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Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment

In Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment, Raskolnikov’s dream about the mare can be used as a vehicle to probe deep into his mentality to discover how he really feels inside. The dream suggests that Raskolnikov is a “split” man; after all, his name in Russian means “split”. He has a cruel and thoughtless side as well as a caring, compassionate side to his personality. Through the dream and the symbols therein, a reader can cast Raskolnikov, as well as other characters from Crime And Puni shment, into any of the various parts in the dream. Each part that a character takes on leads to a different onclusion about that character.

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Raskolnikov himself “fits” into the positions of Mikolka, the child, and the mare. If Mikolka, the drunken owner of the mare, were to represent Raskolnikov, then the mare would most probably represent Alyona Ivanovna. The senseless beating of the mare by Mikolka is similar to the brutal attack on Alyona by Rodion. (It should be noted that both Alyona and the mare were female. ) These heartless attacks foreshadow the crime that Raskolnikov is contemplating. Dostoevsky unveils Raskolnikov’s cruel side during this dream, if it is to be interpreted in this way.

On the same token, Raskolnikov’s compassionate side could be represented by the little boy. The child, watching the beating, realizes the absurdity of it. He even rushes to Mikolka, ready to punish him for killing the mare. This illustrate s Rodion’s internal struggle while contemplating the murder of Alyona. His humane side, the child, tells him to live and let live. And his “extraordinary” side, according to his definition, tells him that he should eliminate Alyona altogether, for the good of man kind. On the other side of the coin, Raskolnikov could be represented by the mare itself.

However, the burden which the mare must carry (the cart, the people, etc. ) could represent two separate things, depending on if it is viewed in context befor e or after the actual murder. Before the murder, the burden could represent the moral question that is plaguing Rodion. Should he kill Alyona? Or should he leave her be? Because of the importance of this question to Raskolnikov, it weighs him dow n heavily at first. However, later on, he rashly decides to kill Alyona. If looked upon after the murder, the load on the mare in the dream could represent the mental burden placed on Rodion.

He had a burden of guilt on him, and he could not justify the murder according to his own theory. Therefore, he was torme nted by the otherwise insignificant statements and actions of others in the novel. Even though Porfiry Petrovitch did not have many of the people purposely harassing Raskolnikov by mentioning various facets of the murder, it was as if those who were “beating” the truth out of him were pawns of Porfiry (or that of truth and the law in general), just as those beating the life out of the mare were pawns of Mikolka (or that of cruelty).

By his reasoning, a parallel may also be drawn between the m are and Rodion. This is not to say that the dream does not have other significances. It is possible that Mikolka represents Porfiry also. Mikolka beat the mare until it died; Porfiry beat Raskolnikov mentally until he confessed. There are also other inte rpretations that can be made. Despite other possible interpretations, Raskolnikov may be represented by all three main characters in the dream: Mikolka, the child, and the mare. Each representation brings to mind a new side of Rodion Romanovitch that must be considered in order to understand him fully.

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