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The crime of alienation as discussed in crime and punishment by fyodor dostoevsky

Historical Context for Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoevsky

Kieran James Raskolnikov Speaks Today: Introduction Anthony Hopwood and Carmona and Ezzamel 2007 have suggested that more writing and research in future should be directed at gaining an understanding of how accounting is embedded in its various social contexts.

For Eagleton 2002good literature explores and exposes societal contradictions and by examining these contradictions in literature we provide a stimulus for others to attempt to remove them in real life. Marxist critique, therefore, has emancipatory potential. A Marxist critique is not a shallow and superficial attempt to propagate socialist doctrine: As Lenin pointed out in regards Tolstoy, this does not require that the author of the literature subject to the critique necessarily be a Marxist: This in itself provides the seeds for revolution.

  • For a longer essay, could incorporate ideas about the setting with the ways in which characters as alienated from society;
  • He looked for justice, but behold, oppression; For righteousness, but behold, a cry for help.

Dostoyevsky had abandoned his former radicalism after his return from Siberia and in the 1860s at the time of publication of Crime and Punishment he was a right-wing journalist.

Nevertheless the narrative account may contain an exploration of the contradictions and the injustices embedded in the social order and so it can be the valid subject of a Marxist critique. In particular, I explore the actions of the main character, the young 23-year-old ex-student Rodion Romanovich Raskolnikov hereafter Raskolnikovand suggest how many of these actions suggest a world-weariness and maturity that despises the arrogance that wealth brings and the concomitant poverty, exploitation and degradation that is the by- product of wealth.

The classic Marxian dialectic explains the increasing wealth created by capitalism and the increasing emotional, spiritual and physical impoverishment of the proletariat as both emerging dynamically from the same system machine of production and exploitation Althusser, 2006a, 2007, 2008; James, 2008; Mandel, 1976; Mao, 2007; Marx, 1976; Tinker, 2005.

Raskolnikov appears to have an intuitive awareness of the dialectic and both aspects of its principal contradiction and this awareness was born out of the suffering created by his personal circumstances. Raskolnikov, being an unemployed former student who quit his study because of financial problems, is the epitome of the alienation that the capitalist system inflicts upon those that it cannot accommodate.

Crime and Punishment

Raskolnikov sees the system of 1860s Tsarist St Petersburg in its totality, understands both aspects of the Marxian dialectic and uses his deep personal beliefs and values in this regard to effect change, assist the marginalized and confront powerful and wealthy individuals Luzhin and Svidrigailov that threaten his family or his sense of decency. To have an axe-murderer leave an impression such as this must be unparalleled in the history of literature; Dostoyevsky achieves this in admirable style.

Raskolnikov can be seen as a type for the present-day student: Raskolnikov is a timeless character, his sheer strength of personality and firm moral compass making him someone that creates himself anew and afresh even today through his opposition to the status quo and bourgeois values.

As a man of action, Raskolnikov mirrors many young students of today, schooled in postmodernism and who in many cases have rejected the simplistic doctrines of the Bush and Howard Governments with their war-mongering, myopic focus upon on economic wealth creation to the exclusion of society, the disadvantaged and the environment and the harsh but unimaginative and conservative face that they and their servile ministers gave to public life.

We can only imagine Raskolnikov standing at the back of the crowd, next to his friend Dmitri Prokofych Razumikhin hereafter Razumikhinhis sister Dunya and confidante Sonya Semyonovna, cheering on at the hope that is Obama! Although Raskolnikov is cynical in the extreme, the glimmer of idealism remains present in his heart and guides him onwards, allowing him to re-create himself in the process. Svidrigailov lacks this glimmer of idealism and so he suicides even though there is one particular event late in the novel that appears to offer him a way out see later discussion.

It is the responsibility of critical accounting authors such as the author of the present paper to highlight these pre-existing contradictions, develop them still further and relate them to present-day contexts. In this paper I explore a to what extent 2 Raskolnikov can be seen as operating from a Marxist anti-capital perspective; and b what message the novel may hold for critical accounting educators today. Interpretation of key scenes from Crime and Punishment In the first scene we consider from early in the novel Raskolnikov has a chance encounter in a drinking den with the public servant Semyon Zakharovich Marmeladov hereafter Marmeladov.

He also tells Raskolnikov of his 18-year-old daughter Sonya, forced into prostitution because of destitution and poverty but one who still holds on to her moral compass and Russian Orthodox religious faith.

This story is told in excruciating detail by Dostoyevsky and by faith we have to believe that Raskolnikov will encounter these characters at a later point in the novel.

The existentialist worldview of Raskolnikov is evident even here as he clearly is shown to make a choice of sorts although his depression and drunkenness which tend to make him either inert or hyperactive may contribute to his passivity. Although he shows no great response of any sort to Marmeladov, his humanitarian compassion is evident in his refusal to condemn the man or Sonya and by the very act of his choosing to hear out the narratives.

