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Philosophy In Russian Literature Essay

1551 words - 6 pages

Throughout Russian history, philosophy has been important to the people of Russia, a point which shows up in their literature. Early Russian Literature was usually infused with the philosophy of the time but the oppressiveness of Stalinist Russia took the philosophy out of literature this conclusion is exemplified by two of the most important books from czarist Russia, Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment and Turgenev's Fathers and Sons as compared to the most influential book from Stalinist Russia, Solzhenitsyn's One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich. This comes out through the ideas in the book as well as the moral dilemmas that are imposed on the characters.Literature from czarist Russia incorporated many philosophical ideas. One of these ideas is the negative hero as described by Jean Sisk, "the Russian negative heroes were men who, faced with the need to make a decision or choice, reacted mentally instead of physically, who talked instead of acting, whose will to do or to be was paralyzed by their circuitous rationalizations."(282) However Dostoevsky and Turgenev have different types of negative heroes. In Dostoevsky's writing the negative hero is "polarized between two forces"(Sisk 282) and is caught between two conflicting morals. Sisk goes on to talk of Turgenev's hero as "the aristocratic liberal of the 1840's who, because he was not raised to work or accept responsibility, or because he was ineffectual against the czarist military and police power, recognized the social or personal problems intellectually but failed to respond with appropriate actions."(282) The theme and character of the negative hero are typically Russian, which shows that in Russia philosophy meant a great deal to people even if it did lead to an ineffectual or "negative" response to life.In Crime and Punishment other philosophical ideas are discussed, for instance Raskolnikov's idea of the "extraordinary man." According to Roberts the "extraordinary man" theory states that some men are special enough that they can transgress moral law. Although Dostoevsky used this theory in his novel, he didn't create this idea; the Ubermensch as Hegel called it, was a widely popular theory in the nineteenth century. However Dostoevsky didn't use all of Hegel's ideas, he added some touches of his own. One example of how he made his version of the theory unique was Raskolnikov evolving his views as the book progresses. To show this, Dostoevsky put in contradictions such as Raskolnikov claiming that the murder was committed to benefit mankind, but the he says the extraordinary man must be above mankind and not concerned with what the people think of him. With the extraordinary man theory, it is made apparent that Raskolnikov holds a nihilist viewpoint in that he doesn't believe in the principles of society; in assigning this view to Raskolnikov, Dostoevsky shows that he was very attuned to philosophies that were in Russia at the time.In Fathers and Sons one of the main themes of the...

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