InCrime and Punishment there are threedreams which concern the main character, Raskolnikov. Each of these dreams leads into the next which helps to depict asignificance that the dream portrays in Raskolnikov’s psychological character. The author, Dostoevsky, has usedthe dreams to open Raskolnikov’s eyes to the truths that he is unwilling to seein reality and relate the dreams back to events that he is experiencing in hispersonal life.By doing so Raskolnikov is forced to recognize his treacherous acts which leadsto guilt which in turn provokes the essential dreams.
Raskolnikov’sfirst and perhaps most renowned dream is that of the mare. From the desperate disorientationof his adult life Raskolnikov returns in his dream to his childhood. He is in the town of his birthwith 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”(Dostoyevsky 32).As he and his father were walking they noticed a drunken man, Mikolka, and agroup of drunk men beating a horse to death for failing to walk while pullingan overloaded cart, “‘Hop in! Hop in, all of yer!’ Shouts Mikolka. ‘She’ll take the lot of yer. I’ll flog ‘er dead!'” (Dostoevsky53).
When the horsefails to pull the men in the cart, Mikolka and the group of drunken men beatthe 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!’ Raskolnikovsobs, but his breath fails, and the words burst like cries from his strainingchest.” (Dostoyevsky54) Only after the mare has been brutally killed with whips and crow bars doesRaskolnikov wake from his nightmare of a dream.BehindMikokla’s act of violence in the dream, is the larger plan of Raskolnikov tomurder the old pawnbroker lady.Despite the differences in Mikolka and Raskolnikov, the act of murder is thesame Mikolka hates his victim, the horse, as much as Raskolnikov hates thepawnbroker, “‘Kill her and take her money, so that afterwards with its help youcan devote yourself to the service of all mankind and the common cause’.
.. ‘Of course, she doesn’t deserve tobe alive,’…”(Dostoyevsky 65-66).The imagery of the peasant standing over the mare with an axe later mirrorsRaskolnikov standing over the pawnbroker administering fatal blows, “he drewthe ax out all the way, raised it back with both hands, hardly aware of what hewas doing; and almost without effort, almost automatically, he brought theblunt side down on her head” (Dostoyevsky 74).This shows, however, that Raskolnikov does have some heart.
The truth is, he does not trulywant to commit the murder.Mikolka, on the other hand feels as though society would benefit from thehorse’s murder and this is how Raskolnikov feels. Because of how he feels towards Alyona hesees of himself murdering the women just like Mikolka murders the horse.Afterthe murder of Alyona and Lizaveta, Raskolnikov contracts a fever and passes out. While he is unconscious, he hashis second dream.
He dreams that he returns to the apartment where he murdered Alyona, thepawnbroker, 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 andsees 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.Strange, though.She did not stir under the blows” (Dostoevsky 267).
Out of fear Raskolnikov began to strike her over and over again like hehad done in real life, but try as he might she did not die. In fact she started laughing whichonly terrified Raskolnikov more, “Fury seized him.With all his might, he began to smash the old woman on the head but with everyblow of the ax the laughter…became louder and louder” (Dostoevsky 267).Thisdream is significant because it illustrates the height of inner turmoil that isoccurring inside Raskolnikov.He sees that perhaps he is not some special human and that he could be caughtfor his crime, “Surely it isn’t beginning already! Surely it isn’t mypunishment coming upon me? It is!” (Dostoevsky 275).
This shows that Raskolnikov has begun to realize that what he did inbrutally murdering the two women was an act of violence and a crime andsomething that he would have to face consequences for. He realized that hecould not rationalize murdering these two women because he was not anextraordinary man. Thelast dream was not told directly in the novel but was recalled by Raskolnikovas a dream that he had in prison.Suffering in a prison in Siberia, Raskolnikov is still not fully convinced thathis act of murder was anything more than an error and he becomes very ill…again. Throughout his illness he has histhird and final dream.There was a plague from microscopic bugs that swept the country, “But never had men considered themselves sointellectual and so completely in possession of the truth as these sufferers,never had they considered their decisions, their scientific conclusions, andtheir moral convictions so infallible.
“(Dostoevsky 427).The infected people believed that they themselves were the most intelligentbeings in the world.Since every infected person thought this way, this led to war and famine aspeople started to kill each other off.
Few survivors were left to renew manking.Thisdream ridded Raskolnikov of his belief and feeling of superiority among thecommon man, “They did not know how to judge and could not agree what toconsider evil and what good; they did not know whom to blame, whom to justify. Men killed each other in a sort ofsenseless spite” (Dostoyevsky 518).He believed that by being an extraordinary man he could have his own set ofrules and break the law and not be punished for it.
But seeing a world of men who allbelieved that they had their own set of rules was eye opening to Raskolnikov. He saw that man could not dooutrageous things, such as murder, and not feel any guilt or suffer anyconsequences from their actions.He saw that by everyone feeling they were better than one another it wouldresults in the destruction of each other.He finally realized and accepted the fact that he is just a normal member ofhumanity and was not better than anyone else.
Inhis dreams, Raskolnikov is subconsciously confronted with the reality of manyof his faults and beliefs.There is a shift of responsibility for the murder that occurs from one dream tothe next.The first dream shows that he may not have truly wanted to murder thepawnbroker showing that his action could be a crime. The second dream showedRaskolnikov feeling guilt for his murder which again showed that he was not a superior being who could create hisown rules and suffer no consequences.The third and final dream depicted Raskolnikov’s acceptance to the fact that hewas wrong.He saw the reality of mankind and how he was the same as everyone else, notsuperior.
Withoutthe dreams Raskolnikov would have maintained his belief of the extraordinaryman 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 caseit is essential for the practical fulfillment of his idea (sometimes, perhaps,of benefit to the whole of humanity)” (Dostoevsky 232).
Raskolnikov argues that there aretwo classes of people and that both have the right to exist, but existdifferently, “The first class of people preserve and people the world, thesecond 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 experiencedall three dreams Raskolnikov would not have been able to leave his”extraordinary man” theory behind and except reality.Inconclusion, Raskolnikov’s dreams represented his true feelings towards themurder and assisted in disproving his theory of the extraordinary man. The dreams help to reveal hispsychological view of crime and there is a shift of responsibility for themurder throughout the dreams that takes place that, without the dreams, wouldnot have occurred.Touching him, at first indirectly, these dreams approach conscious realizationuntil, in the last dream, he finally recognizes the truths that he otherwisecould not otherwise stand to face.
WorksCitedDostoyevsky,Fyofor .Crime and Punishment.Penguin Classics, 2015.Translated with an introduction and notes by Oliver Ready