Friday, January 24, 2020
Comparing Dostoevskys Crime and Punishment and Ralph Waldo Emersons Self-Reliance :: Comparison Compare Contrast Essays
Comparing Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment and Ralph Waldo Emerson's Self-Reliance "It is only as a man puts off from himself all external support, and stands alone, that I see him to be strong and to prevail..." -Emerson Ralph Waldo Emerson's stance on human nature as seen in Self-Reliance is antithetical to that of Dostoevsky's in Crime and Punishment. It is my sincere hope that, had Emerson read this novel, he would have considered more carefully the implications of embracing a self-reliant human nature. A self-reliant nature infers that the self is not relying on the divine for wisdom, but on personal judgments, scientific conclusions, and moral convictions. A self-reliant human being is one that believes that (s)he is capable of arriving at the same plane as God; divinity lies within. Following this nature leads to pervasive feelings of isolation from others because one feels independent from the thoughts of all human beings and thereby rejects any commonality among humans. By failing to recognize the fallibility of the self and the limitations of personal thought and experience, one transcends and also defies his own humanity. Svidrigailov, the pernicious, obstinate character who successfully defies humanity, personifies Emerson himself. Emerson's words echo Svidigailov's resolute theory on human nature: "... If I am the devil's child, I will live then from the devil. No law can be sacred to me but that of my nature. Good and bad are but names very readily transferable to that or this; the only right is what is after my constitution, the only wrong what is against it. A man is to carry himself in the presence of all opposition as if every thing were titular and ephemeral but he" (Emerson, 260). Emerson and Svidigailov share in the amoral belief that Truth is found only by following one's own nature. Because divinity lies within one's nature, it is logical that not following one's nature is to reject the will of God. Emerson's words spell out the very point Dostoevsky wishes to refute. Dostoevsky conveys that this notion of a personal "constitution" is the very cause of immorality and misery among human be ings. For it is in one's personal "constitution" where isolation begins and the common Truth in all beings is defied. Raskolnikov, the self-righteous student who tests his ability to transcend human nature by committing murder, cannot fully accept his personal constitution as truth. He is dubious of Svidigailov's character and thus Emerson's theory.