A superior to happiness–that is what we
A raisin in the sun crtical analysisIn Dostoevsky’s novels pain and some heavy burden of the inevitability ofhuman suffering and helplessness form Russia.
And he depicts it not withwhite gloves on, nor through the blisters of the peasant, but through peoplewho are close to him and his realities: city people who either have faith,or secular humanists who are so remote from reality that even when they lovehumanity they despise humans because of their own inability to achieve or tocreate paradise on earth. His novels The Brothers Karamazov and Crime andPunishment are best examples of the poisonous effect of such ideals on thecommon human. The rebellion of these humanists against the system and thereality of human life becomes more important, thus love becomes the filterand the servant of pride and ideals. The cause of XIX c. liberals becomesmore important to them than the actual human being that might not fit thepicture of their perfect and humane society. Through these problems andopposites which cross and overlap each other, Dostoevsky depicts socialissues, especially the problem of murder, through an image of people who gothrough pain. He presents a graphical experience of ones who do not know howto deal with humanity and its problems.
Dostoevsky himself does not give aclear solution nor does he leave one with the certainty of faith for anexample. He says himself:Finding myself lost in the solution of these questions, I decideto bypass them with no solution at all. (From the Author. TheBrothers Karamazov)Through the presentation of crime and the issue of money which is oftenconnected to it, Dostoevsky retells a Bible story.
His answer to the problemof evil and human life filled with suffering, at least the most persuadingone, for a better society and better social conditions is active love. Thatis not the love that is directed towards the humanity as a whole, buttowards the individual: “Strive to love your neighbor actively andindefatigably” (II, 4). For Dostoevsky such love is a false one and hepresents it through such characters as Rakitin, Perkhotin and even Luzhin:Consciousness of life is superior to life, knowledge of the lawsof happiness is superior to happiness–that is what we must fightagainst. (The Dream of a Ridiculous Man , p. 382)One of greatest evils for Dostoevsky are the so-called liberals who “lovehumanity more than an individual man.
” Yet he does not represent theirbehavior as genuinely evil . Their hate towards humanity arises exactly fromthe opposite: love. Secular humanists see so much evil, crime andinhumanity, they cannot stop it so they rebel. Ivan Karamazov and hisrebellion are purely of that kind.
He is not vile, he just cannot understandthat there might be a solution for such suffering, especially in the case ofchildren who are innocent in Christianity. That is why Ivan asks:Love life more than the meaning of it? (II, 3)Ivan as any average intellectual, wants to know. To know the meaning of lifefor him is more important than to actually do something about the humansuffering.
Ivan forgets that one human life is as important as the entirehumanity. For him humanity is merely an abstraction which happen to besurrounding him. He thinks that by knowing and logically, rationally finallyunderstanding the mystery of life problems would be solved.
For Alyosha, theonly answer is love for life, regardless of the meaning and the logic behindit. To help people and try to forgive them if they do wrong or help them ifthey need help is all that Alyosha wants. Faith in God and people is theonly way to live with love. To believe in God and to have trust in humannature and destiny means to forgive and to repent. It means not hurtingothers. Ivan gets trapped by the power of his own intellect and his ownpride: the pride that pulses in humans who want to know more. Ivancontradicts himself with his rebellion.
On one side, everything ispermitted, because there is no God (Ivan is an atheist), on the other therule of despotic Inquisitors who claim that there is God, but “know” thetruth: that there is no God. Ivan desires rebellion against the Father andhis father, the proclamation of a man-god, but in the same time Ivan looksat people like himself as fathers to the masses. Raskolnikov does the same.He separates people on ordinary and extraordinary. His superman is permittedeverything :I simply intimate that the “extraordinary” man has the right…
Idon’t mean a formal, official right, but he has the right inhimself, to permit his conscience to overstep…(Crime andPunishment. III, 5)Ivan praises the idea of God, “which entered the head of such a savage,vicious beast as man” (Brothers Karamazov, V, 4). So he also thinks most ofpeople unworthy.
How can a man that despises humanity love it at the sametime? If humans are like that than who has a right to be a Superman or theInquisitor. Yes, it is true that there are bad humans, but one cannot go andhate all of human race for the fault of some. Without love the salvation andbetter society are impossible. Sonya and her sacrifice for others and herforgiveness are the best example. She has God because she knows that she isas big of a sinner and no better than others, and she still loves people,she does not want to be better for the purpose of egotistical pride.In Russia at the time the Church was second place and the values of WesternEuropean liberal thought were sweeping through.
