Balance Essay, Research Paper

Comparison – Contrast Essay

by: Aubrey Wood

In both Crime and Punishment and Othello there is a theme of

necessary balance. Crime and Punishment’s theme that man must be

balanced in order to function properly is very similar to Othello’s theme

that, tragically, jealousy is destructive, even to the one that holds it.

In Crime and Punishment, Raskolnikov’s extreme intellectualism

caused him to stop functioning as a complete and balanced individual

which ultimately cost him his freedom. For Othello, it was his extreme

jealousy that caused him to become emotionally unbalanced, which

cost him both Desdemona and his own life. In both cases the extremes

create unbalance which ends up costing a lot. There is a difference,

however, and that too lies in the extremes; while Raskolnikov is too

intellectual and lacks emotion, Othello is a rage of emotions and requires

some intellect or rationality.

One stylistic device both authors used to demonstrate this

unbalance is foreshadowing. On page 84 in Crime and Punishment,

Raskolnikov says, “If they question me, perhaps I will simply tell. Fall to my

knees and tell.” This foreshadows Raskolnikov’s confession to the police

and his subsequent sentencing to Siberia. Raskolnikov is obviously

unbalanced if he can detachedly hypothesize about his confession.

Similarly, Desdemona’s willow song foreshadows her own death. In this

way we realize Othello must be extremely unbalanced if his wife can

foresee her own death when they are still newly wed. Both

foreshadowed events would usually be considered as negative. The

main difference is that while Raskolnikov’s imprisonment is temporary,

Desdemona’s death is permanent.

The interesting thing about both foreshadowed events is their irony.

While both events are usually construed as negative, good things come

from both. Not until he has been in Siberia a year does Raskolnikov finally

renounce his overman theory and become complete and balanced

once again. Also, Desdemona will be able to forgive Othello and be with

him throughout eternity. What makes these happenings different is their

justness. Raskolnikov was rightfully imprisoned for his crime, while

Desdemona was unjustly murdered for a crime she did not commit.

Finally, both stories include a very important epiphany.

Raskolnikov’s acceptance of love and God at Sonya’s feet is both similar

and dissimilar to Othello’s realization of his mistake near the body of

Desdemona. They are similar because both men gain the quality they

lacked; Raskolnikov gains emotion and Othello gains intelligence, or

knowledge. These epiphanies are dissimilar, however, because Sonya is

alive and Raskolnikov’s story ends with a promise of renewed life, whereas

Desdemona lies dead and Othello adds to the death count by taking his

own life.

Both Crime and Punishment and Othello speak of balance, but

they definitely do it in their own unique way. Crime and Punishment gives

us hope that we may find balance, while Othello warns against the

consequences if we do not. Hopefully, we can find our own balance in

life with less turmoil than they.

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