If you are one of those individuals who keep on wondering about the existence of God and have driven themselves nuts on this question, you constantly wonder about your ideologies and what you are doing in this world, then reading Dostoevsky might help or it will at least put you on a quest to find meaning of life. There is one thing that will definitely happen- you won’t stay the same.
Dostoevsky himself was a ‘conservative’ as far as his belief in the idea of Christ’s sacrifice and Christian brotherhood as the ideal state of world is considered but it doesn’t mean he was a full blown reactionary, spitting foul words against the radicals. No, far from it- he was the one person who represented the radical youth in a humane form, not some caricature that were quiet prominent at that time in Russia.
All the works of Dostoevsky are worth reading but here we’ll consider just two of his prominent works, the works for which he is still remembered as one of the best novelists ever- ‘Crime and Punishment’ and ‘The Brothers Karamazov’. Another reason for my taking up these two works is that I happen to read and study them recently only, therefore, the impact that they have created on my mind is still fresh and vivid.
‘Crime and Punishment’ (henceforth, C n P) is the ultimate psycho thriller besides being quite thick (and not to mention, gripping). As the name suggests, this book is about a crime and the punishment that follows, but intriguing part is the nature of crime and the punishment meted out to the young ex-student Raskolnikov. It is not the legal framework- the laws created by the humans to maintain order in the society that feature in this book but also the moral nature of the crime and punishment that Raskolnikov faces. The very talk about a youth, feeling out of place in the society and his ambition to change the world in some way, is what makes it so endearing even today, especially the college going students having the same aspirations. Even though Dostoevsky’s portrayal of Raskolnikov is brilliant and he is able to capture the exact nature of the protagonist but he is not supporting him- and that should be kept in mind. It’s the genius of this writer that not for once makes Raskolnikov despicable. He doesn’t throw his own view of the character on the readers. The readers are left to draw their own conclusions.
‘The Brothers Karamazov’ can be looked as an expansion of the project that Dostoevsky undertook in C n P. The difference here is that C n P dealt directly with an individual encompassing all the characteristics of the radical youth, hence not only dealing with the political realm but also with the social and religious issues and debates that were to become the Zeitgeist of the 19th century Europe, while in the Brothers Karamazov, Dostoevsky has put religion and spirituality and its effect on human nature above all the other issues. This could be because it was Dostoevsky’s last work and in this work he wanted to put all his energy and thoughts. Therefore, in this VERY thick novel, the readers come across the various questions that they had already encountered in the earlier novels. The novel deals exclusively with the question that was also a part of C n P- if there is no God, then is a Man capable of doing anything- even murder, since there is no fear of life in Hell and a judgement by God?
These central questions governing Dostoevsky’s works might look as highly boring- what with all the conversations dealing with God and atheism and no action at all, no romance and all that stuff, it’s NOT so. In both C n P and Brothers Karamazov, the plot involves a murder- hence, a crime and it is that is gripping for most of the readers. Besides dealing with all the religious dilemmas, Dostoevsky’s was one of the first authors that aptly made use of psychology. Even way before Freud, he incorporated dreams in his work to show the inner working of an individual’s unconscious part of brain. Interesting, no?
Well, I can fathom that many readers don’t touch awesome writers like Dostoevsky is because of the sheer size of the novels but I’d say, if you do so, then you are missing the works that might actually decide the direction of your life- they are so powerful, I can’t even describe it. I’d just say go and buy yourself a Dostoevsky and you might even not sleep for days because you are, umm, thinking and contemplating….