Rodion Raskolnikov  

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"Legislators and leaders of men, such as Lycurgus, Solon, Mahomet, Napoleon, and so on, were all without exception criminals, from the very fact that, making a new law they transgressed the ancient one, handed down from their ancestors and held sacred by the people, and they did not stop short at bloodshed either, if that bloodshed often of innocent persons fighting bravely in defence of ancient law were of use to their cause." -- Rodion Raskolnikov in Crime and Punishment

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Rodion Romanovich Raskolnikov is the protagonist of Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky. The name Raskolnikov comes from the Russian raskolnik meaning "schismatic".

Raskolnikov is a young ex-student of law living in extreme poverty in St Petersburg. Many characters state that he is very intelligent, and Raskolnikov himself occasionally thinks of himself as a genius. He lives in a tiny garret which he rents (he claims the room aggravates his depression). He sleeps on a couch using old clothes as a pillow and doesn't eat much, although the landlady sometimes sends her servant in with food. He is frequently referred to as a former student because he doesn't have the money to finish his institute education. Emotionally and financially stressed, he is also socially inept and neurotic about small things, such as crowded spaces. Raskolnikov fluctuates between extremes of altruism and apathy. He is described by the narrator as "extremely handsome".

He murders a pawnbroker, Alyona Ivanovna, with an axe he found in a porter's woodshed, with the intention of using her money for good causes, based on a theory he had developed. Raskolnikov believed that people were divided into the "ordinary" and the "extraordinary": the ordinary are the common rabble, the extraordinary (notably Napoleon, who is mentioned more than ten times) must not follow the moral codes that affect the ordinary since they are meant to be great men. An extraordinary man would not need to think twice about his actions. He has been contemplating this theory for months, only telling it to his (now deceased) fiancée (although he wrote an article along those lines in a journal on the condition that only his initials be used to attribute it to him). He believes himself to be one of these extraordinary men and is thus allowed to commit murder. However, his plan goes wrong; before he is able to make his escape from the pawnbroker's flat, her meek sister arrives and stumbles across the body. Raskolnikov, in a panic, murders the pawnbroker's sister as well (Lizaveta Ivanovna).

He finds a small purse on Alyona Ivanovna, which, in his ensuing confusion and paranoia, he hides under a rock without checking the contents of the purse. His grand failure is that he lacks the conviction he believed to accompany greatness and continues his decline into madness. After confessing to the destitute, pious prostitute Sonia Semyonovna Marmeladova, she guides him towards admitting to the crime. He also confesses to Ilya Petrovich, a police lieutenant with an explosive temper that Raskolnikov finds endearing. Raskolnikov is sentenced to exile in Siberia, accompanied by Sonia, where he begins his mental and spiritual rehabilitation.

In film

In film he has been portrayed for the first time by Grigori Chmara (1923) in the famous silent adaptation by Robert Wiene (with the decors by the great André Andrejew), and recently by John Simm (2002) Crispin Glover (2002) and Ilya Kremnov (2005).

Psychopath?

In a legal context, the murderer Rodion Romanovich Raskolnikov would not qualify as a psychopath in the accepted sense of the word. Indeed, after having committed a murder to help finance his career, Raskolnikov is gradually eaten away by remorse until he ultimately abjures all of his dilettante intellectual rationalizations for his crime. He redeems himself by confessing and accepting just punishment in exchange for the unconditional love of a destitute but pious woman and the eternal reward of Christian salvation.

See also




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Rodion Raskolnikov" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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