The concept of isolation of man being totally alone with nowhere to ru
"Has been a lifesaver so many times!"
- Catherine Rampell, student @ University of Washington
"Exactly the help I needed."
- Jennifer Hawes, student @ San Jose State
"The best place for brainstorming ideas."
- Michael Majchrowicz, student @ University of Kentucky
The concept of isolation, of man being totally alone with nowhere to run, permeates Fyodor Dostoevskyís
novel, Crime and Punishment. Throughout the novel, Raskolnikov passes through different stages of
isolation. He possesses different degrees of alienation because of different reasons which are all related to
his theory about ordinary and extraordinary men. When he is planning the murder, his isolation is apparent
but it reaches its height after he commits the murder of the pawnbroker and falls into sickness. From this
point, he slowly realizes that no one can survive without human contact and he begins to re-enter society.
Before Raskolnikov kills Alyona, his "sick frightened feeling," undoubtedly a subconscious allusion to
how he will feel after the murder, forces him to isolate himself from his landlady and any other associates.
"Do you understand, sir, do you understand what it means when you have absolutely no where to turn,"
enters Raskolnikovís mind when he feels downhearted about Dounia marrying Luzhin, which he decides he
cannot control and which embodies him with feelings of helplessness. These two instances of
Raskolnikovís isolation forces him to contact society in some way. He decides to see Razumihin, to escape
from feelings of isolation and nowhere to run. But soon after changes his mind and promises to visit
Razumihin in the coming days.
Raskolnikov is sick even before he kills. He believes these feelings will disappear once he has
murdered, because he believes he can justify the murder with his theory. But, to his surprise, he becomes
extremely ill to the point of insanity after the murder. Even though he thinks he can justify killing her, his
conscious will not let him justify the slaying or his theory completely. Raskolnikovís illness reaches its
greatest prominence at this point.
Soon after Alyona is lost, Raskolnikov becomes incoherent and begins to rely on his theory of crime to
keep him alive. He remembers his promise to visit Razumihin and because of his need for human contact,
visits his house. Part of Raskolnikovís theory is that an extraordinary man will have no need for help or
sympathy. An extraordinary man must have the ability to be self sufficient and rely on nobody. He
realizes this at Razumihinís house and quickly isolates himself from human contact once again. The
turning point of Raskolnikovís sickness is when he is talking to his mother, after witnessing Marmeladovís
death, "It became suddenly plain and perceptible that he would never again be able to speak freely of
anything to anyone." He has realized that crime has not put him above the average man, but rather isolated
him from the world.
Raskolnikov must now begin to re-enter society after his realization that one can not be totally cut off
from human contact. Raskolnikov visits Sonia and asks her to join him. This is the first step Raskolnikov
takes in leaving his isolation. He even begins to question the aspect of his theory that the extraordinary
man must stand by himself. Raskolnikovís final confession to Sonia and the police complete his
reintegration into the world. The punishment for his crime was his inability to communicate. If one cannot
communicate; if they are totally isolated, their humanity will be stripped away. Raskolnikov felt his
humanity being ripped away and he was forced to confess for the sake of his own sanity.
Raskolnikovís journey from the initial formation of his theory to the actual "experiment" of killing the
pawnbroker to test his theory pushed him through
stages of isolation, sickness, and redemption. He firmly believed that an extraordinary man could
transgress the law and, if he thought it justified, kill for the greater good. But, this theory was flawed in
that a man who believes he is extraordinary must raise himself above society to achieve greatness. This
peels ones humanity from their awareness and tosses them in to sickness and dispair.
View Full Essay