Crime and Punishmentis a novel written in 1866 by, a Russianauthor, Fyodor Dostoevsky. In the novel, the characters Rodion RomanovichRaskolnikov and Arkady Ivanovitch Svidrigailov have dreams which aresignificant as they give an insight into their lives. As Dostoyevsky says “In amorbid condition of the brain, dreams often have a singular actuality vividnessand extraordinary semblance of reality” (pg57). Sigmund Freud was convincedthat dreams provide a key to the unconscious mind which holds the represseddesires and emotions of a human being. Raskolnikov has anintrovert personality, he isolated himself from others when he becameunemployed and fell into poverty. Lack of social interaction in Raskolnikov’slife led him into depression. “The clinically depressed dreamer wakes upfeeling like he has been in a battle” (dreamstudies.
org). Rodya has dreams thatare emotionally intense. In the novel, the first dream that Raskolnikov has iswhere he is back in his childhood. He is back with his father in his hometownwhich he remembers more vividly in the dream than “he had done in memory”. Inhis dream he comes across a tavern where a crowd is gathered around a marebeing forced to lift a cart full of people by its owner. Young Raskolnikovwatches furiously the cruelty that the mare is suffering from being beaten upby Mikolka, its owner, for it to move. He attempts to stop the beating but tono avail as his father pulls him back and he helplessly watches the feeble maredie. This dream further explains Raskolnikov’s “split” personality which hislast name suggests as well; Raskol is a Russian word which means “split”.
Hehas been contemplating the murder of the pawnbroker, Alyona Ivanovna, and hisdream that had imagery of death and torture expresses his unconscious mind’sfeelings towards it. Young Raskolnikov is an innocent side of Raskolnikov whichfeels 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 hecan 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 backand forth in these personalities. Upon waking up he renounced his motive tomurder the pawnbroker because he realized he “couldn’t bring himself to it”.This dream foreshadows the upcoming events in the novel where Raskolnikov isMikolka.
He murders Alyona who is considered useless because she does notcontribute to the poor in the society like the mare was considered useless fornot galloping after being thrashed by Mikolka. Afterbeing imprisoned for his crime, Raskolnikov has his last dream in the novel ina prison cell. He dreams of a plague spreading in the world which affectspeople’s brain and leads them to think that they are more intelligent thananyone else. This leads to a war in between people who are trying to prove thatthey are better than the other.
This dream shows the consequences of what theworld would come to if everyone started to believe Raskolnikov’s belief ofthere being extraordinary men who are above the common population. Theseextraordinary 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 thecrime and is remorseful because if everyone built their own morals it will endin chaos. Even in prison he did not socialize and does not expresses hisemotions and after his mother’s death he would not admit to himself that he haslost someone important to him because a nihilist is not affected by the samethings that affect ordinary people. So he falls ill for keeping everythingbottled up inside and this dream is him finally realizing that after all he isnot superior to the ordinary population. The character ofSvidrigaïlov commits suicide after staying in a hotel room.
He has suicidalthoughts prior to arriving at the hotel, “it would be better to be well for theoccasion” (499) because he is feeling feverish. Upon falling asleep in thehotel room, one of the dreams that Svidrigaïlov has is set in vividly peacefulsetting. He dreams of a summer holiday in a garden with several types offragrant flowers surrounding a country cottage but this is disrupted when henotices a 14 years young girl in “misery and sorrowful appeal” as she lays deadin a coffin after drowning herself. This dream suggests that the rumourRaskolnikov heard from Pulcheria Alexandrovna that there had been a young girlwho had committed suicide supposedly after being “cruelly outraged bySvidrigaïlov” (297) was indeed accurate.
The bright scenery in this dream linksto Svidrigaïlov’s pleasure and the girl’s death is the consequence of it andSvidrigaïlov’s contained suppressed guilt begins to show through hisunconscious mind. His next dream follows up right after. He dreams of a fiveyear old girl who is in despair, the girl’s description is quite remorsefulbecause she is “crying and trembling from the damp, the darkness, the fear thatshe would be beaten for it”(503) by her drunken mother.
This scene turns vileas the little girl turns into a vile French harlot in front of Svidrigaïlov’seyes. This dreams show how he is hopeless after being rejected by Dounia. Hesubconsciously knows that Dounia is an innocent person like the young girl fromhis dream and if he pursues her, his perverted and sinful nature will turnDounia into something corrupted and evil like the French prostitute from hisdream. Dreams inthe novel brought up emotions of a character that they tried to bury deepinside. Raskolnikov knew that he just as ordinary as every else but wanted tobelieve that he is a nihilist.
Svidrigaïlov realizes in his dream that he wouldonly ever be capable of taking away a girl’s innocence, so he commits suicidefor being ashamed of his perverted nature. All of the emotions that thecharacters experienced in their dreams provide an understanding of their mindmore in depth than what their conscious mind would have revealed about theirtraits.