Social Contradictions in Fyodor Dostoyevsky's Notes from the Underground

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Social Contradictions in Fyodor Dostoyevsky's Notes from the Underground Notes from the Underground, by Fyodor Dostoyevsky is a truly remarkable novel. Dostoyevsky's novels probe the cause of human action. They questioned conventional wisdom of what drove humans and offered insight into the inner workings and torments of the human soul. In Notes from Underground, Dostoyevsky relates the viewpoints and doings of a very peculiar man. The man is peculiar because of his lack of self-respect, his sadistic and masochistic tendencies, and his horrible delight in inflicting emotional pain on himself and others. Almost instantly the reader is forced to hate this man. He has no redeeming values, all of his insights into human nature are ghastly, and once he begins the narrative of his life, the reader begins to actively hate and pity him. The reader is forced to ask why Dostoyevsky would bother writing about this troubling man and his problems. The answer is that Dostoyevsky does not believe in the norms society sets for people. This man is the absolute opposite of everything society holds to be acceptable. Here is a man, with intelligent insight, lucid perception, who is a self-admitted to be sick, depraved, and hateful. A man who at every turn is determined to thwart every chance fate offers him to be happy and content. A man who actively seeks to punish and humiliate himself. Dostoyevsky is showing the reader that man is not governed by values which society holds to be all important. The point of Notes from Underground more than anything else is that humans actions cannot be calculated. Dostoyevsky implies that in society everyone acts in their own self-interest. They act to gain advantages which are in their own self-interest. He asks the reader to take that as a given. Society sees happiness, freedom, prosperity, etc. as distinct advantages. These things should be in ones self-interest, society says. If someone say, rapes another person, they are not acting in their own self interest. They are running the risk of feeling guilty, guilt is not conducive to happiness. They run the risk of being thrown into jail. Jail is not a place where one can be prosperous or free. Therefore going to jail or feeling guilty are not in ones self interest, according to society's values. A person who conforms to these values, logically, would not rape anyone.

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