Summary of Crime and Punishment

Looking for the book?
We have the summary! Get the key insights in just 10 minutes.

Crime and Punishment book summary

Literary Classic

  • Crime
  • Realism

What It’s About

The Agony of the Antihero 

Could you commit the perfect crime? Is there such a thing as a “just murder” that costs the life of one person but benefits many others? Can rational considerations silence the human conscience? Fyodor Dostoevsky investigates these questions in his classic novel Crime and Punishment. The best-known work of this Russian author masterfully depicts the destitute student Raskolnikov’s murder of an old pawnbroker and his subsequent agony of conscience. Raskolnikov considers himself a kind of superman, compares himself with Napoleon and tries to justify his actions with rational arguments. But after the murder, he slides into a slow, gnawing despair. The virtuous prostitute Sonja finally persuades him to admit his guilt and start a new life. Dostoevsky, committed to Russian realism, describes the social misery on the streets of St. Petersburg. In easy to understand but gripping language, he succeeded in writing not only one of the greatest crime novels of all time as well as an intriguing psychoanalysis that illuminates the abysses of a murderer’s soul.

Take-Aways

  • Crime and Punishment is one of the most successful early examples of psychological realism.
  • Raskolnikov, an alienated former student living in abject poverty, plans to murder a greedy, old pawnbroker and use her money to help others. Although he gets away with the crime, he still experiences punishment: feelings of guilt, paranoia, isolation, horror and self-doubt. After a protracted moral struggle, Raskolnikov eventually begs God and humanity for forgiveness, confesses to the police, and serves a prison sentence in Siberia.
  • Though the characters are fictional, the novel portrays events as they might have occurred in late 19th century Russia.
  • While there is a plot, Raskolnikov’s psychology – his thoughts, emotions and motivations – are the central focus. 
  • Doskoevsky uses Raskolnikov to represent a real-life Russian trope at the time: the superfluous man, or a man who can’t find a place in society.
  • Raskolnikov’s intense neurosis and questioning of commonly accepted morals are why the novel is considered a precursor to existentialism.
  • Dostoevsky himself received a death sentence by firing squad, which was commuted shortly before his execution. He then spent four years in a Siberian labor camp and six years in military exile.
  • Crime and Punishment inspired the Modernist development of stream-of-consciousness prose and influenced existentialist philosophical theory.
  • The text was widely translated and went on to hold sway fields as diverse as literature, philosophy and psychoanalysis.
  • “I didn’t kill a human being but a principle! I killed the principle, but I didn’t overstep. I stopped on this side.” 

Summary

Down and Out in St. Petersburg

It’s July in St. Petersburg, and the crowded city is stiflingly hot. Rodion Romanovitch Raskolnikov came from the countryside to study law but can no longer afford his tuition fees. Handsome and intelligent, but neurotic and mercurial, Raskolnikov spends his days sleeping in run-down quarters and dodging his landlady, to whom he’s deeply in debt. He wears rags that would embarrass even the shabbiest of men. Raskolnikov is impoverished, isolated, and unable or unwilling to find work. 

Raskolnikov visits the spinster pawnbroker Alyona Ivanovna, who lives with her sister, Lizaveta. Alyona is stingy, reviled and cruel. Raskolnikov believes her money could be put to better use. He pawns his father’s silver watch to Alyona and, while in her little apartment, he pays peculiar attention to the woman’s living quarters and notes in which pocket she keeps her keys and in which drawer she stores her money box.

“Why am I going there now? Am I capable of that? Is that serious? It is not serious at all. It’s simply a fantasy to amuse myself; a plaything! Yes, maybe it is a plaything.” (Raskolnikov)

Afterward, Raskolnikov visits a bar where he meets Marmeladov, a drunk. Marmeladov relates his life story: that he has a teenage daughter, Sonia, from his first marriage; that his first wife died; that he has young children with his second wife, Katerina Ivanovna; that he has drunk the family into poverty, driving the innocent Sonia to prostitution; and that Lebeziatnikov, another tenant in his building, beat Katerina and forced the landlady to evict Sonia for being a prostitute. Fascinated, Raskolnikov follows Marmeladov home and is so moved by his family’s suffering that he gives them nearly all of the paltry sum that he received from Alyona.

