A Study of the literary techniques used by Fyodor Dostoyevsky in
Crime and Punishment to convey the downfall and subsequent rise of
the main character.
"Crime and Punishment" by Fyodor Dostoyevsky is the story of a young
student Raskolnikov and his need to murder an old woman to prove one
of his many philosophies. The book begins with the murder, but the
primary focus is on his reasoning and reactions before and after the
It is set in St Petersburg where the main character, Raskolnikov,
appears to be an ex-student living, in poverty, a life of lethargy.
However, it soon emerges that he, despite the physical nature of his
situation, has a very active mind. To reveal whether he is of a
special "breed" of humans, he finds it necessary to kill, and the
unfortunate subjects of his experiment are an old pawnbroker and her
sister. After the murders, Raskolnikov is subject to a series of
mental and emotional changes, eventually leading to his confession
and, later, his arrest, trial and eight-year prison sentence.
It was both this interesting plot and the philosophical nature of
Dostoyevsky's writing, which initially attracted me to this book. It
also features many themes and characters, as well as an effective
setting. As a result, I will examine the literary techniques used in
"Crime and Punishment" by Fyodor Dostoyevsky to convey the downfall
and subsequent rise of the main character, Raskolnikov. I will begin
by looking at how the setting formed Raskolnikov's character, and then
discuss the structure and other characters of the novel.
The setting plays a primary role in forming Raskolnikov's character.
In mid-19th century Russia, an oppressive rule is a result of the
Romanov monarchy and this inadvertently promotes widespread poverty
and pain. Raskolnikov is no different from his fellow citizens, and
this is the first - if not the most important - aspect of his life to
which we are introduced:
"He was heavily in debt to his land lady...So absorbed in himself had
he grown, so isolated from anyone else. He had been crushed by poverty"
The use of "crushed" here implies that Raskolnikov is profoundly
affected by the destitution from which he endured. This plays a large
part in his mentality and the developments of his theories. The
feeling that he has nothing to live for certainly further propels him
towards his acts of murder. If he were indeed able to perform this
act, without feeling regret, then he would be able to consider himself
more than just a poor student. The author shows that Raskolnikov has
"grown" to into his state of mind, suggesting a progression over a
period of time. The theory that poverty is the cause of his actions is
mentioned in the Epilogue during his trial:
"[Raskolnikov replied] that the cause of the whole thing had been his
rotten social position, his poverty and helplessness"
However, it is not just his theories that this setting has nurtured;
he has also...