Friday, December 10, 2010

Zeroing in on our Identites with Crime and Punishment

Identity in Crime and Punishment
In this post we are returning to the heart of the question, what determines our identity?
Does our upbringing determine our identity according to Dostoyevsky?
Raskolinkov and Dunya are both brought up within the same family and same situation and yet their identities become very different. In the beginning of Crime and Punishment they seem very similar – they are both young and handsome characters well liked by most of their peers, but as the book continues the reader determines how different they truly are. Raskolinkov is obsessed with a theory, one that he ultimately proves wrong through the murder of two women. The murder of one of the women might have been justified. This connects his situation to Dunyas – where she is presented the chance to kill a man who was attempting to rape her. She chooses against. Both characters are in similar situations and yet their identities become separated by their choices of action. This allows the reader to believe that Dostoyevsky would argue that upbringing does not determine our identities.
Do our loved ones determine our identity according to Dostoyevsky?
Sonya works as a prostitute in order to help her family, it could be argued that Raskolinkov murders a women to obtain money for his family, and Svidrigailov commits suicide because the women he loves doesn’t love him back – all of these actions help define the characters identities throughout Crime and Punishment. The motives of these actions appear at the surface level to be love for someone or something, but the problem is that the actions are quite disgusting and warped. I feel that this is demonstrating Dostoyevsky’s opinion that our identities are shaped by our loved ones but because of the nature of the actions – our identities are shaped in a negative way because of loved ones.

A tale of Foils and Identity - KHIV

Identities are fought for within Henry IV. Hotspur and Hal represent foils to contrast the identity of a true prince. So the question becomes what is the identity of good prince? In the beginning the reader debates internally about whether Hotspur – the victorious one, or Hal – the slacker is more admirable.  As the story progresses we learn that Hal has been guided by a hidden motive to be seen as the “light (son/sun) in the darkness” and this is what has determined his identity. Hal and Hotspur constantly are fighting internally and externally with each other for right to the throne. In the end Hal becomes superior revealing his true identity that has been hidden throughout the book. This explains that people can keep their identities hidden and even when one identity seems to be the better of the two, you cannot judge a book by its cover.