Thursday, March 3, 2011

Crime and Punishment

In the face of adversity, what causes some individuals to triumph while others fail?

I would like to state, first off, that this post works on the premise that there is an ultimate, objective moral law that functions in most all of us. To go against this is insanity, to not have it is akin to being blind or tone-deaf (incredibly rare). The point being, there is a law ingrained in us (written on our hearts, you might say) that does force us to judge our actions, a law that compels us to do right and hate wrong. To go against this law is to violate the fundamental foundation of our spiritual being and, as such, ultimately leads to our collapse if we refuse to come to terms with this.

In the context of Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky, this question takes on completely new leaps and bounds by way of uncertainty. We'll say, for the sake of this question, that the adversity faced in this book is the internal strife in the main character brought about by his murder of an old pawnbroker and her sister. Raskolnikov "triumphs", one could say, in his murder of a pawnbroker... but is ultimately overcome by the weight of conscience (which, one could say, makes all such victories impossible to all but sociopaths). I believe that Raskolnikov ultimately fails in this novel and it is a result of circumstances out of his control; the vast majority of people do, indeed, have and recognize a conscience in themselves. Those who don't are sociopaths, madmen, and are as rare as the blind or those with no ear for a tune. However, if these people don't have this conscience as we do, are they ultimately to blame? If, for example, Hitler had no conscience, we could no more blame him for the atrocities he committed than we could blame him for the color of his hair. Plainly put, there is no point in calling Raskolnikov wrong and a bad man unless he does know, deep down, the same thing that you and I know; that murder is fundamentally wrong and to murder is to unroot one's conscience and life. I do believe that, judging by Raskolnikov's reactions to the murders, that he realized the horrific consequences of what he had done, he even physically suffered symptoms of this great spiritual disease. Ultimately, what caused Raskolnikov to fail is his choice to go against the law of his nature, the law of Human Nature.

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