11. Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Notes from Underground -...

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Dostoevsky -Born in Moscow -His early view of the world was shaped by his experiences with social injustice. At the age of twenty-six, he became active in socialist circles. -Arrested for his participation in a group that illegally printed and distributed socialist propaganda. Then sentenced to death, but the execution turned out to be only a show and then he spent four years at a Siberian labor camp and then served in a military for another four years. During his time in prison, he rejected his extreme socialist views in favor of an adherence to traditional, conservative Russian value-a change in ideology that is evident throughout his later works. -Dostoevsky spent most of the 1860s in western Europe, immersing himself in the European culture that he believed was encroaching on Russia—an issue he explores in Notes from Underground. -He decided that the theorists of the 1860s were too absorbed in European culture, and too far removed from inherently Russian values. Dostoevsky grew to believe that the way to create harmony among all Russian people was through a return to traditional Russian values, such as personal responsibility, religion, brotherly love, and the family. He believed that theories that seek universal social laws to explain and govern human behavior ignore the fundamental individuality of the human soul, the complexity of human personality, and the power of free will. -The Underground Man in Notes is an example of the kind of problems that modern Russian society inevitably produced. Notes from Underground -Russian history -Realism -Existentialism What is this novel about: -A mock-autobiography -Stream of consciousness -A Western civilization questioned
Plot The anonymous narrator of Notes from Underground is a bitter, misanthropic man living alone in St. Petersburg, Russia, in the 1860s. He is a veteran of the Russian civil service who has recently been able to retire because he has inherited some money. The novel consists of the “notes” that the man writes, a confused and often contradictory set of memoirs or confessions describing and explaining his alienation from modern society. Notes from Underground is divided into two sections. The first, “Underground,” is shorter and set in the 1860s, when the Underground Man is forty years old. This section serves as an introduction to the character of the Underground Man, explaining his theories about his antagonistic position toward society. The first words we hear from the Underground Man tell us that he is “a sick man . . . a wicked man . . . an unattractive man” whose self-loathing and spite has crippled and corrupted him. He is a well- read and highly intelligent man, and he believes that this fact accounts for his misery. The Underground Man explains that, in modern society, all conscious and educated men should be as miserable as he is. He has become disillusioned with all philosophy. He has appreciation for the sublime, Romantic idea of “the beautiful and lofty,” but he is aware of its absurdity in the context of his narrow, mundane existence.

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