Upon returning home, Raskolnikov receives a letter from his mother, Pulcheria, describing all that transpired since their last communication months ago. Raskolnikov’s sister, Dounia, worked as a governess in the household of a wealthy country family. The master of the house, Svidrigaïlov, tried to seduce her. Svidrigaïlov’s wife, Marfa Petrovna, discovered this and blamed Dounia, casting her out of the house. Marfa later realized Dounia’s innocence and restored her tarnished reputation. Dounia then accepted a marriage proposal from Pyotr Petrovitch Luzhin, a wealthy but repulsive St. Petersburg attorney. Pulcheria also writes that she and Dounia will soon be coming to St. Petersburg for the wedding. Raskolnikov knows his sister doesn’t love Luzhin and is only marrying him for financial security and for the possibility that he might employ Raskolnikov in his law firm. Dounia’s self-sacrifice disgusts and shames Raskolnikov, who vows to end the engagement.

Raskolnikov considers borrowing money from his friend Razumihin or asking him for a job, but decides instead that he’ll do so only after “it.” He falls asleep outdoors and dreams of a drunken crowd beating an old horse to death. When he awakes, he feverishly debates whether he should go through with “it.” Though the idea of “it” both repulses and fascinates him, he’s committed to the idea, and feels that “it” is inevitable. As he walks home, he passes Lizaveta in the street and overhears that she’ll be running an errand the following night, leaving Alyona alone. 

The next night, Raskolnikov awakes from sleep far later than intended. He decides there is still time to act. He slips out of his apartment unseen. He’s unable to steal an axe from his landlady’s kitchen as originally planned but finds another in the porter’s office by chance. He carries the axe hidden in his coat. He reaches Alyona’s apartment without being spotted. Although suspicious of Raskolnikov’s strange demeanor, she allows him inside when he claims he has an item to pawn. He hands her a bundle with a complicated knot. While she’s preoccupied with untying it, Raskolnikov strikes her twice in the head with the axe, splitting her skull open and killing her. 

“Good God!” he cried, ‘can it be, can it be, that I shall really take an axe, that I shall strike her on the head, split her skull open…that I shall tread in the sticky warm blood, break the lock, steal and tremble; hide, all spattered in the blood…with the axe…Good God, can it be?’” (Raskolnikov)

Despite Raskolnikov’s obsessive premeditation, his plan goes awry. Trembling and dazed, he fumbles and lingers too long as he tries to locate Alyona’s keys and money. Lizaveta unexpectedly returns from her errand. Raskolnikov then kills her with the axe, too. In a dream-like state, Raskolnikov slowly cleans himself and his weapon of blood. He realizes only after both murders that the door to the apartment is open; appalled at himself, he closes and locks it. While Raskolnikov ineptly searches the apartment for valuables, two of Alyona’s customers arrive and knock on the locked door. Realizing something is amiss, they run for help. Raskolnikov flees and hides in an unoccupied apartment downstairs. He manages to escape, return home and restore the axe to the porter’s room without being seen. He falls into an abrupt sleep. 

Sick with Guilt

Raskolnikov falls into a feverish delirium. He has trouble distinguishing fantasy from reality; he worries, for instance, that all his clothes are covered in blood and that he’s unable to perceive this, though in fact only a small amount has stained his sock and coat lining. He cuts out the bloodstained parts. He again falls asleep and is awakened by his landlady’s servant, who delivers a summons for Raskolnikov to appear at the police station. Raskolnikov berates himself for falling asleep with the door carelessly open and the bloody rags in his hands, though the servant didn’t notice. Raskolnikov discards the rags in his stove and hides the few goods he stole from Alyona in a hole in his wall.

