Books and Movies Reviews

Crime and Punishment – Madness

Demur, you’re straightaway dangerous
– Emily Dickinson
Knowing the difference between insanity and intense clarity is often difficult when dealing with eccentric characters.Comedians such as Johnny Carson, while at times appearing utterly mad, are extremely self-controlled at all times, even when pouring liquids down their pants.Raskolnikov, a less humorous example, is thought by many characters in Crime and Punishment to be batty on several occasions, Zossimov and Zametov being only a few examples.His madness, however, his delusion and monomania, are disguising a real and sane objective.Wisdom can appear in the midst of lunacy, and Raskolnikov’s spiritual journey that is the heart of Crime and Punishment explores this idea.
The most defining eccentricity of Raskolnikov’s character is his obsession with theory.His own theory of the ordinary and the extraordinary becomes the framework of his whole existence, in that he views everything he does through the twisted lens of his idea.In his theory, all of humanity is divided into two categories: “ordinary men have to live in submission,” and “have no right to transgress the law” while “extraordinary men have a right to commit any crime and to transgress the law in any way” (225).The theory states that extraordinary men can, and indeed should, “overstep… certain obstacles” to obtain a goal that would benefit the masses of humanity.As his life becomes focused on this theory increasingly, his outer demeanor transforms to fit his own image of an “extraordinary” man: a cold, unfeeling statue of a man without conscience or emotion, “not of flesh but of bronze” (238).Even as he feels guilt and even compassion, his outer, theoretical mind shuts it all out.

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