Literary Analysis Essay on Notes From Underground by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Paper Type:  Research paper
Pages:  8
Wordcount:  2173 Words
Date:  2022-12-18


The note from underground is a book that was written by Fyodor Dostoyevsky who was a Russian. The book is more of an imaginary tale of a man who seems unaccepted in a society where he lives in. The book is written in two segments both of which explain the life of an individual why does not seem to fit in. The first segment seems confusing, and one cannot entirely relate to the ideas that are in it. The second part of the bookies however built from the first segment making it essential to understand the first part of the book before proceeding to analyses the second part. This paper is an analysis of the common themes, styles, ideas, and motives that the rider intends to portray in both parts of the book.

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The book begins with a lament of a man who says that he is a sick and spiteful man who has a sick liver. He, however, claims that he does not know for sure what ails him and yet he still has no interest in consulting doctors. He seems to have given up and does not care if his liver gets worse. He explains that during his time in the civil service, he was a wicked man, but he never took bribes. He claims that the wickedness is compensation for his nature of not taking bribes. He dropped out of the job; however after he inherited a sum of money. In this chapter, the author tends to give us the nature of the man from the underground. He explains the matters that will affect him, a brief explanation of his mentality and his character in general. It is notable that the man is full of contradicting ideas in his mind. He seems to have a contradiction in every aspect of his being. Take for example when he says that he has a problem with his liver and yet won't see a doctor. He knows that it will not cost the doctors anything but still holds on to the fact that he isn't seeking help. In another instant, it is notable that the man has a considerable disregard for tradition. In general, the man is spiteful as stated at the beginning, and he hates the place he lives in, the people around him and the weather (which he claims is bad for him). The chapter also highlights some of these social evils in the era such as corruption that the narrator says that the people of his time are involved in. The theme of masochism is also very evident in this chapter. It is the idea of seeming to enjoy a condition which seems to be painful as seen when the narrator seems to enjoy his liver disease. He knows that it will not cost the doctors anything if he does not tell them of his condition, but he still holds on without telling them.

In the second chapter, he expresses his character as an overly conscious man whose thinking is above that of others. He views himself as a man who has too much consciousness to survive the 19th century. The character that he has makes him see things in a manner that is more beautiful compared to what the other people perceive. The character seems to change from the idea that was portrayed in the first chapter. Despite hating himself, he has a perfect image of his intellect and sees himself as more than average. In chapter three he says that he cannot act in a vengeful manner as other people in his era do. His perception is not like that of normal men who act according to the instinct. Due to his higher intellect, he seems to analyses the situation he is faced with more distinctly. He does not see the idea of revenge as an act of justice. In the fourth chapter, he seems to express his masochistic nature especially when he talks about enjoying the pain of a toothache. In the following chapters, the man seems to have ideas that are way different compared to what a normal man would have. He explains that man acts in a way that seems to show that he is acting due to his own volition (Dostoyevsky).

In the following chapters of the book, he continues to see things in a very different perspective. He even goes ahead to see love as a mistake and the times that he is happy as errors in his life. He sees the people he falls in love with as sources of mistakes. He reasons that the people who fall in love and behave usually are inferior and therefore are prone to such mistakes. He, therefore, feels supreme because he has never been able to start or finish anything. In his ideas, he defines his laziness as a positive trait that makes him more exposed to the beauty of the world. Moreover, he seems to contradict with the idea that man always acts towards his advantage as many of the people in the 19th century thought. He claims that given a chance to choose, man will act in his disadvantage to be obstinate. He, therefore, concludes that the laws of reasoning that many people had in that era. Cannot determine the behavior that an individual has.

In most of the captors, it is clear that the underground man is deprived of love (Kohlberg et al. 354). He is not accepted in any society that he tries to be in and does not fit in with the trends of his time. The idea of being an outcast is seen both in part one and 2 of the book. His longing to be accepted is seen both when he was in school, and the classmates did not accept him and in his job where he is seen as the underdog who does not fit in. He tries to boost his relations with people by first trying to dress in a high-class manner so that people may no longer look down on him. Furthermore, he decides to go to a party that he was not invited to gain more friends. The idea is highly condemned by his former classmates who claim that he did not have any relations to the owner of the farewell party. The deprivation of love is also seen in part two when he narrates about his past. He is desperate to be thrown out of a tavern and at least gets some attention, but ongoing three none even recognizes him.

