The novel Crime and Punishment, by Feodor Dostoevsky, depicts the moral dilemmas of Raskolnikov after he commits a heinous crime by murdering two innocent people. Two critics, Joseph Frank and George McKenna, have pondered whether or not the murders committed by Raskolnikov were moral or immoral. They debate whether Raskolnikov's motives justified his actions. Both critics give unique and contrasting views on the morality of Raskolnikov's motives and actions. In this paper, I will show the conflicting views that each of the critics has towards the morality of the main character, Raskolnikov, while giving my outlook on the topic.
Joseph Frank believes that the actions of an individual are justified as long as his or her motives benefit society. "In this period, for various reasons, we find a shift from the ideals of Utopian Socialism, with its semi-religious glorification of the people, to that of an embittered elitism, which stressed the right of a superior individual to act independently for the welfare of humanity" (Frank 572). Raskolnikov believed his actions would benefit the poverty, crime-stricken community in which he lived. He believed that the crimes he committed were not necessarily crimes, but a way he could better humanity. By killing the pawnbroker, and consequently, her sister, he felt that there would be no more stealing from the poor, from people like him. He believed crime would decline because it would keep people from stealing from those in poverty. People would no longer take from him or others to turn it into wealth for themselves. .
The other critic, George McKenna, proves in his article that Raskolnikov's actions were unacceptable. Raskolnikov kills Alena because he feels she is useless and feeds off the poor of society. She does this by convincing poor people to turn in their possessions for money. Raskolnikov's actions may actually have benefited society, but he does not have the authority to judge whether one's life is useless and to take that person's life.