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Tone in Crime and Punishment

Dostoevsky uses several techniques to convey different tones throughout the tale. For example, the ironic situations that Raskolnikov finds himself in heightens the apprehension he feels at getting caught or found guilty. Similarly, the lead investigator, Porfiry Petrovich, presents himself in such a way that Raskolnikov finds difficult to read. This creates tension because Raskolnikov finds himself wondering whether or not the police know of his crimes and whether they’re just waiting for him to make a mistake.

Tone Examples in Crime and Punishment:

Part I - Chapter V

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"As though it had been lying in wait for him on purpose!..."   (Part I - Chapter V)

By "Later on..." at the start of this paragraph, Dostoevsky relates the thoughts that Raskolnikov has much later in his life regarding this moment in time. He realizes that there was no reason for him to go home through the Hay Market, and he somewhat attributes this choice to it being predestined for him. This creates a sense of foreboding, as if the crime he intends to commit is outside of his control.

"as he had just before been standing with the old woman..."   (Part I - Chapter VII)

Dostoevsky portrays Raskolnikov in an incredibly ironic situation with these two men on either side of the pawnbroker's door. Raskolnikov is, just like Alyona Ivanovna was, hiding and pretending not to be home. This irony compounds on the scene to create an elevated sense of risk and suspense.

"But perhaps it was Raskolnikov's fancy, for it all lasted but a moment...."   (Part III - Chapter V)

The description of Porfiry's facial expressions above are either being related to us through Raskolnikov's point of view or through Dostoevsky as an omniscient narrator. However, Dostoevsky deliberates uses this ambiguity to make it unclear for the readers to know if Porfiry actually does have knowledge of Raskolnikov's crime at this point, which adds to the tension of the scene.

"I will not attempt to describe how..."   (Part IV - Chapter III)

Dostoevsky personally introduces his own voice into the narrative in this section. By choosing to do this and end the chapter in this way, he creates a tragic but hopeful end to this part of the story with Razumihin finally coming to an implicit understanding with Raskolnikov and resolving to do his utmost to help Dounia and Pulcheria Alexandrovna.

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