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The Importance Of Raskolnikov’s Dreams In Crime And Punishment

2511 words - 11 pages

The Importance of Raskolnikov’s Dreams in Crime and Punishment
The function of dreams has been theorized and debated by scientists, but there has yet to be a consensus as to why people dream (Payne and Nadel). Some dream theorists believe that studies on dreaming have not conclusively shown that dreams have any real purpose or significance. On the other end of the spectrum, there are dream experts that find dreaming to be essential to our mental, emotional, and physical health. In Fyodor Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment, the dreams featured in the novel are essential to the moral growth of the protagonist, Rodion Romanovich Raskolnikov, and to the reader’s understanding of the character. Henry David Thoreau believed that “[d]reams are the touchstones of our character” and our true and naked selves come out in our dreams (313). The protagonist reveals his ‘true and naked self’ in four major dream sequences which take place throughout the novel. The four dreams allow the reader a more intimate look into the character’s unconscious mind which shows a vulnerable side of Raskolnikov that could not have been achieved by narrative alone. In the dream world, the events that unfold are not bound by time or space. The freedom from time and space allows for Dostoevsky to introduce information in combinations that would not have made sense if they were featured in the real world of the novel. A character is able to be resurrected from the dead or transported to the past or future. Dreams also allow for unfiltered content. When a person sleeps their mind is not policed by their conscience; and unpleasant thoughts that a person may successfully repress when they are awake may be able to show up freely in the dream world. In analysing the the actual elements of the dream, as well as the the hidden psychological meaning behind the actions of Raskolnikov’s dreams in the novel, the reader is able to understand the moral dilemma that the protagonist is faced with and how the dilemma is worked out by his subconscious.
In the first dream, Raskolnikov is transported to his childhood hometown and is taken back to the time of his youth. He is able to recall the town of his birth “far more vividly in his dream than he had done in memory” (57; pt. 1, ch. 5). Young Raskolnikov walks with his father past a tavern that appears to have “some kind of festivity going on” with crowds of people singing outside as he travels to the church he used to attend as a child (57). The commotion and a large strange cart in front of the tavern catch Raskolnikov’s attention. Attached to the large cart is a haggard mare and according to the owner of the horse, Mikolka, the “mare is twenty [years old] if she is a day” (58). Mikolka begins to yell to the drunken folks positioned outside of the tavern to “Get in…I’ll make her gallop!” (58). The drunken and boisterous townspeople are skeptical, but they begin to climb onto the cart. Mikolka then whips the mare once he is satisfied with the...

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