Crime and Punishment

Style

Crime and Punishment is written from a third-person omniscient perspective. It is told primarily from the point of view of Raskolnikov, but does at times switch to the perspective of other characters such as Svidrigaïlov, Razumikhin, Luzhin, Sonya or Dunya. This narrative technique, which fuses the narrator very closely with the consciousness and point of view of the central characters, was original for its period. Frank notes that Dostoevsky's use of time shifts of memory and 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 Dostoevsky was an untidy and negligent craftsman, and to 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.[40]

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. 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 predominantly lost due to differences in language structure and culture. For example, the original Russian title ("Преступление и наказание") is not the direct equivalent to the English "Crime and Punishment". "Преступление" (Prestupléniye) is literally translated as 'a stepping across'. The physical image of crime as crossing over a barrier or a boundary is lost in translation, as is the religious implication of transgression.[41]


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