How Dostoevsky Incorporates Structure
The novel has a distinct beginning, middle and end. There are six parts in the novel, with an epilogue. Central to the whole story are the dual murders committed by Raskolnikov. The plot of the novel unfolds around him, for the most part—the reader lives in his consciousness and experiences the occurrences in the novel from the eyes of Raskolnikov. The author portrays Raskolnikov as a complicated character who seems to have that of a dual personality. One side of him is cold and calculating—as seen in the manner he plans and murders. On the other hand, the reader may seem him as a kind and helpful soul, willing to offer help and sympathy in times of distress. These conflicts in the character of Raskolnikov give Crime and Punishment a sense of cohesion and artistic unity.
Parts I-III present the predominantly rational and proud Raskolnikov: Parts IV-VI, the emerging irrational and humble Raskolnikov. The first half of the novel shows the progressive death of the first ruling principle of his character; the last half, the progressive birth of the new ruling principle. The point of change comes in the very middle of the novel.
Dostoevsky brilliantly placed key episodes symmetrically throughout the novel’s six parts. According to David Bethea, the recurrence of these episodes in the two halves of the novel “is organized according to a mirror-like principle, whereby the left half relfects the right half”. Parts I, III, and IV deal largely with Raskolnikov’s relationship to his family, while parts II, IV, and VI deal with his relationship to the authorities of the state and other figures.
The author’s aim was to portray the essential conflicts in mid 19th century Russian national life, and he does so through the character of contradictions (Raskolnikov). He’s a representation of the fate of young Russian intellectuals who faced social injustice under the tsarist autocracy. They couldn’t do much to reform society, and hence they...