Raskolnikov believes the police summons must be a trick to get him to confess to the crime and debates whether he should. At the police station, he learns that the summons is actually a complaint filed by his landlady for failure to pay rent. He signs an IOU vowing to pay the debt. While there, he overhears the officers discussing the murders of Alyona and Lizaveta and faints. He fears this reaction will raise suspicion and quickly leaves.

Back at home, Raskolnikov falls into an unconscious state again. When he wakes up, he’s gripped by a fear that someone will discover the goods he stole from the pawnbroker. He wanders the streets, wondering how to dispose of them and ultimately burying them under a large stone in an empty workshop he happens to pass. He then goes to visit Razumihin. Raskolnikov behaves erratically and leaves abruptly, alarming Razumihin. On his return home, Raskolnikov is nearly run over by a horse and carriage. A woman confuses him for a beggar and gives Raskolnikov money that he angrily discards. At home, he lapses into unconsciousness once more. 

This time, when he wakes up, Razumihin is there with a doctor, Zossimov. Raskolnikov is relieved that he hasn’t confessed to the crime while raving in his sleep. He decides to pretend he’s still weak and ill until he knows more about what’s going on. A courier arrives and delivers 35 rubles to Raskolnikov, a gift from Pulcheria. Razumihin goes to buy Raskolnikov new clothes. Zossimov leaves but later returns with a police investigator, Porfiry Petrovitch. Conversation turns to the murders of Alyona and Lizaveta. Razumihin explains how he thinks it was committed and is shockingly on the mark, though he doesn’t suspect Raskolnikov’s involvement.

“I brought Zossimov to see you twice…He examined you carefully and said at once it was nothing serious – something seemed to have gone to your head. Some nervous nonsense, the result of bad feeding, he says you have not had enough beer and radish, but it’s nothing much; it will pass and you will be all right.” (Razumihin to Raskolnikov)

Luzhin visits Raskolnikov to make his acquaintance. Luzhin explains that he’s staying with Lebeziatnikov, a distant associate, while his apartment is renovated to welcome Dounia. Conversation again turns to the murder; Raskolnikov at this time learns that all people who left pledges with Alyona will be questioned. When the conversation returns to Dounia, Raskolnikov insults and threatens Luzhin, who takes offense and departs. Once Razumihin and Zossimov leave, Raskolnikov slips out.

Suicide enters his mind, but he decides against it. He buys a newspaper to learn more of the murder investigation and runs into Zametov, a police officer who is also friends with Razumihin. Raskolnikov explains to Zametov in detail how he committed the murder without actually confessing that he did it. Zametov is frightened of Raskolnikov but doesn’t believe he would speak so openly if he truly committed the crime. Raskolnikov later returns to the scene of the murder, which has been cleaned and is being repaired to rent again. 

Raskolnikov decides to go to the police station and confess his crimes, but on his way home he sees Marmeladov being run over by a carriage. Raskolnikov brings the dying man to his family and meets Sonia, to whom he gives many of his mother’s rubles to cover the funeral expenses. When Raskolnikov returns home, he finds Pulcheria and Dounia waiting for him along with Zossimov and Razumihin.

Exceptional Men

Pulcheria and Dounia are alarmed at Raskolnikov’s condition, which seems to border on madness. Zossimov assures them that although he was initially concerned that Raskolnikov was insane, Zossimov now believes the man is recovering. The women mention that Marfa has suddenly died. Razumihin escorts Pulcheria and Dounia home. Dounia receives a letter from Luzhin requesting a meeting the following night without Raskolnikov. 

Pulcheria and Dounia go to visit Raskolnikov the following day. He realizes with sorrow that he can never again speak freely to his family, since he’ll always be concealing his crime. Raskolnikov tells Dounia that she must choose between him and Luzhin. Dounia doesn’t answer definitively but agrees to let Raskolnikov attend her meeting with Luzhin later that evening.

