Dostoevsky’s novel “Crime and Punishment” is an unusual work. There is no author’s voice in it, which would tell readers what is its meaning, who of the heroes is right, and who is to blame, where to find the truth in which the writer believes. Every hero here has his own voice, his own “idea”, which leads him. From the clash and development of these ideas, the general thought that the writer aspires to reach us arises.
The basis of the novel is the struggle between two contrasting ideas – Christian good and love, the main carrier of which is Sonechka Marmeladova, and the ideas of individualism, inhuman in nature, the carrier of which is Raskolnikov. Each of these ideas is refined by additional lines that are associated with the “doubles” of these two main characters. For the Christian idea – it’s Dunya and Lizaveta, for the idea of individualism – Luzhin and Svidrigailov.
The complex intertwining
and interaction of all these lines occurs in the main part of the novel, where the story of Raskolnikov’s crime, committed under the influence of the idea of individualism that seized him, is told. Most fully it manifested itself in his theory, according to which all people are divided into two categories – “the creatures of trembling,” who must obey those who, in the name of lofty goals, have the right even to shed blood. The moral torment that gripped Raskolnikov after a terrible crime confirms that his “trial” did not pass: he could not cross the blood. Sonechka helps him to find support in believing in God, calls to get rid of torment, repented before everyone in the square. And indeed, at the end of the main part of the novel, Raskolnikov comes to the police and confesses his deed.
It would seem that the story of the murder and its disclosure is over. But Dostoevsky’s main point is not this. He considered individualism a terrible disease, which can lead to catastrophic consequences for all mankind. How to deal with it? After all, Raskolnikov, following his
guilt, does not renounce his terrible idea. It is only asserted that he himself is an “aesthetic louse,” and by no means “the lord of the world.” No one regrets Luzhin in his “economic” theory, and Svidrigailov no longer has a way back – that’s why he ends his life by suicide. So what happens in the epilogue? Does he help us to understand how to save not only Raskolnikov, but all humanity from the “pestilence” of individualism?
We know that in nature Raskolnikov has a lot of good: he is by nature kind, responsive to the sufferings of others, ready to help, to help out of trouble. This is already known from the main part of the novel (a dream about a horse, help to the Marmeladov family) and is supplemented by new information in the epilogue (helping a student, saving children during a fire). That is why Sonechka’s active love, which followed Raskolnikov for hard labor, her compassion for all the unfortunate convicts who immediately fell in love with her, so strongly affects the hero. Seeing in a dream a terrible picture that embodied his ideas, when everyone, considering themselves “the right to have”, begin to kill each other, Raskolnikov “is healed.”
Now he is free from his theory and is ready to be reborn, to return to God, to people. Raskolnikov’s path is passed: we understand that he will go hand in hand with Sonya along with her, carrying with her the Christian ideas of love and kindness, mercy and compassion. But is the writer ready to offer this “recipe” for everyone affected by the “illness” of individualism? Perhaps, in the epilogue there is no definitive answer to this question either. Perhaps this is the main reason: after showing the story of Raskolnikov, the writer offers all new and new generations of readers to think about the problems and try to find their own solution.