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.

The Antimony of Essence

Ironically: Sonia, a prostitute, is the saintliest, altruistic character. Marmeladov, a drunken wretch, is a solicitous man towards his ménage. These kinsfolk are both abundant and impoverished, financially in the former, and spiritually in the latter.

Raskolnikov too is a conundrum, as a nihilistic fideist (which is contradictory). Thought-provokingly, Raskolnikov’s God is everlastingly divine, yet was a mortal.

The God-Man enigma, for centuries, is never fathomed. Yet, the paradoxes of the characters in Crime and Punishment are likewise incomprehensible mysteries, but worth exploring. The baffling quandary is that God was both God and non-God, an incarnate of an infinite, timeless being, into a finite, temporal flesh.

However, kenotic arguments intensifies unconditional love: God must share a human nature to honor the definition of perfect love, which is to execute crime, so to say, to the laws of reason. He was broken, paradoxically, in the sense that He broke His own perfect essence to substantiate perfect love.

Here lays two allusions: the paradox of being, and the tale of redemption (through martyrdom). Christianity teaches to “love thy neighbor,” reaching out to the broken.

The nub is that salvation demands crime. Prostitution and drunkenness itself are crimes for God. Nevertheless, the intentions of those crimes of Sonia and Marmeladov, contrasted to Raskolnikov, can be distinguished: crime with the noble aim of self-sacrificing love, and crime with the vile aim of self-seeking hate.

Jesus Himself committed blasphemy (crime), metaphysically and linguistically, hence the crucifixion (punishment). The broken God with perfect love saves those who are broken but with love, who ought to imitate the Redeemer and absolve those who are broken but with no love.

This theological postulation, if compatible, implies a chance of redemption for the every broken individual, or, humanity itself.

The befitting title would be “Crime and Punishment, then Salvation”.

The Almighty Lawbreaker

1) The extraordinary are lawbreakers.

2) Lawbreakers are criminals.

3) Therefore, the extraordinary are criminals.

In Part III of Crime and Punishment, Dostoyevsky incorporated a juxtaposition of objective, superhuman authority, and subjective, nihilistic reality. An existential conundrum was splendidly conveyed through the dialogues of Raskolnikov, concerning his paper “On Crime”.

As Raskolnikov set forth his dichotomy of the “ordinary” and the “extraordinary”, he exploited his classifications as an advantage to conceal his offence. This division is homogeneous to Nietzsche’s Übermensch that discriminates the “weak” and “strong” moralities. The latter shall forge new laws and dictate society, thus the former ought to obey.

Nihilism rejects transcendental, spiritual concerns, favoring the secular notion on the inexistence of the soul, but solely the observable world. “Thou shalt not kill”, then, becomes nugatory.

Instantly, this denotes the self-defeating nature of relativistic morality. I postulate that not only this deleterious ethical standpoint is self-defeating philosophically, but in a physical sense, to Raskolnikov.

This contention pledged the reality that Raskolnikov has a fragmented nature, both cognitively and psychosomatically. Thus, the crux is: it is an intrinsic quality of our egocentric human nature that we aspire to destroy others for our own contentment, albeit on occasions we end up destroying ourselves.

Engrossingly, Raskolnikov explicitly professed his belief in God. Whereas, according to Nietzsche, “God is dead”, as the objective moral standard is illusory.

Raskolnikov, then, from a monotheistic perspective, defied an Old Covenant law, “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.”

Furthermore, Raskolnikov was intrigued by the account of Lazarus. At heart, perhaps, since the God of Lazarus—the God of the New Covenant—broke Jewish laws, provided that the syllogism is implemented: God, who is “extraordinary”, must be a criminal, and his baffling credence in the existence of God impelled him to become like God.

The Two-Edged Homicide

Raskolnik“, in Russian, means “one who splits.”

Indeed, Raskolnikov committed a homicide by splitting his victim’s brain with an axe. The crystal clear purpose of an axe itself is “to split”.

It is apparent that Raskolnikov prospected that an axe would be the optimal weapon of choice for an immaculate murder, as he anticipated that a knife would potentially cause turbulence. His objective was to undertake a methodically coherent crime scene, erring the potency of perturbation that would lead to jeopardy, both physically and mentally.

The question remains—a dichotomy: did Raskolnikov engage in a rational act irrationally, or an irrational act rationally? Through indirect characterization within the narrative, revealing that Raskolnikov embraced the reckoning of Western pragmatism instead of Christian morality, Raskolnikov was idiosyncratically in the stance of the former [to himself]. As the topic of emotion vs. reason is up to quarrel, this thought may be conveniently substantiated by what the axe truly epitomize.

The axe figuratively slit the rational and the irrational in this sense: when Raskolnikov chopped the pawnbroker’s brain, he not only murdered the woman (corporeally), but also murdered the self (psychologically and intellectually).

During the homicide scene, Raskolnikov’s sanity was outstripped by groundless apprehension, which thwarted his elevating expectations—a treacherous operation without a maneuver tackled without the vulnerability of trauma vanquishing the cognitive mind. Raskolnikov had symbolically fractured his own rational mind through an irrational act that he once surmised as rational.

The double-sided feature of the axe, the dulled side utilized to butcher Alyona, and the razor edge to inadvertently kill Lizaveta, may then represent or personify the duplex nature of Raskolnikov.

In closing, the axe is an instrument created for rational practices, but has been exploited irrationally as a weapon, akin to the cerebrum of Raskolnikov.