Crime and Punishment at 150 (2016)

Cruising St Petersburg’s Mean Streets McReynolds, Louise


When he wrote that "down these mean streets a man must go who is not himself mean," crime novelist Raymond Chandler was introducing his detective as a knight errant, the last defender of virtue in a virtue-less world. But in Crime and Punishment, the killer ultimately displays greater righteousness than the investigator tracking him down. Dostoevsky's fiction impacted the morality of factual criminality in late imperial Russia, as he also inserted himself into true crimes as a journalist. Despite the sympathetic profile Dostoevsky afforded his killers, though, men who were indeed themselves mean cruised the capital, and their actions provide a context in which to better understand Dostoevsky's conceptualization of criminal behavior and appropriate punishment.

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