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Crime and Punishment

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Crime and Punishment


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Fyodor Dostoevsky in his fictional novel Crime and Punishment, written in 1866, explores redemption through suffering and the inner thoughts of a “criminal” by providing insight into a young man named Raskolnikov’s mind before and after the murder of a decrepit old pawnbroker. In Crime and Punishment, a young scholar named Raskolnikov murders a miserable old pawnbroker to prove a theory of his, which states that extraordinary people do not have to abide by laws, and descends into an altered state of mind that ultimately leads to his imprisonment. The story of Crime and Punishment takes place in the late 1800s in a filthy industrial Russia; however, Raskolnikov feels he is superior to his surroundings and peers and thus looks down on them with contempt. Three stylistic elements are prevalent in Crime and Punishment: religious imagery, motifs, and narrative voice, all of which play a major role in the development of the story. The meaning of Crime and Punishment is to prove that those who disregard human emotion and spiritual complexity and believe in rationalism are not only doomed to fail but represent a threat to society (Connolly).

The life of Fyodor Dostoevsky makes it easy to see how parts of his novels are so bleak. Born in Moscow in 1822, Fyodor grew up in a middle-class family that owned a small estate and actually had a few serfs working for them. Dostoevsky’s mother was a religious woman who died before Fyodor was sixteen, leaving him with his tyrannous father. To escape the oppressive wrath of his father, young Fyodor began reading the works of Nikolai Gogol, T. A. Hoffman and Honore de Balzac (Frank). Fyodor left for college to train as an engineer in St. Petersburg, and while he was gone his ruthless father was murdered by his own serfs. Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov plot revolves around the murder of a tyrannous father by one of his sons, perhaps a reflection of Dostoevsky’s thoughts and feelings about his own father. After graduating from trade school, Fyodor wrote his first novel, a work entitled Poor Folk that was praised by Vissarion Belinsky, the foremost literary critic of the day (Frank). The twenty four year old author gained much respect for his first novel, but wrote a few less-than-memorable novels and fell out of favor. Two years later, Dostoevsky joined a group of young scholars who met to discuss political and literary issues. The group was led by Mikhail Petrashevsky and called themselves “Petrashevsky’s circle.” As revolutionary ideas were illegal in mid-nineteenth-century Russia, Dostoevsky was arrested along with the other members of “Petrashevsky’s circle.” The group was imprisoned and Dostoevsky and several of his friends were sentenced to death by execution. Just before the firing squad was ready, a messenger rode up and said that the Czar had commuted the death sentences to forced labor in Siberia (Pike). They’re lucky the Czar was a crazy man with a sick sense of humor or we might not have some of the literary classics we have today. Dostoevsky would go on to write several world-renowned novels and become one of the most famous authors ever.

Crime and Punishment makes one realize that to atone for mistakes one has made, one must go through suffering before redemption can be achieved.. Heeding Sonia’s advice to drop to his knees and confess his sins after he told her that he was the murderer of the pawnbroker, Raskolnikov went to the middle of the town and “fell to the earth on that spot… kiss(ing) that filthy earth with bliss and rapture” and declared that he was a murderer. While this might have looked silly to the townsfolk, it greatly relieved Raskolnikov’s conscience. Also, Raskolnikov realized here that he must confess and go through suffering before he can go on with his life. When Raskolnikov sees Sonia “standing with a look of poignant agony, of despair” as he’s about to leave without confessing his crime, he understands he must go through suffering before being forgiven and living a normal life. Here, Sonia is making Raskolnikov realize what he must do because she is the only thing that he cares about. At this point in his life, Raskolnikov is willing to suffer solely for Sonia and her love (Barna). After recovering from his sickness in the prison at Siberia, Raskolnikov realizes that his new life will “cost him great striving, great suffering” but also be a complete renewal of his character and initiation of a new life. Like the

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