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Dostoevsky - Elissa Patterson E316k/Fall 2003 December 4...

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Elissa Patterson E316k/Fall 2003 December 4, 2003 The Desire for Human Existence Dostoevsky's Notes from Underground strikes a harsh chord, although the sound is one we should know obviously enough, if we are at all familiar with some of the more significant "heroic" figures from twentieth-century literature. For in this work Dostoevsky is displaying up for our examination and approval his idea of contemporary heroism or his vision of what heroism has developed into in modern times. The fundamental driving force of the work is intended to compel us to distinguish some important changes in the capability of humans to build good lives with this example of a man who cannot, or refuses to have even a marginally fulfilling life. Dostoevsky's narrator at once proclaims to us how different he is from conventional ideas of heroism. “I am a sick man….I am a spiteful man. I am an unattractive man” (1852). And the crucial metaphor asserts this difference: he is an underground being. He does not exist in the world where events count. And he lives there by choice, a conscious denial to interact with other people in any important way. This choice does not please him, but he has no absolutely intention of doing something about it. “And the worst of it was, and the root of it all, that it was all in accord with the normal fundamental laws of over-acute consciousness, and with the inertia that was the
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direct result of those laws, and that consequently one was not only unable to change but could do absolutely nothing” (1855). His problem, we quickly learn, has nothing to do with his outer situation and everything to do with what's going on inside him. His disease comes from the reality that he doesn't feel whole. There may be a good deal of detailed medical discussion about doctors, medicines, and bad livers, but it's obvious that his actual problems are emotional. Underground Man is fundamentally unhappy with the
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