Crime and Punishment


Part I: Chapter I

Summary Part I: Chapter I

Whatever degree of innocence or harmlessness is still intact in Raskolnikov’s character disappears upon his symbolic entrance into the tavern. This descent into a tavern’s dingy darkness—the first of his life—parallels his descent into the seamy realm of discontent and malice. Though he already seems somewhat disturbed and though the beer seems to calm him, Raskolnikov has now crossed a figurative threshold into the muddled, violent mindset that alcohol induces.

In this opening chapter and throughout the novel, Dostoevsky withholds information to create suspense. He even delays informing us of the protagonist’s name until several pages into the work, when it comes up naturally in the course of the plot. Dostoevsky informs us on the first page that the young man is contemplating some sort of “desperate deed,” but he doesn’t tell us what this deed is. Instead, we are given clues as the chapter progresses—for instance, that it will involve the pawnbroker and take place in her apartment. This slow revelation of detail helps to pique the reader’s interest, creating suspense that adds momentum to the plot and increases the emotional impact of each event or revelation as it occurs.