Romanticism And Hypocrisy In Dostoevsky's Underground Man

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Hypocrisy is rampant in human nature - we say one thing and do another; we believe one thing and renounce it with one event. This condition seems amplified in Dostoevsky’s Underground Man – a man of ‘high conscious’ and intellect. “To be overly conscious,” the Underground Man writes, “is a sickness, a real, thorough sickness” (Dostoevsky 2006, p.6). This extreme state of consciousness is the undoing for the Man; perhaps even the main cause of his paradoxical nature. The unreliability of the text stems from this dualism against the backdrop of the reigning school of thought at the time, which was rationalism and utilitarianism – liberals and nihilists were most prolific in the intellectual circles (Pevear in Dostoevsky 2006, p.xii). In this …show more content…
After sleeping with Liza, the prostitute, he rants about ‘saving’ her from her fate, but later reproaches himself for being so sentimental and starts to hate her. There are constant referrals to literature within this episode; from Liza telling him his rant sounds something from a book, to the Man becoming angry with himself for giving Liza money (the act being described as being “so bookish”) (Dostoevsky 2006, pp.1256-127). Pevear notes that “one main thematic strand of the book is the underground man’s denunciation of the estranging and vitiating influence of books…”, which leads to him using the word “literary” quite sarcastically (in Dostoevsky 2006, p.ix). However, not only is the episode with Liza, the ‘redeemed prostitute’ a parody of a literary cliché, it can also be seen as a satire on the Man’s ‘high consciousness’ …show more content…
However, we must also remember that he is a ‘literary’ embodiment of the main argument made by Dostoevsky against rational egoism – as Pevear states, not only does the author present to us an antihero, but also an “antibook” (in Dostoevsky 2006, p.ix). We must also be aware of the socio-political climate of the time, and how heavily Dostoevsky had been censored in his work. The Wayne Booth model of narrator unreliability states that this unreliability is a “function of irony” – a channel to communicate ideas behind the “speaker” (the narrator, who is the embodiment of the irony itself) (Olsen 2003, p.94). We can see the satirical nature of the novel, especially in the Underground Man’s encounter with the characters in Apropos, and the inherent humour through which Dostoevsky presents them to us. Pevear states that “laughter creates the distance that allows for recognition,” thereby distinguishing the author from the narrator (in Dostoevsky 2006, p.ix). It does not do to presume that the narrator’s argument holds little validity, at his apparent unreliability. One must go deeper than that and read the author’s

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