Notes from the Underground Essay

Published: 2020-04-22 15:24:05
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Category: Fyodor Dostoevsky

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Notes from the Underground by Fyodor Dostoevsky, justifies that the underground hero/anit-hero is the universal man that we as a society cannot accept. Can we as a society relate to the ethics of this man, and accept it? The reader is set to ponder on why Dostoevsky would want to give such unadvisable traits to this character? Traits such as: Rude, Bad tempered, Bossy, Spoilt, lazy, unreliable, and anti-social. The answer to the question would be that Dostoevsky does not believe in the norms that the society has set for people.

A few people in our society would understand, as well as relate to his intentions, aspirations, and majority of our society would perceive his actions as incompetent. Dostoevsky implies that everybody in a society acts in their own self-interest, including the Underground Man, and the world he lives in. The Underground Man as well as society, acts to gain advantages over people, or certain situations in their own self-interest. The Underground Man achieves his self-interest by, playing a mind games with his customers from work, using rudeness and intimidation. Genuine wickedness to people is his kind of self-interest.

None the less; here is a character with three other major undesirable traits: perception insight, hatred, and self-punishment for his anti-socialism against society. A problem that Dostoevskys Underground Man has is the same problem the society suffers, which is perceptional insight on their world. The Underground Man, perceives being conscious is an illness that only paralyzes people into a corner of the world, incapable of action. His consciousness makes him aware of all of the opposite elements inside him, so much so that he can never make a decision or act confidently on any of his desires.

He thinks people who are overly conscious, posses more than what they need for survival in the nineteenth century. He states, The more conscious I become of goodness and all that was sublime and beautiful, the more deeply did I sink into the mire and the ready I was to sink into it altogether. (Part I, Chp II, Pg 99) Another statement he makes is,¦the whole nasty, disgusting part of it was that all the time I was shamefully conscious- even at the moments of my greatest exasperation.

(Part I, Chp I, Pg 96) When the Underground Man implies that his great intelligence and heightened consciousness prevent him from being an active man, saying that active people are always disingenuous, (Lacking in frankness) he is rationalizing his inability to act. However, the fact that the Underground Man deludes himself about the source of his alienation does not mean that Dostoevsky necessarily wants to glorify the man of action. He considers active men universally dull and narrow-minded, the very traits that allow them to act.

The Underground Man as well as society makes one set of values correct while rejecting any other set of values, because of what they what to believe in. People are followers of their own rules, trying to block out society, and their environment for self interest purposes; purposes such as making money, street traffic, interaction with others, and etc. He dictates a list of values which are most important, and by which all humans should be driven, as he states,¦the legitimate result of consciousness is to make all actions impossible¦All plain men and men of action are active only because they are dull witted and mentally undeveloped.

(Part I, Chp V, Pg 108) The Underground Man resists the idea of rational egoism, believing man to be an inherently irrational creature. Man will always try to assert his free will, even if asserting this free will goes against reason and self-interest. The Underground Man believes so because, he can think of no other explanation for the way others have treated him in his life. The perplex character of the Underground Man compares to men in society who have failed at love and social acceptance; therefore they feel the need to force false emotions.

These false emotions are variables that consist of: grief, self-fulfilling prophecy, false hope, love, and so on. The Underground Man feels that he is too lazy to achieve the status of love and acceptance from anyone, which shows his mixture of false emotions. The Underground Man states, Oh, if only I had done nothing merely out of laziness! (Part I, Chp VI, Pg 110) Like most men in this society, the Underground Mans irrational logic hides his inner, as well as his outer emotions.

At one part in the beginning of the story, it is hard to catch where he addresses us frequently and directly, calling us gentlemen, (Part I, Chp I, Pg 96) and he constantly analyzes and revises his statements in the fear that we are judging him. The Underground Man treats us like a panel of hostile judges, looking down upon his underground life from our comfortable position above ground, from the vantage point of the social world he has fled. Because we are aware that the Underground Man is conscious of our presence, we must question the validity of any statements he makes about not writing for our benefit.

The Underground Man is a prime example of what is known in literature as an unreliable narrator: because everything we learn from the Underground Man is filtered through the lens of our society. Anguished perspective, we can never be sure he is telling us the objective truth about anything. Dostoevsky ridicules his logic because it all implies that it could derive from hatred alone. One may hate society or a certain group of people, because of societys outlook on what is unacceptable behavior.

This leads us back to the story, Notes from the Underground, where the Underground Man finds himself being filled with spite towards society because; he feels that he wont be socially accepted. The solution most people would feel from this hate would be: to become rude, angry, more competitive, and more importantly confused. While the Underground Man was a civil servant he found himself being rude to the customers, as he clearly states, I was rude and took pleasure in being rude. Mind you, I never accepted any bribes¦ (Part I, Chp I, Pg 96) Accepting bribes is common and widely tolerated.

The Underground Man is filled with bitterness toward all aspects of society, but he is aware that he is powerless to act against it or within it. He cannot even manage to be a wicked civil servant. Instead, he takes his aggressions out on himself, refusing to see a doctor and remaining in an unhealthy climate out of spite. When people speak mean or rude comments to others, do you think of them as an awful person? Most people like the Underground Man act like this because; it is a safe way to let out their emotions without physical repercussions, towards another human being.