What Dostoevsky saw was thatnone of those ideas actually improved the status of the masses. Thus, theanswer has to lie somewhere else rather than in the assertion of humanistsand rationalists that men are gods. What Raskolnikov does is exactly that:he gives himself the license to transgress and to decide to be a god. Herebels against society and its norms. Raskolnikov hates Luzhin andSvidrigaylov, but by killing the old lady and Lizaveta on his way to his ownpurpose he turns into people as evil as the ones he despises most. Once hecrosses the line he does not know where to stop. Geoffrey Kabat writes:On another, symbolic level, the murder is an attempt to annihilatea symbol of the oppressive forces of a society in which moneygives one power over other people’s lives and in which lack ofmoney means dependence on others.
(V, 124)The problem of money and its oppressive and evil character is an importantissue in Dostoevsky’s novels. Raskolnikov is originally troubled because ofhis financial problems, Sonya is a prostitute to provide for her family,Mitya wants to kill his father for money. Judas betrays Jesus for money.
This theme is repeated in Dostoevsky, but there is always something more: inthe end the money (as in the case of Rodion or Mitya) is of lesserimportance than the actual rebellion against the society and the attempt tochange the social conditions which are almost unbearable. They both considercommitting suicide, but do not do it because they are lucky enough to meetand to follow a Christ figure. Christ would have forgiven Judas, but Judasdid not ask for forgiveness. He felt guilt, but the feeling of guilt is anecessity if one knows of guilt and possesses fear. To know the guilt is notenough: to repent is crucial. Grushenka and Sonya forgive because they haveto forgive, but in the first place they know that the guilty have to forgivethemselves and take the path of repentance.
Otherwise, rationality at itsbest turns a man into a tyrant, on a smaller scale than the Inquisitor, butstill a tyrant. This ego and child rebellion (against every father possible)of Rodion kill Alyona and Lizaveta and that is why he hurts his mother andsister. Joseph Frank writes:By this time, Raskolnikov has begun to understand how easily a pridefulegoism can begin with love and turn into hate. ( Dostoevsky: The Years ofOrdeal 1850-1859.I, 7)The alternative to the behavior of Svidrigaylov and Raskolnikov in the Crimeand Punishment is Sonya or Sofia.
Her name implies that Dostoevsky eventhrough this wants to show how foolish the Greco-Roman foundation for theWestern thought is. The only person that possesses the ultimate wisdom andthe key to happiness is Sonya. The woman of Russia who believes and takes anthe role of the mother for her sisters and brothers as well as for Rodion.She loves actively–with her body she sacrifices herself for her family.Sofia is the one with the answer:Go at once, this instant, stand at the cross-roads, first bow downand kiss the earth you have desecrated, then bow to the wholeworld, to the four corners of the earth, and say aloud to all theworld: “I have done murder.” (V, 4)Raskolnikov will not go because for him authority is another representationof amorality, no better than himself.
They do not care about his soul or hisremorse. They want to find the murderer and punish him. The point thatfollows out of is that no judicial system is enough to make one truly feelsorry. The issue of punishment is not what matters. Surely Sonya does notwant Raskolnikov to turn himself in because she hates him or because shethinks that he is a vile and evil creature. She wants to save him and sheknows that the first path to the savior is the admittance of one’s own sin,and desire already exists.
Sonya knows that Rodion will not be saved if heis merely sent to Siberia. She follows him with the offer and the example ofher Christian love, fulfilling her words and actively loving, hoping thathis transgression will not push him away from the world back into his owninterior world in which nobody else has a place. Opposite to Sonya is what”humanists” do, what the “extraordinary” men do.
Their idea becomes morethan the actual humanity, more than the actual substance of that idea. Theinevitability of human suffering becomes obvious if one is searching for ananswer. Thus just like Raskolnikov and Ivan rejection of such society andlife comes, which leads to the “cold and inhumanely callous to the point ofinhumanity” (Crime and Punishment, V, 2).In order to defeat evil one has to start with the assumption that there isgoodness . To rebel violently because of a child’s death only brings greaterevil. Ivan does not love others nor does he love himself. He does not acceptthe most important of all, and what is crucial to Sonya and Alyosha:forgiveness.
He cannot forgive himself, for he is accusing himself ofFyodor’s death, and he goes mad. The Grand Inquisitor and Ivan come veryclose together in their hate towards humanity. They hold the opinion thatChrist made a mistake when he sacrificed for the human race. What they donot understand is that Christ, with his kiss, again and again dies andsacrifices himself.
