View Full Version : Dostoevsky

05-24-2005, 06:07 PM
Heavens above! Dostoevsky had but one character to write, one character with many names: Rodion Raskolnikov, Fyodor Karamazov, Alexei the Gambler, the Underground Man, the Ridiculous Man, the husband in A Gentle Creature... This character was a "buffoon," fancying himself the cleverest man in the world yet always pretending to be foolish so he could feel superior to anyone who would think him a fool. When not humiliating himself in the presence of other human beings, he would often philosophize about his own moral superiority, justifying his own actions through the force of his own reasoning. He is a very lonely man, whether married or single, with few friends and nobody who truly understands him. This loneliness twists his logic into railing against other humans, who are invariably less intelligent than he, and against friendship and love in general, because of the necessity of a master/slave relationship.<br> The Underground Man archetype, unfortunately, is one of literature's most enduring images (Tolstoy's Anna Karenina also fits it), and also one of its most depressing. Dostoevsky, like the Underground Man, "could not resist and went on and on." Yet we readers would do well to take Dostoevsky's advice at the end of that book, "But it seems to us, too, that we may stop here."

04-09-2008, 09:09 PM
Although Doestoevsky took pains to claim he did not share his narrator's beliefs, I think he was speaking from experience as the lonely genius. His writing shows just how brilliant he was, and he did lead a depressing life in the dark and rather depressing 19th century Russia. He was the clever, lonely guy who was little understood! Apparently he struggled and was able to find hope in Christianity, and humility through his writing. However, I think its a big mistake to dismiss his narrators as "unfortunate" archetypes. Especially "The Gambler" which reflected his own experiences with a gambling problem (we would now call it an addiction)
We can allow ourselves to empathize, in fact we should, as fellow human beings, without falling into the same trap of self-pity as the Underground Man.