In contemplating the creation of the novel The Idiot, Dostoyevsky wrote in a letter to A.N. Maikov that he hoped to focus the work around a question "with which I have been tormented, consciously or unconsciously all my life--that is, the existence of God."1 Dostoyevsky's personal struggle with the question of faith, and also his own experience with trying doubts as a believer, are manifested in the characters he writes. A large number of Dostoyevsky's books are written within the framework of a Christian doctrine, juxtaposing characterizations of believers and non-believers, enforcing the ultimate good and reason that follow from possessing a faith. Dostoyevsky also describes however, the mental suffering and questioning inherent in the step of realizing the "truth" of Jesus Christ. Berdyaev, in a discussion on Dostoyevsky's mission, states that "he did not have to solve the divine problem as does the pagan, but the problem of mankind,which is the problem of the spiritual man, the Christian."2
Indeed, Dostoyevsky was raised in a religious home, "I descended from a pious Russian family . . . We, in our family, have known the gospel almost ever since our earliest childhood . . . Every visit to the Kremlin and the Moscow cathedral was, to me, something solemn." 3 He was certainly well acquainted with the contents of the Bible, as his devoted mother used only the Old and New Testament to teach her children to read and write. Dostoyevsky also recalled his favorite nurse in the context of the prayer she taught him, "I place all my hope in Thee, Mother of God preserve me under Thy protection." 4 Such a strong female association in his early childhood perhaps influe...
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... than his freedom of conscience. But nothing is a greater cause of suffering."
The Brothers Karamazov, 1880.
A. Primary Sources:
Dostoyevky, Fyodor. The Brothers Karamazov. Translated by Constance Garnett. Edited and revised by Ralph E. Matlaw. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 1976.
Dostoyevsky, Fyodor. Devils. Translated by Michael R. Katz. New York: Oxford University Press, 1992.
Dostoyevsky, Fyodor. Selected Letters of Fyodor Dostoyevsky. Edited by Frank and Goldstein. U.S.A.: Rutgers State University, 1987.
B. Secondary Sources:
Berdyaev, Nicholas. Dostoievsky. Translated by Donald Attwater. New York: Sheed and Ward Inc., 1934.
Dirscherl, Denis, S.J. Dostoevsky and the Catholic Church. Chicago: Loyola University Press, 1986.
Gibson, Alexander Boyce. The Religion of Dostoevsky. Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1973.
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