Study Guide

Crime and Punishment Versions of Reality

By Fyodor Dostoevsky

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Versions of Reality

Dreams and hallucinations, as well as questions of madness, sanity, and existence, are huge parts of Crime and Punishment. The novel is deeply psychological and most of us can relate to at least something in the book. In this age of talk shows and self-help books, everybody's a pop psychologist. Crime and Punishment is chock full of characters waiting for you to try out your skills on them.

Questions About Versions of Reality

  1. Did this book make you feel a little like you were going insane? If so, what parts, and why?
  2. Do dreams and nightmares play a role in driving the novel's action? Give us some examples.
  3. After Raskolnikov dreams of the beaten horse, he decides he can't commit murder. What makes him change his mind? What does this tell us about his state of mind?
  4. Raskolnikov gets a lighter sentence because he was believed to be (though he denies it) under the influence of "temporary mental derangement." What do you think about temporary insanity as a defense for a crime? What about in Raskolnikov's specific case?
  5. Analyze Raskolnikov's dream in the Epilogue, Part Two, paragraph 17. Does this have anything to do with his change at the very end of the epilogue? Why or why not?
  6. At the very end of the novel, we are told that Raskolnikov will "pass […] from one world into another" (Epilogue.2.30). We don't think the narrator is talking about literal death, but it sure sounds like it if taken out of context. What effect does this phrasing have? What does it suggest about different perceptions of reality and how such perceptions drive our actions and thoughts?

Chew on This

The beauty of the Siberian countryside allows Raskolnikov to focus on the beauty of life instead of the ugliness, thereby allowing him to "see" Sonia for the first time.

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