Analysis Pages

Plot in Crime and Punishment

The main point of action in the story comes early when Raskolnikov murders the pawnbroker. However, the plot maintains pace through a series of interviews, escapes, and confessions as the police get closer to identifying the murderer and Raskolnikov struggles to reconcile his feelings and self-perceptions.

Plot Examples in Crime and Punishment:

Part I - Chapter I

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"but how degrading it all is...."   (Part I - Chapter I)

Astute readers will likely have developed a strong hypothesis regarding what kind of crime Raskolnikov intends to commit. Notice here how he focuses on the details of the room and the pawnbroker while simultaneously calling such actions degrading, or humiliating. Recall how Dostoevsky indicated that Raskolnikov has subconsciously accepted that he will commit the crime, but that he has yet to full realize his intention to do it. This example helps to illustrate this difference.

"“I've brought something to pawn here,”..."   (Part I - Chapter I)

Raskolnikov's request confirms the old woman's profession as a pawnbroker, or someone who lends money to others in exchange for personal property that can be sold if the money is not returned within a specific time frame. Failing to repay the pawnbroker can often lead to someone getting into a cycle of debt that is very difficult to get out of. Considering how the plot advances, this profession for Alyona Ivanovna and her relationship with Raskolnikov were key choices for Dostoevsky.

"even the most inquisitive eyes were not to be dreaded...."   (Part I - Chapter I)

While Dostoevsky provides elaborate details on the house and its inhabitants, the implication here is that the man also knows these things. Based on his desire to not seem obvious and his preference for darkness to keep "inquisitive eyes" away, it is becoming clear that the man intends to eventually do something unlawful.

"Nastasya..."   (Part I - Chapter III)

Nastasya works for Raskolnikov's landlady as a servant, cook, and housekeeper. She appears to be good natured, talkative, and genuinely shows pity and concern for Raskolnikov's well-being. She is not an overly complex character, and Dostoevsky uses the way she questions Raskolnikov and their dialogue to help draw out information for the readers to move the plot along.

"Razumihin..."   (Part I - Chapter IV)

Dmitri Prokofitch Razumihin is a fellow student and Raskolnikov's friend. In Russian, his family name is derived from the word for "reason," which, as readers will see, Dostoevsky chose for a clear purpose. Razumihin consistently tries to take reasonable approaches to helping others, and his good will helps to move the story along.

"probably taking Raskolnikov for a madman..."   (Part I - Chapter IV)

Recall how Raskolnikov's name roughly translates to "of the splitters." This chapter features two examples of his dangerously fragile personality. First, the sharp change in his commitment to prevent his sister from marrying Luzhin to wondering why he should care; now, his desire to help the abused girl suddenly goes away, and he professes to not care at all. This behavior likely exemplifies Dostoevsky's desire to create a character that is suffering from a personality disorder brought on by mental strain.

"He was shaking like a leaf as he said this...."   (Part I - Chapter V)

The violent and graphic dream fully brings forth Raskolnikov's unexpressed, murderous intentions to the surface. Once he wakes from his dream, he finally vocalizes the crime he intends to commit: to kill the pawnbroker and steal from her. However, this act of speaking his crime aloud only serves to sicken him and cause him more despair.

"Raskolnikov had a fearful dream...."   (Part I - Chapter V)

Notice how Dostoevsky uses this dream as a way to show his audience not only what kind of mental anguish Raskolnikov is suffering from, but he also uses it to provide information about his past by interjecting descriptions about how Raskolnikov actually behaved as a young child in addition to describing how things actually were instead of relying on simply the dream reality.

"And suddenly he realized what he was thinking...."   (Part I - Chapter V)

While earlier in the novel, Dostoevsky revealed to the readers that subconsciously and inadvertently, Raskolnikov had already made up his mind about committing the crime. However, it wasn't until this moment when he decides to go to Razumihin's after the crime does he realize that he has actually been intending to carry it out rather than simply considering it. Notice how later in this chapter he fully vocalizes his plan after a vivid dream.

"How strange it was!..."   (Part I - Chapter VI)

Raskolnikov felt this strangeness in the tavern because the student expressing the very same thought that Raskolnikov had when he met the pawnbroker Alyona Ivanovna.

"without any thought at all, he went out,..."   (Part I - Chapter VII)

Despite several of the precautions he took in the apartment, the presence of the two men prohibited him from fully eradicating all signs of his crime. Most notably, Raskolnikov failed to retrieve his fake pledge, and he also left the bucket full of bloody water in the apartment. Both of these items could be used by the police as evidence that the murder was premeditated.

