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  1. Similar Books
  2. Notes from the Underground by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
  3. Notes from the Underground
  4. by Fyodor Dostoevsky

He builds up his own paranoia to the point that he is incapable of looking his co-workers in the eye. The main issue for the Underground Man is that he has reached a point of ennui [5] and inactivity. Unlike most people, who typically act out of revenge because they believe justice is the end, the Underground Man is conscious of his problems and feels the desire for revenge, but he does not find it virtuous; the incongruity leads to spite towards the act itself with its concomitant circumstances.

He feels that others like him exist, but he continuously concentrates on his spitefulness instead of on actions that would help him avoid the problems that torment him. He even admits that he would rather be inactive out of laziness. To the reader, the Underground Man has a contradictory personality because he gives the reader concepts that are commendable, but the reader is repulsed by his actions later in the novel. The first part also gives a harsh criticism of determinism and intellectual attempts at dictating human action and behavior by logic which the Underground Man mentions in terms of a simple math problem two times two makes four see also necessitarianism.

He states that despite humanity's attempt to create the "Crystal Palace," a reference to a famous symbol of utopianism in Nikolai Chernyshevsky 's What Is to Be Done? The Underground Man ridicules the type of enlightened self-interest egoism, selfishness that Chernyshevsky proposes as the foundation of Utopian society. The concept of cultural and legislative systems relying on this rational egoism is what the protagonist despises.

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The Underground embraces this ideal in praxis , and he seems to blame it for his current state of unhappiness. In other works, Dostoevsky again confronts the concept of free will and constructs a negative argument to validate free will against determinism in the character Kirillov's suicide in his novel The Demons.

Notes from Underground marks the starting point of Dostoevsky's move from psychological and sociological themed novels to novels based on existential and general human experience in crisis.

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The second part of the story consists of three main segments that lead to a furthering of the Underground Man's consciousness. The first is his obsession with an officer who has once disrespected him in a pub. This officer frequently passes by him on the street, seemingly without noticing his existence. He sees the officer on the street and thinks of ways to take revenge, eventually borrowing money to buy a higher class overcoat and bumping into the officer to assert his equality.

Notes from the Underground by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

To the Underground Man's surprise, however, the officer does not seem to notice that it even happened. The second segment is a going away dinner party with some old school friends to bid Zverkov, one of their number, goodbye as he is being transferred out of the city. The underground man hated them when he was younger, but after a random visit to Simonov's, he decides to meet them at the appointed location. They fail to tell him that the time has been changed to six instead of five, so he arrives early.

He gets into an argument with the four of them after a short time, declaring to all his hatred of society and using them as the symbol of it. At the end, they go off without him to a secret brothel, and, in his rage, the underground man follows them there to confront Zverkov once and for all, regardless if he is beaten or not.

He arrives at the brothel to find Zverkov and the others already retired with prostitutes to other rooms. He then encounters Liza, a young prostitute, with whom he goes to bed. The story cuts to Liza and the underground man lying silently in the dark together.

Notes from the Underground

The Underground Man confronts Liza with an image of her future, by which she is unmoved at first, but after challenging her individual utopian dreams similar to his ridicule of The Crystal Palace in Part 1 , she eventually realizes the plight of her position and how she will slowly become useless and will descend more and more, until she is no longer wanted by anyone.

The thought of dying such a terribly disgraceful death brings her to realize her position, and she then finds herself enthralled by the underground man's seemingly poignant grasp of the destructive nature of society. He gives her his address and leaves.


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After this, he is overcome by the fear of her actually arriving at his dilapidated apartment after appearing such a "hero" to her and, in the middle of an argument with his servant, she arrives. He then curses her and takes back everything he said to her, saying he was, in fact, laughing at her and reiterates the truth of her miserable position.

Near the end of his painful rage he wells up in tears after saying that he was only seeking to have power over her and a desire to humiliate her. He begins to criticize himself and states that he is in fact horrified by his own poverty and embarrassed by his situation. Liza realizes how pitiful he is and tenderly embraces him. The underground man cries out "They—they won't let me—I—I can't be good! After all this, he still acts terribly toward her, and, before she leaves, he stuffs a five ruble note into her hand, which she throws onto the table it is implied that the Underground Man engaged in sexual activity with Liza and that the note is compensation for her.

He tries to catch her as she goes out to the street but cannot find her and never hears from her again. He tries to stop the pain in his heart by "fantasizing", "And isn't it better, won't it be better? Insult—after all, it's a purification; it's the most caustic, painful consciousness! Only tomorrow I would have defiled her soul and wearied her heart. But now the insult will never ever die within her, and however repulsive the filth that awaits her, the insult will elevate her, it will cleanse her The concluding sentences recall some of the themes explored in the first part, and tells the reader directly, "I have merely carried to an extreme in my life what you have not dared to carry even halfway.

The narration by the Underground Man is laden with ideological allusions and complex conversations regarding the political climate of the time period. Using his fiction as a weapon of ideological discourse, Dostoevsky challenges the ideologies of his time, mainly nihilism and rational egoism.

by Fyodor Dostoevsky

Liza believes she can survive and rise up through the ranks of her brothel as a means of achieving her dreams of functioning successfully in society. However, as the Underground Man points out in his rant, such dreams are based on a utopian trust of not only the societal systems in place but also humanity's ability to avoid corruption and irrationality in general.

The points made in Part 1 about the Underground Man's pleasure in being rude and refusing to seek medical help are his examples of how idealised rationality is inherently flawed for not accounting for the darker and more irrational side of humanity. The Underground Man argues that underlying the gilded understanding of society is what he tells Liza will end up leading her down a calamitous path and ultimately destroy her. Where the Underground Man places himself in this messy view of society is rather complicated.

He is very open about his irrational and spiteful interaction with the world, but he also admits that he understands the pleasure in "a doll to play with" or "a cup of tea with sugar in it" these being symbols of a non-corrupted society. The shame displayed here is what separates him from rational egoists and utopian dreamers, but the desire that he sometimes feels to buy into such ideals leaves him on the fringe of society or what can be understood as what drove him underground.

The unreliable narrator is used in the entire story. Although the novel is written in first-person narrative, the "I" is never really discovered. The novel's style is also linked to the St. Petersburg Tales in which there is an unreliable narrator. The stylistic inventiveness, and the insights into the absurdities and weakness of humans seem so fresh and incisive today that if published now a century and a half later Notes would be considered an avant-garde post-modernist triumph.

In some ways this is a heavy text, laden with conversational philosophizing; but the vividness of the narrator make it a wonderful read, and funny.


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Review by Hugh McGuire. If you are not in the USA, please verify the copyright status of these works in your own country before downloading, otherwise you may be violating copyright laws. Production details Running Time: Zip file size: Download cover art Download CD case insert. Play Part 1 Chapter 1. Part 1 Chapter 2. Part 1 Chapter 3. Part 1 Chapter 4.

Fyoder Dostoyevsky - Notes from Underground BOOK REVIEW

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