Crime and Punishment (1866)

Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky is a literary classic worthy of being read.

Literary critiques of Dostoevsky’s work are available online, so I will not attempt to offer one here. I simply want to make a few observations in hopes that you might want to pick up a copy and read it.

The central character is a young man named Roskolnikov and is set primarily in 1860’s St. Petersburg, Russia. With the murder of an elderly pawnbroker, Roskolnikov tries to answer a deeper question. Can ultimate good justify evil means?

In the course of the novel, readers become aware of the young nihilists who would overturn the rigid social order of Russia. In this sense Dostoevsky presents plenty of political fodder for debate.

Various characters either reject outright, long for or fully embrace Christianity. The biblical account of the raising of Lazarus plays a prominent role in the book. So Dostoevsky provides us with a glimpse into the religious life of 19th century Russia.

Readers also grapple with moral issues and causes of immorality that are common between the author’s culture and our culture today. For example, the book’s heroine is a young prostitute who accepts her role because of the failures of her parents.

These issues are all worth pondering, but the real genius of Dostoevsky is to present the human psyche of Roskolnikov. He commits a crime and finally society punishes him with exile into the harsh Siberian wasteland. However, his real punishment is the torment which effects his mind, his body and his soul.

A classic work by a great novelist.

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