Understanding Dostoevsky

Topics: Existentialism, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, 19th century Pages: 2 (713 words) Published: April 27, 2005
While confronting Dostoevsky's Notes from Underground seems a difficult task initially, one must be able to transcend the elaborate diction and parodies, and comprehend the author himself, while also taking root the message Dostoevsky had originally intended in the time it was addressed. Understanding the author himself, along with the period in which the work was written, augments one's overall discernment of the passage. In the age he wrote, Dostoevsky must have seemed eccentric and outlandish; nevertheless, looking back on him from today with a literary understanding of modernism, he appears ahead of his time. His central premise, although difficult to determine amongst the satire, is humanity's necessity for freedom and religion, specifically Christianity. In the first part of Notes from Underground, the narrator's jeering monologue, Dostoevsky insists "civilization has made mankind if not more bloodthirsty, at least more vilely, more loathsomely bloodthirsty" (Dostoevsky 1305). He is adamant about man's ability and need to choose right or wrong. Put another way, according to Dostoevsky, the freedom of choice is what makes us human, despite the consequences and destruction our selections might cause. When he begins to reflect about a man who enacts a fit of vengeance "like an enraged bull with lowered horns," he calls him "a genuine, normal person, just as tender Mother Nature wished to see him when she lovingly gave birth to him on earth" (Dostoevsky 1311). His seemingly delusional reasoning is summated when Dostoevsky asks "What sort of free choice will there be when it comes down to tables and arithmetic, when all that's left is two times two makes four" (Dostoevsky 1323). Moreover, Dostoevsky again asks the reader "How much better is it to understand it all, to be aware of everything, all the impossibilities and stone walls" (Dostoevsky 1313). Subsequently, according to the author, "twice two makes five is sometimes a very charming thing too"...

Cited: Dostoevsky, Fyodor. Notes from Underground. The Norton Anthology of World Literature.
2nd Ed. Maynard Mack. New York, London: WW Norton & Company, 2002. 1301-1379
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