Реферат: Raskolnikov and Svidrigailov: on the brink of suicide. Ф.М. Достоевский, Преступление и наказание

Raskolnikov and Svidrigailov: on the brink of suicide.

            InDostoyevsky’s novel “Crime and Punishment”, the main character, RodionRomanovich Raskolnikov goes through a long series of events, which compare andcontrast him with the people around him. One of the most significant characterscrucial to understanding Raskolnikov’s personality is Arkady IvanovichSvidrigailov.

Overall, theenigma of Rodion’s persona is expanded and illuminated by two characters:Svidrigailov as the dark, calculative, and repulsive side; and SonyaMarmeladova as the compassionate, humane, and spiritual half of Raskolnikov.What makes Svidrigailov such an important element in the novel is the fact thatby his lack of morals and superiors, he becomes the epitome of Raskolnikov’ theoryof the Ubermensch, a thought Rodion conceived out of desperation and mentalfatigue.

It is thecomparison of Svidrigailov and Raskolnikov that eventually reveals each of themstands on the theory of the Super-human. Despite all hopes of being among history’sgreat people such as Napoleon, Julius Caesar et al, Raskolnikov fails theself-test of belongingness to the superior class. Perhaps, Raskolnikov evenhoped that the murder, if committed without remorse or doubt, would propel him into superiority. Hedefinitely had the reasons to believe in his greatness because it is evidentthat Raskolnikov clearly displays some of the qualities of a Super-human, basedon his own standards: he is intelligent, quite arrogant, and his pride is veryvividly apparent in his behavior with his only friend, Razumikhin, and severaloccasions, on which he had refused to accept other people’s assistance orsupport. But unfortunately, contrary to what Rodion had anticipated, the murderdelivers crippling inward blow to his conscience and self-image, andRaskolnikov finally realizes that he is, in fact, nothing but a “tremblingcreature.”

Svidrigailov,however, fits the qualifications of an Ubermensch perfectly. There is nothingsacred in the world for Arkady Ivanovich. The sole purpose of his life is thehedonistic pursuit of his own selfish goals and practice of his self-maderights. The list of examples that attest to Svidrigailov’s inhumanity is quitelong, ranging from lies and debt evasion to rape and, possibly, murder. For instance,when he learns about the suicide of a fifteen-year old girl, whom he raped,Svidrigailov shrugs without any remorse. The sadistic torment, which led hisservant Philip to suicide, also seems to have not given Arkady Ivanovich anyfeelings of guilt. Svidrigailov is fully aware of his own vicious nature.Shortly after his marriage to Marfa Petrovna, he announces to her that “he willnot be able to be a fully loyal husband.” Clearly, Svidrigailov is a person ofgreat vice and malice.

With such aclear distinction between the characters, a distinction that decisively favorsSvidrigailov as a superior being, why does it so happen that Raskolnikov, afailed theorist, a confirmed “louse”, finds a new life at the end of the novel,while Arkady Ivanovich finally resorts to suicide? Is it not strange thatSvidrigailov, having become completely free from his marital duties (which henever honored, anyway), endowed with substantial income from his deceasedwife’s estate, not burdened by any family obligations, would take his own life,while Raskolnikov, a man who has betrayed himself and many people around him,with a murder on his hands, and severe prosecution impending, would embrace hismisery instead of liberating himself in the waters of Neva?

Raskolnikov contemplatessuicide on many occasions throughout the novel. His first encounter with thisthought occurs at a canal bridge, where an ostensibly drunken woman jumps intothe dirty water in a suicidal attempt, but is rescued by the passersby. At thispoint, Raskolnikov dismisses the idea of self-violence because it seems to betoo unsightly a spectacle. At several other times, it seems that the author isrepeatedly discussing suicide, calling it “going to America”, which issuggested as an escape promising to remove an individual from all his/herpresent difficulties. This notion becomes clearer near the end of the novel,when Svidrigailov finally “goes to America” by a bullet to his right temple.The last time when Raskolnikov returns to thought of suicide is on the nightbefore his final visit to the police station. After parting with Svidrigailov,he walks to the middle of a bridge to contemplate suicide once again. However,this time Rodion’s decision evolves from factors that are drastically differentfrom those he had before. There is an alternative. There is a hope ofregeneration and a normal life.

