Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky
About The Author
Fyodor Dostoyevsky, A Russian Novelist, a short story writer, editor and journalist, is widely regarded as one of the pioneers in Modern Russian Literature. His life as a writer was very eventful. Dostoyevsky, who as a student held mild liberal views,fell into a westernizing camp called the ‘Petrashevsky circle’, who were against the traditional Russian values (including cruel practices like serfdom etc) imposed by the Czar,Nicholas I. However, Dostoyevsky nearly got executed in 1849 for his activites but was later imprisoned and had lesser penalities. As a part of his sentences, he spent 4 years in a prison camp in Siberia and 6 more in the Russian Army. This also triggered an ideological switch from Socialism to Orthodox Christianity.
His imprisonment experiences have led to many works including The house of the Dead (1860). In Crime and Punishment (1866), there are a few biographical connotations as Rodion Romanovitch Raskolnikov (Or Raskolnikoff),the protagonist explores redemption through suffering, in the dismal settings of the slums of Czarist pre-revolutionary St. Petersburg.
The novel starts with the poverty stricken Raskolnikov, a talented law student devises a theory of Extraordinary men( Or Superhuman) being above the law,since in their brilliance they think- they live for a reason,an Idea. The students then were highly involved in the growing Nihilism influenced by the Utilitarian doctrine which claimed that the ultimate value of a person lies in his/her usefulness to the society and the masses who contribute nothing have little meaning in their existence. Raskolnikov was influenced by this idea,therefore he murdered an old greedy Pawnbroker Alyona Ivanovna, as he believed she was serving no good purpose to the society. The novel deals with the various plans Raskolnikov makes for the murder and how he commits the murder of Alyona and also the unintentional murder of Lizaveta(the much oppressed step sister of Alyona), and how he gets away with it. However , after the crime he comes in contact with his own conscience which disapproves of his theory. His anguish,his suffering is intensified day after day making him sick and bringing him on the verge of a suicide.
This act makes him come in contact with two other significant characters- Sonya, a deeply religious prostitute who had endured great suffering by selling off her body to feed her step mother and her kids and Svidrigailov, a land owner and a serial child rapist who beats and sexually abuses his serfs. There’re many instances in the novel which shows Raskolnikov as the double of Sonya as well as Svidrigailov (Doubles- Having been in the same situation as the other person and reacting in the same way ,Or like a doppelganger).
There were thin lines between reality and dreams in this novel. Dostoyevsky has used dreams as an amazing medium to bring about sense in these characters.He raised many questions by portraying Sonya as a redemptive figure whose soul remains uncorrupted like a virgin. He used the spiritual message of Religion to instill peace in Raskolnikov’s soul.
To sum it up, Crime and Punishment is not just the story about right or wrong or about morality. It was a warning against the growing Nihilism among the youth of Russia and to the upcoming generations against the growing Individualism.
Grab your Copy of Crime and Punishment