Crime and Punishment there are three
dreams which concern the main character, Raskolnikov.
Each of these dreams leads into the next which helps to depict a
significance that the dream portrays in Raskolnikov’s psychological character. The author, Dostoevsky, has used
the dreams to open Raskolnikov’s eyes to the truths that he is unwilling to see
in reality and relate the dreams back to events that he is experiencing in his
By doing so Raskolnikov is forced to recognize his treacherous acts which leads
to guilt which in turn provokes the essential dreams.
first and perhaps most renowned dream is that of the mare. From the desperate disorientation
of his adult life Raskolnikov returns in his dream to his childhood. He is in the town of his birth
with his father which could have been provoked by the letter from his mother,
“Remember when your father was living…how happy we all were in those days”
As he and his father were walking they noticed a drunken man, Mikolka, and a
group of drunk men beating a horse to death for failing to walk while pulling
an overloaded cart, “‘Hop in! Hop in, all of yer!’ Shouts Mikolka. ‘She’ll take the lot of yer. I’ll flog ‘er dead!'” (Dostoevsky
53). When the horse
fails to pull the men in the cart, Mikolka and the group of drunken men beat
the horse to death in front of the innocent eyes of the young boy, Raskolnikov,
and his father, ‘Papa! What did they…kill…the poor horse for!’ Raskolnikov
sobs, but his breath fails, and the words burst like cries from his straining
54) Only after the mare has been brutally killed with whips and crow bars does
Raskolnikov wake from his nightmare of a dream.
Mikokla’s act of violence in the dream, is the larger plan of Raskolnikov to
murder the old pawnbroker lady.
Despite the differences in Mikolka and Raskolnikov, the act of murder is the
same Mikolka hates his victim, the horse, as much as Raskolnikov hates the
pawnbroker, “‘Kill her and take her money, so that afterwards with its help you
can devote yourself to the service of all mankind and the common cause’… ‘Of course, she doesn’t deserve to
The imagery of the peasant standing over the mare with an axe later mirrors
Raskolnikov standing over the pawnbroker administering fatal blows, “he drew
the ax out all the way, raised it back with both hands, hardly aware of what he
was doing; and almost without effort, almost automatically, he brought the
blunt side down on her head” (Dostoyevsky 74).
This shows, however, that Raskolnikov does have some heart. The truth is, he does not truly
want to commit the murder.
Mikolka, on the other hand feels as though society would benefit from the
horse’s murder and this is how Raskolnikov feels. Because of how he feels towards Alyona he
sees of himself murdering the women just like Mikolka murders the horse.
the murder of Alyona and Lizaveta, Raskolnikov contracts a fever and passes out. While he is unconscious, he has
his second dream.
He dreams that he returns to the apartment where he murdered Alyona, the
pawnbroker, and her sister Lizaveta.
He then notices a coat that seems to be out of place and walks towards it. Raskolnikov pulls back the coat and
sees the face of the pawn broker, Alyona.
“Quietly freeing the ax from the loop he struck her on the crown of her head,
once, and then again.
She did not stir under the blows” (Dostoevsky 267).
Out of fear Raskolnikov began to strike her over and over again like he
had done in real life, but try as he might she did not die. In fact she started laughing which
only terrified Raskolnikov more, “Fury seized him.
With all his might, he began to smash the old woman on the head but with every
blow of the ax the laughter…became louder and louder” (Dostoevsky 267).
dream is significant because it illustrates the height of inner turmoil that is
occurring inside Raskolnikov.
He sees that perhaps he is not some special human and that he could be caught
for his crime, “Surely it isn’t beginning already! Surely it isn’t my
punishment coming upon me? It is!” (Dostoevsky 275).
This shows that Raskolnikov has begun to realize that what he did in
brutally murdering the two women was an act of violence and a crime and
something that he would have to face consequences for. He realized that he
could not rationalize murdering these two women because he was not an
last dream was not told directly in the novel but was recalled by Raskolnikov
as a dream that he had in prison.
Suffering in a prison in Siberia, Raskolnikov is still not fully convinced that
his act of murder was anything more than an error and he becomes very ill…again. Throughout his illness he has his
third and final dream.
There was a plague from microscopic bugs that swept the country, “But never had men considered themselves so
intellectual and so completely in possession of the truth as these sufferers,
never had they considered their decisions, their scientific conclusions, and
their moral convictions so infallible.”
The infected people believed that they themselves were the most intelligent
beings in the world.
Since every infected person thought this way, this led to war and famine as
people started to kill each other off.
Few survivors were left to renew manking.
dream ridded Raskolnikov of his belief and feeling of superiority among the
common man, “They did not know how to judge and could not agree what to
consider evil and what good; they did not know whom to blame, whom to justify. Men killed each other in a sort of
senseless spite” (Dostoyevsky 518).
He believed that by being an extraordinary man he could have his own set of
rules and break the law and not be punished for it. But seeing a world of men who all
believed that they had their own set of rules was eye opening to Raskolnikov. He saw that man could not do
outrageous things, such as murder, and not feel any guilt or suffer any
consequences from their actions.
He saw that by everyone feeling they were better than one another it would
results in the destruction of each other.
He finally realized and accepted the fact that he is just a normal member of
humanity and was not better than anyone else.
his dreams, Raskolnikov is subconsciously confronted with the reality of many
of his faults and beliefs.
There is a shift of responsibility for the murder that occurs from one dream to
The first dream shows that he may not have truly wanted to murder the
pawnbroker showing that his action could be a crime. The second dream showed
Raskolnikov feeling guilt for his murder
which again showed that he was not a superior being who could create his
own rules and suffer no consequences.
The third and final dream depicted Raskolnikov’s acceptance to the fact that he
He saw the reality of mankind and how he was the same as everyone else, not
the dreams Raskolnikov would have maintained his belief of the extraordinary
man as he had previously written in an article, “”I hinted that an ‘extraordinary’
man has the right, an inner, right to decide in his own conscience to overstep…certain obstacles, and only in case
it is essential for the practical fulfillment of his idea (sometimes, perhaps,
of benefit to the whole of humanity)” (Dostoevsky 232). Raskolnikov argues that there are
two classes of people and that both have the right to exist, but exist
differently, “The first class of people preserve and people the world, the
second move the world and lead it to its goal” (Dostoevsky 232).
This, however, is another topic to discuss at a different time. Overall, without having experienced
all three dreams Raskolnikov would not have been able to leave his
“extraordinary man” theory behind and except reality.
conclusion, Raskolnikov’s dreams represented his true feelings towards the
murder and assisted in disproving his theory of the extraordinary man. The dreams help to reveal his
psychological view of crime and there is a shift of responsibility for the
murder throughout the dreams that takes place that, without the dreams, would
not have occurred.
Touching him, at first indirectly, these dreams approach conscious realization
until, in the last dream, he finally recognizes the truths that he otherwise
could not otherwise stand to face.
Crime and Punishment.
Penguin Classics, 2015.
Translated with an introduction and notes by Oliver Ready