A common question most readers ask when reading a book is what the main character’s motivations are, how they plan on accomplishing their objectives, and what justifies their motives. In the books Crime and Punishment and A Clockwork Orange, each of the main characters live in a corrupt, poverty-stricken environment and have little freedom or say over their lives. Raskolnikov lives in a tiny apartment in Russia and every day is a battle for him.
Desperate to have some spare change in his pockets, Raskolnikov goes to a pawn shop and pawns his important belongings to a woman named Alena Ivanovna. Alena has a reputation as a cheap, greedy old woman and Raskolnikov realizes one day, in a bar, that he must take the matter into his own hands. Throughout the book, Raskolnikov battles his morals and justifies what he thinks is the correct thing to do. Similarly, in A Clockwork Orange, Alex rejects society and he and his companions continue to do malicious things and hurt other people. Alex believes that he is different from other people and that committing all these malevolent acts makes him human. In each of the books, the main characters murder people, but each of their crimes is based upon different motives. Alex murders because he wants to and Raskolnikov murders because he thinks he is helping people. Both societies force the characters to succumb to doing questionable deeds and seem iconoclastic to the outside world.
Throughout Crime and Punishment, Raskolnikov believes that murder is the best option to save many others, and that he stands above everyone else and has the right to commit murder. While many can argue that Raskolnikov’s murder makes him different, he argues the exact opposite, that he is motivated to murder because he is different from the rest of the society and above everyone else.The first motive Raskolnikov has as to why he commits murder is the “humanitarian” motive. Raskolnikov’s original idea of murdering Alena first came from when he was in a bar. After meeting Porfiry Petrovich and feeling agitated, Raskolnikov wishes to get his pawned watch back from Alena. The thought of murdering Alena came into Raskolnikov’s mind and “his first astonishment changed gradually into something like terror and a cold shiver ran up his spine”(53). After having a thought about murdering her, Raskolnikov enters a bar and hears an argument between a student and a police officer.
The student believes that the death of Alena will benefit everyone else:A hundred thousand good deeds could be done and helped, on that old woman’s money which will be buried in a monastery! Hundreds, thousands perhaps, might be set on the right path; dozens of families saved from destitution, from ruin, from vice, from the Lock hospitals—and all with her money. Kill her, take her money and with the help of it devote oneself to the service of humanity and the good of all. What do you think, would not one tiny crime be wiped out by thousands of good deeds? For one life thousands would be saved from corruption and decay.
One death, and a hundred lives in exchange—it’s simple arithmetic! Besides, what value has the life of that sickly, stupid, ill-natured old woman in the balance of existence! No more than the life of a louse, of a black-beetle, less in fact because the old woman is doing harm. She is wearing out the lives of others. (56) The student’s words are powerful to Raskolnikov because he comes to believe that he could be helping the larger population. The idea that “for one life thousands would be saved” (56) really makes Raskolnikov believe that he is not the only person suffering from her and that “Alena Ivanovna is simply a scavenger living on the helplessness of her clients” (150).
Raskolnikov, after hearing the student, is struck by the coincidence of hearing Alena being bad-mouthed by someone else and realizes that it is his destiny to murder this parasite.The second motive Raskolnikov has for murdering Alena is based upon a financial factor. The book begins by explaining Raskolnikov’s economic situation and gives the reader a touch of his situation. Raskolnikov lives in a deprived, malnourished environment and leads a poor life and the author explains that he is “crushingly poor” (1) and detests his slow, depressing life. Raskolnikov has isolated himself from society and became so poor that “he no longer feels the oppression of his poverty” (1).
While reading the book, the reader finds out that Raskolnikov detests Alena because of her stingy negotiation, and negative attitude towards Raskolnikov. A 19th-century Russian critic wrote that “critic Dimitrii Pisarev accepts the allusions at face value and asserts that Raskolnikov kills for money alone” (149). However, despite committing the murder and stealing Alena’s money, it was interesting to notice that Raskolnikov did not use any of her money. As a matter of fact, Raskolnikov continued to give away his own money to other people who needed help. For example, when Raskolnikov first meets Marmeladov, the reader discovers that Marmeladov is in a situation that is similar to Raskolnikov’s.
Marmeladov is in charge of supporting his family of three kids, his wife, and his other daughter Sonya (who became a prostitute to make money as well). After Raskolnikov hears about Marmeladov’s situation, he accompanies Marmeladov back to his home and encounters Marmeladov’s wife, Katarina. Katarina is furious that Marmeladov once again returned home with no money and begins to hit him. Raskolnikov, not knowing what to do, “thrusts his hand into his pocket and scrapes together with the coppers remaining” (22) and “puts them unobserved on the window-still”(22). Raskolnikov decides to show this act of kindness because he wants to help Marmeladov who was suffering from a similar situation. The murder did not make Raskolnikov want to have more money, but rather to give away more money to other people who are in a similar situations.The final motive that Raskolnikov has for murdering Alena is based upon the “extraordinary man” theory.
