Dostoyevsky's Notes From the Underground and Martin Scorcese's Taxi Driver

Powerful Essays
Dostoevsky’s Notes from the Underground and Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver, written by Paul Schrader, both tell the same story about a man who is lonely and blames the world around him for his loneliness. The characters of Underground Man and Travis Bickle mirror each other; they both live in the underground, narrating their respective stories, experiencing aches and maladies which they leave unchecked, seeing the city they live in as a modern-day hell filled with the fake and corrupt. However, time and again both Travis and the Underground Man contradict their own selves. While the underground character preaches his contempt for civilization—the ‘aboveground’—and the people within it, he constantly displays a deep-seeded longing to be a part of it. Both characters believe in a strong ideal that challenges that of the city’s, an ideal that is personified in the character of the prostitute. He constantly attempts to seek out revenge, but the concept of revenge, paired with the underground character’s actions and inertia, becomes problematic with the underground ideal. The underground character is steeped in contradiction, and how one interprets his actions, or his inactions, is what ultimately determines whether the he is, truly, an underground man.

Notes from the Underground and Taxi Driver both depict a protagonist, the underground character, who scoffs and scorns at those aboveground, termed the “normal man” (PDF 15). Notes describes the normal man as someone with “normal interests,” who “act[s] in accordance with the laws of reason and truth” (). Notes was written at the time of the Enlightenment, and used to criticize the then-popular theory of material determinism: that “all choice and reasoning can be…calculated” by scie...

... middle of paper ... hero”. He keeps the newspaper clippings praising his heroic endeavor on his wall, perhaps insinuating that he has started to believe that what he has done was heroic, and ultimately justifying what he has done as for the best interest of humankind, and in accordance to the normal interests of “reason, honour, [and] peace” (). Although he regrets it, the Underground Man’s inability to commit to one action, to save Liza or to repulse her, to seek revenge or attempt fit in, is what ultimately keeps him from connecting with others, it is what keeps him in the underground. Travis’ commitment to action ultimately leads him aboveground.

Works Cited

Dostoevsky, Fyodor. Notes from Underground: A New Translation, Backgrounds and Sources, Responses, Criticism. Norton Critical Edition. New York: Norton, 1989.

Taxi Driver. Directed by Martin Scorsese. Columbia, 1976.
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