Crime and Punishment has a distinct beginning, middle and end. The novel is divided into six parts, with an epilogue. The notion of "intrinsic duality" in Crime and Punishment has been commented upon, with the suggestion that there is a degree of symmetry to the book. Edward Wasiolek who has argued that Dostoyevsky was a skilled craftsman, highly conscious of the formal pattern in his art, has likened the structure of Crime and Punishment to a "flattened X", saying:
Parts I-III [of Crime and Punishment] 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.
This compositional balance is achieved by means of the symmetrical distribution of certain key episodes throughout the novel's six parts. The recurrence of these episodes in the two-halves of the novel, as David Bethea has argued, is organized according to a mirror-like principle, whereby the "left" half of the novel reflects the "right" half. For her part, Margaret Church discerns a contrapuntal structuring: parts I, III and V deal largely with the main hero's relationship to his family (mother, sister and mother surrogates), while parts II, IV and VI deal with his relationship to the authorities of the state "and to various father figures".
The seventh part of the novel, the Epilogue, has attracted much attention and controversy. Some of Dostoyevsky's critics have criticized the novel's final pages as superfluous, anti-climactic, unworthy of the rest of the work, while others have rushed to the defense of the Epilogue, offering various ingenious schemes which conclusively prove its inevitability and necessity. Steven Cassedy argues that Crime and Punishment "is formally two distinct but closely related, things, namely a particular type of tragedy in the classical Greek mold and a Christian resurrection tale". Cassedy concludes that "the logical demands of the tragic model as such are satisfied without the Epilogue in Crime and Punishment ... At the same time, this tragedy contains a Christian component, and the logical demands of this element are met only by the resurrection promised in the Epilogue".
Crime and Punishment is written from a third-person omniscient perspective. It is focalized primarily from the point of view of Raskolnikov; however, it does at times switch to the perspective of Svidrigailov, Razumikhin, Peter Petrovich, or Dunya. This narrative technique, which fuses the narrator very closely with the consciousness and point of view of the central characters of the plot, was original for its period. Franks notes that his identification, through Dostoyevsky's use of the time shifts of memory and his manipulation of temporal sequence, begins to approach the later experiments of Henry James, Joseph Conrad, Virginia Woolf, and James Joyce. A late nineteenth-century reader was, however, accustomed to more orderly and linear types of expository narration. This led to the persistence of the legend that Dostoyevsky was an untidy and negligent craftsman and to critical observations like the following by Melchior de Vogüé:
A word ... one does not even notice, a small fact that takes up only a line, have their reverberations fifty pages later ... [so that] the continuity becomes unintelligible if one skips a couple of pages.
Dostoevsky uses different speech mannerisms and sentences of different length for different characters. Those who use artificial language—Luzhin, for example—are identified as unattractive people. Mrs. Marmeladov's disintegrating mind is reflected in her language, too. In the original Russian text, the names of the major characters have something of a double meaning, but in translation the subtlety of the Russian language is predominately lost due to major differences in the language structure and culture. For example, the original title ("Преступление и наказание") is not the direct equivalent to the English. "Преступление" is literally translated as a stepping across. The physical image of crime as a crossing over a barrier or a boundary is lost in translation. So is the religious implication of transgression, which in English refers to a sin rather than a crime.