scientific conclusions" actually made sense in the real world. They, having proved to themselves that right equals wrong and senseless murder equals heroic deed of charity, manage to reason themselves into insanity.

By driving himself insane with his flawed theories, Raskolnikov becomes similar to the mare of his horse dream. He retreats from the conflict between emotion and logic into a mindset similar to the horse's: "It was as though a fog had fallen upon him and wrapped him in a dreary solitude from which there was no escape. […] At times he was a prey to agonies of morbid uneasiness, amounting sometimes to panic. But he remembered, too, moments, hours, perhaps whole days, of complete apathy, which […] might be compared with the abnormal insensibility, sometimes seen in the dying. He seemed to be trying in that latter stage to escape from a full and...
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