Midterm - Carly Weil RUSS 314: Dostoevsky and His World...

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Carly Weil RUSS 314: Dostoevsky and His World Professor Helfant Midterm Paper Raskolnikov and the Underground Man as “Idea Playgrounds” Fyodor Dostoevsky is widely known for the incredibly pensive nature of his characters. Most notable are the characters Raskolnikov, from Crime and Punishment , and the Underground Man, from Notes from Underground , both of whom virtually take up the entirety of their respective books with their thoughts. Raskolnikov is completely consumed by his murderous act, simultaneously trying to legitimize the act and obsessing over his fears of suspicion. The Underground Man uses the entire first part of Notes from Underground to detail his scrutiny of the society in which he lives. Indeed, Raskolnikov and the Underground Man are so possessed by their internal meditations that their thoughts begin to infiltrate every aspect of their lives. Because of this phenomenon, Mikhail Bakhtin describes Dostoevsky’s characters “as people of an idea.” (Bakhtin, p. 643) As “idea-people,” the philosophical ideas of Dostoevsky’s characters, most significantly Raskolnikov and the Underground Man, are completely entangled and interrelated with their own physiological and psychological selves. Further, as each character in Dostoevsky’s stories grapples with multiple and often conflicting philosophies, their minds and, by definition of being an idea-person, their worlds can be described as “idea playgrounds.” From the first page of Crime and Punishment , even before Dostoevsky shares the name of his protagonist, the reader is introduced to Raskolnikov as a deep and brooding man.
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“He was so immersed in himself and had isolated himself so much from everyone that he was afraid not only of meeting his landlady but of meeting anyone at all. He was crushed by poverty; but even his strained circumstances had lately ceased to burden him. He had entirely given up attending to his daily affairs and did not want to attend to them.” ( Crime and Punishment , p. 3) This is an incredibly telling first description of Raskolnikov. It first and foremost establishes him as a man who principally operates by way of thought. He is so consumed by his musings that he has virtually cut himself off from any associations with other human beings. The scene continues with Raskolnikov walking down the street, muttering to himself. Utterly engrossed in his own mind, he does not seem to be concerned with what he must look like to passersby on the street. In fact, his most common reaction to others is to hardly notice them or be completely repulsed by their intrusion into his world. The passage also illustrates Raskolnikov’s physical situation. He lives under very meager conditions and lacks sufficient funds, shown by his avoidance of his landlady due to his inability to pay his rent. Additionally, he does not have the means to properly feed and clothe himself. Dostoevsky recounts how “it was the second day that he had had almost nothing to eat. He was so badly dressed that another man, even an accustomed one, would have been ashamed
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Midterm - Carly Weil RUSS 314: Dostoevsky and His World...

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