Study Guide

Crime and Punishment Genre

By Fyodor Dostoevsky

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Horror or Gothic Fiction; Realism; Psychological Thriller and Suspense; Literary Fiction

Murder, blood, nightmares, ghosts, and a pervasive sense of dread make this book a classic horror story. We also see the very Gothic juxtaposition of the sacred and the profane. The crosses on the bloody body of the murdered pawnbroker are a good example of this.

Based on what we just said, one might assume that the story is a little fantasticso why do we say it belongs in the genre of Realism? Well, you can actually trace Raskolnikov's path through St. Petersburg, and the ideas floating around in the novel are just the ones in circulation in Russia in the 1860s. The story was partially inspired by real events Dostoevsky was reading about in the papers and hearing about through the grapevine. Still, you wouldn't be wrong if you said that aspects of Crime and Punishment aren't very realistic. While stressing the realistic aspects, Dostoevsky also referred to his work as "fantastic realism." Certain aspects of reality are stretched to their extremes, and certain less realistic aspects of reality (like dreams and visions) are explored.

This "fantastic realism" is heightened by the psychological thriller and suspense components of the novel. This is most directly seen in the games being played between Raskolnikov and Porfiry and Raskolnikov and Svidrigaïlov. We want to see who is smarter, who is wiser, and who will win the battle of wits, will, and conscience.

The intense emphasis on the characters' psychologies, coupled with the novel's "masterpiece" status and its continued place on the booklists of literature classes, land it squarely in the category of literary fiction as well.

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