Everybody has an evil side in them, some are willing to show, but others are afraid because of the consequences given by the law. An example would be: on the night the Underground Man went to the tavern to socialize, he found himself in a situation where he was being physically picked up, and moved to the side, for he was in the way of the army officer. Instead of retaliating against this officer, he found himself becoming obsessed with revenge after the fact of what happened.

At that point in time, he wanted to be socially accepted by getting into a fight with the officer; instead he found himself being moved to the side like he was absolutely nothing. I could have forgiven him if he had given me a beating, but I could not forgive him for having moved me from one place to another as if I were a piece of furniture. (Part II, Chp I, Pg 137) The Underground Mans interaction with the soldier, however pathetic it may appear, has its roots in ideas of justice and revenge. The Underground Man wants to walk with the officer as an equal, but when he tries to put this progressive idea into practice, he fails.

The people, who starve for social interaction would want so much as a fight to come their way, so in some form they are socially accepted. People like the Underground Man try to balance interpersonal engagements with time spent alone but, yet they differ from the degree of enjoyment, engaging in social activities; such as taking a walk in the park, movies, trying out a youth group/study group, visiting art exhibits, and so on. These different desires are strong functions to spend time alone, verses wanting to socialize with other people.

Going back to the Underground Man, another example of hatred/revenge towards society would be when: he begins to preach false inspiration to a prostitute on how to live life, after the fact of sleeping with her. I turned away in disgust. I was no longer reasoning coldly¦ I was already longing to expound my own favorite little notions which had nursed so lovingly in my funk-hole. (Part II, Chp VI, Pg 177) Interestingly, the Underground Man does not, for once, recognize the literary tradition behind his mission.

He feels that he is manipulating the prostitute with his sentimental language, and he both enjoys and feels ashamed of the feeling of power this manipulation gives him. He does not; however, appear to recognize the sources of his story as readily as he recognizes other literary influences to which he refers early in the novel. Instead, the Underground Man tells us in retrospect, he genuinely felt the things he was saying, even as he was aware that he was manipulating the prostitute. Situations like these give men a sense of dominance, and superiority towards people that are mentally weak.

They lash out all of their social frustrations, trying to make ends meet. This is their way of payback on society. Another relationship of hatred would be between the Underground Man, and Apollon (His Servant). The Underground Man wants it to be known that, he hates Apollon for his rudeness and churlish behavior. The Underground Man states, For years on end we had been continually squabbling, and I hated him. (Part II, Chp VIII, Pg 196) The Underground Mans burning hatred of Apollon stems from a similar desire for domination.

The Underground Man wants to feel he can dominate Apollon completely, as Apollon is his servant and depends on him for wages. Once again this is an example of the Underground Man hating something he has little to no control over. People hate things they have no control over out of fear, this is a common human characteristic in all of us. They try to become dominant towards another person to no prevail. If there was more control applied over what you fear, then there wouldnt be much to worry about, right? Being filled with so much hatred towards society, can ultimately lead into situations of self-punishment.

With the Underground Man symbolizing men in our society, why exactly would people inflict self-harm? People want attention from society, punishing themselves mentally or physically may be their only solution to their problems. They avoid professional help because; they dont want to be considered crazy. The Underground Man shows self-punishment in the beginning of the story, when he refuses medical attention for his dying liver. Still, the fact remains that if I refuse to be medically treated, it is only out of spite.

My liver hurts me well, let it damn well hurt the more it hurts the better. (Part I, Chp I, Pg 96) This behavior is the first evidence we have of the Underground Mans gratification, his enjoyment of his own pain and humiliation. He is punishing himself, in spite of the society. People like him are hedonistic; they want to exert some type of power over someone in a certain situation, for self-gratification. Humans make choices based on complex and irrational emotions, because they have no acceptable logic within doing it.

Their lives cannot be determined by equations based on their own self-interest. Throughout Dostoevskys stories, self-punishment is found in almost all of his characters. The character closest to the Underground Man, would be, the man from The Dream of the Ridiculous Man. Here is another Dostoevsky character that cant find his place in the world, and feels as if he doesnt deserve to live. I made up my mind to kill myself that night. I had made up my mind to kill myself already two months before and, poor as I am, I bought myself an excellent revolver and loaded it the same day.

(Dostoevsky, TDOARM, Pg 206) The Ridiculous Mans idea of self-punishment is a lot more intense than the character from Notes of the Underground, but none the less they are practically identical. The Underground Man is perceived as a universal character in most, if not all of Dostoevsky stories. His struggles with anti-socialism and other traits are similar to all of Dostoevskys characters. Dostoevsky incorporates our human struggles into his stories, to take the reader on an emotional journey.

Dostoevskys characters are leading examples of the people in our society, who cannot find themselves to be accepted, therefore this people want to punish themselves for something they have little control over. Conclusion: Dostoevsky makes his point by introducing characters whose actions are the exact opposite to what is good for them. The Underground Man especially makes choices that go against the societal self-interest values, such as anti-socialism, where time after time in the story he proved he cant handle the social aspects of life.

He does things that seem completely irrational and illogical, if he wants to become happy. He compromises decency, dignity, friendship, kindness, and all other values to his vicious traits, all in the name of happiness. The whole story is a horrible account of the mans anti-social nature and actions; while uncanny similarities rise between him and our society. Why would a man with capabilities such as the Underground Man, not strive every moment to socialize while being happy, free, and prosperous? Dostoevsky answers, simply, but brilliantly, with amazing insight into human nature: Because he does not want to. (Dostoevsky)

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