Some themes also seem to be running throughout the book. The first one is Rationalism. It is the act of basing thinking and analysis on reason and knowledge rather than on the beliefs that can either be religious or cultural (Herman 23). The underground man is seen to contradict with the perception that people have about behavior. The scholars of his time believed that given a chance, humans will always do things that are advantageous to them. Such a conclusion would mean that if people were all to benefit from their actions without harming another person, the three would be a world without pain or suffering. This idea significantly opposes the free will that individuals portray. The man reasons that even if the people are given a chance to choose between beneficial and destructive practices in their whole life, they would still engage in destructive behavior because they have free will. The idea is very logical considering the psychological principles that the individuals have. The human psychology is curious and wants to know what would happen if they did things differently. The brain, therefore, guides the decisions in a way that is based on the expected outcome. The case is very applicable to the narrator who is suffering from a disease yet he still doesn't go to the hospital to seek treatment. The negligence to his condition is not beneficial to him, and neither is it to the doctors, but due to his free will, he stays at home with it.

Another aspect that is common in both part 1 and 2 is the inability to trust one's choices and make firm and rigid choices. The underground man seems to be always unsure of the situation he is in. An excellent example of this is when he talks about his illness. He says that he knows the dangers of having an inflamed liver, but he still is not going to the hospital. This aspect makes him always look at both sides of a situation. He seems always to analyse both the positive and the adverse effects that a situation has then gone ahead to question himself if he is willing to do so. A typical man is firm with the decisions affecting him and is always ready to take action depending on the consequences that an event has (Roberts 209). This is also evident in the part when he buys new clad to face the officer, but his instinct keeps turning him down. He has to convince himself several times before he can pluck up the courage to face the officer. Following his act, he goes home feeling bad and unsatisfied which was against what he had in mind. He is therefore unsure of what he could have done.

Another common aspect throughout the book is the copying of the lack of authenticity in the Russian culture. Russia attempted to copy the Russian culture by classifying its people according to how well they understood the American culture. In his earlier ages, he seemed to worship the European culture He had a fascination in the behavior that the people portrayed especially in writing. He tried to live up to the culture, but due to his highly sensitive nature, he chose to remain authentic to his Russian culture. As a result of the ranking in Russia, many of the Russian people were losing their sense of culture and family activities.

Furthermore, the author uses some of the motifs to express his ideas. One of the most prominent ones is the dullness of the weather and the snow that is seen throughout the book (Cicovaki). The author uses the motif to show the poor and dull state that the man lived and the lack of change or improvement in his life. It is used to show the stagnant development and the sullenness, lack of joy and love that the man had. It may also be used to show the poor development of Russia especially when he says that the weather in the area is not good for him. The sentence may be implied that the conditions in Russia were not favorable for him which made him economically and socially unable to grow. Taj man tries to identify with the idea of the redeemed prostitute by trying to save a real-world prostitute named so that he can become the hero in his own story. The idea is however limiting, and he does not get the expected outcome because he seems to be in more need of help than the people that he was rescuing.

Throughout the essay, he used some symbols to illustrate some themes. The underground is used to show the little development that Russia has. On a normal basis, underground would give an idea of a dark place that is dark and not exposed to the rest of the world. It meant that the man was far-flung and kept away from the other people. He lived a solitary life that had no friends, and most of his colleagues both at work and school saw him as an underdog. In addition to that, it could mean the low development that Russia had and the way it tried to imitate American and European countries in their culture.

The book expresses the materialistic nature of the people in Russia. Being of low class meant that one did not have enough funds to belong to a higher social class (Liu et al. 165). In an attempt to fit in he bought clothes for himself in preparation to face the cop who had snubbed him on the entrance to the bar.


In conclusion, the book is an in-depth analysis of the life of a Russian who claims to have a higher intellect compared to other people. He offers several different ideas about his thinking such as the higher intellect that he has compared to other people, yet he seems unable to fit in and be respected by the same lower people. It also highlights the free will that is based on individuals and the essence that it is not always that humans do things that benefit them.

Works Cited

Cicovacki, Predrag. Dostoevsky and the Affirmation of Life. Routledge, 2017.

Dostoyevsky, Fyodor. Notes from Underground and the Double. Penguin UK, 2009.

Hermans, Hubert J., Harry J. Kempen, and Rens J. Van Loon. "The dialogical self: Beyond individualism and rationalism." American Psychologist 47.1 (1992): 23.

Liu, WILLIAM MING, and SABA RASHEED Ali. "Social class and classism: Understanding the psychological impact of poverty and inequality." Handbook of counseling psychology (2008): 159-175.

Kohlberg, Lawrence. "P...

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Literary Analysis Essay on Notes From Underground by Fyodor Dostoyevsky. (2022, Dec 18). Retrieved from

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