As portrayedby the biblical figure of Lazarus, who rose from the dead after Jesus called toGod and prayed for Lazarus’ resurrection, Raskolnikov’s process of coming backto life begins when he experiences a touch of divine intervention – love.Indeed, when a person as ascetic and nihilistic as Raskolnikov experienceslove, it does seem like an impossibility whose occurrence may not beexplained by anything other than an act of God. Sonya Marmeladova is the objectof Raskolnikov’s love and a catalyst for his ultimate transformation. AsSvidrigailov’s antagonist, Sonya embodies the split Raskolnikov’s humane,compassionate side and leads him to recognition and a new life.

Svidrigailovand Sonya are the sides between which Raskolnikov vacillates throughout most ofthe novel. Having read Rodion’s article about crime, Arkady Ivanovich finds itappropriate to attempt to befriend Raskolnikov despite the latter’s explicithostility. But aside from Svidrigailov’s ambitions regarding Dunya and thediscovery of kinship between him and Raskolnikov, Arkady Ivanovich’s innermostreason to search for someone who might help him escape the boredom, which hebrought upon himself by consistently committing various antisocial acts thatalienated him from everyone and left him utterly alone. The last straw forSvidrigailov is the rejection he receives from Dunya, whom he desperatelycraved.

To furtherillustrate Svidrigailov’s hopelessness, Dostoyevsky includes the story aboutArkady Ivanovich’s sixteen-year-old fiancée. Although it seems that aman as perverse as Svidrigailov would not hesitate to take advantage of thatinnocent child (after all, he has done it before!), Arkady Ivanovich pays hislast visit to that family and leaves a gift of fifteen thousand rubles. Laterthat night, Svidrigailov has a dream, in which he morbidly contemplates thecorpse of a young girl who drowned herself after being raped. In the seconddream he has that night, he sees a five-year-old girl whose innocentcountenance of a child morphs into the expression of a veteran prostitute asSvidrigailov watches, terrified. In the preceding days, Svidrigailov has beenbecoming increasingly convinced of his own worthlessness, and these dreamsfinally allow him to see who he is in perspective. No longer able to toleratehis own self, with no place to go, and no one to help him find peace,Svidrigailov uses the last bullet left in Sonya’s revolver to take his own life.Svidrigailov commits suicide in front of a stranger whom the author identifiesas Jewish, a people Dostoyevsky regards with disdain, which further shows thedesperate loneliness that tormented Arkady Petrovich.

At the time ofSvidrigailov’s suicide, Raskolnikov’s story was also nearing its catharticfinale. Dostoyevsky completes the picture of the novel’s denouement by creatingan interesting inconsistency in weather. It is stated that on the morning ofSvidrigailov’s suicide, the weather was a disgusting mixture of rain, fog, andstinging cold. However, when narration turns to Raskolnikov and his walk to thepolice station, the day is said to have been warm, sunny, and pleasant sincethat morning. This is a deliberate artistic motion used by the author tocontrast the two characters who, at one point, stand somewhat close, buteventually succumb to the separate fates they bring about by theirpredicaments.

This is theultimate question of this analysis: why did Svidrigailov, the real Ubermensch,commit suicide, while Raskolnikov, the confirmed louse, was able to attainpeace and a chance to be happy? Well, it is, in fact, quite simple: it wasRaskolnikov’s mistake to think that he ever was a super-human, and it was hisfortune that he did not prove himself right. If Raskolnikov was a characterparallel to Svidrigailov, he, too, would have acted in these malicious,self-centered ways that would have eventually brought about his tragic demisealongside Arkady Petrovich. Perhaps it was Rodion’s youthful exuberance, theunrestrained flexing of his intellectual muscle that provoked him to take onthe principles of the world, but it was his extraordinary luck to have near himthe people who gave him back his mind and his heart.

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