Self Discovery in Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment and Camus' The Outsider
In every society, it is important for individuals to adhere to a
set of principles in order to maintain order. In Dostoyevsky's Crime and
Punishment and Camus' The Outsider , however, both protagonists ignored the
values of their society. Raskolnikov and Meursault felt their own beliefs
were significant, and through their actions they were able to express them.
As a result, one man was judged as a social deviant, while the other man
suffered psychologically. Through dealing with this strife, Raskolnikov and
Meursault gained a better understanding of their values and personal worth.
In the beginning both men rejected the fundamental values of
society and formed their own ideologies. Raskolnikov, for instance,
believed that "we have to correct and direct nature. But for that, there
would never had been a single great man"1. In fact, he had written an
article titled "The psychology of a criminal before and after the crime".
It stated that 'ordinary' men live according to the law and exist only to
reproduce the human race, yet 'extraordinary' men may break laws "if in his
own conscience it is necessary to do so in order to better mankind"2.
Raskolnikov believed that indeed, he was an "extraordinary man"3, but like
Meursault, his beliefs were untested. As a result, he murdered an old
pawnbroker women in order to prove himself. Meursault, as well, acted
against the social norm. For example, even though it was expected of a son,
he did not show sorrow at his mother's funeral4. He did not think this was
shallow, however, he just refused to falsely show emotion when he did not
feel any; "I realized that I'd managed to get through another Sunday, that
mother was now buried, that I was going back to work and that, after all,
nothing had changed"5. In addition, Meursault felt that "nothing really
mattered"6. He was willing to be transferred to the Paris branch of his
office, but Algiers would do for him as well; he was willing to marry Marie,
but he would have married anyone else just as easily; and he was willing to
write Raymond's letter for the simple reason that he "had no reason not to
please him"7. This honest and nonchalant way of looking at things was the
basis of Meursault's essence. He, and Raskolnikov, had a general sense of
who they were; based not on society's principles but their own.
After they committed their crimes, Raskolnikov and Meursault were
forced to question their beliefs. Before the murder, Raskolnikov had a
dream. In it, a mare was beaten to death by it's enraged master, while a
boy tried to defend it8. Now after his guilt "had begun already"9,
Raskolnikov questioned whether he was the man who could "step over barriers"
10 without being punished or if he was...