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Past Tense Essay

1902 words - 8 pages

As Timon would say, “’You got to put your past behind you,’” (The Lion King). These wise words spoken by an animated meerkat also ring true in Fyodor Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment, written almost one hundred and thirty years before even the idea of small talking mammals occurred to anyone. Dostoevsky’s novel follows the trials and tribulations of a poor ex-student, Raskolnikov, as he struggles with an internal battle of ethics. Throughout Raskolnikov’s struggle, his interactions with other characters and the characters themselves display different aspects of humanity, including regret and a longing for redemption. All characters have regrets in Dostoevsky’s novel, and most seek redemption or “atonement for [their] faults or defects” (Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary). When people hold onto past faults, they forfeit their chance of redemption.
Svidrigailov, in holding onto his failures with Dunia, forfeits his chance of redemption. His first attempt at seducing Dunia fails when she writes a letter that “reproached him with great heat and indignation for the baseness of his behavior in regard to Marfa Petrovna,” (35). Even after this blatant rejection from Dunia, Svidrigailov insists on vying for her love and continues to fail. His defect is his adulterous lifestyle, and by continuing to vie for Dunia’s love, he cannot see that his ways are adulterous. He therefore loses all chance of atoning for his adultery and forfeits his redemption. Much later in the novel, Svidrigailov confesses that the thought of being with Dunia “‘has haunted [his] dreams,’” and to further prove his ceaseless longing, he speaks endlessly about Dunia to her brother, Raskolnikov. Only a desperate man would hold onto and continue to dream about a woman who cares nothing for him. His ceaseless longing for Dunia forces Svidrigailov to think of nothing else and makes him blind to his own desperation. Without realizing his pathetic longing, he can never expiate this fault and therefore never gain redemption. Once again, Svidrigailov attempts to sway Dunia to love him by promising that “‘[He] will be [her] slave… all [his] life… [he] will wait [with her],’” (469). She rejects him yet again, and instead of moving on with his life and letting it go, he shoots himself. His desperation for a life with Dunia completely overtakes him; since he held onto the smidgen of a chance with her for so long, he decided that dying would be better than a life without her. His choice, based on his pathetic cling to his past faults, makes for the ultimate loss of redemption. Without his life, he cannot atone for any of his faults and in his death, he cannot be redeemed.
Svidrigailov’s problems with holding onto the past do not end with Dunia; he also forfeits his chance of redemption by clinging onto other faults in his past. After his wife Marfa’s death, which he allegedly caused, he hallucinates that “She has been three times… first on the very day of the funeral, an hour after she was...

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