Is it possible for an astounding individual to disregard moral law and still be considered humane? Crime and Punishment, by Fyodor Dostoevsky, is the psychological journey of Raskolnikov, a compassionate and profound law student with disturbed mental tribulations forcing him to commit a ruthless act of murder. .
Written in the early 1860's and published in 1866, Crime and Punishment brought about a new era of Russian literature, Realism. Crime and Punishment replaced the elegant style of Romanticism with fictional realism, depicting individual behavior and human development. Dostoevsky's pragmatic approach to writing influenced twentieth-century literature by portraying social and political realities.
The novel's main character, Raskolnikov, a poverty-stricken young, haughty man, was a former law student and now lives in the dirty, cluttered, and chaotic city of St. Petersburg, Russia during the 1860's. Raskolnikov devises an absurd theory that extraordinary men or superior individuals are above the law and excused from obeying the law. Contemplating whether or not to test his theory, Raskolnikov decides that Alyona Ivanovna, a wealthy, greedy pawnbroker, deserves to die solely because she takes advantage of the poor by cheating them out of their money, and he cannot justify her existence. These pathetic motives are what drive Raskolnikov to carry out his murder on Alyona Ivanovna. This atrocious act is the beginning of the psychological journey Raskolnikov faces and brings Raskolnikov in contact with two characters - Porfiry Petrovitch, the clever detective in charge of the investigation of the murder and Sonia Semyonovna, a young prostitute who has endured great suffering through poverty. Raskolnikov is tortured by his remorse feelings and struggles with his conscience, uncertain as to whether he should confess his murder. Raskolnikov can no longer bear the suffering caused by his inner conflict and immediately confesses the murder to Porfiry Petrovitch.