Throughout history, only a select few individuals have amassed enough power to disrupt the international balance of power and do what they see fit with what part of the world they control. These men, such as Napoleon Bonaparte, Caesar, and Adolf Hitler, all rose to power great enough that they held the power of life and death over their people. All of them however, fell from this burdensome place of power. In Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment, Raskolnikov (Rodya) seeks power by attempting to place himself above the law for an ostensibly greater purpose, which he sees a s placing himself on a level of power and status equal to that of major historical figures who also superceded the law such as Napoleon Bonaparte, Caesar, and Adolf Hitler. The inability of Rodya to do this and his giving up on the burden of this perceived power contribute to the work as a whole by developing the argument of the text that no one should ever hold enough power to decide life and death, and that the burden of this power comes at the cost of one’s peace of mind. Rodya’s attempt at seizing power comes in the form of murdering his pawnbroker for the greater purpose of getting himself on his feet financially and donating to charity, which he sees as just because of his kind intentions and higher purpose which justify his means. He perceives this as similar to historical figures such as Napoleon and Hitler, who broke the law in the name of helping mankind at the cost of a few. This is evidenced by Rodya’s reasoning prior to the murder as well as his published theory on crime as read by Porfiry Petrovich. Rodya sees the pawnbroker’s death as minor compared to the weight of the charity he intends to do using the dead woman’s wealth.
Rodya however never actually implements his intended charity and hides the money. This, as well as Rodya’s confession of his crime at the end of the novel, develop the argument of the work that no one should hold power over life and death. This is achieved by providing Rodya as an example of the horrors that can be committed in the name of higher ends, as well as demonstrating that these ends are rarely carried out and ore often merely a justification for the means by which they are achieved. Rodya’s relinquishing of the burden of the idea that he holds power over life and death as he did with the pawnbroker is manifested in his confession of the crime and subsequent imprisonment.
Rodya’s rise and fall from power as evidenced by murder and confession contribute to the argument of the work that no one should hold power great enough to decide life and death, a power Rodya was attempting to seize. His pain and mental instability leading to his confession as well as the unimplemented greater means posit that no one should have that great of a power by demonstrating its debilitating effects. This rise and fall from power higher than one should hold also parallels Napoleon, Hitler, and Caesar’s fall from power, as none were able to hold the power that was greater than them for long.