Fyodor Dostoevsky’s Background

Laura Vargas

August 26, 2012

1st Period

Author’s Background

Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoevsky’s tumultuous life ultimately led to his great success as an author because of his novels examining man’s struggle with good and evil, life and death, belief and reason, and other psychological aspects that he questioned. Born in Moscow in the Nineteenth century, shortly after it became once again the people’s capital, Dostoevsky’s childhood happiness was quickly cut short by the death of his mother when he was fifteen. While devastated from his mother’s death he was sent away to school in St. Petersburg and eventually graduated as a lieutenant. He began writing after he inherited money and quit his career as a military engineer. In 1847 he became involved with the Petrashevsky Circle, a group of intellectuals who discussed utopian socialism. The group’s progressive views cause Tsar Nicholas I to order their arrest. After being kept in solitary confinement for eight months, Dostoevsky was sentenced to execution. Tsar Nicholas then changed the sentence to penal servitude in Siberia. Dostoevsky’s life was changed by the severity of his sentences and it can be seen in his stories how much he suffered during and after those ten years that he spent in prison and then in exile. Upon his return to St. Petersburg, he adapted religious ideas and ideals common to Russians and he rejected his former radical and progressive views. The deaths of many of his loved ones, such as his wife and brother, affected him greatly and he began to gamble compulsively and his epilepsy continued to worsen during his adult years. He produced his greatest and most thought-provoking novels during his last few years, such as Crime and Punishment, which focuses on the mental anguish of a man who believes that murder is permissible in pursuit of a higher purpose. Fyodor Dostoevsky died at the age of 59 in 1881 due to a lung hemorrhage.



“The greatest happiness is to know the source of unhappiness,” Fyodor Dostoevsky

He is clearly speaking from the heart as after being sentenced to death and then serving four years in a Siberian prison he dealt with many of the sources of unhappiness and was then able to return to his writing which was a source of happiness for him.

-Laura Vargas