Crime and Punishment
is a novel written in 1866 by, a Russian
author, Fyodor Dostoevsky. In the novel, the characters Rodion Romanovich
Raskolnikov and Arkady Ivanovitch Svidrigailov have dreams which are
significant as they give an insight into their lives. As Dostoyevsky says “In a
morbid condition of the brain, dreams often have a singular actuality vividness
and extraordinary semblance of reality” (pg57). Sigmund Freud was convinced
that dreams provide a key to the unconscious mind which holds the repressed
desires and emotions of a human being.

     Raskolnikov has an
introvert personality, he isolated himself from others when he became
unemployed and fell into poverty. Lack of social interaction in Raskolnikov’s
life led him into depression. “The clinically depressed dreamer wakes up
feeling like he has been in a battle” (dreamstudies.org). Rodya has dreams that
are emotionally intense. In the novel, the first dream that Raskolnikov has is
where he is back in his childhood. He is back with his father in his hometown
which he remembers more vividly in the dream than “he had done in memory”. In
his dream he comes across a tavern where a crowd is gathered around a mare
being forced to lift a cart full of people by its owner. Young Raskolnikov
watches furiously the cruelty that the mare is suffering from being beaten up
by Mikolka, its owner, for it to move. He attempts to stop the beating but to
no avail as his father pulls him back and he helplessly watches the feeble mare
die. This dream further explains Raskolnikov’s “split” personality which his
last name suggests as well; Raskol is a Russian word which means “split”. He
has been contemplating the murder of the pawnbroker, Alyona Ivanovna, and his
dream that had imagery of death and torture expresses his unconscious mind’s
feelings towards it. Young Raskolnikov is an innocent side of Raskolnikov which
feels guilty towards the mare’s death and is incapable of committing murder.
Mikolka is a side of Raskolnikov’s personality that is trying to prove that he
can commit a premeditated murder by “really take an axe, ..strike her on head,
split her skull open”(62). Raskolnikov is struggling within as he switches back
and forth in these personalities. Upon waking up he renounced his motive to
murder the pawnbroker because he realized he “couldn’t bring himself to it”.
This dream foreshadows the upcoming events in the novel where Raskolnikov is
Mikolka. He murders Alyona who is considered useless because she does not
contribute to the poor in the society like the mare was considered useless for
not galloping after being thrashed by Mikolka.

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       After
being imprisoned for his crime, Raskolnikov has his last dream in the novel in
a prison cell. He dreams of a plague spreading in the world which affects
people’s brain and leads them to think that they are more intelligent than
anyone else. This leads to a war in between people who are trying to prove that
they are better than the other. This dream shows the consequences of what the
world would come to if everyone started to believe Raskolnikov’s belief of
there being extraordinary men who are above the common population. These
extraordinary people can bend the law and be excused from their crimes.
Raskolnikov is a moral nihilist but his dream shows that he is guilty of the
crime and is remorseful because if everyone built their own morals it will end
in chaos. Even in prison he did not socialize and does not expresses his
emotions and after his mother’s death he would not admit to himself that he has
lost someone important to him because a nihilist is not affected by the same
things that affect ordinary people. So he falls ill for keeping everything
bottled up inside and this dream is him finally realizing that after all he is
not superior to the ordinary population.

     The character of
Svidrigaïlov commits suicide after staying in a hotel room. He has suicidal
thoughts prior to arriving at the hotel, “it would be better to be well for the
occasion” (499) because he is feeling feverish. Upon falling asleep in the
hotel room, one of the dreams that Svidrigaïlov has is set in vividly peaceful
setting. He dreams of a summer holiday in a garden with several types of
fragrant flowers surrounding a country cottage but this is disrupted when he
notices a 14 years young girl in “misery and sorrowful appeal” as she lays dead
in a coffin after drowning herself. This dream suggests that the rumour
Raskolnikov heard from Pulcheria Alexandrovna that there had been a young girl
who had committed suicide supposedly after being “cruelly outraged by
Svidrigaïlov” (297) was indeed accurate. The bright scenery in this dream links
to Svidrigaïlov’s pleasure and the girl’s death is the consequence of it and
Svidrigaïlov’s contained suppressed guilt begins to show through his
unconscious mind. His next dream follows up right after. He dreams of a five
year old girl who is in despair, the girl’s description is quite remorseful
because she is “crying and trembling from the damp, the darkness, the fear that
she would be beaten for it”(503) by her drunken mother. This scene turns vile
as the little girl turns into a vile French harlot in front of Svidrigaïlov’s
eyes. This dreams show how he is hopeless after being rejected by Dounia. He
subconsciously knows that Dounia is an innocent person like the young girl from
his dream and if he pursues her, his perverted and sinful nature will turn
Dounia into something corrupted and evil like the French prostitute from his
dream.

       Dreams in
the novel brought up emotions of a character that they tried to bury deep
inside. Raskolnikov knew that he just as ordinary as every else but wanted to
believe that he is a nihilist. Svidrigaïlov realizes in his dream that he would
only ever be capable of taking away a girl’s innocence, so he commits suicide
for being ashamed of his perverted nature. All of the emotions that the
characters experienced in their dreams provide an understanding of their mind
more in depth than what their conscious mind would have revealed about their
traits.