Literary Summary: Crime and Punishment

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Fyodor Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment is another classic of nineteenth century Russian literature. Written in a time of intellectual, socio-political, and moral upheaval in the Russian Empire, Dostoevsky’s work must be understood in the context of the debates of Russian nihilism and egoism. Russian nihilism and egoism are not about the absence of values and the meaninglessness of life. On the contrary, they are about the individual’s heroic struggle to destroy the existing order of moral, political, religious, and social oppression and usher in a better, more free, more equal, world that individuals can build.

That is who Raskolnikov is. He is the nihilistic-ego ready to embark on that heroic struggle of nihilism. As we know, he fails. After murdering the pawnbroker and her daughter, Raskolnikov sinks into despair; his crime has brought internal, psychological, punishment. Dostoevsky’s character development of Raskolnikov asserts that man is too weak to achieve what…

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