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The Paradox of the settings: St. Petersburg & the Siberian Prison in Crime & Punishment by Dostoyevsky

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Introduction

Cherno Okafor Okafor 1 Ms. Wittlin ENG3U7/ETS 4U7 March 28th, 2012 The Paradox of the settings: St. Petersburg & the Siberian Prison in Crime & Punishment "The degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons" (Dostoyevsky). This statement by Dostoyevsky in Crime and Punishment reflects the paradox of human civilization, whereby the settings of St. Petersburg and the Siberian prison reflect this political view. The Siberian prison, where Raskolnikov is imprisoned, is based on Dostoevsky's own experience of being exiled and locked up in prison. This prison is also where Dostoyevsky writes through a religious call for redemption through suffering. By setting the novel in St. Petersburg, Dostoevsky draws attention to the miserable social conditions that existed in Russia during the time of intense loss, humiliation, and rage. Dostoyevsky uses a satirical analysis of liberal politics to reinforce his socialist values and criticizes the separation of the "ordinary" class and the "superman" class. St. Petersburg is usually thought of as a beautiful city with fabulous buildings and art; however, there is a much more impoverished side of the city. Almost all of the characters, including Raskolnikov, are alienated from society; thus, this renders him sympathetic to a degree. Although Dostoyevsky depicts the crime and the environment it takes place with great realism, he is more interested in the psychology of the murderer than in the external specifics of the crime. How does Dostoyevsky present the settings of St. ...read more.

Middle

St. Petersburg is viewed as a microcosm of the grimmer aspects of Russian society's past as well as the present. Nearly every character becomes subordinated by the same oppressive force, which slowly deteriorates the social structure in St. Petersburg. Dostoevsky uses a description of the city to portray the ills of Russian society while writing Crime and Punishment. Through Raskolnikov's eyes, readers see streets crawling with drunkards, vagabonds, and molesters. Poverty is everywhere and no child is safe. The desolate landscape of the setting further emphasizes the theme of desolation, isolation, and alienation. The first indication of the destruction poverty inflicts is made apparent with the introduction of St. Petersburg. These characteristics are revealed through Raskolnikov when he questions "Why is it that in all the great cities, and not merely or exclusively because of necessity. But rather because of some special inclination, people settle and live in those parts of the city where there are neither parks nor fountains, but dirt and stench and slime of all kinds" (80). Dostoyevsky describes the city as dirty and crowded and emphasizes poor living conditions. In the city, young women prostitute themselves to make money for their destitute families, like Sonia "a small, thin girl of eighteen with fair hair, and rather pretty, with wonderful blue eyes" (168). Consequently, Dostoyevsky uses prostitution as a metaphor for capitalism by subordinating women and children in Russian society. Additionally, random drunks can be seen sprawled out all over the city, during broad daylight "and the drunken men, whom he [Raskolnikov] met continually, completed the revolting misery of the picture" (5). ...read more.

Conclusion

That might be the subject of a new story, but our present story is ended." (430). In this sense, the prologue is really the epilogue or "fall" whereas the epilogue is the prologue for a new dream. In conclusion, Dostoyevsky reveals his socialist values that criminals are influenced by their environments as depicted in Petersburgian society. This is revealed in Raskolnikov's Napoleonic complex that extraordinary people possess the ability to decide their own conscience; which leads to his misconceptions about himself and society and murderous delusions. Dostoyevsky's view of redemption through suffering is quite astounding because he presents murder/crime and the prison hospital with great rationalization and morality. The primary conflict between the two ideologies of the Christian characteristic of time and modernist humanism gaining prevalence clearly illustrates why the ideal of humanism represses our essential emotions and deducts all humanity. The changes in Raskolnikov's mental state provide an example of modernism's effect on man, placing emphasis on his quest for forgiveness and the effect of a repressed emotion. Presumably, this conflict leads to Raskolnikov having a greater capacity for sympathy because of his contradicting personalities. There are also many ethical issues that are relevant to modern society as well. Theories like utilitarianism, egoism, altruism, existentialism, moral absolutism/relativism, and deontology. Raskolnikov embodies every single one of these theories to an extent. But does end justify means? Dostoyevsky demonstrates the duality of human nature in the settings of a society where even the most flawed human beings have the capacity for compassion, goodness, and redemption. World Count: 1, 200 Personal Evaluation Knowledge and Understanding of Text: 4.5/5 Response to Question: 4.5/5 Literary Features: 4. ...read more.

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