At a later stage of the novel, after the murder, Raskolnikov again by chance stumbles upon a near-dead Marmeladov who has been run over in the street by a horse-and- cart. He signals for a doctor and takes the man back to his nearby residence.

The man is still alive although critically injured. He survives a visitation by an Orthodox priest, who proceeds to perform a blessing, and dies in the arms of Sonya to whom he cries out to for forgiveness.

This is an intensely moving scene that Raskolnikov witnesses from start to finish. He witnesses the genuine love of the family for each other amidst great poverty and suffering. When Raskolnikov meets Sonya prior to going to the police to confess his crime he is given the green family shawl and two crucifixes. Probably there are aspects of both present but instead I choose to view the gesture as a powerful repudiation by Raskolnikov of the evils and seductions of materialism and the love of money, a purposeful and dramatic statement of his own the crime of alienation as discussed in crime and punishment by fyodor dostoevsky of values and an act of re-alignment and re-creation in line with those values.

By rejecting materialism and love of money, Raskolnikov simultaneously opens his heart and his future to their opposites: He sows the seeds of his own future in accordance with the sowing of money in the life of the widow. In this letter Luzhin condemns Raskolnikov to his mother for giving the widow such a large percentage of the money his mother had sent him and also casts aspersions on the morality of Sonya and implies close association at this time between Sonya and Raskolnikov which was untrue.

As in Sartre 2006Dostoyevsky views a single action as having universal meaning and impact and with the potential to bind the world to oneself.

By his action, Raskolnikov simultaneously re-creates himself in the manner of the deed and condemns Luzhin in the eyes of the world.

Clearly this gift to a poor widow can be viewed in Russian Orthodox, existentialist and Marxist terms and the use of the Marxist interpretation here is not an attempt to deny the validity and worth of the other interpretations. Ultimately Raskolnikov defies his critics and re-creates himself but it is the goodness already resident in his soul that allows this to take place, a goodness that imbues all of his choices with purpose, power and finality.

We are tempted to agree with him; to condemn the act may amount to approval of the conduct of the woman which would throw into question the values that we have come to share with Raskolnikov. Even the marriage of loyal friend Razumikhin to the moral and supportive Dunya we find to be a re-creation in the spirit of justice: In the Epilogue we can view Dostoyevsky as showering his love upon all his created characters, a love that he has showered them with from start to finish.

Unlike 30 or 40 years ago, the radicalism of students today is probably not represented in such obvious ways as wearing of Che Guevara tee-shirts to class but much like Raskolnikov a discerning eye and strong sense of justice hides itself behind nondescript and standard appearances.

Raskolnikov is an eternal type or spirit: We are naked in the classroom in front of our young Raskolnikovs but this may well be our final hope. In the second incident we discuss, Raskolnikov confronts Luzhin first in his room and secondly at an arranged meeting attended by his mother, sister, and Razumikhin. Their reasoning is that the marriage would result in Luzhin being most likely able and willing to assist Raskolnikov in the areas of money and contacts.

Raskolnikov hears about this through a detailed letter from his mother that deeply upsets him. He refuses to allow Dunya to, as he sees it, sacrifice her own happiness for his sake. Luzhin goes to visit Raskolnikov in St Petersburg and he is hostile towards him.

  1. Or is Raskolnikov denouncing capital and the alienation that it creates even if Russia was still primarily a pre-capitalist society? Under the capitalist mode of production, members of the proletariat have no option but to sell their labour power continually to the capitalist on the labour market.
  2. This story is told in excruciating detail by Dostoyevsky and by faith we have to believe that Raskolnikov will encounter these characters at a later point in the novel. He can critique it effectively as he is not dependent upon it for his livelihood and self-identity.
  3. However, we can respond by saying that the means of production can still be alienated from the worker 11 although the worker may own it because it is the capitalist that gives the means of production its usefulness and value and, furthermore, the means of production are invariably tied up with the product produced which is capital once it emerges from the production process. Only after death does alienation cease.

He expects Dunya and her mother to be impressed by his wealth and carefully crafted arguments. Dunya and her mother are not all that different from Raskolnikov — they are impetuous but this protects them from abuse and exploitation.

Dunya and her mother have the proletarian quality of being unimpressed with financial wealth and credentials when hypocrisy is revealed. Family loyalty also plays a part with the family grouping together to expel the outsider but clearly it is shared conceptions of decency shared also by Razumikhin who becomes an adopted family member first and later marries Dunya that are the real source of the common action to expel Luzhin from their midst.

He plots ways to gain 5 retribution including inviting Sonya to see him and then accusing her of theft of money when no theft occurred.

