Raskolnikov: a Split Character

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Raskolnikov: A Character of Duality

Raskolnikov is one of the most convincing and interesting characters created by Dostoevsky in his novel Crime and Punishment (1866). The name is derived from the Russian word "raskol," which roughly translates to "cut." This is the basis for Raskolnikov's characterization in the book. It is crucial that Dostoevsky used characters with dual identities in his novels on a regular basis. He hoped to depict both good and bad in a single context. This inclination may have stemmed from his willingness to emphasize that humanity was not flawless. Thus, there is a duality in the character of Raskolnikov which forms the basis of Dostoevsky’s narration. Raskolnikov’s duality of character is shown to be both contradictory and essential as it allows the reader an insight into the true nature of man and the inspiration behind human actions.

Portrayal of Raskolnikov's Dual Personality

To begin with, Dostoevsky portrays Raskolnikov to be both rational and irrational. In the dream of the murder of the mare he assumes the personality of a small child enjoys the death of his own mare. He revels in putting "his arm around her (the mare) bleeding dead head and (kiss) it, the eyes and the lips" (Dostoevsky 57). This allusion signifies that Raskolnikov would enjoy the murder of a mare and revel in the evil nature of his act. Nonetheless, upon waking up, Raskolnikov is shocked at the cruelty of his thoughts (Bal 83). With regards to the dream, he determines that he "knew that I (he) could never bring myself to it" (Dostoevsky 57). Essentially, he intends to do both harm and good at the same time. His rationality is projected when he determines that the murder of the mare would be an evil act. However, his irrationality is observed in the ways by which he endearingly describes the death of the mare and the pleasure that he would derive from holding its bleeding head. In exploring the irrational and rational sides of Raskolnikov’s character, Dostoevsky intended to reinforce that man may be influenced by both his thoughts and emotions. He portrays decisions which are based on emotions to be inappropriate and inhuman and instead reinforces the need for rationality in the decision making process. The ability of Raskolnikov to reign in on his emotions is and instead assume a rational approach to a given impediment is shown to be an important aspect in human life.

Alternatively, Raskolnikov is portrayed to be both depressed and happy. This allusion is an extension of the emotional conflict that beleaguers the character. Raskolnikov is depressed and sad given his restless situation which is mainly propelled by his internal conflicts. As a depressed party, Raskolnikov repeatedly considers suicide. His suicidal tendencies are exposed when he determines that "all this must be ended today, once and for all, immediately that he would return home without it, because he would not go on living like that" (Dostoevsky 146). Still, Raskolnikov finds his happiness in Sonia who he falls in love with and enjoys being around. Sonia inspires him to be more positive about life and makes him wants to denounce his previous evil ways. Thus, Raskolnikov is shown to be the subject of both positive and negative emotions which significantly influence his actions. In exploring the idea of simultaneous depression and happiness, the author negates the possibility of the existence of ultimate, unmarred unhappiness. Overall, there are instances when one may be happy and other times when depression sets in. These shifts represent the true nature of man given his imperfections. Dostoevsky’s reflection of the contradictory emotions alludes to the constant shifts in life that we experience and the need for the control of emotions in responding to given challenges. The absence of happiness in Raskolnikov’s life serves as a catalyst of his evil tendencies. It is therefore necessary for one to be happy in life in order to be happy.

Similarly, Raskolnikov is shown to be both callous and compassionate. When he realizes that his sister is about to marry Luzhin, he immediately recognizes that she would not be happy and thus seeks to dissuade her from entering into an institution that would only curtail her happiness. To discourage her from the initiative, Raskolnikov proclaims that "if you marry Luzhin, I (he will) cease to look on you as a sister" (Dostoevsky 229). This is a reflection of Raskolnikov’s compassionate nature. He feels for his sister since he is aware of the turmoil that is beleaguering her currently. Nonetheless, he immediately reverses his stance and assumes a callous character by proclaiming "What am I making a fuss for? Marry whom you like" (Dostoevsky 229). He assumes a countenance that does not care for the tribulations that her sister may suffer in the given union. Overall, he distances himself from his sister’s pain which significantly marks his callous nature. His compassionate nature is further observed when he offers to help Katerina pay off the doctor’s bills when her husband is knocked down by a carriage. He tells her "don’t be uneasy, I’ll pay" (Dostoevsky 327). He further offers her "twenty roubles" (Dostoevsky 339). Still, his callous nature is immediately projected when he regrets the decision to give Katerina the only money that he had for his rent.

