Degree Year


Document Type

Thesis - Open Access

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts




Thomas Newlin

Committee Member(s)

Arlene Forman
Heather Hogan


Chernyshevsky, What is to be Done?, Dostoevsky, Crime and Punishment, Tolstoy, Anna Karenina, Russian radical intelligentsia


This paper focuses on Fyodor Dostoevsky and Lev Tolstoy's subtle responses to the work and philosophy of the radical intelligent, literary critic and philosopher Nikolai Gavrilovich Chernyshevsky. Dostoevsky and Tolstoy had deep qualms about Chernyshevsky's ideas and their consequences, both for the individual and Russian society at large. The goal of this paper is to describe these ideas and consequences as they appear in two of the most famous and important works of 19th century Russian and world literature, Dostoevsky's "Crime and Punishment" and Tolstoy's "Anna Karenina."

Discussion begins with exegesis of the radical utilitarian and utopian philosophy advocated by Chernyshevsky in his influential "What is to be Done?" and "The Anthropological Principle in Philosophy". Having discussed the main tenants of Chernyshevsky's philosophic system, the author continues to investigate the appearance of these ideas in "Crime and Punishment" and "Anna Karenina" through an analysis of primary and secondary characters in each novel. The polyphony of Dostoevsky's prose extends, the author claims, to issues of Chernyshevsky's philosophy and its influence on Russia, and characters of "Crime and Punishment," primarily Raskolnikov, Razumikhin and Luzhin, are analyzed through this lens. Karenin, Vronsky, Anna Karenina and Levin provide the primary focus for analysis of Tolstoy's "Anna Karenina."

As much as is possible, the author aspires to include biographical and philosophic detail about Dostoevsky and Tolstoy in order to remain close and true to the two authors' respective visions for and understandings of Russia. Dostoevsky and Tolstoy held views of human nature, Russia, and man's interactions with fellow man which drastically differed from those of Chernyshevsky and the radical intelligentsia. Dostoevsky and Tolstoy's hesitance to embrace Chernyshevsky's philosophy appears in their works, at times with great subtlety, and elucidation of the literary manifestations of their philosophic responses serves as the primary impetus for this paper.