When discussing Crime and Punishment, perhaps the most significant part of Raskolnikov is his idea of being an extraordinary human being. The extraordinary man theory begins by explaining that the perpetration of a crime is always accompanied by an illness, and, in this case, Raskolnikov is constantly delirious before and after the murder and is never in a normal mindset. When Raskolnikov talks to Porfiry about his extraordinary man theory, he states that ” All men are divided into “ordinary” and “extraordinary”, ordinary men have to live in submission and have no right to transgress the law because they are ordinary, on the contrary, the extraordinary man has the right to commit any crime and to transgress the law, and all great men would (or should) have the right to eliminate a few men in order to make their discoveries known to the benefit of all humanity. Raskolnikov believes this theory and believes that it is okay for him to commit this murder because he wants to defy normality and be this “free man”.Raskolnikov’s actions of murdering Alena Ivanovna may be considered pure, cold murder.
However, Dostoevsky argues against the critics who read this and present reasons why Raskolnikov’s murder is justifiable. To support the humanitarian motive, Raskolnikov believes that he can commit a murder because he he is helping the greater good. In addition, Raskolnikov believes he can commit a murder because he is an extraordinary human being that stands above everyone else. Raskolnikov states that “the murder is only to prove that he can do it; to prove that he is absolutely independent of morality” (63). Raskolnikov wants to become a human that can stand above everyone else and be deemed extraordinary, and to prove his superiority over humanity and live beyond any determination of what is good and evil. Finally, Raskolnikov has the urge to murder because he originally wanted to take back his pawned belongings and to obtain money. However, we learned that Raskolnikov did not use any of the money he stole from Alena, but rather simply hid it under a rock the entire time.
Raskolnikov is a very interesting character throughout the book that developed motives and does what he believes he can do.In A Clockwork Orange, Alex shares similar motives with Raskolnikov. Throughout the book, Alex evolves and becomes a character that has his own free will that allows him to have motives and act on his own. Both characters committed murdered however, Alex’s motive was more direct and malicious. He wanted to murder because he wanted to have a freedom of choice, the necessity of evil in human nature / tendency to be violent as a teenage boy.
One motive Alex had when murdering the cat-lady was the problem of order in society vs. freedom of choice. In the beginning of the book, we learn that Alex’s society is suppressing and controlling. During the story, a constant theme of power plays a role.
Power is significant in his society and one can clearly gauge how the government is willing to sacrifice the individual liberties of its constituents for the stability of the state. Alex’s motive throughout the book is caused by his detest and rebellion against power and his desire to become a free person and not be constrained by rules. When Alex read the book A Clockwork Orange by F.Alexander, he read “the attempt to impose upon man, a creature of growth and capable of sweetness, to ooze juicily at the last round the bearded lips of God, to attempt to impose, I say, laws and conditions appropriate to a mechanical creation, against this I raise my sword-pen” (26). These words that Alex read echoed in his mind and resonated what he was trying to achieve. F Alexander’s work and Alex are very similar. This book is used as a platform from which to criticize governments that, in their eyes, seek to limit an individual’s freedom.
Another reason why Alex was motivated to murder the cat-lady was that he believed that everybody has the necessity of evil in human nature and a teenage boy’s urge. The reader knows that throughout the book, Alex lives in a society that is repressed and peaceful. This results in the formation of many small gangs that commit acts of evil. In this case, Alex, like the rest of the teenage boys in the book, formed a group of droogs and participated in these activities.
When R.P. Deltoid confronts Alex to question him about any malicious activities, Alex quickly defends himself:They don’t go into the cause of goodness, so why of the other shop?. . Badness is of the self, the one, the you or me on our oddy knockies, and that self is made by old Bog or God and is his great pride and radosty. But the not-self cannot have the bad, meaning they of the government and the judges and the schools cannot allow the bad because they cannot allow the self.
And is not our modern history, my brothers, the story of brave malenky selves fighting these big machines?(43) A constant theme of man vs. machine is mentioned throughout the book to explain the difference and why one is more beneficial than the other. Alex, after responding to R.P Deltoid, believes that “badness if of the self” and every human is not perfect. Alex’s point is that there is no answer because evil is a natural part of man, and is therefore as inexplicable as goodness. Furthermore, evil, just like goodness, is a choice and Alex does not want to become a “machine” and be controlled by the government.The main characters in each of these stories share similar beliefs and values.
Each wants to become something else in their society and be independent above everyone else. In Raskolnikov’s case, he commits murder because he believes that he is extraordinary and that he is acting for freedom. Similarly, Alex continues to rebel in the story and to reject society by comminuting numerous malicious acts. However, both characters want to make a statement and want the reader to understand that they are fighting against a controlling environment.
Overall, both characters continue to grow as the story progresses and decide to advance on their acts to become more than just a repressed citizen in society.