Fyodor Dostoevsky

The Life of Fyodor Dostoevsky

“If God does not exist, then everything is permissible.” This quote by Fyodor Dostoevsky exemplifies how his beliefs influenced him in everything he did. Most, if not all, of his stories have a theme of a religious belief that was focused on. This can also be said for his political views and his own personal experiences in life. Not only was he a political activist, but he also took beliefs from different religions and practiced them in his everyday life. He will forever be remembered as the author of some of the most influential and enthralling books that captivate readers by combining suspenseful plots with ultimate questions about faith, suffering, and the meaning of life. Fyodor Dostoevsky’s own writing style was shaped by his experiences in life and it is shown in his books through his philosophies, beliefs, political views, social views, and his time spent in prison.

Dostoevsky’s philosophies are scattered all throughout his novels. In his book Notes from the Underground, he attempts to justify the existence of individual freedom as a necessary and inevitable attribute of man.(Gale Database) He continually brings up this question in his books and asks why does happiness rely on freedom. The reader is continuously questioned on if they are happy and if so does it depend on how free they feel. This is also shown in the novel Poor Folk where it follows the life of two poor citizens and how they face their life, but some would say they do not and that they wallow in their own self-depression. This misery leads to the loss of their inner freedom and to their dependence on social authorities.(Dostoevsky and Frank) Dostoevsky shows the reader how poverty takes away people’s independence and this ultimately takes away their self-esteem. He questions why people in poverty are not happy even though they may have things to be happy for. Throughout his novels, Dostoevsky makes the reader question their freedom and why it is relied on so heavily to be happy.

Dostoevsky’s beliefs are conspicuous in all his books. It is especially prominent in The Brothers Karamazov. The story follows four brothers and their journey through life and how they all take different paths through Christ. One of the brothers, Alyosha, takes a path through Christ and becomes a novice in the local Russian Orthodox monastery. This is a stark contrast to his other brother Ivan who is considered an atheist. Ivan says to Alyosha “It's not God that I don't accept, Alyosha, only I most respectfully return him the ticket." (Dostoevsky and Jannus) Ivan does not dispel his brother for believing in Christ, but he does not think there is anything to believe in. From an early age Ivan is sullen and isolated from everyone and this causes him to push out any thought of faith and thus eventually leads him to murder his father and also kill himself. This portrayal of Christianity shows Dostoevsky’s own personal struggles with his faith. Crime and Punishment is about the fifth commandment ‘Thou shalt not kill’. The main character, Rodion Romanovich Raskolnikov, deals with his revelations of killing an old woman and also the after effects of actually committing the murder. (Dostoevsky and Meyer) He feels remorse for his actions which puts into question human nature and how even though one could be considered a psychopath, they still have a sense of human nature. Rodion’s belief in Christ causes him to fall into a state of rapture and is constantly worried about the murder. This belief in Christ also shows how Dostoevsky lived his life and how his beliefs stopped him from having a very different life. The Idiot presents a man of Christlike goodness in a world of thorny reality.(Gale Database) Dostoevsky writes Prince Myshkin, the main character, as his own embodiment of Christianity and how it is believed the soul is immortal. Myshkin is challenged by an atheist throughout the book and this gives an insight in Dostoevsky and his beliefs and how they take from different religions to make his own. Dostoevsky’s religious beliefs are scattered all throughout his novels and they give an insight into how Dostoevsky lived his own life.

Dostoevsky lived during the reign of Tsar Nicolas I and his political views are greatly influenced in his writing. In the story Poor Folk, it follows the life of a small, elderly official, Makar Devushkin, and a young seamstress, Varvara Dobroselova. The story focuses on their struggle of self-esteem because they are living in poverty.(Frank) Dostoevsky is consideredone of the most influential authors because he writes of Russian society and writes how it actually is and not how the government wanted people to see it as. The poverty in Poor Folk opened a door into their world and gave people in higher places a real shock of how they are living. He combines a local-core aspect of the physiological sketches with a new and unnerving insight into the tortures of the humiliated sensibility. He shows class pride and also class prejudice in his novels.(Dostoevsky and Frank) The Possessed first started as a political pamphlet and was based on a political murder that took place in Moscow on November 21, 1869. A radical named Nechaev had a member of his conspiratorial group murdered because he would not obey him unquestionably. Dostoevsky saw Nechaev as the product of pernicious tendencies in liberalism and radicalism.(Gale Database) The book is seen as an accurate portrayal of certain tendencies of the politics of the time but also a prophetic commentary on the future of politics in Russian and everywhere else. Dostoevsky used his position in society to inform the higher classes of the struggles people in poverty face. He tried to make changes in government through his writings, but it did not always work.

Not only was Dostoevsky very public about his political views, he was also very public about his social views. When he was an adolescent, his father was murdered by his serfs. Serfs are Russian peasants who settled on the land of the wealthy Russians. However, when he was a child he had an encounter with one of his servants that gave him a different view into their life. He was walking alone in a forest where wolves were known to roam. He heard a howl and ran to one of his father's serfs, Marey, who was plowing a field. Marey comforted Fyodor calming him with the tenderness of a “mother”. She blessed him with the sign of the Cross and sent him home. (Dostoevsky and Frank) This kindness of a servant, who had every right to abhonor his father and his family transformed is entire attitude for the peasant world. He is quoted with saying,”I suddenly felt I could regard these unfortunates in and entirely different way and that suddenly, through some sort of miracle, the former hatred and anger in my heart had vanished.” (Dostoevsky and Frank) Dostoevsky was able to acknowledge the abhorrent aspects of peasant behavior, but also show the redeeming Christian features lying, concealed beneath their repellent surfaces. His book, Poor Folk, is a social tale about a civil servant and his struggles to survive. Dostoevsky paints him out to be sympathized with and to show the sorrows the lower class faces in their lives everyday.

Dostoevsky was not shy about expressing his political views and thus subsequently landed him in jail and on the verge of execution. When Fyodor was 29, he was involved in a political group known as the Petrashevsky Circle. They read books that were banned in Russian because they criticised Russian politics and religion. They were eventually tried for treason and were sentenced to death by firing squad. He watched as his fellow prisoners were read their last rites, blindfolded, and tied to a stake. At the last minute the Tsar changed his mind and sentenced them to 4 years of hard labor in a Siberian labor camp followed by six years of compulsory military service in the Russian Army.(Christianity Today) The mock execution was part of their punishment and this experience always stuck with Dostoevsky throughout his life. In Dostoevsky’s novel The House of the Dead, it follows his journey through his servitude. It explains his change on prisoners and how even though they all commited great crimes there was still humanity in them. His servitude gave him a new perspective on life and how when people are put together they either turn savage or return to humanity a better person then when they left. After imprisonment, he rejected his radical ideas and acquired new respect for the religious ideas and ideals of russia. Dostoevsky's imprisonment enabled him to gain a new view on life and how everyone reacts differently to the same situations.

Fyodor Dostoevsky’s writing was largely based on his own personal life experiences. Dostoevsky is once quoted saying “Only through suffering can we find ourselves” and this quote exemplifies how he lived his life. He faced many obstacles growing up and some of them were his imprisonment, the death of his father, and the dictatorship in government that lead him to write some of the most influential books. Fyodor Dostoevsky’s writing style was shaped by his experiences in life and is shown in his books through his philosophies, beliefs, political views, social views, and his time spent in prison.