FYODOR MIKHAILOVICH DOSTOEVSKY
A. Born 1821; died 1881.
B. Father was a doctor but relatively poor.
C. Mixture of Ukrainian and Russian origins.
D. Family was very religious.
1. "We knew the Gospel almost from the cradle."
E. Passionate about literature as a child.
A. Family sends him to military engineering school.
1. They hoped he would earn a good living.
2. Dostoevsky disdained material things.
B. Dostoevsky referred to his classmates as "moral mediocrities".
III. Early Literary Career
A. Poor Folk (1846)
1. Epistolary novel (A novel in letters).
2. Hailed by liberals of the day.
a. "First attempt at a social novel we've had."
3. Dostoyevsky acclaimed a "new Gogol."
B. Early style similar to Gogol's.
2. Characters were "meek" and "Mild."
C. The Double (1846)
1. The hero is faced with a part of him that has split off and has assumed an independent life.
IV. Arrest and Exile
A. In 1848 socialist revolution burst out throughout Europe.
1. Russia reacts by clamping down on opposition.
B. Petrashevsky Circle.
1. Liberal political group.
2. Dostoevsly arrested for his membership in this group as well as a more secretive sub-group.
3. Arrested in 1848 and sentenced to death.
C. Ten years of prison and exile in Siberia.
1. Notes from the House of the Dead. (1860-62)
2. Formulated ideas on humiliation, dignity and freedom.
V. Second Literary Career
A. Returns to St. Petersburg in 1859.
B. Notes from the Underground (1864)
1 Dostoyevsky rejects idea that man is primarily rational, that he will always do what is m his self-interest.
2. Asserts that man is both rational and irrational, both material and spiritual.
3. He associates utilitarian social order, scientism, self-interest, mathematical laws of nature and reason with ant hills, piano keys, railroad schedules and the formula 2X2=4.
4. He associates consciousness, caprice, and freedom of will with beating one's head against a stone wall, tongues stuck out, his underground mouse hole, pins stuck into people, and the formula 2X2=5.
5. The Underground Man argues that "caprice usually prevails over self interest, and that it actually is one's real interest.
C. Four Murder Novels
1. Crime and Punishment (1866).
a Hero: Raskolnikov.
b. Split between rational self and instinctive decency.
c. Raskolnikov convinces himself he has the right to kill a pawnbroker.
d. In the rest of the novel we witness clash between Raskolnikov's cruel, utilitarian side and his more generous and humanistic side.
e. Raskolnikov is only saved by confession and repentance.
2. The Idiot (1868).
a. Hero: Myshkin.
b. Myshkin is Dostoyevsky's attempt at creating a Christ-like man.
c. His goodness does inspire some in the materialistic society of St. Petersburg, but his naive innocence ultimately proves his undoing.
3. The Possessed (1872).
a. Hero: Stavrogin.
b. Novel inspired by generation of nihilists and trial of Nechaev.
c. The leader of a group of radicals convinces them to kill a former member of their group.
4. The Brothers Karamazov (1880).
a Heroes: Fyodor, Alyosha, Dmitri, and Ivan Karamazov.
b. Conflict between rationalism and Irrationalism, faith and lack of faith, power of sensuality and power of religious goodness, the reality and unreality of God.