Crime and Punishment at 150 (2016)

Crime, Punishment, and the City : The Changing Role of Urban Environments Since Crime and Punishment Morton-Ferguson, Calder


Throughout Crime and Punishment , the city of St. Petersburg serves as more than just a location; through the way Raskolnikov interacts with the city and the way it is tightly woven into the plot, St. Petersburg combines the roles of character and setting. Its depiction in Crime and Punishment as a city of dualities (in both physical and socioeconomic terms) reflects Raskolnikov’s constant struggle with his own duality of character. By using parallelism, symbolism, and contrast in the novel, Dostoevsky establishes a deep relationship between individual and city that serves to drive both the plot and the novel’s central theme of duality. One hundred and fifty years later, in the face of globalization and urbanization, the relationship between individuals and urban space is again relevant to modern society. This presentation examines the relationship between character and city in Crime and Punishment , exploring how the city of St. Petersburg serves as both a reflection of characters in the novel and as a characterlike force itself. It then extends this relationship and weighs it against the role of cities in modern society. It considers the forces of socioeconomic change, globalization, and technology, and how these factors make the relationship between modern individuals and their urban environments different from the relationship depicted in Crime and Punishment . When these factors are investigated through the lens of modern philosophies and values present in global societies, significant parallels arise between the abstract and the concrete, as exhibited through the ways that modern cities are designed, built, lived in, and represented in contemporary literature. Ultimately, despite the vast difference between cities of today and St. Petersburg in the 1860s, the reflective nature of a city, as exhibited in St. Petersburg’s multileveled mirroring of Raskolnikov, is an element of urban environments that continues to be displayed today.

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