The Prostitute In Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment, Notes from Underground, and The Meek One

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The Prostitute In Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment, Notes from Underground, and The Meek One

The prostitute is a curious fixture of Victorian era literature. In the works of William Thackeray and Samuel Richardson it was almost cliché for the heroine to end up in a house of prostitution and then to transcend that situation in a show of proper Victorian morals. Having seen many young women forced by extreme poverty to take up the trade of a loose woman, Fyodor Dostoevsky, a petit-bourgeois fallen on hard times himself, took a rather different approach to the whole issue; he recognized that these women were not utterly without merit as so many people of the time thought. Georg Brandes spoke accurately when he said, "Dostoevsky preaches
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Yet this connection would be for naught if not for the virtue of Sonia. When he confesses his heinous crime to her, she weeps in sorrow for him and begs him to save himself by confessing. Dostoevsky's point here is that by setting himself anathema from society and God, Raskolnikov is destroying his own spirit. He is not allowing himself to function as he was made to function, and a house divided against itself cannot stand. Just so, Raskolnikov cannot survive as a man in a world turned about and disrupted beyond recognition by his act of violence and societal dissent. Providence is strikingly illustrated here: Raskolnikov cannot survive without Sonia's aid, but neither could Sonia have been redeemed if Raskolnikov had not come along in need of redemption himself; she would have continued on the road to perdition from which her charitable impulses tore her.

What is Dostoevsky illustrating here? He is showing us the cruelty of inner struggle and the fact that this struggle can only be won through the power of grace and redemption. Sonia struggles with the fact that she is indeed a house divided. On one hand she is the epitome of wisdom and holiness, and on the other she is the base tool of men's lust. This flagrant contradiction cannot stand; Sonia must choose one path or the other. Raskolnikov also demonstrates this inherent contradiction: he is both pure good and pure evil. This mélange of sin and sadism, of purity and
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