Salvation Through Human Suffering in Crime and Punishment
“All men must suffer, and salvation can not be obtained unless this suffering is present” (Boland, p.4). All of the characters in the novel experience some sort of internal or external suffering. The main character, Raskolnikov, must grow and realize this in order to overcome his conflicts and reach the salvation of peace within. Dostoevsky’s concentration and focus is on why suffering must exist and how this suffering can be conquered. This is found to be true because in the six sections of the novel, only one is focused on the crime, and the remaining five are concentrated on Raskolnikov’s journey to overcome his suffering. This is the beginning of the punishment.
By pinpointing the punishment, the internal and external conflicts that happen within the novel show Raskolnikov’s own philosophy of his quest for salvation. Raskolnikov, or Rodya, justifies his actions with his extraordinary man theory. His theory states that, “a suggestion that there are certain persons who can”… “that is, not precisely are able to, but have a perfect right to commit breaches of morality and crimes, and that the law is not for them” (p. 254). Rodya wanted to prove that he was extraordinary, that he could commit a crime such as murder, but since he did it for the betterment of society, he would feel no sympathy or regret for his crime.
Rodya killed Alyona Ivanonva because she represented evil in society, and he believed he was doing the world a favor. Rodya overhears a student talking, “Of course she doesn’t deserve to live. But that’s nature isn’t it? Won’t one little crime be wiped out by thousands of good deeds?” (p. 69). These comments make the crime seem even more justifiable. Rodya believes that the extraordinary man feels no suffering and no pain. He is the man who can break the law and make the law. Rodya believed that if he were extraordinary, he could commit any crime and walk away from it indifferent.
One might find that Rodya’s ideas are somehow correlated to the beliefs of Soren Kierkegaard. Kierkegaard believed that truth is both power and suffering. “The existential man ‘believes’ that life has no meaning, no substance, and no path for happiness. He is the man who knows and accepts that all things good and evil exist, including suffering. This is why the existential man is indifferent toward the benefits and consequences of life (Hong, p. 67). What Rodya didn’t realize was that, “no matter what – man suffers” (Kierkegaard, p. 190). Rodya thought, because he was an extraordinary man, that he could avoid the truth which would also mean avoiding suffering. It is not until he confesses and is in Siberia serving his sentence that he finds some redemption from his suffering.
There can be comparisons to the suffering of Svidrigailov and the suffering of life is suicide. Raskolnikov did not avoid suffering, he was able to conquer it. Before his crime he asked the question, “Will this crime...