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Two Thoughts with but a Single Mind : Crime and Punishment and the Writing of Fiction

By Barber, Paul and Elizabeth

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Book Id: WPLBN0004451114
Format Type: PDF (eBook)
File Size: 1.62 MB.
Reproduction Date: 11/6/2016

Title: Two Thoughts with but a Single Mind : Crime and Punishment and the Writing of Fiction  
Author: Barber, Paul and Elizabeth
Language: English
Subject: Fiction, Drama and Literature, Literary criticism, Dostoevsky
Collections: Authors Community, Literature
Publication Date:
Publisher: Cassandrine Publications
Member Page: Paul Barber


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Elizabeth Barber, P. A., & Zirin, M. F. (2016). Two Thoughts with but a Single Mind : Crime and Punishment and the Writing of Fiction. Retrieved from

Examining Dostoevsky’s narrative choices in Crime and Punishment lays bare the fundamental processes by which novelists make—and are forced to make—choices as they write. Each choice entails particular types of results for the story: desirable, useful, awkward, or even hopeless dead ends. Honed during years of studying the practical problems of creating vividness in fiction, this mode of analysis is based on rigorous use of evidence and deduction. Dostoevsky’s subject in Crime and Punishment is an epiphany, and he chose to write about it by creating a character whose name means “schism” and turning the pieces of his shattered mind into separate characters. Raskolnikov’s friend Razumikhin is named from a word meaning “reason”: whenever he shows up, someone gets a little smarter. The name of the main female, Sonia, is a diminutive of Sophia, Greek for “wisdom”: whenever she shows up, someone gets wise to himself. The fabled coincidences that scholars find in this novel aren’t coincidences at all on the metaphorical level. Dostoevsky doesn’t exactly conceal from the reader that his characters are all parts of Raskolnikov, but he can’t make it too explicit either. If he did, the reader’s ribs would get very sore from all that nudging. But he does put in plenty of clues. For example, Svidrigailov, late in the story, remembers something that had happened not to him, but to Raskolnikov when the latter was all alone. At another point the narrator even gets the name of a character wrong, and it stays “wrong” from then on—unless the casual mention of a name-day ceremony is a hint that the change was purposeful. As the destructive parts of Raskolnikov’s mind are killed or evicted, he moves toward wholeness. But Dostoevsky’s choice here creates a serious problem. When Raskolnikov kills the pawnbroker, his mental and emotional state becomes worse, so she must represent a good part of his mind, deteriorated by neglect. If that’s so, wouldn’t she have to revive for Raskolnikov to recover? But don’t take our word: Dostoevsky will be happy to show you his solution himself. The results of all this analysis not only reveal the devices of fiction and of Dostoevsky, but move the reader from perceiving Crime and Punishment as merely “gripping” to seeing it as one of the most splendid and touchingly beautiful novels ever written.

(From Chap. 1:) “Raskolnikov” is derived from a Russian word for “schism” (raskol). Should we miss the hint, Raskolnikov has a friend whose name, Razumikhin, is derived from a word meaning “reason” (razum). And if we miss even that hint, Razumikhin says about Raskolnikov that it is “as if there really were two opposite characters in him, changing places with each other.” And if all this gets by us, the heroine’s name is “Sonia,” which is a diminutive of the Greek “Sophia,” or “Wisdom”…

Table of Contents
Introduction 1 Historical background of the novel: where Dostoevsky’s mind was in 1865. Synopsis of the plot Part I 15 1. In Author’s Purgatory, or, Old Wine in New Bottles 16 Dostoevsky’s problem of how to write a novel about the workings of one person’s mind, while maintaining the cognitive principles of contrast and coherence basic to literary composition Fig. 1: Icon of St. Elijah (Ilia): details 22 2. Two Thoughts with but a Single Mind 23 Literary problems of and Dostoevsky’s handling of allegory and metaphor; his choice to split both Raskolnikov and the story 3. It was a Dark and Stormy Night 35 The literary construction of symbols and symbolism, and how Dostoevsky applied this technique to Crime and Punishment 4. The Poof! Perplex 42 Handling Raskolnikov’s divided mind; reification as a technique to show Raskolnikov’s possible choices 5. Laughing Yourself Purple, or, The Whore of Babylon 52 Razumikhin; the allegorical names, and why the characters keep saying they are “related” to each other; Porfirii and symbolic colors 6. The Battle of the Gods and the Giants 61 Luzhin, the rational egoist; the literal and metaphorical struggles; the metaphor of Lebeziatnikov’s miraculously improved eyesight Part II 68 7. The Hungry She-Wolf 69 Dostoevsky’s Russian mysticism; the healthy vs. unhealthy in Raskolnikov 8. When Sonia’s Not at Home 80 Svidrigailov, the sensual egoist and liar; his neighbor Sonia’s part in Raskolnikov’s epiphany—more tenets of mysticism 9. The Ghost of Topers Future 93 30 pieces of silver; Marmeladov’s function; how the metaphorical events (not the “real” ones) dictate the time-line 10. Yet Here’s a Spot 101 Katerina Ivanovna; Dostoevsky’s symbolic use of housing 11. Renovations in the House of Mirrors 110 Mikolka and the symbols of repainting: changing motives for the murder; Mikolka and Gogol Fig. 2: Bacchanal before a Statue of Pan: detail 122 12. Hellfire in Arcadia 123 Pan, the Devil, and Svidrigailov 13. Lord of the Flies 138 Svidrigailov’s battle with Dunia; defeat at Adrianople Epilogue: Seeing Double 148 More aspects of Dostoevsky’s use of contrast and coherence, reification, and metaphor; the organization of the novel at the metaphorical level; fire and other motifs; Aliona and Lizaveta • Appendix 168 Names of the characters in the novel and their meanings Bibliography 17


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