The Napoleonic Façade

The military tactician, tremendously acclaimed for the rise of the First French Empire, was regarded as a conqueror worth imitating by Raskolnikov.

Why did Dostoyevsky present a glimpse of Raskolnikov’s personhood as Napoleon Bonaparte, and not Alexander the Great or Julius Caesar? I will argue that Napoleon’s innermost self is an exemplary candidate as Raskolnikov’s reflection.

Born as an assertive, ambitious child, Napoleon weathered as what historians call a “chameleon”, as his temperaments are equivocal. He was neither bloodthirsty nor generous, nor lenient or intemperate. His contemporaries inspected him as contradictory, paralleling Raskolnikov’s endeavors to sham as a mastermind.

Interestingly, Napoleon admitted that he had complications articulating his authentic determinations, akin to how Raskolnikov repeatedly shuffled his intentions.

Throughout his education, desolation and isolation exhausted him, yet appealed to illustrious men of history—which then generated a megalomaniacal warmonger that thirsted for glory.

“Power is my mistress.”

The outcomes of this devotion produced this reality: although he decimated millions, millions praised him. As with Raskolnikov, both declared that they never committed crime, not fearing the Lord’s verdict. Yet for Napoleon, prestige is virtue, to institute revolutionary ideas.

On religion, Alexander and Caesar were pagans. They believed not in God, but in gods. In contrast, Napoleon believed in Jesus, and explicitly acknowledged that these former historical legends fought under compulsions, like Ares. The image of Christ as a liberator and lawmaker drove his spirit to triumph “by love.”

However, the Russians opposed him. His “love” was not evident for the invaded. The Grande Armeé did not foresee, wittily saying, the “cold” response.

Perhaps these resemblances indicate that Raskolnikov was at war with individuals of his nationality that he underestimated, obstinate to the fact that coping with distinctive stratums will fatigue him, and was at war with himself, echoing Napoleon’s self-inconsistent character.


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