A Murderer\'s Journey Through The Works of Dostoyevsky and Poe


Some people believe that most murderers have a mental illness which
causes them to commit their crime. This belief is strongly disagreed with by
the authors Edgar Allan Poe and Fyodor Dostoevsky. Crime and Punishment, “The
Tell-Tale Heart”, “The Black Cat”,and “The Cask of Amontillado” are very similar
in this contradiction. Each murderer takes a specific journey that has been
illustrated in each case. The psychological make-up of each murderer shows that
he is a normal person up to the point at which something compels him to commit
this horrible crime, and after that his conscience usually leads to his own
downfall.
Before the murder has been committed the character is a regular human
being. In most cases the characters that end up carrying through with this
crime are above average people. Raskolnikov from Crime and Punishment is "...
quite an extraordinarily handsome young man..." (Crime and Punishment, pg.21)
Raskolnikov is a very gifted university student, with a very good talent for
figuring people out. Raskolinikov takes great pride and care for his family. On
receiving a letter from his mother

...he quickly raised the letter to his lips and kissed it; then he spent
a long time poring over the handwriting on the envelope, over the small,
slanting handwriting, so familiar and dear to him, of his mother who had once
taught him to read and write. (Crime and Punishment, pg.47)

Raskolnikov\'s mother, who taught him how to read and write did this job quite
well. This resulted in a very gifted and brilliant university student. This
point is illustrated throughout the novel from the planning and carrying out of
the murder, to interactions with the police.
The narrator from the short story "The Black Cat" describes his
"tenderness of heart was even so conspicuous as to make me the jest of his
companions." ("The Black Cat", pg.390) He is quite a regular human being who is
"...especially fond of animals..." ("The Black Cat", pg.390) The narrator also
has a great wife whom he describes as being quite similar to himself, which
shows that he must be quite normal if a good woman chooses to marry him. Much
alike is the narrator from the short story "The Tell-Tale Heart". Again this
character is full of love. The victim of his crime had done no wrong and for
that the narrator "...loved the old man." ("The Tell-Tale Heart", pg.384) The
narrator shows the same brilliance in planning the crime that Raskolnikov
exhibits. People with great intelligence, great lives, possessions and friends
must be normal people. This seems to hold true in the short story "The Cask of
Amontillado". The narrator is a man with great wealth. He has many friends
which would signify that he is quite a normal character. He lives in a nice
house with servants and fine wine. This all seems to show that his mind is
intact, if he obtains and keeps these symbols of success. It seems as if each
and every character discussed is quite a normal human being. In most cases the
wealth, knowledge, or love of others is far above average than most other human
beings.
The normal psychological make-up of a murderer has to change before the
crime is committed. Something must happen in the character\'s life that causes
them to alter their reasoning ability into something that maybe considered as
insanity. It is seen quite clear that the loving character from "The Black Cat"
"experienced a radical alteration for the worse." ("The Black Cat", pg.391) The
turning point in his mind was explained by the narrator. "But my disease grew
upon me - for what disease is like Alcohol!" ("The Black Cat, pg.392) This
problem with alcohol is clearly the point at which the reasoning of the
character changes.
In Raskolnikov\'s case this change is also quite clear. For an above
average university student it would be devastating to see education slip through
his fingers beyond control. "He was crushed by poverty, but even straitened
circumstances had ceased to worry him lately." (Crime and Punishment, pg.19)
The poverty causes Raskolnikov to leave university. Upon leaving university he
is left alone with his thoughts. "At that moment he was fully aware that his
thoughts were at times confused and that he was very weak: for two days now he
had had hardly anything to eat." (Crime and Punishment, pg.20) Poverty is
clearly what changes Raskolnikov\'s psyche.
The narrator of "The Tell-Tale Heart" has a bizarre reason for this
change to occur.

He had never wronged me. He had never given me
insult. For his gold I