The prostitute is a curious fixture of Victorian era literature. In the works of William Thackeray and Samuel Richardson it was almost cliché for the heroine to end up in a house of prostitution and then to transcend that situation in a show of proper Victorian morals. Having seen many young women forced by extreme poverty to take up the trade of a loose woman, Fyodor Dostoevsky, a petit-bourgeois fallen on hard times himself, took a rather different approach to the whole issue; he recognized that these women were not utterly without merit as so many people of the time thought. Georg Brandes spoke accurately when he said, "Dostoevsky preaches the morality of the pariah, the morality of the slave." Dostoevsky explored these themes through prostitute characters in many of his works. The most famous of these characters are found in Crime and Punishment, Notes from Underground, and "The Meek One." Each of these presents a unique approach to the condition of prostitutes and the problem of their redemption.
In Crime and Punishment, Dostoevsky uses the character of Sonia Marmeladov, whose first name means wisdom, not solely to illustrate God's mercy toward a fallen woman but to have her redeem both herself and Raskolnikov through God's mercy. As in the parable given by Father Zosima on his death bed in The Brothers Karamazov, Raskolnikov's initial connection to Sonia in Book I functions as his "stalk of grain" which keeps him from being completely severed from God's grace. Just as the old woman in the parable was without merit except for the fact she gave the beggar a stalk of grain, Raskolnikov lacks merit after his murderous deed exce...
... middle of paper ...
...uments of grace. But most importantly, he tells us that without our own attempt to transcend our sinful nature we will fail like the Underground Man or leap to our spiritual and physical doom as the heroine of "The Meek One" did. We are all Raskolnikov, we are all Sonia. The key is to strive, strive harder and strive forever to reach the unreachable perfection lost to us and unreachable without God.
Works Cited and Consulted
Dostoevsky, Fyodor. Crime and Punishment. Trans. Constance Garnett. New York: Bantam, 1981.
Dostoevsky, Fyodor. The Brothers Karamazov. Trans. Constance Garnett. New York: Signet Classics, 1999.
Dost. Research Station. Ed. Christiaan Stange. Vers. ? 17 July 1999 - kiosek.com/dostoevsky/quotations.html
Martinsen, Deborah A., ed. Notes From Underground, The Double, and Other Stories. New York: Barnes and Noble Classics NY, 2003.
Need Writing Help?
Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.Check your paper »
- The Pathological Protagonist of Dostoevsky’s Notes from the Underground Dostoevsky’s vision of the world is violent and his characters tortured; it is no wonder that many have viewed his work as prophetic of the 20th century. However, though Dostoevsky, in his unflinching portrayal of depravity, gives the Devil some of his best arguments, the Gospel often triumphs. Ivan Karamazov is at least offered the possibility of repentance when kissed by his saintly brother Alyosha. Raskolnikov, the nihilistic antihero of Crime and Punishment, is eventually redeemed through the love of the pure prostitute Sonja.... [tags: Notes from the Underground Essays]
2589 words (7.4 pages)
- Not for this I was born and then raised up. Unacquainted was I with such need. I once prayed to God, I was faithful. I once had a soul that knew peace. -from "Fallen," a Russian brothel song (Bernstein, 169) Prostitutes, women who sell their bodies for money, have been frowned upon since antiquity by most members of society. However, from as early as Rahab, the Whore of Jericho in the Old Testament who helped Joshua and his men regain the Promised Land, prostitutes have been portrayed as not only as sinners with the possibility of redemption, but women who lead men to salvation as well.... [tags: Notes From Underground]
2324 words (6.6 pages)
- Socially Constructed Reality and Meaning in Notes from Underground Just as the hands in M.C. Escher’s “Drawing Hands” both create and are created by each other, the identity of man and society are mutually interdependent. According to the model described in The Sacred Canopy, Peter Berger believes that man externalizes or creates a social reality that is in turn objectified, or accepted by him as real. This sociological model creates a useful framework for understanding the narrator’s rejection of ultimate reality or truth in Fyodor Dostoevsky’s Notes from Underground.... [tags: Notes from the Underground]