“And why are you blushing again? You are lying, sister. You are intentionally lying, simply from feminine obstinacy, simply to hold your own against me… .” (Raskolnikov to Dounia)

Sonia arrives to invite Raskolnikov to her father’s funeral. Raskolnikov asks Razumihin to take him to see Porfiry. Raskolnikov asks Porfiry for his pledges. Porfiry reveals that Raskolnikov is the last of Alyona’s customers to come forward. Porfiry also asks about an essay that Raskolnikov wrote when he was still a law student. In it, Raskolnikov advanced his views on crime – including a theory that the perpetrator always experiences a bout of illness after its commission. In defending the paper, Raskolnikov expounds on his theory that there are exceptional men and ordinary men, and that there are times when exceptional men are entitled to commit crimes in the name of some greater good. Raskolnikov uses Napoleon as an example of an exceptional man. Porfiry suspects Raskolnikov of the murder and attempts to trick him into confessing – but fails to do so. 

A Death, An Inheritance

Raskolnikov leaves Porfiry and returns to the scene of the crime to check that he left no evidence behind. A stranger in the street calls him a murderer. Raskolnikov retorts that he killed a principle, not a person. He returns home and dreams that he’s striking Alyona with an axe but that she laughs and refuses to die. When he awakes, Svidrigaïlov is in his room. The man tells Raskolnikov that he wanted to make his acquaintance and hoped he could help him speak to Dounia. Raskolnikov makes it clear that he and his family don’t like Svidrigaïlov.

Raskolnikov tells Svidrigaïlov he has heard it said he killed his own wife, Marfa. Svidrigaïlov says his conscious is clear, though Marfa’s ghost has visited him three times. He says he sees a resemblance between himself and Raskolnikov. His behavior is disconcerting and distracted. Svidrigaïlov explains that he wants to see Dounia again and came to St. Petersburg for this reason. He tells Raskolnikov that Marfa left Dounia 3,000 rubles in her will and that if he is able to see her again, he will give her another 10,000 rubles, so that she will no longer need to marry Luzhin. Svidrigaïlov asks Raskolnikov to communicate this to his sister. 

Raskolnikov meets with Pulcheria, Dounia and Luzhin that evening. Luzhin is staying in the same building as the Marmeladovs and thus knows that Raskolnikov gave Sonia money; Luzhin tries to defame Raskolnikov by telling Pulcheria and Dounia that it was a payment for prostitution. Raskolnikov refutes this. Furious at Luzhin’s slander, Dounia breaks off the engagement. Luzhin leaves. 

Raskolnikov tells Dounia and Pulcheria of Svidrigaïlov’s offer. Raskolnikov then says that he thinks it’s best if they part ways forever and that Razumihin is honorable and will care for them in his stead. This upsets the women, but Raskolnikov leaves without further explanation.

“I meant to tell you, mother, and you, Dounia, that it would be better for us to part for a time. I feel ill, I am not at peace…I will come afterward, I will come of myself…when it’s possible. I remember you and love you…Leave me, leave me alone…I want to be alone. Forget me altogether, it’s better…. Good-bye!” (Raskolnikov)

Raskolnikov goes to see Sonia, taunts her for her devout Christianity and asks her to read to him the Lazarus section of the Bible. She does so, in a voice at first trembling, then powerful. When she has finished, he asks if she will accompany him “down the same road” and vows to tell her the next day who killed Lizaveta, whom Sonia also knew. Unbeknownst to Raskolnikov, Svidrigaïlov has rented the room next to Sonia’s and overhears the entire conversation.

The next day Raskolnikov goes to Porfiry at the police station and submits to formal questioning. Trying to provoke Raskolnikov into confessing, Porfiry bluffs about evidence and uses psychological analysis, but his efforts fail when two men appear and falsely confess to murdering Alyona and Lizaveta. 

