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Crime and punishment protagonist and antagonist

Crime and Punishment: Protagonist and Antagonist Essay

Crime and Punishment is considered by many to be the first of Fyodor

Dostoevsky's great books. Crime and Punishment is a psychological account of a

crime. The crime is double murder. A book about such a broad subject can be

made powerful and appealing to our intellectual interests if there is a link

between the reader, the action, and the characters. Doestoevsky makes all these

links at the right places. The action takes place between the protagonists and

the antagonists. The protagonists include Dounia, the Marmeladovs, Sonia,

Razumhin, Porfiry Petrovich, and Nastaya. The antagonists of the story are

Luzhin, Ilya Petrovich, and the landlady. Raskolnikov could be considered to be

the primary protagonist, while Svidrigailov could be thought of as the primary

antagonist.

In every story the protagonist is the character that the reader cares

most about. In Crime and Punishment the reader cares about Rodion Raskolnikov.

He is the primary and most significant character in the novel. We are introduced

to this complex character in Part 1. We get to know the poverty stricken

condition that he resides in, and we get to know his family situation as we read

the long letter from Raskolnikov's mother. Then we witness the murder as it is

graphically described by Doestoevsky. After reading this graphic description of

the murder, how can the reader be sympathetic towards Raskolnikov? How can the

reader believe that a murderer is the protagonist? It is, in fact, not hard to

accept this murderer as the protagonist. Raskolnikov believed that by murdering

the pawnbroker, he rid society of a pest. We realize that if the victim would

have been someone other than an evil old pawnbroker the crime would never had

taken place. He could never have found the courage to kill an innocent person.

It would not prove anything to him. So, Raskolnikov was not a criminal. He does

not repent because he does not feel that he had sinned. All he did was violate

laws that were made by society. Raskolnikov definition of crime was evil will

in action. Raskolnikov knows that he possesses no evil will, and so he does not

consider himself a criminal. He is capable of justifying his crime. He

murdered a pawnbroker that was of no use to society and wanted to use her money

to improve his life and career. Not only was he helping himself by attempting

to improve his career, but he was also helping society as society would benefit

from his career. He would also free his mother and sister from the encumbrance

of financially supporting him, and thus maybe even prevent the marriage of his

sister to the evil Luzhin. We are introduced to Raskolnikov's thoughts about

mankind when we read about Raskolnikov's published article. He divides man into

two classes: the extraordinary man and the ordinary man. He considers himself

extraordinary and the pawnbroker to be ordinary. Presumably, the murder of the

pawnbroker was an experiment of his theory. One could argue that his experiment

failed because he had to rely on his family and friends and because he confessed,

unlike how his theory suggests. Maybe he was not the extraordinary person he

thought he was. Maybe his theory was bogus. In either case, his theory proved

that Raskolnikov had an intellectual side. From this we can believe that he did

not murder for the money but he really believed that he was superior and he was

doing society a favor. Perhaps he was not superior, but it can be safe to say

that he did society a favor. The same society that he did a favor for does not

believe in Raskolnikov's explanation. Society believes that murder is wrong.

Society's morals and rules dictate that crime is wrong no matter what the

circumstances. It is evident that Raskolnikov did not believe in society's

definition of crime and he proved this by murdering the pawnbroker. We still

find sympathy for him, as deep down inside we perchance realize that Raskolnikov

may have a valid point and society may be at fault. At the end we are able to

forgive Raskolnikov for he has finally confessed and will go through a moral

rebuilding process. We realize that Raskolnikov is the protagonist of Crime and

Punishment.

As it is necessary for a story to have a protagonist, it is also

essential for an antagonist to be existent. Oddly enough, the primary

antagonist in Crime and Punishment is the kind of character that the protagonist

would like to be. Arkady Svidrigailov is Dounia's (the sister of Raskolnikov)

former employer. Svidrigailov enters in the life of Raskolnikov about half-way

through the story. Ironically, he enters into the story right after Raskolnikov

awakens from a nightmare in which he tries to kill the pawnbroker but she

refuses to die! Prior to his entrance the reader is already under the notion

that Svidrigailov is evil because there is mention of him being responsible for

the death of his wife, and also a carnal crime involving a young girl. We are

left with an impression that is sensual and callous, a perfect description of an

antagonist. Raskolnikov appears to recognize the fact that he has more in

common with Svidrigailov than he would like. The reader feels that

Svidrigailov may be showing what Raskolnikov is capable of doing. Svidrigailov

appears to fit Raskolnikov's definition of the extraordinary man. Svidrigailov

stands alone without the comfort of family and friends. He believes that he is

omnipotent, and the reader reluctantly believes that. Svidrigailov does not

believe in right or wrong. The only thing he believes in is him being right.