Intrinsically, Dostoevsky portrayed Raskolnikov to be both noble and haughty. His nobility is observed when he receives a letter from his mother. On being informed of the letter, "he turned pale when he took it" (Dostoevsky 58). Similarly, as a show of his nobility as a son, he asked to be left alone to read the letter and at that moment, "lifted it quickly to his lips and kissed it; then he gazed intently at the address, the small, sloping handwriting, so dear and familiar, of the mother who had once taught him to read and write" (Dostoevsky 59). Raskolnikov’s actions project an image of a man who is endearing and loving towards his family. His actions acknowledge the immensity and sanctity of the bond that exists between a mother and her child. Nonetheless, in a shocking rejoinder, his face becomes twisted with rage upon reading the letter. He becomes upset at the fact that his counsel was not solicited in the marriage between his sister and Mr. Luzhin. His "heart was beating violently, and his brain was in turmoil." This is a reflection of Raskolnikov’s haughtiness. By reflecting on the differences between nobility and haughtiness, Dostoevsky was committed to exploring some of the intrinsic motivations that inspire human actions and responses to their circumstances. Essentially, the character’s haughtiness is not a culmination of malice but rather the need to be acknowledged as important in the unit. Nobility is further shown to be a virtue that can be attained by any individual if they choose to be good. Despite the several inadequacies that Raskolnikov has, he still has primal inclinations to love and care for his family members. His anger is further inspired by the desire to protect a family member.

Similarly, Raskolnikov's duality is also projected when he is shown to be both analytical and impetuous. From the beginning, Dostoevsky exposes us to the thoughts rather than the words of the character. Essentially, our understanding and definition of Raskolnikov are predicated upon by our exposure to his thoughts. He is shown to be very analytical before executing any desires. He weighs both the benefits and demerits of the actions that he wishes to undertake. His analytical sense is observed when he tries to make sense of a compelling desire to murder Alyona. In planning his murders, he tries to reflect on all the factors that might be needed to execute his plans. He is aware that Nastasya always left the door ajar in the evenings and even considers the actions that he would engage if Nastasya came back earlier than she did on a usual basis. Thus, he determines that "supposing he returned an hour later to put it back, and Nastasya had come back and was on the spot… he would go by and wait till she went out again" (Dostoevsky 135). Overall, he considers all the possibilities that may hinder his desires and develops solutions which will enable him to oversee the murder that he has planned. Still, he is portrayed to be impetuous when he is said to be "putting off trifling details, until he could believe in it all" (Dostoevsky 135). This is representative of his willingness to engage certain actions out of necessity rather than pure analysis. By capturing the duality of analysis and impetuosity, Dostoevsky may have wished to explore the role of organization and analysis in human life and the negative influences of impetuosity on one's progress (Uwasomba 144). Constantly, the author reinforces Raskolnikov’s criticality and uses it as a foundation for the narration of the individual. The character refuses to accept general idioms and instead makes it a priority to determine the foundations of certain maxims and how these can be employed to further himself as an individual.


Conclusively, Raskolnikov’s duality of personality, as explored by Dostoevsky, is a reflection of the inner and external turmoil that human beings are often forced to oversee. It encourages analysis and individual thinking in the face of challenges and as elements of progress in society. The character of Raskolnikov acts as a psychological exploration of the effects of personality duality in the human being. Each of the personality traits has the potential to determine one’s outcomes in life. It is important than an individual learns how to balance this duality. An uncontrolled personality has the potential to hinder the manifestation of the alternate personality. This would result in extreme behavior such as an inclination towards violence such as was the case with Raskolnikov. Raskolnikov further allows the reader the opportunity to observe the influences of each personality on one’s behavioral inclinations. Overall, all personalities are good if they can be controlled and channeled towards doing good in society.

Works Cited

Bal, Reyyan. “Raskolnikov’s Desire for Confession and Punishment”. Journal of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, no. 2, 2009. pp. 82-98.

Dostoevsky, Fyodor. Crime and Punishment . Penguin Classics , 2015.

Uwasomba, Chijoke. “A socio-psychological exploration of Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment”. Educational Research and Review, no. 4, 2009, pp. 141-147

January 18, 2023



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