A Family Evicted

Luzhin, who is staying in the same building as the Marmeladovs, encounters Sonia and gives her money – ostensibly to help her family. Lebeziatnikov witnesses this and comments on Luzhin’s apparent generosity. Shortly after Marmeladov’s funeral, Luzhin accuses Sonia of stealing 100 rubles — revenge against Raskolnikov for dashing his hopes of marriage to Dounia. Lebeziatnikov refutes Luzhin’s claims and proves Sonia’s innocence. Sonia is emotionally overwhelmed and leaves in tears. As Luzhin departs in defeat, one of the funeral guests throws a cup at him in derision, but misses and hits the Marmeladovs’ landlady. Already angry at Katerina, the landlady uses this as pretext to evict them. 

Raskolnikov goes to see Sonia, who lives apart from the Marmaledovs and isn’t aware of the eviction. Raskolnikov tells her the news. He then confesses his crime and discusses fleeing to Siberia. Sonia encourages him to go to the crossroads, beg forgiveness for his sins and accept God’s cross, but he refuses. Svidrigaïlov also overhears this. Lebeziatnikov arrives. He has come to tell Sonia that her stepmother has lost her mind and has taken her half-siblings out begging in the street. Sonia runs out to search for her family and finds them on a canal bank. Katerina, out of her mind from a combination of humiliation, exhaustion and tuberculosis, collapses. Sonia takes Katerina back to her little room, where she dies. Svidrigaïlov offers to pay for the funeral and help place Sonia’s step-siblings in an orphanage. Raskolnikov also arrives and realizes that Svidrigaïlov knows of his crime.

Coming Clean

Raskolnikov receives a visit from Porfiry, who tells him he knows that Raskolnikov is the murderer. Porfiry leaves without arresting Raskolnikov or extracting a confession from him, saying that he’s confident that he won’t try to escape. Porfiry thinks it would be best if Raskolnikov turned himself in.

Raskolnikov then finds Svidrigaïlov in a tavern. Raskolnikov orders Svidrigaïlov to stay away from his sister. Svidrigaïlov draws him into a conversation about his life story and craven sexual appetites; he tells Raskolnikov that he is engaged to marry a 15-year-old girl – making their age difference more than 30 years – and offers to introduce her to him sometime. They leave the bar and Raskolnikov, now worried for his sister, follows Svidrigaïlov until the man invites him for a carriage ride. Raskolnikov decides that there is no current threat and leaves him. Down the road, Svidrigaïlov hops out of the carriage, encounters Dounia and tricks her into coming back to his apartment. He tells her of Raskolnikov’s crimes and attempts to blackmail her into sleeping with him. Realizing Svidrigaïlov is a serious threat, Dounia produces the gun she took from Marfa when she was still a governess and has carried ever since. She accuses Svidrigaïlov of being the one who poisoned Marfa. Dounia attempts to shoot Svidrigaïlov but can’t bring herself to kill him. Svidrigaïlov understands that Dounia will never love him and lets her go. He then goes to see Sonia, to whom he gives bonds worth 3,000 rubles and assurances that her siblings will be provided for. He tells her that he is leaving immediately for America and walks out into the rain. He then makes a brief, late-night stop at his fiancee’s apartment, gives her 15,000 rubles and tells her he has to leave St. Petersburg for a time. Early the next morning, Svidrigaïlov shoots himself in the head.

Raskolnikov visits Pulcheria and Dounia to say good-bye and ask for their prayers. Although he is still conflicted, Raskolnikov begs for forgiveness at a crossroads. He goes to the police station to confess but changes his mind. When he leaves, he sees that Sonia is watching him. He goes back inside and confesses. 

Suffering and Joy

After a five-month trial, in which Raskolnikov gives an honest and full account of his crimes, he is sentenced to an eight-year prison sentence in Siberia. Sonia follows him there. Razumihin marries Dounia and, mad with grief, Pulcheria dies of a brain fever. For a time, Raskolnikov is miserable and withdrawn in prison. He is harsh with Sonia, and his fellow inmates grow to hate him. Nonetheless, Sonia visits him regularly, until one day when she doesn’t appear at the gates. Raskolnikov learns that she is ill and can’t come for a few days. He worries about her. When she is well again and comes for a visit, he breaks down and throws himself at her feet. The two weep together for the suffering and joy which lay ahead of them.

