Crime and Punishment Essay
An overburdened mare is beaten to death by a crowd of drunkards who justify it without remorse. The Beating of the Landlady Ilya Petrovich mercilessly beats the landlady while a crowd gathers round him and eventually goes after Raskolnikov. The “Re-Murder” of the Pawnbroker Raskolnikov tries to kill an invincible Alyona Petrovich while a crowd of onlookers watch him with silence and expectation. The Viral Epidemic A virus is spread throughout all of Russia where the victims think themselves the sole possessors of truth, resulting in the deterioration of society.
Raskolnikov’s dreams all have a symbolic meaning, which reveal his thoughts and the different aspects of his character and the society he lives in. These dreams are linked through Raskolnikov’s conflict with his conscience. When he dreams of the mare being beaten, Dostoevsky parallels the murder of the pawnbroker to the murder of the mare, leaving Raskolnikov to conclude that he should not kill her. However, after the murder the suppression of his conscience causes it to resurface in his dreams. This can be seen in the beating of the landlady, where Raskolnikov is fearful of being exposed by Ilya Petrovich.
Next, he tries to kill Alyona again, but she will not die and the crowds of people only get closer and closer; everyone is watching and waiting. Finally, the viral epidemic spreading through the country is like the theory that Raskolnikov has; when every individual believes they are right and suppresses their virtue, chaos erupts. In addition to the suppression of his conscience, Raskolnikov’s dreams illustrate Raskolnikov’s deepest thoughts with the theme of suffering. Although he would like to believe that he is superior, Raskolnikov knows subconsciously that he is doing something wrong.
This is exemplified in all his dreams but especially in the beating of the mare. Raskolnikov’s reaction to the beating of the mare demonstrates his sentimentality and humanity. Likewise, the repeated symbol of the crowds could be a way of confirming his guilt and paranoia about being caught. In the beating of the landlady, the crowd goes for Petrovich and Raskolnikov says they will come for him next. The same thing happens when he reaffirms the murder of Alyona in his next dream; he is unable to kill her as the crowd watches and waits.
Finally, the virus that spreads through Russia could be representative of the nihilism theory because the virus spreads and the people tear each other apart. In the same way, nihilism causes every individual to feel that they are right, causing anarchy. Therefore the theme of suffering is prevalent because of the victims who suffer physically and Raskolnikov, who suffers mentally since he cannot escape his own mind. With this in mind, Raskolnikov is suffering mentally, combating with his conscience. Moreover, each dream has a specific role in the novel.
The beating of the mare is the fullest single expression of the whole novel. It depicts the nihilistic destruction of a weak mare, the satisfaction of the drunk, and Raskolnikov’s disgust and horror, as an example of his conflicted character. The tension and isolation from society that Raskolnikov starts to experience through the dream of the beating of the landlady are key to expressing that the individual who commits such a crime begins to feel estranged from the rest of humanity and that this suffering constitutes his true punishment.
In the next dream, the re-killing of Alyona, Raskolnikov realizes he cannot pretend that he acted as a “superman” in killing Alyona. The nightmare forces him to confront his mediocrity and the fact that Alyona laughs at him when he tries to kill her reveals his helplessness. Finally, the dream with the viral epidemic concludes one of the main themes of the novel: that nihilism results in the deterioration of society caused by man’s selfishness and pride. All in all, Raskolnikov’s dreams show his suffering of an inner conflict with his conscience, and the critiques of the society that Dostoevsky lived in.