Crime and Punishment Close Reading
He was not completely conscious, however, all the time he was ill; he was in a feverish state, sometimes delirious sometimes half conscious.
This is the first sentence of the third chapter of part two in the novel. It describes Raskolnikov after he has committed the murders and he is back in his own apartment. He has been sleeping for a while now and the novel shows evidence that he is slowly becoming less and less stable.
The reason I chose this sentence is because it immediately sets the tone for the rest of the chapter. It shows Raskolnikov in a somewhat vegetative state and explains how his mental state is beginning to affect his physical state.
I thought it was especially important that Dostoyevsky chose to say that although Raskolnikov was not completely unconscious, all the time he was ill. Because he chose to say all the time he was ill instead of just stating that Raskolnikov was sick, it is implied that his illness is not just a temporary status and will continue throughout the rest of the novel, whether it is a physical or mental sickness. Also, by using the word was instead of is, Dostoyevsky conveys that Raskolnikovs illness did not just begin, but that he has been unwell for the past couple of days. This explains his actions in the past, such as his constant fear of raising suspicion. Also, Dostoyevskys arrangement of this statement is important. He could have said he was ill all the time but instead he chose to flip it around and say all the time he was ill which put more stress on all the time rather than just the fact that Raskolnikov was ill. This is important because while it is important that he was ill, this is already something that has been made known to the reader. However, it is not Dostoyevsky has not yet made any reference to the extent of Raskolnikovs illness so it makes sense that the statement would stress this new knowledge.
The fact that Dostoyevsky uses the word He to begin the phrase, rather than Raskolnikov, is another interesting part of this sentence. By using the word He I felt that Dostoyevsky was trying to mirror Raskolnikovs disillusion through his own writing. By using a pronoun instead of directly referring to Raskolnikov by name, Dostoyevsky creates a sense of confusion which is exactly what Raskolnikov is experiencing at this point in the novel. He is worried about being found out by the police and is quickly becoming delirious, so this tactic of Dostoyevskys is a brilliant way of reflecting Raskolnikovs current state of mind. Although it is immediately obvious who he is talking about, by beginning a completely new chapter with a pronoun it is slightly more confusing than if Dostoyevsky were to begin by referencing Raskolnikov by name.
The fact that Raskolnikov is somewhat unconscious in the beginning of this chapter is also important. Throughout the entire novel he is constantly trying to alienate himself from the rest of the world, and the state of unconsciousness is probably the most efficient way of doing this. He has now completely removed himself from everything but his own mind. But while Raskolnikovs goal is to alienate himself from everything, it is really his own mind that is the source of his punishment. So because Dostoyevsky begins this chapter with Raskolnikov lying in bed in a semiconscious state, I believe that he is signaling the beginning of Raskolnikovs downward spiral of self inflicted delirium.
But all the symbolism of this opening sentence is not just in the words themselves. The fact that this sentence is split in half may also be symbolic of the two different personalities of Raskolnikov that are beginning to show through. One being the person who believes he is a superman and is not bound by the law and the other who is in constant worry of being found out after this horrible deed. I also think that it is important that Dostoyevsky combined these two phrases with a semicolon rather than separating them with a period. I think that by doing this Dostoyevsky was trying to get across the point that while Raskolnikov may have a spit personality at times, he is not becoming two separate people within his own mind. This idea is further developed with Dostoyevskys use of words like sometimes, half, and not completely. These words show that Raskolnikov is slipping in between different states of consciousness and delirium and is never completely in one position. He is only half conscious not unconscious, but conscious. Also, he was not always delirious, which could be a reference to the part of him that feels that what he did was wrong.
Through these subtle messages I believe that Dostoyevsky is giving a great hint at what is to come later in the novel. And by mirroring the current events in the story with his writing style I think that he add a lot to reading experience by creating for the reader, the feelings that Raskolnikov himself are experiencing in the novel. It is because of these tactics that the reader is able to feel such a connection with Raskolnikov, even when he is so different from the average person.