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[28] Notes From Underground – Fyodor Dostoevsky

Notes From Underground is probably the most arguable works of Dostoevsky, inviting numerous interpretations and speculation. Most of the undergraduates in discussion sections I TA believe the underground man is Dostoevsky. What about you? “So long live the underground. I already carried the underground in my soul.” This quote best epitomizes Dostoyevsky’s Notes from Underground.

The book is not easy to read let alone to digest. Dostoyevsky again placed some of his favorite arguments in the moth of a character (the 40-year-old underground man) he despised. The underground man self-proclaims to be angry and sick at the very beginning and goes out of his way to offend his readers. The book reads like a delirious man’s babbling, in his own shy, wounded, and exorbitant pride. While a novel usually needs a hero, but here Dostoyevsky had purposely collected all the features of an anti-hero: self-contempt, wounded vanity, conceit, and sensitive ego.

Even though the underground man might be extremely egotistical and has no respect for others, Dostoyevsky never meant for him to have any surface appeal. The recurring themes of the narrative revolve around the underground man’s alienation from society, which he despises, his bitter sarcasm, and the heightened awareness of self-consciousness. He larks to revenge himself for his humiliation by humiliating others. I don’t think Dostoyevsky meant for the underground man to be liked and pitied by the readers. In fact, our anti-hero is inevitably targeted for Dostoyevsky’s harsh satire.

The first part of the book (titled The Underground) introduces the anonymous underground man and his outlook on life. The second part (titled A Story of the Falling Sleet) sees how the man with heightened senses of ego and awareness submerges voluptuously into his underground, motivated by many contradictory impulses. Dostoyevsky paints not only a complex portrait of an anonymous personage who lacks surface appeal, but also a society in which people are so unaccustomed to living and the manners of which that they feel a loathing for real life. Notes from Underground is an egocentric man’s monologue that is abound with fascinating nuance which reveals itself only upon close reading.


4 Responses

  1. […] is vague. It opens with one Nikolai Kavalerov, wretched and self-loathing, distantly evoking the Underground Man, observing the gross habits of his benefactor, Andrei Babichev, a model Soviet citizen who is also […]

  2. […] culture. Ellison associates him, ever so distantly, with the narrator of Dostoevsky’s Notes from Underground, but with a plot that merges him–a young, powerless, but ambitious man for a role of […]

  3. […] Notes from Underground, Fyodor Dostoevsky The Daeth of Virgil, Hermann Broch Invisible Man, Ralph Ellison The Sound and the Fury, William Faulkner My Absolom, My Absolom, William Faulkner Soul Mountain, Xin-Jian Gao […]

  4. There is an it seems to me a deep irony in Notes from The Underground. While the underground man may see through society in some way he does not see through himself at all. He in his bitterness and hate is at least as trapped as those he despises. The best way to escape from a fantasy mechanism is from an attachment to something out side of it.

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