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Themes

We never see the outside of a school, much less the inside of one, in Fyodor Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment. Yet, we would argue that this is a "college book" because two of its main character's are very bright young men, intellectuals who have dropped out of college for a variety of reasons. Some other main characters are bright young women who – in large part because they aren't allowed to go to college in their home country (not unusual in Russia in the 1860s) and are candidates for less than a handful of jobs – have very limited options. By showing us its absence, Dostoevsky puts education up on a pedestal.

Questions About Education

  1. Why did Raskolnikov drop out of college? Why did Razumihin? Are the answers clearly given in the novel? If not, what are your general impressions and on what are they based?
  2. Is it significant that Raskolnikov saved the little kids from the burning building while he was still in college? Why or why not?
  3. What do we know about Sonia's education? Dounia's? Polenka's?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

Crime and Punishment helps us realize that education is a precious resource that we shouldn't take for granted.

Crime and Punishment argues that formal education isn't necessarily the best way to learn about life.

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