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Time

Symbolism, Imagery, Allegory

I've Had the Time of My Life

We are constantly being told what time it is—when Raskolnikov wakes up, when he plans to murder the pawnbroker, and what time it is when Svidrigaïlov plans to kill himself. And the o'clock party don't stop there: this novel checks the time more frequently than your mom does when you're late coming home from a party.

But, what does all this timeliness accomplish? Well, it gives us the feeling that things are progressing in some kind of order, but it's still a little hard to follow. We're constantly being made aware that time itself is a pretty arbitrary notion. That might be because there are lots of different times going on in Crime and Punishment, perhaps more so than in many novels. (This is why we chose "Versions of Reality" as a major theme—give it a look-see.)

The different times operating in the novel intertwine and confuse us. What with all the dreams, flashbacks, moments of unconsciousness, and hallucinations, the novel seems to be deliberately trying to confuse us. (Thanks a ton, Dostoevsky.)

Since much of this is from Raskolnikov's perspective, this shouldn't surprise us. He's obsessed with time but can't get a grip on it. He loses time when he's acting "mechanically" or when he's dreaming, hallucinating, delirious, or gets too excited.

Which is, you know, a lot.

A good example is at the beginning of Part II, Chapter Three, when he wakes up after being sick:

"Sometimes he fancied he had been lying there a month; at other times it all seemed part of the same day. But of that—of that he had no recollection, and yet every minute he felt that he had forgotten something he ought to remember." (2.3.1)

Look at all the references to time in those sentences. (We bolded 'em for you.) We admit this is an extreme example, and it shows just how ill Raskolnikov really was. (You can't fake a fever, can you?)

Nonetheless, it actually doesn't differ much from his usual perception of time. Though he might know what time it is at a given moment, when a clock strikes or somebody tells him, it doesn't last. He'll be wandering around, talking to himself, and not remembering where he's been or how he got to wherever he is when he comes out of his head again.

This temporal confusion both calls our attention to the fact that this is a work of fiction and comments on the confusion we all face, every day, regarding time. And, oh yeah: it underlines the fact that our boy Raskolnikov is one maraschino cherry shy of a full sundae.

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