Christ does not lose faith in humans and in thepossibility of goodness, even though there is evil. He forgives. Sonyaforgives, she expresses wisdom with her actions. In The Brothers Karamazov ,and Crime and Punishment , active love is the highest value and the onlyremedy to all of humanity’s problems! Sonya’s hand movements, Zosima’s bow,Christ’s kiss are a definite and the ultimate answer that Dostoevsky has tooffer to the people. Father Zosima makes this idea very clear:If you are penitent you love. And if you love you are a God. Allthings are atoned for, all things are saved by love.
If I, asinner, even as you are, am tender with you and have pity on you,how much more will God. Love is such a priceless treasure that youcan redeem the whole world by it, and expiate not only your ownsins but the sins of others. (Brothers Karamazov. II, 4)From the story “Akulka’s Husband ,” in which there is everything but regreton the side of the killer, faith in God is the only path to sanity.Dostoevsky was a young man when he heard these stories. How could he liveotherwise, if he really actively loved people, but take the belief in God asa necessity? The belief that the idea of God should be there becauseotherwise everything would be allowed is Ivan’s perspective. His claim thatsociety should be based on the Christian dogma, and that crime should not beonly against the state, but also against Christ, is exactly the opposite ofwhat to believe and to really love Christ means.
Christ did not set out topunish the transgressors, but he gave them all the love that he could give:forgiveness and love:Remember particularly that you cannot be a judge of anyone. For noone can judge a criminal, until he recognizes that he is just sucha criminal as the man standing before him, and that he perhaps ismorethan all man to blame for that crime. (Brothers Karamazov.
VI,3)For Ivan, eternal justice does not exist, and he also does not believe thatthere are guilty. But after that he accuses people of being evil and he doesnot forgive them. So he needs a lie to cover the fact of the humanmortality. The only problem is that God is not a lie, at least not forDostoevsky.
Ivan would establish the rule of the Inquisitor: he wouldestablish a system that uses Christ for its own survival. To actively lovemeans to believe and not to calculate or believe only nine hours a day orwhen it is helpful to one’s survivalThrough the act of rebellion against the social norms and the Christiandogma secular liberals, or humanists, forget about fellow human beings asbeing fallible as much in thought as in action. In those moments, greatdefenders of liberal thought and love for humanity forget that they mightnot have the definite answer, thus they fall into the same trap as theirpredecessors who thought that they knew what is the best for people andenforced their ideas. They all become Grand Inquisitors and “living gods.”They all want to spare humans from the burden of their own selves, “for onlywe, we who guard the mystery, shall be unhappy.” They preach lies instead ofthe truth, thus they develop a different kind of love: tyrannical love.
TheChristian love has to be free. This is where the social issue of murder, asin the case of Akulka’s husband comes in. He obviously does not feel remorsebecause he owes something to the government or the system, or to his wife:Forgive me, I’ll wash your feet now and drink the water too.
” (Akulka’sHusband)He feels no remorse for the murder and the maltreatment of the woman. Theauthority did send him to prison, but what he feels is nothing else but thefeeling of being punished. There is no remorse and seems that there is noforgiveness. Maybe that is why Dostoevsky does not dwell on his imprisonmenttoo much. He does not want his own punishment to turn into pride: thensociety does not gain anything from the punishment of the one whotransgressed, but plain assertion of its own power. This lapurlativeideology, system for the sake of itself, does not bring the solution.
Therehas to be remorse and real acknowledgment and confession. Not confession forthe sake of mere forgiveness, nor that same sentence, “I cannot forgivemyself. ” For Dostoevsky, that is merely an excuse for pride and self-pity.People find refuge in their theories or in other external factors, such asbeing deprived from something by birth, forgetting that the quality of lifeis one’s own choice, “don’t do to others. ” In a secular society every classfeels responsible only to its own “natural” or rather accidentalsurrounding:The convict is almost always disposed to feel himself justified incrimes against authority, so much so that no question about itever arises for him. Nevertheless, in practice he is aware thatthe authorities take a very different view of his crime and thattherefore he must be punished, and then they are quits.
(Ideologyand Imagination. IV, 147)Dostoevsky’s solution lies in exactly the opposite from the class struggleand the solution that it brings. All of those strives bring only shifts andturns but are still based on hate and not on love. When one thinks of God itis not in terms of class one belongs to, or sex or age. One either acceptsthe Word or one does not, one either believes that even the sparrow has itsplace in God’s mercy or one goes around raving against God, simultaneouslytalking of his necessity. Dostoevsky shows such attitude, such part timerationalizing as worthless and very often dangerous: suicides and murders.