"There was a sudden silence. It was strange...."   (Part II - Chapter I)

The officers were initially uninterested in Raskolnikov's personal story, but when he faints while they are discussing the pawnbroker's murder, they suddenly pay much closer attention to him. They ask him a series of questions about his whereabouts and this sudden silence indicates that they are formulating a possible connection. This promptly reignites Raskolnikov's fears that the police will search his room.

"But what did he care now for an I.O.U...."   (Part II - Chapter I)

Although the sentence starts with the head clerk as the subject, the "he" in this second sentence refers to Raskolnikov whose sense of security that he was not summoned to the police station for the murder is more of a relief than even learning about this large sum of money that he owes his landlady. However, notice what happens later on to make the officer's somewhat suspicious of Raskolnikov.

"He was conscious of a terrible inner turmoil...."   (Part II - Chapter I)

Recall how in Chapter 2 he had a little food and drink and instantly felt better. While the mental turmoil Raskolnikov is suffering from at this moment is no doubt real, another consideration for this could be that he has hardly eaten any food in the last 48 hours. The heat of the day and the weakness of his body are likely contributing factors to his well-being.

"fringe for your trousers..."   (Part II - Chapter III)

The fringe from Raskolnikov's trousers and his sock were the two possessions of his that had blood on them after the murder. These two items are strong pieces of evidence in Raskolnikov's mind, and his actions in his delirium show how deeply he wants to hide all things that tie him to the crime.

"full of alarm...."   (Part II - Chapter III)

Recall the list of names that Razumihin gave Raskolnikov for who he has recently met in the house. Three of them are the police officers that Raskolnikov met at the station. This news is enough to make the already distraught Raskolnikov even more upset and anxious.

"But of that—of that he had no recollection..."   (Part II - Chapter III)

As Raskolnikov sleeps, he recalls random things from his brief waking moments. The fact that Dostoevsky tells us that Raskolnikov does not recall that (the murder) shows how he is using sleep as a device for Raskolnikov to escape the physical and mental anguish he feels from the crime.

"Raskolnikov cried suddenly..."   (Part II - Chapter IV)

Raskolnikov's explosive reaction to this detail reveals much about how he worries that he made a mistake. He thinks that if he missed this box and the earring behind the door, then there might be other details that he missed that could become evidence tying him to the murder. Such a reaction also demonstrates how much the guilt is starting to eat away at Raskolnikov, and his inability to control his emotions.

"Porfiry Petrovitch..."   (Part II - Chapter IV)

The inclusion of this name shortly after talking about Razumihin's uncle might suggest that this is his uncle's name. However, Razumihin lists Porfiry Petrovich, a detective, as another guest who will be attending the housewarming. Porfiry's mention here is important because of his distant relationship to Razumihin and his role as an investigator.

"Lebeziatnikov..."   (Part II - Chapter V)

Readers will recall that Marmeladov told Raskolnikov that this man lives in the same building as the Marmeladovs, has physically harmed Marmeladov's wife, Katerina Ivanovna, in the past, and considers himself an intellectual.

"went into the flat..."   (Part II - Chapter VI)

Raskolnikov's decision to return to the apartment where he murdered the pawnbroker and her sister is an example of the belief that criminals "always return to the scene of the crime." While this belief is far from completely accurate, sometimes the reasons for doing this have been attributed to the criminal wanting to feel a sense of superiority or as a way to assess what the status of the investigation is. Raskolnikov's motivations are less clear, and he feels oddly upset with the changes that have taken place in the room.

"the house..."   (Part II - Chapter VI)

Raskolnikov has unconsciously made his way to the building where the pawnbroker lived. Notice how similar this moment is to when he found himself outside of Razumihin's building. Such moments are attributed to chance by the characters, but Dostoevsky uses them deliberately to advance his plot.

"realized what he had done...."   (Part II - Chapter VI)

This reckless conversation with Zametov exemplifies how Raskolnikov is suffering from guilt and his desire to change things "one way or another." His ego has taken over in this conversation and driven him to nearly confessing to the murder through a game of "what if?" Notice that Raskolnikov's strange behavior throws Zametov off, which is likely the only reason why Zametov doesn't take him seriously at this time, but it comes back later in the story.