“They wanted to speak, but could not; tears stood in their eyes. They were both pale and thin; but those sick pale faces were bright with the dawn of a new future, of a full resurrection into a new life. They were renewed by love; the heart of each held infinite sources of life for the heart of the other.” (about Raskolnikov and Sonia)

That night, when Raskolnikov returns to the barracks, the other convicts treat him differently. He sees that his great suffering is the price to be paid for a new life, a happy life, but that is a subject for another story.

About the Text

Structure and Style

Crime and Punishment is divided into six parts, each containing between five and eight chapters. The text was originally published in 12 serialized installments in The Russian Messenger, a literary journal. Dostoevsky conveys most backstories through dialogue or letters exchanged by characters. The narration is third-person omniscient, though the focus is largely on Raskolnikov. The chronology is linear and the tense present, but there are rare moments when the narrator lapses into first person or jumps forward in time.

The novel is written in a realistic style. Dostoevsky peppers the atory with mundane, gritty details as well as references to real locations in and around St. Petersburg. And although the characters are fictional, the challenges they face are real and in line with the daily struggles of average Russians in the late 19th century. The dense prose is psychologically astute, and its language closely reflects Raskolnikov’s thought processes. Dostoevsky often uses dashes and ellipses to express internal thoughts – for instance, to convey a fractured consciousness. Many sentences contain multiple clauses, semicolons are used liberally and paragraphs tend to be long. Occasionally, evocative metaphors and similes appear, but the diction is mostly matter of fact. The tone is anxious, moody and claustrophobic, though the text offers occasional flashes of dark, mordant humor and tenderness. 

Interpretations

  • Raskolnikov’s intense neurosis and questioning of commonly accepted morals are partly why Crime and Punishment, alongside Dostoesvsky’s other works, is generally considered a precursor to existentialism. Existentialism is a philosophical stance later developed by a diverse array of 19th- and 20th-century thinkers, including Friedrich Nietzsche and Albert Camus. While various permutations can be found, the basic idea is that there’s no inherent meaning to life and that people create their own meaning. 

  • Crime and Punishment is a work of social criticism that diagnoses the ills of Russian society. Doskoevsky uses Raskolnikov to represent a real-life Russian trope at the time: the superfluous man, or a man who can’t find a place in society. Additionally, through portraits of characters like the Marmeladovs, Dostoevsky exposes the costs of extreme inequality and the abandonment of Christian principles. He uses Luzhin to lambast the ambitions of social climbers and the socialist Lebeziatnikov to mock the hypocritical radical intelligentsia. 

  • The novel is primarily political and encapsulates Dostoevsky’s criticisms of Russian progressivism. Dostoevsky fretted that the educated classes were becoming nihilistic, rootless and estranged from traditional Russian values, Christian principles and the peasant class that embodied them. Examples of this estrangement include Raskolnikov’s utilitarianism (the idea that one old woman’s life should be sacrificed to benefit many) and exceptionalism (that great men are not subject to moral law like everyone else).  

Historical Background

Serfdom

For much of its history, Russia was isolated from the rest of Europe. Tsars and their noble courts ran the autocratic state. The Christian Orthodox Church influenced culture and politics in the overwhelmingly agrarian society. The economy relied heavily on serfdom – a feudal labor system formally instituted in the 16th century in which peasants, or serfs, paid rent to farm the land of a relatively small and privileged class of landed gentry. Laws limited serfs’ ability to travel, own property or receive an education.