Along with fitting Raskolnikov's definition of the extraordinary man,

Svidrigailov also fits his definition of a criminal. Svidrigailov possesses

evil will. He is evil will in action. He is under the impression that society

is evil and, in order to survive, it is essential that he be evil. So, he wants

to fulfill his desires and he is willing to hurt anybody to achieve them. The

most unappealing trait of Svidrigailov is the fact that he does not suffer from

any moral doubts about his actions. He felt no remorse when he raped the young

girl, or when he beat his wife and maybe even killed her. He does not fear God.

After observing the character of Svidrigailov, the reader realizes that the

extraordinary man theory may not be a myth. When we see Svidrigailov attempt to

rape Raskolnikov's sister, we realize that the antagonist is Svidrigailov.

In every story it is interesting to note the similarities and

differences between the protagonist and the antagonist. Rodion Raskolnikov and

Arkady Svidrigailov are two exciting and original characters that have many

similarities and one critical difference that make them what they are. Upon a

close inspection of Svidrigailov, we realize that he is but an older variation

of Raskolnikov. Upon looking at Svidrigailov, the reader fears that

Raskolnikov, the protagonist, is capable of doing the dishonorable deeds that

Svidrigailov has done. It is acknowledged that Svidrigailov is omnipotent in

his own eyes. He is capable of doing anything without fear or remorse.

Raskolnikov wishes to be this way. In fact, he comes close. He did not repent

after he murdered the pawnbroker. He felt no remorse when he ended the life of

the innocent sister of the pawnbroker. Raskolnikov does evil for the same

reason that Svidrigailov does evil. They both want to be beyond good and evil.

They both wish to be beyond the laws created by society. They both exhibit

moral indifference after crimes. Just as Svidrigailov does evil because he

believes that society is evil, Raskolnikov commits murder because of his

extraordinary man theory. Would this mean that Raskolnikov is no different from

Svidrigailov? Does this mean that Raskolnikov is the antagonist along with

Svidrigailov? It would if it were not for one major difference. Raskolnikov

would like to be an extraordinary man. He would like to commit any crime

without remorse. The critical difference that differentiates Raskolnikov from

Svidrigailov is that Raskolnikov is not the extraordinary man. Raskolnikov has

morals while Svidrigailov has jettisoned his morals. Raskolnikov is sickened by

acts of violence. He is able to accept crime intellectually, but he is unable

to be "extraordinary" because his moral sense prevents him from being a monster.

Raskolnikov did not repent after he murdered the pawnbroker because he accepted

the crime intellectually. He firmly believed that the murder of the pawnbroker

would be good for society. Because of the ordeal that Raskolnikov went through

after the crime, he would never be able to hurt another soul as long as he

lived. Raskolnikov knows that his theory may be correct, but he cannot be the

extraordinary man. He knows now that evil cannot satisfy intellect. His ethics

prevent him from coming in terms with his crime and open the way for moral

regeneration. About 90% of Crime and Punishment is about punishment,

Raskolnikov's punishment. The suffering of Raskolnikov leads to his confession

and salvation. Svidrigailov does not confess to any wrongdoing. Instead, he

takes the easy way out by committing suicide. We find that we are willing to

forgive Raskolnikov for his crime because he has confessed and is going through

moral regeneration while in Siberia. The reader realizes that Raskolnikov is

but an incomplete Svidrigailov. So, Raskolnikov and Svidrigailov are two people

with many similarities but one critical difference that makes one the

protagonist and the other the antagonist.

After reading Crime and Punishment one is quick to realize the

authenticity of both, the protagonist (Raskolnikov), and the antagonist

(Svidrigailov). Dostoevsky uses supporting characters to show the reader the

thoughts of both these characters. The reader is able to feel close to all the

characters and this contributes to making Crime and Punishment the kind of tale

that it is. Dostoevsky has successfully created two characters that realize

that they are alike yet they also know that they can never be the same because

one is willing to suffer as suffering leads to salvation while the other, in a

cowardly fashion, commits suicide.



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