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Crime And Punishment
The massacre of 25 students at a high school in Colorado shook the nation as the most devastating and heartless crime of youth. No one questions that these murders were a crime to society, as no one questions that rape, assault, and theft are also crimes. Society has dictated and labeled these actions as crimes because they harm others. One must question, however, whether the crime lies more in what caused the action. Many works of literature have posed this idea, but it is thoroughly discussed in the novel Crime and Punishment, by Fyodor Dostoevsky. Through the main character, Raskolnikov, the dictionary definition of crime and punishment become blurred. It becomes obvious that the murders he commits are not the crime, but instead are simply results of his actual crime-isolating himself from society. Raskolnikov's true crime is that he completely alienates himself from authority, love, and all associations, and his punishment is that he becomes alienated even more and is unable to reenter society. This complete isolation prevents the individualism, and liberty of thought, that Raskolnikov strives for.

Viewing Raskolnikov's actions from society's perspectives, it appears that his crime was killing Alyona Ivanovna and Lizaveta Ivanovna. What is more important to understand though, is how he arrived at this stage. What process led him to the point of killing a moneylender and her sister? The answer can be found in his alienation from the rest of the world. Razumikhin, during a discussion with Raskolnikov, states that the Socialists' view on crime is that it is "'a protest against the unnatural structure of society'" (Dostoevsky 245). Society is structured so that everyone conforms to the wishes of the greater good. By isolating himself, Raskolnikov puts himself above society and existing apart from society, because he believed the current structure of society to be unnatural. He does not wish to wait for the "common weal" and wants to have his own life (Dostoevsky 264). So, by removing himself from society it enabled him to question "'whether I was a louse like everybody else or a man, whether I was capable of stepping over the barriers or not'" (Dostoevsky 402). Is this in itself a crime? No, but his crime comes in that his isolation is so severe that he becomes self involved, and comes to see himself as an "extraordinary" man with certain rights and obligations. He forms a theory that there are two types of people:

A lower (of ordinary people), that is, into material serving only for the reproduction of its own kind, and into people properly speaking, that is, those who have the gift or talent of saying something new in their sphere. (Dostoevsky 250)

This second group is given special rights to do what they must in order to make their new ideas apparent, which includes the right to kill those who get in the way. These thoughts of course lead Raskolnikov to test his theory by killing the moneylender and her sister. However, as mentioned before, the killing is not the crime, but instead the fact that he alienates himself from society prevents him from obtaining the liberty of thought, that he tries to obtain through the development of his theory. According to John Mill, author of On Liberty, a person is free to develop individual thought and opinions, and in fact is encouraged to, but only as long as it does not harm others. "No person is an entirely isolated being; it is impossible for a person to do anything seriously or permanently hurtful to himself, without mischief reaching at least to his near connections, and often far beyond them" (Mill 74). Raskolnikov's isolation, his crime, does not allow him to see the implications of his actions.

As discussed before, the resulting action of Raskolnikov's crime was the murders. Even Raskolnikov admits that "'the old woman was only a symptom of my illness...I wanted to overstep all restrictions as quickly as possible...I killed not a human being but a principle'" (Dostoevsky 263-264). As he said, the murders were only a "symptom" of his isolation-isolation that led him to develop the idea that he was superior to common humanity. He does not see the murders as his crime and when Dunya speaks to him of his supposed crime, Raskolnikov asks: "'Crime? What crime?...Killing a foul, noxious louse, that old moneylender, no good to anybody, who sucked the life-blood of the poor, so vile that killing her out to bring absolution for forty sins-was that a crime?'" (Dostoevsky 498). The negative results of his isolation are that he feels no remorse for his actions, and is so involved in himself that all he can see is...
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Crime And Punishment. EssayMania.com. Retrieved on 12 Oct, 2010 from