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Crime and Punishment

by Fyodor Dostoevsky

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How do you describe Fyodor Dostoyevsky's writing style (specifically in Crime and Punishment)?


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Crime and Punishment, as N. N. Stvakhov, a contemporary of Dostovesky's has noted, is a "lament over the manner in which Russian youths were "victims of nihilistic ideas."  From this lament, then,emanates Dostovesky's unique narrative.  The point of view is what has been termed "subjective uncertainty" (enotes). In Chapter 1, for instance, in this third person subjective, the narrator offers the reader a share in Raskolnikov's psychological confusion as his perception of the spatial relationships of the alleys in St. Petersburg in the heat, and dust and his room are distorted by Raskolnikov's state of mind:

His garret was under the roof of a high, five-storied house and was more like a cupboard than a room.

And, in Chapter 6, the room is described as so small that "he could undo the latch without leaving the bed."  Yet, in Chapter 7, as a sick Raskolnikov is visited by Nastasya, his maid, and Razumikhin, his friend who must duck to come in, and Zosimov, the doctor, along with the suitor of his sister, Luzhin, this "cabin" as Razumikhin calls it, somehow accomodates all these people.

Furthering Raskolnikov's inner confusion are both internal monologues and dialogues as he often "converses" with more than himself inwardly.  For instance, after he reads a letter from his mother, he talks to Pulcheria, Dounia, and Sonia, and he has not even yet me Sonia; he merely has hear of her from Marmeladov, her father.  Time, too, is interpreted by his consciousness.  When, for instance, Raskolnikov prepares to kill the old woman in Part I, time seems almost nonexistent.  Then as Raskolnikov undergoes his angst of conscience and he finally confesses to end his torture, time accelerates.  Then, too, there are no events that are narrated objectively enough to form any reference points against which the reader can measure time.

Certainly, in Crime and Punishment, the different perspectives reflect the confusion of the times in which Dostovesky wrote his psychological novel, with ideas given meaning only when they are in dialogues with other ideas--Raskolnikov's or the narrator's.

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