1883 words (5.4 pages)
- Freedom in Dostoevsky's Notes from Underground In Dostoevsky's Notes from Underground, the Underground Man proposes a radically different conception of free action from that of Kant. While Kant thinks that an agent is not acting freely unless he acts for some reason, the Underground Man seems to take the opposite stance: the only way to be truly autonomous is to reject this notion of freedom, and to affirm one's right to act for no reason. I will argue that the Underground Man's notion of freedom builds on Kant's, in that it requires self-consciousness in decision-making.... [tags: Notes From Underground]
1805 words (5.2 pages)
- Social Contradictions in Fyodor Dostoyevsky's Notes from the Underground Notes from the Underground, by Fyodor Dostoyevsky is a truly remarkable novel. Dostoyevsky's novels probe the cause of human action. They questioned conventional wisdom of what drove humans and offered insight into the inner workings and torments of the human soul. In Notes from Underground, Dostoyevsky relates the viewpoints and doings of a very peculiar man. The man is peculiar because of his lack of self-respect, his sadistic and masochistic tendencies, and his horrible delight in inflicting emotional pain on himself and others.... [tags: Notes from the Underground Essays]
968 words (2.8 pages)
- Dostoevsky’s Notes from the Underground - Exposing the Unseen Depths of the Human Mind The lights are on but nobody’s home. My elevator doesn’t go to the top. I’m not playing with a full deck. I’ve lost my marbles. ….cause I am cra-a-zy. Just like yooou. -Barenaked Ladies Crazy. That is how Dostoevsky’s man from the underground is referred to as he writes his notes-- his paradox on life. Is he crazy. Are his ramblings only the cries of a madman. Many would like to think so and our narrator would probably agree that they are only normal in thinking that.... [tags: Notes From Underground]
2590 words (7.4 pages)
- Dostoevsky’s Notes from Undergound - Reactions to an Overdeterministic Existence Some of the works cited are missing Dostoevsky presents his Notes from Undergound as the fragmented ramblings of an unnamed narrator. On the surface, the character’s narration appears disjointed and reaches no conclusive end ing until the author intercedes to end the book. However, a close examination of the underground man’s language reveals a progression in his collected ravings. After expressing dissatisfaction with the notion of determinism, the underground man perceives the irony of his ultra-deterministic reality.... [tags: Dostoevsky Notes from Undergound]
1997 words (5.7 pages)
- Crime and Punishment and Notes from the Underground Crime and Punishment and Notes from the Underground Fyodor Dostoyevsky's stories are stories of a sort of rebirth. He weaves a tale of severe human suffering and how each character attempts to escape from this misery. In the novel Crime and Punishment, he tells the story of Raskolnikov, a former student who murders an old pawnbroker as an attempt to prove a theory. In Notes from the Underground, we are given a chance to explore Dostoyevsky's opinion of human beings.... [tags: comparison compare contrast essays]
490 words (1.4 pages)
- In Dostoyevsky’s Notes from Underground, the underground man struggles between two opposing beliefs. The first acknowledges that his fictional existence has been predetermined, subject to his author’s conduct. The is the underground man’s insistence that the only possible world humans can live in undetermined world which extols and situates free will within a human. In order to try and solve this problem, the underground man turns to writing, to try and be honest with himself, probe into why he is this way, and to not reject any truth that comes forth, horrifying or not.... [tags: Russian Literature]
1285 words (3.7 pages)
- One word that has come to represent the mid-18th century Enlightenment movement is “Reason”. The French philosophes believed that reason could provide critical, informed, scientific solutions to social issues and problems, and essentially improve the human condition. Russian author Fyodor Dostoevsky’s Notes from Underground is one of the most famous anti-Enlightenment novels for its rejection of these very notions. Through this novel he showed what he believed were gaps in the idea that the mind could be freed from ignorance through the application of reason, and the rejection of the idea that humankind could achieve a utopian existence as a result.... [tags: Book Review, Dostoyevsky]
1157 words (3.3 pages)