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greatest literary works can be expected to come from the same language, culture, or origin. However, there is no ideal way to judge the ranking of a novel after translation, for many of its previous linguistic implications and references re then lost. If a book, even after translation is considered a great masterpiece, then it is most definitely worth some attention. Fyodor Dostoevsky uses literary themes in coordination with a plot based on his own experiences, reflecting the very thoughts and feelings of the reader, to produce such a novel in Crime and Punishment. Fyodor Mikhailevich Dostoevsky, born in Moscow on October 30, 1921, Dostoevsky was destined to lead a life of misfortune. Brought up under tense circumstances, and with a harsh childhood due to conflicts between his loving mother and demanding father, he became an extra-ordinary man. His mother died when he was only 15, and his father was murdered the following year. He lived his life in sadness, but soon rose to considerable fame in the Russian Army, but that also was not to last. He was soon accused of plotting against the nation on April 22, 1849, as a part of a group publishing satirical writings expressing their negative outlook regarding the control of the Russian tsar, and the state of the poor. He was sentenced to death, but later exiled to Siberia. There he considered himself a poor educated man, and faced great
Al-Qudsi 2 discrimination because of it. Upon his return, he began publishing some of his more famed books, and became nationally renowned (http://www.dartmouth.edu/ ~karamazo). In Crime and Punishment, the main character “Rodya” is a poor educated man, who resolves to change his life and his condition for the better. He murders a local pawnbroker, and steals her money and goods, but his heart stops him from benefiting from the spoils of his crime. He covers his tracks well, and evades the officials, but in the end, after much mental self-torture, he decides that any punishment sent upon him would be more merciful than guilt, and confesses, and is thus exiled to Siberia. Before confessing, he meets several interesting people, who shared experiences like his own: Sonia, a prostitute; Marmeladov, a drunken official who understands things in a light that Rodya would soon come to share, and his own sister Doubia, who helps him realize his mistakes and their effects. He comes to see that right and wrong are contextual, and have no true meaning in crime and punishment. These dominating aspects of his life were largely symbolized in his writings. The religious fanaticism his father and grandfather had, and his hateful disposition towards them was shown to a great extent when Rodion Romanovitch Raskolnikov, the protagonist of the story, expressed his irritation at the discussion of religion, even with some of the people he loved most, specifically Sofya Semyonovna Marmeladov, or Sonia, and his sister Avodtya Romanovna Raskolnikov, or Dounia. The unconditional love of Dostoevsky‟s mother towards him was very palpable in the relationship between Pulcheria Alexandrovna Raskolnikov, and her son. The most important similarities between Dostoevsky's life and that of „Rodya,‟ lie in the portrayal of the Russian hierarchical system, and the way both characters act in
Al-Qudsi 3 response to their “criminal” actions. The very essence of the events committed by both are akin, with both of them classifying their actions a benefit to humanity and a must, and society as a whole (with the exception of several close friends and associates) identifying them as unforgivable crimes that must not go unpunished. When Rodya killed Elena Ivanova, he said he done no more than end the troubles a “louse” had brought to the poor, and had stopped her plans to take advantage of the poverty found in St. Petersburg. In relation, Dostoevsky and his associates were planning on, or were at least accused of, planning to murder tsar Nicholas, which they viewed as no less than a great service to the poorer inhabitants of Russia (http://www.dartmouth.edu /~karamazo/). The comportment of both individuals behaved in response to their alleged transgressions also shows another side of the judicial system in almost all nations, in which it is shown that laws cannot be fair to all people at all times, and please everyone. Dostoevsky attracts the attention of readers with his references to controversial topics throughout history that were not limited to any certain eras, and are constantly a part of life. He shows the law as being oriented towards the rich upper class, which then rules and judges the lower class according to their standards, not understanding that there might be reasons behind the seemingly unreasonable actions. This theme in his writing would appeal to the politically interested readers of his novel. To the other readers, there are many other themes that Dostoevsky placed in his novel; one which is the issue of feminine equality, expressed when Rodya raised the question of why his mother was willing to sacrifice his sister, her love life, and her individuality just to ensure that Rodya would remain as happy as possible: “But my
Al-Qudsi 4 mother? It‟s all Rodya, precious Rodya, her first born! For such a son who would not sacrifice such a daughter! Oh, loving, son who would not sacrifice such a daughter! Oh, loving, even from Sonia‟s fate.” It was also mentioned in passing throughout the novel, such as the expression and implications of Arkady Ivanovitch Svidrigailov‟s feelings towards Dounia, and the way in which she rebutted him. A religious theme is also present in his work, brought out of Dostoevsky‟s own experiences while in Siberia. He had been attacked once on a suspicion of his not being a believer in God, and the mob would not leave him until he convinced them that he always had, and always will. In the story, there is a religious awakening within Rodya: earlier on, he is completely oblivious of any real religion, but at the end of the novel, he kisses filthy dirt, and wears a cross to show his devotion to god, and fully expects him to have mercy. The last literary theme of great importance is the classification and importance of knowledge. Throughout the book (and throughout Dostoevsky‟s life), Dostoevsky remarks on the position of knowledge in poverty, and explains that poverty is not a vice unless its possessor makes it become one, by not acquiring knowledge. Also on numerous occasions throughout the book, Dostoevsky remarks, “a learned-man such as…” in collaboration with Rodya to show that he is special because of his knowledge, even if he was poor. The largest literary aspect found in the novel is the symbolical metaphor, set up from the beginning of the book to its end, and what it represents. Dostoevsky sets up the story to match his own life, even going as far as observing proper chronological order of the events that occurred (i.e. separation of family, followed by an active life of „crime‟ and then exile, etc.). Dostoevsky's life in turn is a microcosm of the entire political
Al-Qudsi 5 system in the world; and shows how people act in response to the regulations set by the law. In this manner, Dostoevsky cleverly sets up an enormous metaphor of the entire book, which helps him accomplish his goals. Fyodor Dostoevsky created this “epic novel” based on his own experiences, and attached to it several literary themes that made it hard for most readers to resist. He used his novels as a form of rebellion, and with them, he showed many people that a change was necessary in the government. Crime and Punishment clearly summarizes the highlights of his life, and the main goals that Dostoevsky strove hard to achieve. He also showed that educated men in poverty have been punished by their hierarchical position, and that only crime can be expected to follow this punishment.
Al-Qudsi 6 Works Cited
Gocsik, Karen. Biography of Dostoevsky. 29 Sep. 2003 <http://www-ed.fnal.gov/samplers/hsphys/people/lederman.html>.
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