Critical Context

Dostoevski’s life as a writer and thinker revolves around one great subject: the role of freedom in human existence. The author comes to the conclusion that free will is the most precious possession, but abuses of that freedom, such as the conscious choice of evil, lead to chaos. In Idiot (1868; The Idiot, 1887), Dostoevski portrays the preoccupation with money leading to the disintegration of families and society, but only in A Raw Youth does he dwell upon the antidote to such chaos—a return to Christian belief.

In Besy (1871-1872; The Possessed, 1913), the author portrays disorder on a societal level, but he drops this theme to return to the family in A Raw Youth and Bratya Karamazovy (1879-1880; The Brothers Karamazov, 1912). A Raw Youth is not considered one of Dostoevski’s great works, but it is valuable because it isolates one of Dostoevski’s themes—Christianity versus other ideas and ideals—and gives readers a clear idea of his beliefs concerning religious faith. Even good characters, such as Arkady and Versilov, cause and suffer from chaos because they have rejected religious belief. In The Brothers Karamazov this particular theme is developed further in the character of Ivan and, in general, the religious dimension is dealt with at great length.

While A Raw Youth may be slighted by critics and historians of literature, it is an important step in the development of Dostoevski’s central theme and clarifies his thought concerning the eventual rejuvenation of Russian social life through religious renewal.