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How is the setting/historical background developed and how does it contribute to the...

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bookwrm | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted July 29, 2009 at 11:46 AM via web

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How is the setting/historical background developed and how does it contribute to the theme/tone?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted July 29, 2009 at 9:46 PM (Answer #1)

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The setting of an ubran St. Petersburg contributes greatly to Dostoyevsky's work.  The poverty that grips the city, also grips the characters in the work.  Raskolnikov is poor, or of moderate means.  His condition is so challenging, that his sister is compelled to marry someone in the hopes of assisting his financial predicament.  This reflects St. Petersburg, a supposedly Westernized and modern city in Russia, a nation that consisted of mostly agrarian workers.  As leaders sought to modernize St. Petersburg, they managed to import the financial hardships and development of an underclass in the city.  Dostoyevsky shows this in the poverty of the characters, many of whom have come from the rural areas of Russia to St. Petersburg.  The historical condition of St. Petersburg as a city striving to modernize, but only succeeding in creating an segement of impoverished poverty, is reflected in the characters of the novel.  In terms of the theme, there is a redemption that is necessitated in both the character of Raskolnikov as there is in St. Petersburg.  A supposedly Western city is in search of identity, as a supposedly "rational" individual is in search of an identity of his soul.  The ending of the work recognizes this redepmption in the power of love, the transcendent condition of love allows Raskolnikov to not have to assume the form of the world around him.  This provides a level of hope, and one can only wonder if this will result in the same manner for St. Petersubrg, about 50 years away from the Russian Revolution.

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