revistas electrónicas de la Universidad de Granada

Two Kinds of Responsibility in "Crime and Punishment"

Octavian Gabor


There are two types of responsibility in Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment: a judgmental one and a healing one. In judgmental responsibility, humans judge others and the world around them and act in order to “cleanse” it from any impurities. In doing so, they establish themselves as supra-humans and, by consequence, as murderers. In healing responsibility, the cleansing of the world takes place in acknowledging that one is responsible before all. This kind of responsibility transcends morality and reestablishes the connection between all humans as members of the same world: it is the attitude that a human being is called to have when faced with a broken reality.
Dostoevsky succeeds in distinguishing between these two types of responsibility by having characters engaged in similar actions. Dunya and Sonya both sacrifice themselves for their families, but the first does it as a personal choice, while the second perceives it as a given. Then, Porfiry and Sonya both ask Raskolnikov to confess his crime. The first wants Rodion’s eternal damnation, while the second sees in confession Raskolnikov’s chance to obtain salvation and to thus renew the entire world.

Palabras clave

Dostoevsky, responsibility, personhood, individuality, confession

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ISSN: 1579-8372 | eISSN: 2255-517X