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FREE Barron's Booknotes-Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky-Free
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Believers in Nihilism, one of the most influential movements of the period, preached the need to destroy the existing social and political systems even if nothing had been set up to replace what was destroyed. Dostoevsky, after his prison experience, was repelled by this negative view of life, even though its advocates offered some constructive ideas for reform.

Another idea that was in the air was that of the "superman," an extraordinary individual set apart from most other men. The German philosopher Georg Friedrich Hegel had written a great deal on the subject, and his countryman Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche developed the idea in different ways during the 1880s. Hegel suggested that a superman works for the good of mankind, whereas Nietzsche's idea was that a superman was primarily interested in self-gratification. The character Raskolnikov in Crime and Punishment uses the idea of the superman to help justify the murder he commits. Dostoevsky challenges us to weigh Raskolnikov's ideas against the seriousness of his crime and draw our own conclusions.


Dostoevsky's fascination with suffering is based on his religious beliefs- fervent but not always orthodox Christianity. Christian ideas of forgiveness, salvation, and rebirth (or resurrection) of the spirit are also central to Crime and Punishment.

The novel is exciting to read because Dostoevsky makes these ideas come alive in a suspenseful story. As you read the novel, you'll be challenged to form your own opinions about contradictory views of human behavior. Does Dostoevsky want us to agree with Raskolnikov that some people have the right to commit crimes? There are times when you think he does, and other times when you're sure he doesn't.

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FREE Barron's Booknotes-Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky-Free
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