She would repay his kindnesses by worshipping him as the one who had saved her from a life of destitution. How does Raskolnikov view this and why does it so disgust him?

Far from being a complete nihilist who knows no other law than will-to-power, he has an innate sense of fairness and justice and hates to see manipulation and control of the weak by the strong. It is being introduced to this aspect of his own self, to find out that he still cares, that motives and empowers Raskolnikov to shake off his depression and re-create himself.

It is the power that this awareness creates in him that prompts and empowers Raskolnikov to fight for justice and liberation throughout the remainder of the novel. He aims to physically liberate Dunya from a bad impending marriage, unite Dunya and Razumikhin as a couple and redeem Sonya from the grips of society disapproval i.

Sonya goes to live in a town in Siberia near his prison, is totally devoted to him and is held in high esteem by the other prisoners.

At one point Raskolnikov looks around and realises that Sonya will never leave him but will follow him to the ends of the earth. She knows him and the murder is not the primary determinant of his identity in her sight.

A murder is but one act and one act cannot completely define us when we have many acts, past, present and future Sartre, 2004, 2006. This objection must be given a serious response. As Luzhin argues, why should we listen to the opinions of a Raskolnikov? Clearly many of his statements and actions, especially in the first part of the novel, are incoherent, selfish, confused, hypocritical, self-righteous, overly theoretical the crime of alienation as discussed in crime and punishment by fyodor dostoevsky not well thought out.

Although Razumikhin frequently is exasperated by Raskolnikov, and confronts him frequently for strange behaviour, mood swings and strange comments, he nonetheless supports him.

Razumikhin is clearly an intelligent and perceptive young man, calm and rational. They make a formidable and powerful team: And yet that is part of the point: Luzhin is truly alone because no-one will vouch for him: The same is true for Svidrigailov who is haunted by a pair of ghosts of those he mistreated in life and to whom he now cannot make amends.

As the novel progresses Raskolnikov continually outwits his adversaries, not only verbally but in terms of a commonly agreed verdict about the moral worth of the respective arguments. Oddly this seems to empower Raskolnikov in his other relationships. His denunciation of others is a positive catalyst for those sharing similar views but who may have been too withdrawn or fearful of wealth and power to express them.

Clearly without Raskolnikov his mother and Dunya would not have so openly denounced Luzhin; they simply did not possess the strength to do so. In an earlier draft of the novel Raskolnikov suicides like Svidrigailov.

This ending would have been unsatisfactory on a number of counts, especially because it would have contradicted the sense of strength, power and unnerving self-confidence displayed by Raskolnikov during most of the novel but especially in the second half. Later Svidrigailov unexpectedly also ends up in St Petersburg, that urban mecca of alienation and poverty, that seems to draw all the novels characters magnet-like into its seductive grip.

Dunya worked as a domestic servant for Svidrigailov and his wife and was banished from their house after Svidrigailov made unwanted advances towards her. Svidrigailov arrives in St Petersburg after his wife dies in mysterious circumstances and, like nearly everyone else in the novel, he is intrigued by Raskolnikov and seeks him out.

Svidrigailov also secretly eavesdrops on the conversation between Sonya and Raskolnikov where Sonya confesses the murder to her and she reads him the story of the raising of Lazarus from the Gospel of St John.

In another incident Svidrigailov meets Dunya on the street, lures her back to his empty accommodation and she, in fear of being assaulted, shoots and wounds Svidrigailov with his own shotgun. However, the wound is not critical.

  1. He witnesses the genuine love of the family for each other amidst great poverty and suffering.
  2. Besides the cramped poverty, disease, and crime resulting from rapid urbanization which are arguably the same everywhere, and Dostoevsky borrows liberally in this vein from the London of Charles Dickens , Petersburg was literally built on swampland and by means of forced labor. Therefore what I am and what I can do is by no means determined by my individuality.
  3. This story is told in excruciating detail by Dostoyevsky and by faith we have to believe that Raskolnikov will encounter these characters at a later point in the novel.

Raskolnikov is a source of strange attraction to Svidrigailov who relates to him stories of being haunted by the ghost of his dead wife and of a servant that he mistreated in life. Svidrigailov is a more multi- dimensional character than Luzshin, more eccentric and offbeat. Svidrigailov in his own way also rejects the mores of the aristocracy whereas Luzhin never does. Svidrigailov relates to Raskolnikov how he has a fantasy of marrying a very young girl and this is actually about to take place.

Raskolnikov expresses outrage at his lewdness. Svidrigailov sees Raskolnikov as a free spirit and admires him. However, he is not able to take example from Raskolnikov and re-create himself existentially even though with his wife dead he appears in a good position to be able to do so.

Ultimately he is simply too tired, jaded and corrupt. We begin to feel some sympathy for this character and hope that like Raskolnikov he finds the inner resources to radically re-create himself through his actions.