In Fyodor Dostoevsky’s Notes from Underground, the underground man claims that he is inactive. It is this so called “inaction that I found interesting and I was reminded of the underground man while I read Jean-Paul Sartre’s easy, “Existentialism is a Humanism.” The underground man is totally aware that he alone is responsible for his choices, or lack thereof, and suffers the anguish of his choices before he even makes a decision. This is precisely what causes his inaction and provides him with existentialist qualities. The underground man is sub-consciously, an existentialist, in terms of Sartre’s essay.
To make the subject clear, this is how I interpreted Sartre’s “Existentialism is a Humanism.” The three biggest points that struck me pertain to: “Man is nothing else but that of which he makes himself”, “man is anguish”, and “man is condemned to be free”. (Sartre, 1940) The first point only makes sense to me because of its truth. I chose to go to Simon Fraser University to pursue a career that pertains to the World Literature program. This choice alone is what will construct me into the person that I will become. The second point is the result of the first point. Unfortunately, my decision to attend SFU has resulted in loss of sleep, lack of funds and a diminished social life. Thus, I am in anguish. Finally the last point and probably the most controversial point is that I have the freedom to make the decisions I make. For instance, today I had the freedom to totally change the subject of my essay. Despite the anguish it has put me through I changed my topic (twice) and now here I am writing about the underground man and existentialism. I have argued with people on this subject; I will say, “We are all free to make the choices we want.” When I say this the odd person will counter that thought with, “what about people in the third world, they have no choice but to live in their slums and scrape by.” But that statement is incorrect, those...
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