Crime and Punishment is about a destitute student of philosophy named Raskolnikov, or Rodya for short. The book centers on the inner thoughts of this main character. The author, Fyodor Dostoevsky, brilliantly brings to light the thought process of one who believes himself extraordinary and bases it off a theory of Rodya’s own creation. In this paper I will explain the theory proposed by Rodya and will discuss the problems that I have found with the theory. Rodya’s theory is that there are two different types of people in this world, and the type that is “extraordinary,” is allowed to break laws. I believe that much of his theory is correct, but I disagree on some points.
Crime and Punishment
Every aspect and thought of importance is brought to the surface and contemplated as Rodya thinks over his situation. His theory empowers those considered extraordinary to break laws of society. Rodya wastes away while ruminating about his theory and trying to validate his actions. Throughout the process of his crime, he is taken by a mental sickness, as a result of his obsessive and troubled state. From the time he decides to kill the old lady and her sister, to the arrest for his crime, Rodya suffers through mental agony, in an effort to determine the righteousness of his actions.
Rodya, a highly intelligent person, is submerged in his thoughts concerning a very morbid form of psychology. From the very beginning of the book Rodya’s brain is in a very troubled state. While pondering over his thoughts on killing the old pawnbroker, he brings up a very interesting, but somewhat understandable theory in order to justify his crime. It is a very compelling and interesting idea, and is not at all based without measure of reality and rationality. The theory maintains that there are two types of people in the world, those who are “ordinary” and those who are “extraordinary” (Dostoevsky). “Ordinary” men must live in compliance with and follow all laws, because they are, “ordinary” (Dostoevsky). Whereas the “extraordinary” are allowed to transgress the laws of the current society in order to bring on the progression offuture society (Dostoevsky).
In Rodya’s theory:
All men are divided into 'ordinary' and 'extraordinary.' Ordinary men have to live in submission, have no right to transgress the law, because - don't you see? - they are ordinary. But extraordinary men have a right to commit any crime and to transgress the law in any way, just because they are extraordinary (Dostoevsky 263).
Rodya goes on to explain that all of the legislators and leaders of men are criminal, in that they had to violate the old system in order to replace it with a fresh and more precise one (Dostoevsky). In order to fulfill their destiny they had to, on occasion, depending on their own conscience and judgment, break the laws (Dostoevsky). Rodya states:
I don’t contend that extraordinary people are always bound to commit breaches of morals, as you call it. In fact, I doubt whether such an argument could be published. I simply hinted that an ‘extraordinary’ man has the right . . . that is not an official right, but an inner right to decide in his own conscience to overstep . . . certain obstacles, and only in case it is essential for the practical fulfillment of his idea (sometimes, perhaps, of benefit to the whole of humanity) . . . I maintain that if the discoveries of Kepler and Newton could not have been made known except by sacrificing the lives of one, a dozen, a hundred, or more men, Newton would have had the right, would indeed have been in duty bound . . . to eliminate the dozen or the hundred men for the sake of making his discoveries known to the whole of humanity. But it does not follow from that that Newton had a right to murder people right and left and to steal everyday in the market (Dostoevsky 264).
The largest problem with the theory is that we have absolutely no clue who is “ordinary” and who is “extraordinary.” Anybody can think that they are extraordinary, and it is, in my opinion, human nature to believe so. Humans have such competitive natures, we need to feel that we are better at something than someone else and thus we believe that we are special. Yet, so many who believe that they are special are not, and when taking special privileges get caught and punished for acting out of station. Thus it is in Rodya’s opinion that only those who are truly extraordinary make it. Those who are just acting out of position will in time be put back in place. Rodya points out:
that the mistake can only arise in the first category, that is among the ordinary people . . . In spite of their predisposition to obedience very many of them . . . like to imagine themselves advanced people, 'destroyers,' . . . Of course, they might have a thrashing sometimes for letting their fancy run away with them and to teach them their place (Dostoevsky 266).
It is thus quite ironic when, in the end, Rodya himself turns out to be “ordinary,” rather than “extraordinary” (Dostoevsky). He had considered himself of the latter, and thus justified his criminal actions, and yet in the end he was brought down and became aware of his ordinariness (Dostoevsky).
In my opinion, Rodya’s theory is somewhat accurate. I would agree that there are people who are “extraordinary.” I also imagine that in order for society to advance we must break through the regulations and traditions of the current society. However, I believe that we are not made “ordinary” or “extraordinary” at birth, that it is the trials and tribulations of our life that make us who we are. It is the experiences of life that shape and mold us, not necessarily the characteristics of our births and our parents. When are born, we are not immediately ourselves, we develop, to become who we are. Even our thought process is dictated by our environment as we grow. “Extraordinary” is not inherent, it is gained.
[FONT='Times New Roman','serif']Dostoevsky, Fyodor. Crime and Punishment. 1866.[/FONT]