As Fyodor Dostoevsky brilliantly displayed throughout his novel, Crime and Punishment, money united the most saintly and sinister of characters, as their eventual moral degradation heavily depended on their possession of it or lack thereof. By highlighting the characters Rodya Raskolnikov and Arkady Svidrigailov, Dostoevsky illustrated that all people, when faced with extreme economic conditions, possessed the ability to become immoral, self-involved, and ultimately evil. To remedy these issues of self-centeredness, pride, and greed, the underlying motif of the novel, poverty, demonstrated the need for ideals of self-sacrifice and compassion. Accompanied by the theme of self-alienation, the author attempted to convince the reader that the battle against moral degradation would only be won by bonding together in times of poverty. In essence, while Dostoevsky clearly depicted that this moral demotion was prevalent in society, he was certain to explain that this occurrence was unacceptable and needed to be rectified.
Zorba the Greek, a novel by Nikos Kazantzakis, enlightened the Western world with an exotic interpretation of premodern Greece, illustrating the country’s old-fashioned ideologies and cruel forms of justice through their rough interpretations of the law and moral code. By focusing on the unforgiving, patriarchal hierarchies of the peasants, Kazantzakis examined the society’s ideologies, strict religious guidelines, and overall way of life. Through this study, one of the novel’s themes, the application of the spirit of the law versus the letter of the law, clearly presented itself in the novel’s horrifying death scene of the “widow.” While Kazantzakis’ novel was not written to justify these actions, his description of the people and ideals of Greece successfully managed to educate the reader of their reasoning behind taking matters into their own hands.
As portrayed in the novel, premodern Greek society was much like that of ancient Greece, where men ruled over the family with an iron fist, and women served no other purpose than that of domestic creature, catering to the every whim of their husband. The common view historically was that women were inferior, sexually dangerous, and vulnerable. When described by Plato, “...the morals of women were ill reputed throughout Greece” (Jaeger 243). In fact, women without husbands were viewed as worthless and shameful in the eyes of the entire community, including both men and women alike. As was the case in Zorba the Greek, a widow in the village refused to remarry and was then scorned by the men that wanted her and the women that wanted to be her. In describing the widow, a villager commented, “She’s as you might say, the mistress of the whole village: you put out the light and you imagine it’s not the wife you take in your arms, but the widow” (Kazantzakis 97).
In the political suspense novel, All the President’s Men, Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein phenomenally depicted their Pulitzer-prize winning investigation of the Watergate scandal, which had implicated and exposed the corruption of President Richard Nixon and his administration to the American public.
Chronicling the leads, successes, and failures of their investigation, Woodward and Bernstein created a sensational and shocking political drama which kept the audience on its toes, despite their previous knowledge of the resulting historical consequences. Capturing the totality and frightening reality of such widespread corruption throughout the United States government, the novel’s thematic emphasis embodied the quintessential mood felt throughout the American public. Corresponding with their anti-war sentiment for the Vietnam War, the people of the 1970s were becoming shockingly more aware that the government was not infallible, and that its limitless power threatened the ideals and standards on which the country and Constitution were founded. Overall, All the President’s Men greatly benefited and impacted American society, as it commemorated the complexities of the Watergate scandal for those who lived through it and those who unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately) missed the events.