He truly despises it and mercilessly attacks those sins with all hisstrength and his ambiguous words. Zosima’s gives an account of what beingwithout Christ can do:They, following science, want to base justice on reason alone, butnot with Christ, as before, and they have already proclaimed thatthere is no crime, that there is no sin. And that’s consistent,for if you have no God what is the meaning of crime? ( BrothersKaramazov.
VI, 3)This is the danger of Raskolnikov and Ivan’s logic. The society around themand around Dostoevsky is one which makes children suffer and turns young,beautiful and wise creatures, like Sonya, into prostitutes. What is theanswer? Is one answer possible to it at all? Can one go on living with thethought of how much suffering there is ? Does one rebel against the society,then try to establish a new one, forgetting that society does not come to beof itself, but is built by human beings: beings imperfect and ready to hurtand rebel against their fathers, against the idea of “old,” or the societyof the past and present. If that is taken into account the only people whodo make sense out of human existence, which is best showed and expressedthrough suffering, are people such as Ilyushka and Sonya. Their argument ismuch stronger.
They are better for the cause of the improvement of socialissues than the actual orators for the masses. Why? They offer the solutionfor peace in one’s soul. They offer it with faith in God, not the rationalpath of the Western thinker or with the denial of a Russian nihilist, butwith a leap of faith that charms one against actual, brutal, world. Thetyrants, the intellectuals, the Ivans cannot be prevented, but faith candefeat them, over and over again.
The bow and the kiss have to exist.Children die, children suffer, society is unjust, people kill for stupidreasons and base, vile feelings. In a world that is hopelessly destined togo on like that, faith, God, are the best answers to our despair.Intellectualism obviously does not bring much advantage or peace–faith andlove do.
With God one’s pride can be defeated, one’s responsibilityrecognized, one’s active love awakened, one’s soul saved:By the experience of active love. Strive to love your neighboractively and indefatigably. Insofar as you advance in love youwill grow surer of the reality of God and of the immortality ofyour soul.
If you attain to perfect self-forgetfulness in the loveof your neighbor, then you will believe without doubt, and nodoubt can possibly enter your soul. (Brothers Karamazov. II, 4))Ivan recognizes that same necessity and usefulness of God. However, he doesnot really believe in God, thus he cannot forgive, he cannot forgivehimself, and most importantly he does not believe in the immortality of thesoul and in justice. He does not love. Without a belief in the existence ofjustice crime has no meaning. His idea of God is worthless because he is anatheist, he does not believe.
The only way out is not through the lie, withwhich the Church for centuries managed its affairs, but through true andhonest belief that things have a purpose and that it does matter to be goodand not to hurt others. One cannot solve society’s problems unless one trulybelieves that what is done has a purpose. That is not the way because whenone starts looking at humanity as a whole one will not find many good thingsand one will never have any happiness. Only by looking at the individual canone acquire a moment of happiness and exaltation of the soul, such asAlyosha’s experiences in the field. Faith is not rational path, but itequips one with love. Only by having certain values and love for others canthe family as the basic unit of the society survive.
Family Karamazov iscertainly a vicious example of what the society may come to if society doesnot hold values which produce love: we are all responsible for each otherand we have to forgive each other.To improve the society and social conditions and to free people from evil onEarth is impossible. The belief that there is immortality of the soul andthat there is God who takes care of humans is necessary. Dostoevsky goesfurther than Voltaire. He believes that you have to have true faith in orderto attain happiness and to create the ground for better life.
Intellectualdiscussion and the acknowledgment of the necessity for the God as an idea ora Prime Mover becomes worthless the moment it is meant as a lie. It has tobe the Truth, there has to be faith. If one lives a lie his bitterness thatthe dream and the ideal are impossible will only lead to madness, hate, andultimately suicide or murder. One has to give active love.So the ultimate answer to the suffering and the injustice in the world islove. What higher feeling and more positive there is in human existence?Again there is no rational way to explain and to really lead one on thatpath of faith. The possibility of such belief is real because humans areable to love.
That means that they must be able to suffer for others, theyalso must be able to forgive. “Love all men, love everything” are Zosima’swords. Dostoevsky cannot go further than that. Works Cited:Frank, Joseph. Dostoevsky: The Years of Ordeal 1850-1859.Princeton University Press.
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