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FREE Barron's Booknotes-Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky-Free
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POINT OF VIEW

Raskolnikov's story is told by an omniscient narrator, a nameless voice that reports to the reader everything that the characters do and say and also what they think. Most of the time the narrator keeps his opinions to himself, simply revealing the thoughts and actions of Raskolnikov and the others.

There's a lot of dialogue (when two or more characters talk together) and interior monologue (when a character's thoughts are expressed as if they were spoken). The narrator makes no comment about these ideas either. But he does describe the physical environment, the looks on people's faces, and the levels of tension between them. Most of the time what you learn is what Raskolnikov sees or feels; that's a clue that he is the central focus of the novel.

Since Raskolnikov is the major character, almost everything the narrator tells the reader is about him too. The other characters and events are described primarily for what they reveal about Raskolnikov. There are, for instance, only a few scenes in which he doesn't appear; and at those times he remains the focus of attention, even when he's not physically present. For instance, we see the conniving Luzhin and the decadent Svidrigailov away from Raskolnikov but only when they're doing things that make Raskolnikov seem like a basically decent person in comparison.


Similarly, the narrator shows you the warm affection Raskolnikov's family and friends feel for him in a few scenes where he isn't present. These scenes help you realize that Raskolnikov has many good qualities that can't be ignored when you decide what he's really like. So while it's true that the narrator doesn't say "Hate this character," or "Love this one," the details you're given lead you to the conclusions that Dostoevsky intends.

An omniscient (or all-knowing) narrator is a favorite device of authors writing complicated novels, because it is an effective method for giving the reader a comprehensive view of several characters. Dostoevsky worked with several other approaches before he finished planning Crime and Punishment. He considered a first-person narration, with Raskolnikov telling his own story, and a combination of first-person and third-person narrators. His final choice was a narrator who could see the events from many perspectives and let you do the same.

Just as the protagonist of the novel isn't an exact autobiographical image of the author, neither is the narrator. His point of view isn't exactly the same as the author's. The narrator is as much a creation as any of the characters is; you have to decide if he's someone you can believe, just as you have to decide when Raskolnikov is being honest. Most readers, however, find this narrator a clear and honest filter through whom they can grasp Dostoevsky's ideas.

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FREE Barron's Booknotes-Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky-Free
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