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Three-Act Plot Analysis

For a three-act plot analysis, put on your screenwriter’s hat. Moviemakers know the formula well: at the end of Act One, the main character is drawn in completely to a conflict. During Act Two, she is farthest away from her goals. At the end of Act Three, the story is resolved.

Act I

Raskolnikov is struggling with himself and his admittedly bizarre plan to murder Alyona, the pawnbroker. He goes so far as to rehearse for the murder, but a bad dream makes him change his mind. Yet, there he is at the end of the first act, killing Alyona with an axe, stealing her stuff, and slipping around in her blood. Unfortunately, since he forgot to lock the door, the innocent Lizaveta comes in and he kills her, too.

Act II

Raskolnikov is now engaged in another struggle – whether to confess, kill himself, or see if he can "get away" with murder. Raskolnikov is eventually driven to confess to Sonia, and, in large part due to her pressure, turns himself in to the cops.


Raskolnikov is sentenced to eight years of hard labor in prison in Siberia. Even though Sonia follows him there, and does everything she can to help him, he still treats her cruelly. He also still isn't sure whether he did anything "wrong" by committing murder. But, after almost getting killed by his fellow prisoners, and then getting really sick, Raskolnikov has an epiphany, which makes him fall deeply in love with Sonia and begin to enjoy the simple pleasures of just being alive – even though his life (we are told) will be very hard for a long time.

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