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FORM AND STRUCTURE
Crime and Punishment has a distinct beginning, middle, and end. Its structure helps to reinforce the title and some of the major themes of the novel. Part One describes the crime. Parts Two through Six explore the physical and emotional consequences of that crime on the killer (his punishment). The seventh part of the novel, the Epilogue, presents the resolution of his case.
A gruesome ax murder is the climax of Part One. Because Dostoevsky isn't concerned primarily with the causes of crime, the events that lead to the murder move quickly and take up only three days. This section also introduces, by name, all but one of the major characters. By the time the pawnbroker dies, everything is in place to bring her killer to justice.
The five central sections of the novel recount the events that force Raskolnikov to confess. When he planned his crime, he was alone-isolated; afterwards he is forced into the company of others. Because he must react to them, he is forced to behave differently and to think differently too.
The last part, the Epilogue is set apart from the rest both in time and place. Raskolnikov is in prison in Siberia. Eighteen months have passed since the crime. At the conclusion of the section he is renewed, reborn, and looks forward to the end of his sentence with hope of a new life.
The number 7 is often considered a "magic" number, with special religious meaning. According to the Bible, for example, God created the world in six days and rested on the seventh. Many readers believe that Dostoevsky deliberately structured his novel in seven parts to make his message about Raskolnikov's new beliefs stronger. Even readers who find the change in Raskolnikov hard to believe have to admit that the structure seems to prove Dostoevsky planned his conclusion carefully and didn't just tack it on at the end.