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Poverty and Dignity

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In the novel Crime and Punishment, the story revolves around an extremely poor student named Rodion Raskolnikov. The protagonist is in need of money since he can barely make a living. He sets out to an old woman who owns a pawnshop in a poor part of St. Petersberg, the then capital city of Russia. While there, he starts hatching up a plan to rob the old woman of her money. He wanted to further his education and have a better life. Indeed, his motivation comes from the overpowering desire to better his life. Thus, he feels an urge to kill and rob the old woman. He feels fate is on his side once he learns that the old woman will be alone. In addition, Raskolnikov is hungry and in a poor state of health, which prevents him from reasoning normally. He believes that killing the pawnbroker is just ridding the society of an evil person. So it even seems that he is doing a favor to everyone.

After Raskolnikov visits the old lady, a feeling of depression overwhelms him. He stops at a tavern for a drink. There, he meets a man named Marmeladov, who had misused his family fortune. He tells of his daughter who became a prostitute to support the family financially. Marmeladov’s lifestyle shows he is very poor. It is in the tavern that Raskolnikov makes up his mind to murder the old pawnbroker. Later that evening Raskolnikov sneaks into Alyona Ivanovna’s house to kill her. He makes sure she is dead before proceeding to the bedroom to look for valuables. Raskolnikov saw where the old woman hid her money when he visited her. Unfortunately,   Alyona’s sister walks in on crime, and he also kills her. Scared of what he had done; he only steals a few things and flees the scene. Interestingly, Raskolnikov leaves most of Alyona’s wealth in the house.

Almost all the people in the novel are struggling with poverty. It is a source of unhappiness. They are unemployed, and their financial struggle is evident. We find out that Avdotya, Raskolnikov sister, was intending to marry Luzhin because he had money. Marmeladov and his family are also extremely poor. As a result, Sonia, a girl in the family, engages in prostitution in order to meet the family needs. Marmeladov becomes a drunk and ends up drinking his family’s small fortune. Poverty is the reason Dounia makes up her mind to marry an unloved man Luzhin. Prostitution turns to be Sonya’s chance of survival.

Poverty and dignity

Poverty strips the dignity from people. Poor people are often looked down upon, and they have to suffer the shame of borrowing every day. The stigmatization that comes with being poor is sometimes too much to bear. Hence people  may engage in criminal activities to get money. These everyday indignities that poor people undergo push them to petty theft, low self esteem, and doing odd jobs to attain the basic requirements. All these things are shameful, and they leave the poor feeling powerless and helpless.

Issues involving human dignity prepare people psychologically to use violence. Men who are isolated, discriminated, rejected, and hungry will always be willing to use violence to fight for their rights. Rodion Raskolnikov is willing to murder an old woman as a means of survival. Anger is the cause of violence, and this is one of the reasons for murdering the old woman and her sister. Anger comes from the frustrations of living poorly and the constant subjection to public ridicule, as well as the feeling of helplessness and stigmatization.

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