Fyodor Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment

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Fyodor Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment begins with Rodion Romanovich Raskolnikov living in poverty and isolation in St. Petersburg. The reader soon learns that he was, until somewhat recently, a successful student at the local university. His character at that point was not uncommon. However, the environment of the grim and individualistic city eventually encourages Raskolnikov’s undeveloped detachment and sense of superiority to its current state of desperation. This state is worsening when Raskolnikov visits an old pawnbroker to sell a watch. During the visit, the reader slowly realizes that Raskolnikov plans to murder the woman with his superiority as a justification. After the Raskolnikov commits the murder, the novel deeply explores his psychology, yet it also touches on countless other topics including nihilism, the idea of a “superman,” and the value of human life. In this way, the greatness of Crime and Punishment comes not just from its examination of the main topic of the psychology of isolation and murder, but the variety topics which naturally arise in the discussion.

Dostoevsky’s St. Petersburg is a large, uncaring city which fosters a western style of individualism. As Peter Lowe notes, “The city is crowded, but there is no communality in its crowds, no sense of being part of some greater ‘whole.’” Mrs. Raskolnikov initially notices a change in her son marked by his current state of desperate depression, but she fails to realize the full extent of these changes, even after he is convicted for the murder. The conditions and influences are also noticed by Raskolnikov’s mother who comments on the heat and the enclosed environment which is present throughout the city. When visiting Raskolnikov, she exclaims "I'm sure...

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