One of our recurring questions in book club was whether Raskolnikov was always crazy or if unfavorable situations sparked his insanity. In the first pages of the book, Raskolnikov started to "mutter something, from the habit of talking to himself" (2) supporting the theory that he was a somewhat crazy man to begin with. However, he remains a decent man until he walks into the tavern and overhears a few people talking about murdering his land lady. "why had he happened to hear such a discussion and such ideas at the very moment his own brain was just conceiving...the very same idea?... This trivial talk in a tavern had an immense influence on him in his later action..." (69) The talk about a hypothetical murder provided Raskolnikov with proof to justify his crime in his mind. Instead of focusing on the fact he was taking a life away, he shifted his stream of consciousness to the benefit he was providing the rest of society. I think he convinced himself he was doing good so that the reality of the murder would not make him feel guilty. Overall, I think had Raskolnikov not committed those murders, he would have been viewed as an anti-social member in society. However, since he did murder two women, I don't think Raskolnikov realized the psychological impact. The murders acted as the catalyst to Raskolnikov's whirlwind of confused and paranoid thoughts.
Raskolnikov's increasing madness, however, was not without purpose. His crazed mind accentuates Raskolnikov's internal and external battles between morality and logic. One of the prime examples was the actual murder scene. Before he murdered Alyona, he "felt that he was losing his head" (79) and didn't feel like himself until afterwards. However, even though he trembles knowing what he did, Raskolnikov doesn't feel guilty (something he never admits to throughout the entire book). And yet, when Alyona's sister comes in unexpectedly, he loses his head once again and is dominated by fear (similar to that of the previous murder). Unlike the murder of Alyona, Raskolnikov feels "simple horror and loathing of what he had done" (83) after the murder of the sister. The two different reactions depict Raskolnikov as a man who thinks he knows justified actions from unjustified. It also gives a reader insight that evokes a better understanding of the complex ambiguity in Raskolnikov's consciousness.