Crime and Punishment
In Dostoevsky's "Crime and Punishment", Raskolnikov's dream
about the mare can be used to analyze his thoughts and
feelings. Every character within the dream represents one
aspect of his emotions; cruelty, compassion, and guilt.
This suggests that Raskolnikov has a "split" personality.
If Mikolka, the drunken owner of the mare, were to
represent Raskolnikov, then the mare would most probably
represent Alyona Ivanovna. The senseless beating of the
mare by Mikolka can be compared to the brutal attack on
Alyona by Rodion. (It should be noted that both Alyona and
the mare were female.) These heartless attacks foreshadow
the crime that Raskolnikov is contemplating. Dostoevsky
unveils Raskolnikov's cruel side during this dream, if it
is to be interpreted in this way.
On the other hand, Raskolnikov's compassionate side could
be represented by the little boy. The child, watching the
beating, realizes the absurdity of it. He even rushes to
Mikolka, ready to punish him for killing the mare. This
illustrates Rodion's internal struggle while contemplating
the murder of Alyona. His humane side, represented by the
child, tells him to live and let live while his
"extraordinary" side, according to his definition, tells
him that he should eliminate Alyona altogether, for the
good of mankind.
Raskolnikov could also be represented by the mare itself.
However, the burden which the mare must carry (the cart,
the people, etc.) could represent two separate things,
depending on if it is viewed in context before or after the
actual murder. Before the murder, the burden could
represent the moral question that is plaguing Rodion.
Should he kill Alyona? Or should he leave her be? Because
of the importance of this question to Raskolnikov, it
weighs him down heavily at first. However, later on, he
rashly decides to kill Alyona.
If looked upon after the murder, the load on the mare in
the dream could represent the mental burden placed on
Rodion. He had a burden of guilt on him, and he could not
justify the murder according to his own theory. Therefore,
he was torme nted by the otherwise insignificant statements
and actions of others in the novel. Even though Porfiry
Petrovitch did not have many of the people purposely
harassing Raskolnikov by mentioning various facets of the
murder, it was as if those who were "beating" the truth out
of him were pawns of Porfiry (or that of truth and the law
in general), just as those beating the life out of the mare
were pawns of Mikolka (or that of cruelty). By this
reasoning, a parallel may also be drawn between the m are
This is not to say that the dream does not have other
significances. It is possible that Mikolka represents
Porfiry also. Mikolka beat the mare until it died; Porfiry
beat Raskolnikov mentally until he confessed. There are
also other interpretations that can be made.
Depending on the interpretation, Raskolnikov may be
represented by all three main characters in the dream:
Mikolka, the child, and the mare. Each representation
brings to mind a new side of Rodion Romanovitch that must
be considered in order to understand him fully.
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