Crime and Punishment


In Chapter V of Part IV of Crime and Punishment, Dostoevsky uses the physical and emotional fluctuation of the characters to highlight the mounting turmoil within Raskolnikov and accentuate the semantic threshold at which he finds himself. To see this clearly one must understand that, though often the defining events in the novel -- decisions, conversations, confessions -- take place in what Mikhail Bakhtin qualifies as crowded thresholds, streets, corridors, etc, the particular confrontational scene between Raskolnikov and Porfiry Petrovich in Part IV unfolds in the rather ample and relatively open environment of Petrovich's "neither large nor small" study. It is precisely because of this seemingly sudden expansion in the space of the novel that the physical, verbal, and emotional vacillations that follow are made all the more poignant. Raskolnikov mainly seems to be at an invisible threshold himself, a critical moment during which his nerves fail him, his reason betrays him, and he is left with alkaline tastes and feverish attempts at coherence for guides; the oscillations in the text mirror his condition.

From the onset the feeling between the two men is established by means of the diction Dostoevsky employs to...

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