Type: Literary Analysis
Pages: 5 | Words: 1338
Reading Time: 6 Minutes

The Underground Man symbolizes the typical looser of a modern society, who thinks of himself as of a unique personality and a brilliant thinker, but in the event appears to be totally unpractical. Such people usually live in their imaginary worlds where they think they are cool and try to avoid intersections with reality as when they do they show nothing more than indecision and cowardice.

The Underground man is the character of Fyodor Dostoevsky’s “Notes from underground” on whose behalf the narration is carried out. A forty-year old retarded officer, he lives “in the corner” in one of the bad rooms of the St. Petersburg’s suburbs. “My room is a wretched, horrid one in the outskirts of the town” (p.4) — informs the Underground man his readers.

Thus he is psychologically alone there giving himself up to unrestrained dreams, whose motives and images are taken from the books. The narrator confirms that he is a loner by saying in the beginning that “As a rule, I was always alone.” He highly speaks of his thinking abilities: “I have always considered myself cleverer than any of the people surrounding me, and sometimes, would you believe it, have been positively ashamed of it.”

The Underground Man speculates a lot about the human nature and about the roots of all actions and deeds. This man is indecisive, he thinks of himself as of a man incapable of performing any real action, he doesn’t like and doesn’t respect himself, explaining that he thinks too much and sees too many possible roots of his decisions, so in the end he doesn’t see any sense in performing them.

The Underground Man, however, appears to be a simple coward unable to perform an action, afraid to be laughed at. It becomes especially clear when he talks about revenge: “For forty years it will remember its injury down to the smallest, most ignominious details, and every time will add, of itself, details still more ignominious, spitefully teasing and tormenting itself with its own imagination.” (Part I, Chapter III)

This cowardice shows to us in the episode with an officer who the narrator first meets in the bar and who he thinks he is humiliated by. This small insulting incident can’t simply go away of the Underground Man’s mind. He suffers it all over again for two years and only then writes his offender a letter which by the narrator’s own words was “Imploring him to apologize to me, and hinting rather plainly at a duel in case of refusal” (P.31). Not only the delay of the reaction but also the fact that the letter wasn’t sent in the end and the relief the narrator experienced regarding this fact “Cold shivers run down my back when I think of what might have happened if I had sent it” picture him as a weak indecisive person, incapable of performing a real action.

Even the manner in which the Underground Man addresses his readers “however, irritated by all this babble (and I feel that you are irritated) you think fit to ask me who I am” shows us how much irresolute this man is.

What is rather sad to realize is that this type of the person is not so hard to be found. He can’t be called one of the odd men out in the initial sense; he can’t stand in line with Lermontov’s Pechorin and Pushkin’s Onegin. This character doesn’t unlike the later represent the upper class of the society; he is one of the majorities. Dostoevsky clearly states in the beginning that “it is clear that such persons as the writer of these notes not only may but positively must, exist in our society, when we consider the midst of which our society is formed…He is a representative of a generation still living”.

“The Notes from Underground” are written in the form of the dialogue of the author with the public, the later expressing what is thought to be general opinions and the former contradicting them. The general opinion about human nature is that it lies in satisfying needs and in achieving the interests. However the author notes that the person isn’t aware of what his or her needs and interests may be and supposes that the interest may lie in the constant search for the interest. The author illustrates his thought by telling why the utopia society is impossible to create: he insists that utopia will be ruined by someone who will follow his desires rather than interests. Thus it can be inferred that the happiness can’t be achieved. The Underground Man sees himself as a conscious thinking man and due to him such a person can’t be happy.

The main character can be compared to the other characters described in the novel. Zverkov is a schoolmate of the narrator. Unlike the narrator he has friends who love him and career opportunities. This man isn’t as speculative as the narrator and thus he doesn’t care too much about the consequences of his actions, he is the type of the person the narrator hates most..So, it is obvious that the narrator fails the prey of his own miserable attempts to win the friendship of Zverkov and his friends. And here again he demonstrates the weak sides of his character: he was quite cool in his imaginary world he created for himself from all his books and conclusions, but at the moment he faced the necessity to demonstrate his imaginary superiority he fails. “Oh, if you only knew what thoughts and feelings I am capable of, how cultured I am!” — thinks the narrator for a moment. However his intentions do not come into life.

Such a type of a person as described in the novel is familiar to many of us. I personally met a boy who is a modern interpretation of the Underground Man. He reads tons of books and looks down nose on everyone, as he thinks he is smart as hell. He speaks ill of different kinds of parties, but once a strange episode took place. My friends were discussing an expected night out in the club in his presence; he wasn’t invited, but it seems like he bought a ticket and went there alone and then tried to hang out with my friends there. If someone had respected him beforehand, this last drop of respect went away that night. This case reminded me of a scene in the bar described in the Part II of the novel. Both The Underground Man and The Guy I Know lost their faces in the face of a simple social experience.

The story I have told illustrates such an inevitable feature of a loser as inadaptability, but cowardice and adulation are of no less importance; fortunately, I happen to know a literary character who is a perfect manifestation of these two points.

The literary character who reminds me the Underground Man the most is Ivan Dmitritch Tchervyakov from Chekhov’s “Death of a Clerk”. Both the Underground Man and Tchervyakov are examples of people with weak will. Insignificant episodes occurred in their lives which they for some reasons evaluated highly: Tchervyakov incidentally splashed on the officer and The Underground Man was treated badly by an officer. The two officers might have forgotten about these incidents the moment they occurred, but for the two losers dealing with these problems became a sense of their lives for a certain period. Tchervyakov stalks the poor officer to make an apology, The Underground Man’s story with a walk lasts for two years. It shows how adulate they are, how coward, and it contributes to their loser characteristics.

The indecision of the main character brings him to his imaginary world where he, supposedly is the smartest one. However, the actual life situations show that the man is incapable of demonstrating his strong sides and thus can only enjoy them by himself. This discrepancy between the high self-assessment of the man and his real performances lies in the basis of the novel. The new type of the person, the thinking loser is discussed by Dostoyevsky.

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