Essays

Crime and Punishment by Fydor Dostoevsky

In the novel Crime and Punishment by Fydor Dostoevsky the main character Rodion Romanovich Raskolnikov consciously avoids truth and clarity of mind as he clings to his theory of the ordinary and extra-ordinary people, believing himself to be of the latter kind. He spends most of his time inside buildings in small rooms, thus avoiding to meet and talk to other people outside his petite world. Raskolnikov often evades looking through or at windows. However, often during conversations he instinctively walks towards windows while thinking about something else.

This shows that his inside wants to be free and knows the truth about his place among others, while the conscious part of his mind is not able to comprehend that until the very end. His mind is like a fly as it [beats] against [a] windowpane (pg. 332) longing to join the world out there, but not understanding this desire rationally yet. Marmeladovs room is suffocatingly hot, but [Katerina] [has] not opened the windows and in Alyonas apartment all the windows [are] closed, in spite of the stifling heat (pg 114) the day he commits the crime.

In the former place he leaves money on the windowsill, while in the latter he takes money away. In both cases, however, the rooms are hot, and a feeling of an uncomfortable and unfriendly place is drawn in the reader’s mind. Neither Raskolnikov’s narrow room, Sonya’s cheap apartment or Profiry’s office, where the latter hints at the airlessness of the room and asks whether he shall open a window (pg. 404), seem very inviting either. However, these are the places where Raskolnikov spends most of his time talking to people.

Later though, he himself observes, “low ceilings and cramped rooms cramp the soul and mind”(pg. 495) showing that he has started to understand his condition of suppression of his instincts and needs. This also comes out when he, unconsciously, almost instinctively, walks to windows repeatedly while he is thinking of what to say. At Sonya’s he walks “over to the window” (pg. 381) and comes “back after a moment or two” (pg. 381) having the changed the subject of their conversation.

While reflecting he uses the conscious part of his brain and the usual suppression of his inner desires is neglected for a while. Therefore in moments like this his body follows its instincts and he moves to the window physically showing his need to join the rest of the world repeatedly like the fly does as it “[swoops] and [beats] against the windowpane” (pg. 332). Until the very end, the reader usually never finds out what Raskolnikov sees through the windows, probably due to the fact that Rodion’s conscious self does not want to see anything.

He is most likely not really looking through, while still drawn to them. When he goes to Alyona’s apartment with the intention of killing her, “Many of the windows [are] open but he [does] not raise his headhe [does] not have he strength. ” (pg. 111) This shows not only that Raskolnikov is afraid of people seeing him and like a small child shuts his eyes to hide, but also that his unconscious self wants to avoid windows that lead inside buildings by all means. It wants to stay outside in the fresh air instead of under a low ceiling in a badly ventilated environment.

This, however, Raskolnikov comprehends rationally only much, much later. From the point on that he starts to think and review his deed it becomes clear to Raskolnikov that he is not extra-ordinary, while only at the very end, after his final nightmare he finds out that his entire theory is wrong, giving him the opportunity to regain access to the world and other people.

He is given the chance for “new life” (pg. 630), an almost fresh start. This is also due to Sonya’s help; “He [thinks] about Sonya. pg. 495) and “From the window [comes] a breath of fresh air. ” (pg. 495); the girl is by all means his saviour. This is shown as right after waking up from his nightmare he notices that while he had slept “the windows of the convict’s ward have been opened” (pg. 627) and as he “[goes] over to the window [he] suddenly [sees] in the distance Sonya. ” (pg. 627) The open windows in contrast to stuffy rooms link good Sonya to Raskolnikov who is still inside, but on his way to free his soul.

Sonya helps Raskolnikov at last to join the world again by opening his soul. Through her he is finally able to communicate and understand himself and his needs. He sees her consciously through the open window in the prison and does not look away, for it was her who opened a window in his soul. Raskolnikov later sees the “broad panorama” (pg. 628) with a feeling of pleasure and not through a window, but from the outside; he has succeeded in coming out.

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