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Application of Psychoanalysis on Dreams in Dostoevsky's ‘Crime and Punishment’

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According to Sigmund Freud, all dreams contain a subliminal message. These messages are able to be interpreted by a psychologist inorder to find the sources of one’s pain or discomfort in life. The process of studying dreams is referred to as psychoanalysis. Psychoanalysis has its application in the physical world and in literature. Dostoevsky has revealed the insights of Raskolnikov’s and Svidrigailov’s dreams, it has provided a way to venture deeper into character analysis by applying psychoanalysis by. Crime and Punishment delve into the human psyche and the effect of crime and guilt on the human consciousness and, by applying psychoanalysis, the subconscious too.

The story Crime and Punishment follows Raskolnikov, a mentally ill man, after killing two people. The story reaches into the mind of Raskolnikov and the methodology behind his attack. In the end, Raslinkov is exiled and sees the wrong in his action. The story shows a struggle between Raslinkov and his conscious building suspense by teasing his confession. The murder is on the forefront of his mind, resulting in vivid dreams that can be used to see his guilt.

In order to understand how to interpret dreams, one must know how psychoanalysis works. The founder, Sigmund Freud, believed the conscious can be divided into three parts: ego, superego, and id. The ego is our awakened selves that control decision-making. The id is our unconscious desire. The superego manages the balance between the two, often suppressing id. The main idea is when sleeping, the superego lets the id become more active; therefore, our dreams are our unconscious desires represented through seemingly random symbols. This can be used to help mentally ill patients by analyzing their dreams but requires hundreds of therapy sessions over a long period of time in order to be effective.

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In Crime and Punishment, Raslinkov is struggling to decide between right and wrong as his id and ego conflict with each other by taking the form of a young Raslinkov and Mikolka. the boy and Mikolka are symbolic of Raskolnikov’s internal conflict between good and evil in Raslinkov’s first dream. “Father, father,’ he cried, ‘father, what are they doing? Father, they are beating the poor horse!’ ‘You’ll kill her,’ shouted the third. ‘Don’t meddle! It’s my property, I’ll do what I choose.”(Dostoevsky, 88) In this dream, there are three major parts: the child, the man, and the horse. The boy represents Raslinkov’s innocence, and ego to show that he is a human and cares about others and their lives. His battle to stop the barbaric actions; while it good intention, have no effect on the fully grown men. The men, specifically, Mikolka, represent evil and his id. These are Raskolnikov’s subconscious desires are struggling to overpower his id.

The urges of Raskolnikov to kill are a result of his fundamental beliefs that have infected his life and dreams by relating the horse to Aloyna and it has become clear, he will follow through with his actions. Mikolka believes he may kill his own horse and humors himself with the action. Drunk with power, he beats the mare mercilessly laughing. The horse is symbolic of Alyona. The horse has no purpose anymore and it a waste of resources to maintain its life. Similarly, Raslinkov believes Alyona is a waste to society and that the lower class would benefit from her death. Raslinkov has already thought much on his topic as he has published a paper and fully believes he is par to Napoleon and the other great people. It is clear that Raslinkov has already knew he was able to follow through with his actions. The only feeble amount of good in his consciousness is equal to that of a little boy fighting a battle with men. In the end, the men who believe they can commit any action, win.

After Raskolnikov murders Alyona and her sister under the pretext he is above others, he is consumed with guilt that causes him to question one of his fundamental beliefs, his theory of superiority. “Except for a small handful of the chosen, all were doomed to perish… Those infected were seized immediately and went mad. Yet people never considered themselves so clever and so unhesitatingly right as these infected ones considered themselves. Never had they considered their decrees, their scientific deductions, their moral convictions and their beliefs more firmly based. Whole settlements, whole cities and nations were infected and went mad…They did not know whom to condemn or whom to acquit.'( Dostoevsky, 520) The plague in this dream represents people like himself who believe they are above the laws of society and can commit any crime, and the chaos it causes. This dream is Raskolnikov’s subconscious becoming aware of the wrong of his actions due to the amount of guilt he feels for his actions. As he reflects on this in prison, he realized how wrong he is, calling those who thought of themselves so highly “infected”. His attitude has shifted and he is now becoming re-associated with society and the moral grounds everyone must live. This is The theme of guilt and condemnation continue in the text.

Svidrigailov’s dreams, relay his impending doom due to his growing guild. Subconsciously his life and the rumors about him are infecting his brain. He is on a path to suicide and he does not shy away. It is easy to interpret that Svidrigailov despises himself and his life. Svidrigailov’s dream shows a girl, “Svidrigaïlov knew that girl; there was no holy image, no burning candle beside the coffin; no sound of prayers: the girl had drowned herself. She was only fourteen, but her heart was broken”. It is easy to infer that this was the funeral for the girl Svidrigailov had raped. As mentioned earlier it was said “ information was given that the child had been… cruelly outraged by Svidrigaïlov. It is true, this was not clearly established, the information was given by another German woman of a loose character whose word could not be trusted; no statement was actually made to the police, thanks to Marfa Petrovna’s money and exertions”

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Application of Psychoanalysis on Dreams in Dostoevsky’s ‘Crime and Punishment’. (2022, December 27). Edubirdie. Retrieved September 29, 2023, from
“Application of Psychoanalysis on Dreams in Dostoevsky’s ‘Crime and Punishment’.” Edubirdie, 27 Dec. 2022,
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Application of Psychoanalysis on Dreams in Dostoevsky’s ‘Crime and Punishment’ [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Dec 27 [cited 2023 Sept 29]. Available from:
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