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Thread: Dostoevsky and beauty

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    Executioner, protect me Kyriakos's Avatar
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    Dostoevsky and beauty

    One thing i remember noticing in Dostoevsky's work is that he appears to have at the same time a pre-occupation with beauty, and also one which is not analysed at all.
    Some examples of beauty playing a part in his characters:

    Raskolnicov is described as very beautiful. I always thought that he made it that way so as to have the readers avoid some explanation of his misery by means of frustration with women.

    In the "pitiful tale" there is a character who is almost only described as "very good looking boy". He acts in an angelic way.

    The narrator of The Underground introduces himself by claiming he is repulsive (i trust physically as well as ethically).

    In the vast ocean of his work such a theme perhaps can go utterly un-noticed. It has been years since i read most of it, but there are other characters who are physically ugly, such as Marmeladov, and they get diminished to the point of being treated like animals.

    Also i do not recall any clear passage of adoration of beauty. Unlike in Tolstoi's work, were the human form is often mentioned and adored, or even if it isnt then there is some very clear occupation in the story about this.
    In Dostoevsky it seems that the form has some hidden meaning, perhaps some meaning he didnt feel comfortable with.

    This could be one of the motifs in his work, perhaps not as pronounced as others, but still existant

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    the beloved: Gladys's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kyriakos View Post
    Raskolnicov is described as very beautiful.
    Also, Sonya (the prostitute) and Lizaveta (the idiot) are portrayed as beautiful in Crime and Punishment.

    More astonishing, in The Idiot Prince Myshkin portrays the pariahs Ippolit (the consumptive sponger) and Roghozin (the lecherous murderer) as a beautiful souls.
    "Love does not alter the beloved, it alters itself"

  3. #3
    Quote Originally Posted by Kyriakos View Post
    Raskolnicov is described as very beautiful. I always thought that he made it that way so as to have the readers avoid some explanation of his misery by means of frustration with women.
    This description was a device of dramatic irony at work. It is unlikely that Raskolnikov perceived himself as attractive, an unfortunate shortcoming perhaps, but one which illustrates the depth of his character. Presuming that he is aware of it, he does not manipulate it to his advantage as other young men of a similar age might have done. Instead, he all but dresses himself in sackcloth and ashes, deliberately allowing himself to succumb to neglect. Perhaps he knew that he was outwardly beautiful, and detested this, believing aesthetic beauty to be a trait which endeared him to a society which he found himself profoundly at odds with, either as a social inferior or as someone who he likens to a Napoleon, an Ubermensch for whom the convivial affectations of others towards him should not matter. He knows that, on some level, he is beautiful, and seeks to enjoy the full meaning of that beauty only by martyring it to a sense of higher beauty and meaning by destroying himself for the sake of pecuniary self sufficiency and what he sees as the best interests of his family. Or, maybe Dostoevsky truly did mean this as a device of dramatic irony. Raskolnikov is beautiful outwardly, perhaps implying that he could be of some use to society in a conventional sense if he set his mind to it, though he is either entirely unaware of or refuses to acknowledge his beauty.

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