Thanks largely to the efforts of Tsar Peter the Great – the ruler from whom St. Petersburg gets its name – Russia began to Westernize in the early 18th century, during the European age of Enlightenment. He built universities and established the Table of Ranks, a system that organized the nobility by birth, wealth and service to the tsar in the military, imperial court or civil service. For the first time, office holders who didn’t have hereditary nobility could join the aristocracy. Although the economy remained primarily rural, modernization brought some industrialization, such as the construction of a national rail system and growth in the cities. Aside from the highly regimented tsarist bureaucracy (and a nascent professional class that hoped to join the Tsar’s Table of Ranks through their service), a class of cosmopolitan, Westernized and often radical elite – an intelligentsia of artists, academics and writers – emerged. A subclass of urban serfs lived in comparative squalor. Serfdom continued in the countryside until peaceful emancipation in 1861. Class stratification was extreme.

Development

Dostoevsky’s work carries traces of Romanticism, a literary movement that emphasized individual perception, subjective experience, creative imagination and intensity of feeling over reason that arose in Europe from the late 18th century through around 1850. Nihilism – a philosophical and literary movement in 19th century Russia that expressed skepticism for absolute moral values and argued that there is no meaning or purpose to human life or the universe – also affected Dostoevsky. Socialism – the public and cooperative ownership of property – also figured prominently in Dostoevsky’s works. He read French theorists of socialism as a youth and was familiar with the work of his Russian socialist contemporaries, for example, Alexander Herzen and Nikolai Chernyshevsky

Dostoevsky was idiosyncratic. He criticized serfdom and deplored the moral degradation of the lower classes, he but didn’t believe a secular, Westernized, Enlightened democratic right for the Russian soul. He was a Christian who at times questioned the existence of God, a traditional imperialist who didn’t want to abolish tsardom and a pacifist. 

Legacy

Crime and Punishment was a popular and critical success upon its publication. The text was widely translated and went on to influence fields as diverse as literature, philosophy and psychoanalysis. Sigmund Freud was a big fan. Several adaptations have been made for film and television, but none have achieved independent acclaim. The illustrious film director Alfred Hitchcock refused recreate the novel, knowing that he couldn’t improve upon its greatness. 

About the Author

Fyodor Dostoevsky was born in Moscow on November 11, 1821. When he was seven years old, his father, a doctor who worked at a hospital for the indigent, was promoted to a low position in the tsarist government, entitling him to the rank of noble and allowing him to purchase a small estate with serfs. Both of Dostoevsky’s parents were devout. They introduced him to the Bible, as well as to classic and contemporary Russian and Western writers, poets, and thinkers. Dostoevsky attended boarding schools and a military engineering academy in St. Petersburg. He stood out from his aristocratic peers for his paleness, seriousness and relative poverty. He began gambling during this period, a habit that would later bring him financial woe. Upon graduation, Dostoevsky obtained a low military rank and lived comfortably. He also began to have epileptic episodes. In 1845, he published his first novel, Poor Folk. Soon after, he resigned from the military to pursue writing. He joined a circle of utopian socialists that helped support him financially. He later joined the progressive literary group, the Petrashevsky Circle, whose members were denounced for allegedly circulating banned materials – a serious crime, as Tsar Nicholas I feared that such activity could spark insurrection. Dostoevsky received the death sentence by firing squad, which was commuted shortly before the planned execution. He was then sent to a Siberian labor camp. He was released in 1854, married his first wife in 1857 and returned to St. Petersburg in 1859. In 1861, he published Notes from the House of the Dead, which documented his experience in prison. In 1864, his first wife died. In 1866, he published Crime and Punishment; that same year, he completed The Gambler. In 1867, he married his second wife, Anna. They traveled to Europe for years and had children. In 1868, The Idiot was published. In 1871, Dostoevsky and his family returned to St. Petersburg. In his later years, he received considerable acclaim. His last novel, The Brothers Karamazov, appeared in 1880. He died of pulmonary emphysema on February 9, 1881, at the age of 59.


This literary classic summary has been shared with you by getAbstract.

We find, rate and summarize relevant knowledge to help people make better decisions in business and in their private lives.

For yourself
Discover your next favorite book with getAbstract. See prices >>
For your company
Stay up-to-date with emerging trends in less time. Learn more >>
Students
We're committed to helping #nextgenleaders. See prices >>

Comment on this summary

More on this topic

Related Channels