Crime and Punishment Essay

Crime And Punishment Essay

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Often in novels, the life of an author is reflected in his or her literature. For a writer experience can serve not only as a teacher, but also as the foundation of a story line. Some of the most well known authors have used this Romana Clef technique, for example, Charles Dickens in his famous novel, David Copperfield. The Russian author, Fyodor Dostoyevsky does this as well, in his novel Crime and Punishment. Various individuals and occurrences from Dostoyevsky’s life influenced the novel and its characters and themes. This shows that an author’s life serves as an inspiration to his or her writing and impacts the work as a whole. Dostoyevsky’s own family and childhood experiences had a tremendous impact on him as well as his literary works. As the second child in a line of seven, Dostoyevsky lived a sad and lonely childhood. As a student in a respected boarding school, Dostoyevsky felt unable to make contact with his pupils, and therefore isolated himself, just as the main character, Raskolnikov, isolated himself from the rest of society. His father was an ex-army surgeon for the poor and his household was one of poverty, disease, and pain. The family was deeply religious, and Jesus was the ideal figure of Dostoyevsky’s childhood faith. This brought about the preoccupation and obsession with suffering and Christianity that is dealt with in Crime and Punishment. The central theme of poverty, illness, and anguish clearly reflect the tribulations Dostoyevsky endured in his troubled years growing up. It was not only these circumstances, but also several other individuals and events that influenced Dostoyevsky in his writing of the novel that is so closely related to his own life. Over the years, there were several specific individuals who took part in sculpting the views and opinions that influenced Fyodor Dostoyevsky so deeply. These views are some of those present in Crime and Punishment. Sir Walter Scott, a Scottish novelist was one of those people. By the age of twelve, Dostoyevsky had read all of the man’s works, thus establishing the notion of family and human society. This is an important aspect to the novel’s main character Raskolnikov, his sister Dunia, and mother Pulcheria Alexandrovna. The dual nature of the equally good and evil Raskalnikov was a concept introduced to Dostoyevsky by the German Romantic writer, Hoffman, and another writer Nikolay Gogal. While writing Crime and Punishment, the influence of these three men came into play, as these issues of family, society, and good versus evil are repeatedly brought up. Certain events in Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s life affected him so deeply that they served as a model for similar scenes in Crime and Punishment. Two scenes in the story come directly from the experiences of the author at the time the novel was being formulated in Dostoyevsky’s mind. At the time, Petersburg newspapers were filled with stories of Gerasim Chistov, a man responsible for murdering two elderly ladies with a short-handled axe, and stealing eleven rubles from them. It is apparent that this coincides with the murder scene in the novel. Another scene took place that struck Dostoyevsky as being so tragic that he included it in his novel. Dostoyevsky witnessed a Tsar’s all-powerful courier, driving off at high speed viscously punching his peasant coachman. This inspired Raskalnikov’s dream of the beaten “skinny sorrel mare”, which made him plea to God, “Show me the way…I renounce that damned dream of mine.” (67). Evidently, these events affected Dostoyevsky so deeply that he managed to incorporate them into his novel. They inspired Dostoyevsky and allowed him to connect his real life to his literature. However, it was not only events that impacted the writing of Crime and Punishment. Characters in the novel can easily be seen as having been depicted from individuals Dostoyevsky came across in his own life. Fyodor Dostoyevsky can most easily be compared with the dual natured Raskalnikov. The similarities between the two are clear, as they are alike in beliefs and background. Just as Raskolnikov is a well- educated member of the Intelligencia, Dostoyevsky was a brilliant young man as well, after being educated in strict board schools. Dostoyevsky’s intelligence did not come to his aid financially. He had an inability to manage income or calculate his needs. He wound up in a viscous cycle of borrowing and spending that plagued him throughout his life. Just as Raskolnikov, he too lived in a “square yard of space”, and in debt to various people, especially his landlady. They both were preoccupied with thoughts of murder, robbery, religion, and alcohol. Dostoyevsky even published works in various journals dealing with these subjects. In Crime and Punishment, Raskolnikov shouts “I’ll pay, I’ll pay!” (180) in order to give to money to the Marmeladov’s to pay for doctor and funeral expenses when Marmeladov dies. Raskolnikov is financially unstable, yet gives his money away. Dostoyevsky himself was also given to this type of reckless generosity. He was also imprisoned and sent to Siberia for charges of aiming to overthrow the state. Through his punishment, he found redemption though suffering and Christianity, just as Raskolnikov did in the novel with the help of Marmeladov’s daughter Sonia. The similarities between the two are clear. Raskolnikov is a character based on the author himself, but that is not the only character in the novel that is derived from Dostoyevsky’s very own life. Throughout Crime and Punishment, Dostoyevsky relives some of his own personal relationships through relationships between characters in the novel. For example, Fyodor was very close to his own brother, Mikhail, just as Raskolnikov was close with his companion, Razumikhin. As a result of Raskolnikov being modeled on Dostoyevsky, Razumikhin is very much alike Mikhail, because of the relationship the two sets of men share. From day one, Mikhail was destined to be Fyodor’s closest friend and collaborator. He cared for Dostoyevsky in times of physical, emotional , and financial need, just as Razumikhin did for Raskolnikov, especially when Raskolnikov was sick. Mikhail and Dostoyevsky attended school together just as Raskolnikov and Razumikhin did as well. Having a caring individual in the his life allowed Dostoyevsky to imagine Razumikhin as being the supporter that he felt Raskolnikov needed throughout his life to understand him and be his only true companion. The sweet and devoted universal symbol of human suffering is a role lived out in the novel in the form of Marmeladov’s prostitute daughter, Sonia. Sonia can be seen as a mix of two people that Dostoyevsky cherished in his life. While in the Siberian camp, Dostoyevsky met a peasant woman named Marey, who comforted him “like a mother”. She inspired him with the Christian spirit of love and self-sacrifice, just the way Sonia does when she tells Raskolnikov to “Go to the Crossroads” to confess his wrong doings and seek redemption. Dostoyevsky’s niece, Sofia Alexandrovna Ivanovna was also a model for the character of Sonia. Sofia was a repository of Dostoyevsky’s confessions and a person whom he felt completed his own personality by supplying an element of himself that he lacked. She showed him purity of heart, just as Sonia did in Crime and Punishment for Raskolnikov. Sonia is another classic example of a character directly influenced by individuals in the author’s life, who came about because of inspirational people in Dostoyevsky’s life. Katherine Ivanovna, Sonia’s mother and Marmeladov’s wife, was made in the image of Marya, Dostoyevsky’s former wife. Like Katherine, Marya was at first married to a former army officer who was of a lower social status than her. When Dostoyevsky met her she inspired him to improve his lowly status, just as Katherine repeatedly tried to help the unemployed alcoholic Marmleladov. When Dostoyevsky created the character of Katherine Ivanovna, there is no doubt he had Marya in his mind as the woman she was to be modeled on. However, it was not only people that Dostoyevsky modeled aspects of his novel Crime and Punishment on. In Crime and Punishment, location is a key to the novel’s story. The story takes place in St. Petersburg, a place where Dostoyevsky lived in the 1840s and 1860s. At the time, poverty, drunks and prostitutes filled the city and were thrown in the face of the author everyday. Living in such an environment influenced the author to create similar living conditions, those that are not conducive to healthy living. Personal experience of living in St. Petersburg laid the foundation for Dostoyevsky’s setting in his novel, which is one that creates an atmosphere of despair and hopelessness-feelings that were always far too common in the author’s life.

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