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The Use of Crime as a Device in Crime and Punishment and a Doll's House

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Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment and Ibsen’s A Doll’s House have one main thing in common: crime. In A Doll’s House Ibsen highlights the injustice of the law, and the restrictions it puts upon individuals in society, while Dostoevsky uses it to show freedom through law and the need for individuals to abide by it.

Both the novel and the play introduce crime to the plot at the very beginning of the work. In A Doll’s House Mrs. Linde enters and Nora tells her about “it” but immediately says that “Torvald mustn’t hear” (Perrine 876). Ibsen uses this early introduction of crime to immediately develop a secret between Nora and her husband that will ultimately lead to their separation. Dostoevsky has his main character referring to the crime as “that” as Rodya questions his intentions. “Is that something serious?” (Dostoevsky 4). Dostoevsky uses the crime to introduce the moral struggle within Rodya’s consciousness. The immediate use of crime in both works sets the base work for the plot and develops the beginnings of important themes that will progress within the play/novel.

In the play A Doll’s House, Henrik Ibsen uses crime primarily as a plot advancement. If there were no crime, the play would mean nothing. Nora’s forgery leads to a secret that she keeps from her husband that leads to his embarrassment at being saved by a woman that leads to her leaving. However, Ibsen does express one major theme about crime: sometimes the law can be unjust. Mrs. Linde establishes the law as soon as the idea of Nora borrowing money is brought up, “A wife can’t borrow money without her husband’s consent” (Perrine 877). This seems wrong enough by itself…In addition, Nora’s only reason to forge the signature was to save her husband’s life, and for it she was blackmailed by Krogstad and downtrodden by society’s standards. In a critical review “Northam refers to Nora as

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an example of the individual’s struggle against society” (Mitchell 136). She was punished severely for something that could be considered a petty crime and the crime ultimately led to her and Torvald’s separation and her leaving the house. In addition, “Christine Linde and Nils Krogstad’s subplot ending in marriage happens at the same time as Nora’s break with Torvald.” (Davies 51) The sharp contrast between the two creates conflict within the audience members because Krogstad is being rewarded for blackmail as Nora is being punished for saving her husband’s life.

Dostoevsky, much like Ibsen, depends on crime for his work. But in opposition to Ibsen, Dostoevsky is a firm believer in the law, and works to show that it is just. Raskolnikov is tortured by his crime in his dreams and subconscious thoughts and his morality leads him to believe that what he did was wrong. This morality crushes his quest to becoming an “extraordinary man” (Gamble Seminar). While Ibsen immediately points out the compassion behind Nora’s petty crime, Dostoevsky slowly builds on the horror of Raskolnikov’s. He dreams of the mare that is beaten to death, a symbol for the old woman (Gamble Seminar). Then Sonya’s faith in God and her teaching him leads Rodya to question, and later regret his actions. Rodya is also blackmailed, but while Nora was punished and tormented for what she did out of love, Raskolnikov is morally saved through repentance for committing murder.

As another contrast, in Crime and Punishment, Rodya develops a relationship with Sonya when he admits to his crime. Instead of fearing him, when he tells her of his crime, she pities him saying he must go through “such suffering” (Dostoevsky 420). She and the blackmailer, Porfirey,

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