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The Evolution Of The Existential Psyche Of Raskolnikov Through Crime And Punishment

1468 words - 6 pages

The introspective and self-scrutinizing nature of Raskolnikov from Crime and Punishment, allows for us to delve into the existential rationales that warrant and influence the decisions and courses of action that he carries out. It is crucial to explore the workings of Raskolnikov’s mind, to understand the motives by which he is compelled by to perform the heinous murder of Alyona the pawnbroker. By examining Raskolnikov’s psyche, characterization, and decision making processes, which are characterized by his constant schisms and dichotomies, we can gain an understanding of how the portrayal of existentialist ideals as represented by Raskolnikov, evolve through the plot of the novel. The changing attitude of Raskolnikov, the environment by which he is surrounded by, as well as the relationships and encounters he has, influence and form the existential tendencies that Raskolnikov personifies. The existential philosophies portrayed by Raskolnikov range from embodying Nietzsche's Übermensch to Kierkegaard’s Christian existentialist theories.
To further address and progress the points of emphasis in understanding the evolution of Raskolnikov’s existential psyche, it is crucial that the definitions of existentialism, Nietzsche's Übermensch, Nihilism, and Christian existentialism (as prescribed by Kierkegaard) are established. Existentialism will be defined with respect to the idea that “existence precedes essence” for consistency’s sake. According to existentialism, there are no established, innate set of truths, meaning there is no established innate sense of morality. Life is, therefore, inherently meaningless in comparison of the vast expanse of the universe that surrounds us (Holmes 146). The discussion of existentialism brings on the ideas of Nietzsche - particularly the Übermensch and Nihilism. “über” suggests superiority and suffix “mensch” connotes to a basic member of society. In, Beyond Good and Evil, Nietzsche refers to the Übermensch figures as the paradigm and pinnacle of the human race. Nietzsche also deemed that a member of society could attain meaning in life based upon their ability to “advance a new generation of human beings” (Pratt 1). Nihilism was described by Nietzsche as the belief that all values are baseless and nothing can be known or communicated. According to Soren Kierkegaard, Christian Existentialism seeks out the answer to the “inherent meaningless of life” that resonates existentialism by attaining personal meaning through Christianity (McDonald 1).
The air of apathy emanated by Raskolnikov, which becomes evident very early in the novel, points towards the convolution and instability that is present in his mind. Our initial description of Raskolnikov vignettes him as a “ young man [who] had a sick, frightened feeling, which made him scowl and feel ashamed”, which is further elaborated upon as he revealed to be suffering from an appears to be suffering “overstrained irritable condition, verging on hypochondria” ...

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