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Visions of Hell

In the final decades of Russia, Dostoevsky saw what he believed to be the seeds of the unraveling of He feared and resented the growingwaves of people he believed to be young, rebelintellectuals who were smitten by materialism andselfish philosophies, but cared little for their fellowman. Convinced that a complete disassociation fromothers would be the ultimate undoing of humankind,Dostoevsky set out to write a tale in “Crime andPunishment” that would put out the errors of this “mefirst” ideology. The storys central character,Raskolnikov, is an extremely intelligent young studentwhose mind, like those of so many of us in college, hasbeen pumped full of new ideas and philosophies thatfascinate him, even if he does not fully understandthem.Raskolnikov’s undoing occurs at the beginningof the novel, when he comes to the conclusion that he isindeed a “superman,” free to do as he wills. Convincedthat he is superior to the common “filth” he sees dailyin the streets and that he is therefore beyond the law,he secretly murders an old pawnbroker whom he despisesin order to prove his point. The crime goes unsolved,but Raskolnikov’s troubles are just the beginning. Fornow, not only is he one of the chosen “few,” he alsopossesses a secret he can tell no one. With his verysoul cut off from the outside world, Raskolnikovrealizes just how alone he is. He recognizes his needfor some form of human contact, even though that wishflies in the face of the superman role he believes ishis. Raskolnikov winds up living a nightmarish existencethrough much of the novel, literally torn between hisideas and his compassion like a person with a splitpersonality.Raskolnikov’s personality was outside of“ordinary” humanity. There were some like him on thestreets of St. Petersburg: the poor, the exiled, thehomeless, the mentally and emotionally disturbed, thatthe higher class people...

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