Guilt in Crime and Punishment Essay
Guilt in Crime and Punishment
“If he has a conscience he will suffer for his mistake. That will be punishment-as well as the prison. ” (Dostoyevsky 336). Guilt is commonly understood to be an emotion that results as an outcome of an evil act. However, is it always this simple? No human being with any sense has the ability to commit an atrocious crime without some feeling of guilt or remorse afterwards. Gradually, this guilt festers and eats away at one’s conscience until the point of escape, reached by confession, thus leading to salvation.
Throughout Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment the main character, Raskolnikov is stricken with guilt and suffering that eventually leads to his confession and redemption. In today’s modern America, and Raskolnikov’s 18th century Russia, guilt plays a pivotal role in transforming an individual’s moral compass and influences ones actions. In the opening of the novel, Raskolnikov intellectualizes the crime by convincing himself that there are people in his world who are extraordinary, and that he is above the law by being one.
He believes he is one of the elite, who will be able to commit the murder and escape both physical and emotional punishment. Rodia believes that the murder can be justified because of the fact that Allionia is wicked, and purposeless. Raskolnikov does not feel guilt in the crime until he realizes that no good had come from the murder, and Lizoveta who was an innocent person, had died as well as Allionia, making Rodia feel dreadful for his actions. Guilt has had, and always will have a variety of influences on people, and in Crime and Punishment, Raskolnikov physically shows remorse in different situations.
Raskolnikov is constantly paranoid and anxious which demonstrates his extreme shame, without him having to actually confess his guilt. For example, Raskolnikov “…was aware of a terrible disorder within himself. He was afraid he could not keep himself under control. ” (Dostoyevsky 91). As readers, we see his shame progress from before the murder, to when he bottles it all up to the point of explosion. Some would say that Sonia, not guilt, is the main contributor to Raskolnikov’s confession, but she is actually the instrument that cured his guilt.
Sonia was the main vehicle of good in society, so her influence upon Raskolnikov was what society would have preferred Rodia to do; to confess. Sonia did urge Raskolnikov to come clean, for instance, at the end of the book Sonia told Rodia “Go to the crossroads, bow down to the people, kiss the earth because you have sinned against it, too, and say aloud to the whole world ‘I am a murderer! ‘ Then God will send you life again. ” (Dostoyevsky 500). Although Sonia did advise him to profess his sins, Raskolnikov’s confession comes from his inner yearning to get rid of the shame he is feeling inside.
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