In Fyodor Dostoevsky's Crime And Punishment And The Unknown Citizen

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Fyodor Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment and “The Unknown Citizen” by W.H. Auden are similar in the ways that they use analysis of social collectivism to explore existential themes. The main character of Crime and Punishment struggles with the implications of his conviction that he is above the bulk of his society. This differs from “The Unknown Citizen,” where the main focus of the poem is a man who has no apparent distinguishing traits to set him aside from the rest of society, yet at his death, the Auden’s society erects a monument in honor of his “achievements”. Each work explores the existential consequences of their respective protagonist’s situation through the use of archetypes in order to expose issues in the societies in which they live. Ultimately, both Crime and Punishment and “The Unknown Citizen” function as studies of the societies in which their characters live and thus their own societies. “The Unknown Citizen” and Crime and Punishment share the theme of existentialism, portrayed through the main characters of each work. Auden explores the consequences of existentialism through the subject of a man only memorialized by the facts of his life that fit societal standards whereas Dostoevsky explores this concept through a character suffering from his own delusions of grandeur. Auden’s unknown citizen is referred to only by a government identification number, which immediately strips the man of any individualism. To even further deface the man, the statue of

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