Raskolnikov and the Underground Man
(are they literary brothers or distant cousins?)
If the choice is merely between brother and distant cousin, then Raskolnikov must be the Underground Man's brother, for lack of the option "son". The
Underground Man exists only as a contrast with his world. His altercation with Liza is troubled -- he feels his weakness in his nightshirt against her
dressing-up for the occasion, a strong parallel to previously when, in the reverse, he was the powerful one in the brothel, spouting magnificently to her
submission. These paradoxes - the Underground Man preaching what he despises, and acting what he isn't - are again seen in Crime and Punishment's
Raskolnikov, as he proclaims his Napoleonic rights, then cowers in fear, as he gives all that he has to the Marmeladovs, even while his family had struggled for
that money, and as Raskolnikov lambasted himself for putting the family to such dire straits.
The essential bond between Raskolnikov and the Underground Man is that both use their keen logic to discern what might be best, then disregard completely
the rational action and take some other. When the Underground Man invites himself to his classmates' party, he already knows on what terms they are, and
what to expect. Nevertheless - indeed, because of that - he goes. While they carry on, he consciously makes himself a nuisance, invites ridicule, all while
thinking through what might be better. For him, the ridicule of others is a blessing.
Raskolnikov consciously rejects his self-interest: he risks what little he has to kill the pawnbroker, then still does not take the money - which he needs. He
alienates those who attempt to come near him, as Razumikhin and his family.
This is not to entirely concede that the Underground Man and Raskolnikov are the same character, for they differ significantly. Raskolnikov has a vision of a
moral society, albeit one in which great sacrifices can be made for purported benefit - the ends justify the means. This Napoleonic motif if contrary to the
Underground Man's rejection of all moral systems - or any systems restricting life. This concept in particular, that the walls, the palaces, the anthills, can all be
surpassed at times, does somewhat follow the Underground Man's thinking.
Raskolnikov and the Underground Man are brothers. Both bear the desire to be free - from obligations, from expectations. The Underground Man is proudly
unreasonable, unfathomable. The prisms of each symbol must be fought, despite reason, despite rationality. He is an impulsive brother - twitching with
paranoia, filled with an odd and chaotic independence. The more mature sibling is Raskolnikov, who has found a channel for his lust for freedom. By
subscribing to the Napoleonic philosophy, Raskolnikov can be a schismatic, independent of each symbol, and ultimately of the basic moral code. The
philosophy is a route to realize that tantalizing pure freedom that both brothers seek.