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Crime & Punishment

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Crime & Punishment

Many authors derive ideas and themes for their novels through experiences in their own lives. Images of Fyodor Dostoevsky’s life, full of hardship and evolution of his ideas and beliefs, can be seen in the characters, events, and themes of Crime And Punishment. Recollection of the deaths of his parents and a horrific horse beating incident; his arrest, pardon, and imprisonment; his first failed marriage to Marya Issaeva; his return to St. Petersburg after years of exile; his meeting with the love of his life, Anna Snitkina, and his disdainful travels abroad are all manifested in Crime and Punishment.

Like most authors’ characters, Dostoevsky’s characters are complex manifestations of people and events in his own life. Raskolnikov, the troubled and criminal protagonist, obviously lacks a double in the reality of Dostoevsky’s life. However, the inspiration of Raskolnikov’s plights and suffering are not untraceable. Sigmund Freud muses that Dostoevky, although he displayed no criminal tendencies, did in fact possess a destructive instinct that was directed at himself instead of others, thius obstructing any connection between Dost and Raskolnikov’s destructive inclinations, which are expressed outwardly . This identification with Raskolnikov also explains Dostoevsky’s unwavering sympathy for his protagonist and criminals in general. The Marmeledovs are also reminiscent of people in Dostoevsky’s life. Dostoevsky’s first marriage was to Marya Isaeva, an unstable young woman who was married to a hopeless drunk at the time that Dostoevsky met and fell in love with her. The Marmeledov plotline is very reminiscent of the situation created by this love triangle, as well as of Dostoevsky’s own struggles with finances, drinking, and gambling . In addition to remnants of his disastrous first marriage, evidence of Dostoevsky’s love and admiration for his second wife, Anna Snitkina also resonates throughout Crime & Punishment embodied by the character Sonia . Appearing as an angel-like figure, Sonia helps rescue Raskolnikov from himself and his situation, convincing him to confess and be redeemed, introducing him to the Bible, and inspiring him to rise above the dark criminal he has become . Another character reminiscent of Dostoevsky’s own life and relationships, Svidrigailov echoes Dostoevsky’s late father in his evil behavior and cruel treatment of his servants. Dostoevsky’s father is believed to have been murdered by a riotous group of his own serfs when Fyodor was still quite young .

While actual people in Fyodor Dostoevsky’s life influenced the creation of many of his characters, events and memories also played a sizable role in the construction and development of the plot in Crime and Punishment. Starting at the foundation of the novel, the St. Petersburg setting speaks loudly of the author’s esteem and close personal connection with the city. Dostoevsky once called St. Petersburg the “most fantastic city in the world”, and “with its mythology…it becomes the accomplice of the protagonist .” Aside from the setting, multiple other plot elements stem from similar instances in Dostoevsky’s life. The entire story of murder, crime, and punishment can be seen as reminiscent of Dostoevsky’s own experience with violating the letter of the law and the consequences of such actions. Circle. In 1849, Dostoevsky was arrested for his involvement in the revolutionary Petrashevsky Circle. He and his coconspirators were held in confinement for eight months before being brought to Semyonovksy Square for their execution. The execution was only a farce, however, and the offenders were pardoned at the last possible minute and sentenced instead to prison in Siberia. It was in Siberia that much of the postulation for Crime And Punishment began, as Dostoevsky served among murderers and other true criminals . Another specific event that was undoubtedly derived from a distinct memory from Dostoevsky’s childhood involves Raskolnikov’s terrible dream regarding the beating of a horse and courier. When Dostoevsky was about fifteen, just months after his mother’s untimely death, he witnessed a horrific incident in which a courier beat his poor peasant driver, who in turn lashed out at the lead horse of the carriage . The event held emblematic significance for Dostoevsky, so he held it close to him and years later recreated the scene in Crime And Punishment . Also evocative of instances in Dostoevsky’s own life is Raskolnikov’s philanthropic yet reluctant support of the Marmeldov family. In Part Two, Chapter Seven, Raskolnikov generously gives Katerina twenty rubles and promises to continue to offer support after the death of Marmeledov, despite his own poverty .

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