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Written by Dostoevsky Fyodor, “Notes from the Underground” is a narration made by an anonymous person. Only known as the “Underground Man”, the protagonist introduces himself to the readers as a forty-year-old man living in St. Petersburg Russia. Dostoevsky communicates conflicting ideologies through the main character and in turn, makes said character’s views about life unreliable if not unbelievable. This paper seeks to identify specific instances in the book that bring doubts on the authenticity of the Underground Man while making said authenticity the central issue in the book.
The views and attitudes of the Underground Man form the basis of the whole novel, because he is the narrator. Dostoevsky uses his protagonist to communicate his ideologies regarding society. In “Notes from the Underground”, while readers acquit themselves with the characters and storyline, they interpret the author’s message in the same. The obvious uncertainty in the ideas communicated by the lead character draws on the attention of said readers who are bound to wait for more contradictions. In this case, the reliability of the narrator is a central issue as he is the voice of the author in the novel. Therefore, the Underground Man’s views are more important than those of the other characters are, especially so because Dostoevsky makes sure the lead character connects the others.
As stated before, The Underground Man has conflicting ideas. The assumed confusion is evident in numerous instances throughout the text. For instance, with regard to his economic status, The Underground Man says, “I am not ashamed of my poverty On the contrary, I look with pride on my poverty. I am poor but honorable One can be poor and honorable” (Dostoevsky 87) However, later in the text there are contradictory arguments as The Underground Man says, “I told you just now that I was not ashamed of my poverty; so you may as well know that I am ashamed of it; I am more ashamed of it than of anything” (Dostoevsky 90) With these opposing ideas, the Dostoevsky draws attention to his central character as readers expect more instances of the same. In other words, the reliability of the Underground Man becomes the central factor because readers try to understand his stand on the emerging issue.
Dostoevsky portrays the Underground Man as a principled man and in turn, uses said principles as backbone for “Notes from the Underground”. A good example lies in the Underground Man stating that, “Anyway, man has always been afraid of this mathematical certainty, and I am afraid of it now. Granted that man does nothing but seek that mathematical certainty” (Dostoevsky 25) In this case, the Underground Man attempts to explain his rationality on the goals of humankind on earth. According to the central character, humanity is tied to specific ideas that cannot change. The principles can also be related to the reasons Dostoevsky gives for the Underground Man’s isolation.
However, with relation to the central issue of the novel, concepts used by the Underground Man about culture are expected to make sense. With this in mind, it can be argued that readers find logic lacking in the main character’s concepts and fail to understand his arguments. This can be attributed to Dostoevsky’s failure to communicate with his readers properly. Consequently, readers pay more attention to the principles in a bid to make sense of the same. In addition, readers can relate to the problems the Underground Man faces but with the aforementioned change in principles, he becomes less reliable and changes the focus of the intended audience.
In conclusion, with the Underground Man being the protagonist, he draws the attention of the reader and becomes the focus of the same. His reliability becomes the central issue in the book as his perceptions on life change while appearing undecided on said perceptions. It is safe to say that the idea of the central issue finds basis on the obvious confusion Dostoevsky inflicts on his intended audience. This is so as most readers, as stated before, are bound to agree with the Underground Man in one instant who in the next appears to change his mind, therefore leaving said readers confused.
Dostoevsky, Fyodor. Notes from the Underground. Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing, 2009. Print.