"V..."   (Part II - Chapter VI)

This omission is likely in accordance with the Russian censors. However, we might make a reasonable assumption that Raskolnikov has turned in the direction of Voznesensky Prospekt since that is where he learned Luzhin plans to have Raskolnikov's mother and sister stay.

"We will try our strength!..."   (Part II - Chapter VII)

This paragraph represents the strongest assertion that Raskolnikov has made regarding his own behavior in the entire story thus far. He has recognized the value of living life, and how he did not lose himself when he killed the pawnbroker. This declaration marks a turning point in his character, but his crime will still continue to have power over him.

"And what did you hear?..."   (Part III - Chapter II)

While being a gossip is generally not considered a positive character trait, Razumihin's tendency to overshare is not only endearing because of his jolly nature, but it also helps to fill in the other characters on what is happening in the story. Dostoevsky likely made Razumihin this way in order to help drive the plot forward.

"That was your idea, if I am not mistaken?..."   (Part III - Chapter V)

Porfiry approaches the subject of morality using Raskolnikov's idea that some extraordinary people are exempt from the conventions of morality, and they have no need for moral justification, responsibility, or consequence. Porfiry deliberately does this in order to better understand Raskolnikov, whom Porfiry most likely suspects of being involved in the murder of the pawnbroker.

"On Crime..."   (Part III - Chapter V)

For Porfiry, who stays current on the latest theories, the fact that he happened to read Raskolnikov's article is of great importance in the story. Dostoevsky uses this to allow Porfiry (and the audience) insight into a criminal's psychological profile, as it is described by Raskolnikov himself.

"but might listen in comfort...."   (Part IV - Chapter IV)

Dostoevsky includes Svidrigaïlov at the end of this scene to add a corrupting influence to a passage primarily devoted to the topic of sacrifice and redemption. Raskolnikov and Sonia participate in a passionate discussion while Svidrigaïlov eavesdrops on their private conversation. His presence provides a hook for the next chapter by leaving readers wondering what he will do with this information.

"the young friend with whom he was staying...."   (Part V - Chapter I)

This details reveals to the reader how Luzhin was able to know about Sonia and that Raskolnikov gave away his money to Katerina Ivanovna; he lives in the same building and would have witnessed the event with Marmeladov's death or heard about it from Lebeziatnikov.

"He was beginning to lose the thread..."   (Part V - Chapter IV)

Dostoevsky's includes this statement here to indicate that Raskolnikov is likely still debating about whether or not to confess who killed Lizaveta to Sonia. Since he is losing the thread, or point, of what he wants to say, he reveals that this is not the most pressing concern on his mind.

"Krestovsky Island..."   (Part VI - Chapter I)

Recall that this is the island on which Raskolnikov buried the valuables that he stole after killing the pawnbroker. That he has returned and slept in this location without good reason indicates that he is still quite mentally unfit.

"It will be infinitely more to your advantage and to my advantage too, for my task will be done...."   (Part VI - Chapter II)

Readers might wonder why Porfiry says this. Recall that Porfiry prefers to have cases settled with direct evidence and confession, which would be accomplished should Raskolnikov take Porfiry's suggestion. Additionally, should Raskolnikov confess, this would likely result in a lighter prison sentence for him. Porfiry appears to be honest when he says that he does like Raskolnikov, and he appears to want to help rehabilitate Raskolnikov through the criminal justice system.

"So ‘he took his suffering..."   (Part VI - Chapter II)

As a detective, Porfiry is very perceptive and interested in the psychological profile of his suspects. Having learned that Nikolay had been in contact with a former spiritual mentor, Porfiry thinks he gave a false confession because of Nikolay's religious zeal, which means he'd be willing to suffer for penitence and redemption---even if the crime wasn't his. Porfiry clearly details this to fully explain his process to Raskolnikov and to reveal how he knows that Nikolay gave a false confession.

"Why, you, Rodion Romanovitch! You are the murderer..."   (Part VI - Chapter II)

Raskolnikov's fears are realized. This pivotal moment indicates that not only does Porfiry know that Raskolnikov is the murderer, but it also indicates that Porfiry has known for some time. However, despite his knowledge, he has plans for Raskolnikov and indicates what he wants from him.

"For if a man is guilty, you must be able to get something substantial out of him..."   (Part VI - Chapter II)

Porfiry reiterates his position that while circumstantial evidence can be useful in solving crimes, he still desires "something substantial," or hard evidence, to really prove that someone is guilty of the crime. Porfiry's belief here directly controls how he continues this dialogue and proposes his solution.

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