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Crime and Punishment

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Crime and Punishment by Fydor Dostoyevsky has been hailed as the greatest literary work in the Western hemisphere. Crime and Punishment was written in pre-Communist Russia under the Tsar. Dostoyevsky’s writing shows insight into the human mind that is at once frightening and frighteningly real. His main character, around who all other characters are introduced, is Rodion Romanovitch Raskolnikov.

Raskolnikov murders an old pawnbroker woman for seemingly no reason at all. His sister and mother move to St. Petersburg following his sister’s engagement to a man whom Raskolnikov was extremely displeased. Raskolnikov undergoes severe mental trauma, and falls ill after the killing. The reader isn’t sure why Raskolnikov killed the woman, indeed it appears that Raskolnikov didn’t know himself. He is surrounded by friends and his family and draws in other characters to him during his illness. He befriends a woman, Sofya Seymonavitch, who prostitutes herself to support her mother and her drunken father. As the police come closer onto his trail Raskolnikov faces serious threats to his sister from her two suitors, one of which tries to rape her and kills himself after he finds that he can’t bring himself to. At the end Raskolnikov gives himself up, and gives his family into the care of his friend Rauzumihin, who marries Raskolnikov’s sister Douina. Dostoyevsky exposes the darkest sides of human nature in with characters that are completely human. The tale Dostoyevsky weaves is a murder mystery, with the murderer and all the facts of the murder known in the veryfirst pages of the book.

How then can it be a murder mystery? The mystery is finding out why Raskolnikov committed the crime. Western minds want desperately to see some sense of right and wrong, a clear cut “good guy”, and an evil nasty “bad guy”. Dostoyevsky gives the reader no such comfort. The rea…

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