Fyodor DOSTOVSKY once said: “Nothing seduces man more than his freedom to conscience”. “But nothing is more painful” (Eiermann). Existentialism stresses that life should be understood through the unique experiences of each individual. In other words, to be nothing or achieve nothing in your life implies failure and causes suffering. In Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment a young Russian, Raskolnikov murders a pawnbroker in order to prove the Extraordinary Man Theory, which states that extraordinary men can transgress laws of inferior or ordinary men. Rodya is ill and has emotional problems immediately after his crime. He also faces his family members, the Marmeladovs, and the cops as he makes his way to confess. The theme of the book is based on the motif that suffering is necessary for salvation. The story of Crime and Punishment is characterized by many characters who suffer great pain and anguish. This theme of suffering, which appears throughout the novel, provides a strong element that unifies the entire book.
The idea that Raskolnikov is suffering directly because he was guilty of the crime may be a popular one, but in fact it stems from Raskolnikov’s obsession to prove his theories and dual personality. He can be portrayed as cold and insular, as well as intellectual. His intellectual side wanted to see if he fit his Extraordinary Man Theory. This led him to murder. It was his intellectual side that planned and committed the crime. His humane nature suffered for this. Raskolnikov, who is unconscious and sick immediately after his murder, shows that he has the ability to suffer a lot. Dostoevsky is using this scene to illustrate his theme. Raskolnikov, according to his theory, must suffer a great deal. Rodya wrote an article on crime where he stated that “pain, suffering and deep hearts are inevitable” for those with a high intelligence. The truly great man has to suffer on this earth” (230). Raskolnikov suffers because he has to face the fact that he failed to live up to his theory. Svidrigailov explains this viewpoint best when he informs Dounia of Raskolnikov’s “long suffering” and his inability to boldly violate the law. And that is embarrassing for any young man with pride (403). Rodya may have grown from suffering and realizing his mistake, but his intellect will not allow him to admit he was guilty of a crime.
This internal conflict between the two personalities of Raskolnikov is also a source of frustration and confusion for him. Raskolnikov is shown to be compassionate in the beginning of a novel and will perform acts of generosity or kindness, but will then regret them. Rodya may give the Marmeladovs a last bit of money, after seeing how poor their living conditions are. However, soon afterwards on the stairs “he changed his opinion and would’ve gone back.” “I’m so stupid, I thought” (23). He is very disappointed by his self-submissiveness.
Dostoevsky’s novel also features other characters who are redemptive. Raskolnikov believes that Sonia is a Christ-figure, suffering on behalf of all humanity because she prostitutes to support a household, even though Marmeladov uses the money for his alcoholism.
He will then ask: “Where is the girl who gave up her life to save the innocent children and consumptive mother?” The daughter who felt compassion for her father’s filthy drinking, unfazed by its beastliness, will be asked: Where are you? ‘” (20)
Raskolnikov, who is impressed by her quiet submissiveness and love for her, confesses and accepts her request to wear the cypress crucifix as a “symbol” of her taking up the Cross. – As if I haven’t suffered much up to now!” similar to Jesus carrying his cross and suffering for mankind (450).
Porfiry also represents Raskolnikov as an intellectual counterpart, and urges Rodya Romnavitch “to take your pain – Because suffering, Rodion Romnavitch. Is a great idea – There’s something in suffering” (397). Porfiry, who believes Rodion Romnavitch has a brilliant brain, does not immediately arrest him. Instead, he lets him suffer, and eventually come to his senses.
The book’s final scene, in which Katerina died after days of wandering through the streets, is the best example of salvation from suffering. She raised her family in poverty with a minimal income from a prostitute and an alcoholic. Sonia exclaims, “What is this priest? I don’t need him. I don’t have any sins. God will forgive me even if I don’t have any sins. He knows how much I’ve suffered and if he won’t accept me, then I don’t really care. Her dying words express the theme of the novel, which is that great suffering leads to the atonement of sins.
The human experience is filled with joyous moments, but also with painful memories that we would rather forget. Dostoevsky uses the cries from men and women who suffer daily from guilt, pain, and death. The novel is united as several characters find salvation in their suffering. This theme is found in many Bible stories, including Job and Jesus’ Crucifixion. The literature of this kind has helped mankind live in peace and hope, without fear.