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Crime and Punishment. An introduction to Dostoevsky’s epic novel. Feodor Dostoevsky. Born in Moscow, 1821 Father was a military doctor Unlike other writers from that time, Dostoevsky was a member of the middle class, not aristocracy Trained as an engineer at father’s insistence

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crime and punishment

Crime and Punishment

An introduction to Dostoevsky’s epic novel

feodor dostoevsky
Feodor Dostoevsky
  • Born in Moscow, 1821
  • Father was a military doctor
    • Unlike other writers from that time, Dostoevsky was a member of the middle class, not aristocracy
  • Trained as an engineer at father’s insistence
  • While in engineering school in 1839, father is murdered by two peasants
    • Father’s death aggravated his epilepsy, condition he struggled with all his life
dostoevsky the author
Dostoevsky: the author
  • After finishing engineering school, begins writing
  • First work, Poor Folk (1844) was well received by critics
    • Novel addresses poverty, a theme revisited in later works
    • Novel makes clear poverty is a material condition – when see people without material things, see a person’s soul
    • Also introduces the “infernal woman” – woman with incredible inner strength
    • For Dostoevsky, salvation lies in a woman
  • Belinsky, major literary critic of the time, read the manuscript and burst into Dostoevsky’s apartment at 4 a.m. and hailed him as a genius
    • Dostoevsky later wrote, “That was one of the rare moments in my life when I was truly happy.”
  • Praise went to Dostoevsky’s head – began to be disliked for his arrogance
dostoevsky the prisoner
Dostoevsky: The prisoner
  • April, 1849 – arrested by the tsar’s police
    • Had been moving in circles of moderate liberals
  • December 1849, sentenced to death by firing squad
  • At last minute, as being led out to execution, pardoned by tsar and sent to live for four years in a Siberian prison camp and then another four years in the military
  • Returns after 10 years of exile, married to Maria Dmitrievna who had a son from her previous marriage, very changes man
  • Very tempestuous marriage and Maria dies in 1864, just as Dostoevsky is finishing one of his masterpieces: Notes from the Underground
building to c p
Building to C&P
  • Notes from the Underground
  • The Underground Man, narrator of the novel, gloats at his unattractiveness and challenges the 19th century notions of progress, human improvement, and the possibility of a decent human society
    • Underground Man acts against his own self-interests, isolates himself from others to show his independence
  • End of novel, tries to make contact with a prostitute – he pours his heart out to her but then gives her money, insulting her
  • Cannot experience the freedom without feeling love – two are mutually exclusive to Dostoevsky; hell is a place where a person is unable to love
the love of a woman
The love of a woman
  • 1860s, Dostoevsky is in bad financial state
  • Makes a deal with a publisher to produce a work in two years to pay off all debts
  • To make it to the deadline, had the help of stenographer Anna Grigor’evnaSnitkina, 20 years his junior, who he later married
  • Anna took care of Dostoevsky for 15 years until his death in 1881
  • Many critics believe she made it possible for him to work
  • He dedicated his last great novel, The Brothers Karamazov, to her
crime and punishment1
Crime and Punishment
  • Began the novel in 1865 as a work on the theme of alcoholism and was originally titled The Dear Little Drunkards
  • Raskolnikov , in Russian meaning “from among the schismatics” as in a schism in faith
  • In working on novel, Dostoevsky wrestled with main motivation: Why does Raskolnikov commit murder?
  • Moves from just to make poor people happy to murdering out of love (both humanist concepts) to the Napoleonic Idea
    • The good heart who had lost its way
napoleonic idea
Napoleonic Idea
  • Power for the sake of power
  • Society is divided up into unequal parts: the majority and the minority
  • The majority will be controlled by the minority who stand outside the law and have the right to break the divine order of the world
  • In novel, Dostoevsky pits the love of people against contempt for them in the character of Raskolnikov
  • Battle between conscience and reason
  • Dostoevsky: “There is only one law, moral law.”
  • Nihilism – philosophical belief that all values are baseless and nothing can be known or communicated, opposite of humanism
  • Nietzsche saw this as a natural progression of European society as people were frustrated with trying to find meaning
  • Overman or superman theory – no universal understanding of this theory; goal humanity would set for itself and dictate fate the next generation; can be linked to Napoleonic Idea
book one
Book One
  • Raskolnikovin state of conflict
    • Unable to say “murder” – refers to it by other names
  • Story of the Marmeladovs, reminder of the endlessness of human suffering and the failure of sacrifice
    • Sacrifice of Sonya, prepared sacrifice of his sister Dunya
    • Sister sacrificing herself for him
    • “…should one renounce life completely and docilely accept one’s fate as it is , once and for all, and stifle everything in oneself, after having renounced any right way to act, to live, and to love?” (38)
    • Christian morality teaches humility, sacrifice but Raskolnikov is a man without faith
things to watch for
Things to watch for:
  • Suffering – Who? Where? Cause?
  • Water
  • Vegetation – trees, flowers, gardens, bushes
  • Sunshine, darkness
  • Lack of air – literal and metaphorical
  • Christian imagery
  • Colours red and yellow