Realist Tropes In Crime And Punishment By Dostoevsky

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Catherine Belsey refers to realist literature as a text which ‘positions itself between the facts and a type of illusion through a representation of a simulated reality which could be possible but not real’ . Whilst critically dissecting typical doctrines of classic realism, this essay will discuss the extent to which Dostoevsky conforms or subverts to the realist tropes in Crime and Punishment .

Andrew Bennett and Nicholas Royle propose that realist characters should be ‘lifelike’; They should have an element of ‘complexity’ , and these ‘multiplicities should cohere in a single identity’ . Raskolnikov clearly possesses an inner complexity, as he continuously battles between his conscious and unconscious mind. Accentuating Raskolnikov’s
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Raskolnikov’s ‘terrible dream’ exemplifies this, as men violently kill a horse by lashing ‘at her ribs’ . Sigmund Freud argues that ‘the unconscious often expresses itself in the form of dreams’ , suggesting that this dream portrays Raskolnikov’s plan to murder the pawnbroker. Rahv believes that the ‘mare stands above all for Raskolnikov himself’ , as he is continually attacked by his unconscious desires. Jacques Lacan argues that ‘the deeper unconscious wish expressed in the manifest content of the dream can only be comprehended as the coded fulfilment of a desire’ . Beebe supports this, suggesting that the ‘progression of the dreams tells us much about the strain of aggressive sensuality that lies within Raskolnikov’ . The battle between Raskolnikov’s mental state is the catalyst for his descent, to the point where he questions his own capability at committing such a crime; ‘Is it possible, that I really shall take an axe and strike her on the head … with the axe?’ . The repetition of the ‘axe’ clearly emphasises Raskolnikov’s shock and disbelief as his desires are manifested. Dostoevsky employs fantastic realism to accentuate Raskolnikov’s unconscious desires, rather than conforming to the tropes of a classic realist narrator.

Within Crime and Punishment, Dostoevsky employs realist tropes by allowing the setting to create a sense of illusionism and help portray real societal complications. However, the novel mainly subverts typical doctrines of classic realism by using fantastic realism; he uses the enigma developed from the dream to portray an unstable character that prevents a single

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