Notes from the Underground by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
I already know this is a book I will need to return too. I can only begin to talk about the inclinations presented in this book. Consciousness, the awareness of self and others, is the main concept within this book. The question is the effects of this consciousness but I feel this isn’t the important view point. It is more important to ask what we will do with it. Consciousness is here, it is not going away. The first bit I needed to reconcile with myself is my wondering if the Underground Man really is conscious. Obviously part of him has to be. He sees too much in himself and others to not have awareness; however what are its limitations? The limitations to me are he does not address the possibility of changing thoughts and actions. The Underground Man will stay the same by his own demands but what does this mean for the reader? Nothing, seeing as the Underground Man states, in the end, we are all underground. You have to make of that what you will.
Limitations are the best way to talk about what the underground is. Consciousness only allows us to see what our situation is. Consciousness does not tell us how to change the situation or our perceptions. In this case, yes, we are all underground. Is there a way out? The enlightenment brings with it the belief that the more we learn, the more we observe of the world, and the better we’ll be. I’m siding with the Underground Man on this one that the concept is flawed and will not work. There will always be an Underground Man, which is how the system works. To be alive is to adapt and often this comes from some weird goof, something that can be good or bad, who knows that isn’t too important.
Another way out to consider is books. Lisa was the first to bring up books and it comes at a key point, while her perspective was changing. Books are the best way to see the world through another person. It expands our view farther than we can. Lives and ideas are changed through words. At the same time the Underground Man was not changed, only Lisa. With her we do not know to what extent she was changed. The most important piece would be not that she changed, but the fact she would have changed because of someone else. The prostitute is the only redeemable person within “Notes from the Underground.” This is remarkable seeing as she is not in an admirable position. No one would like to be her and in her spot in life. At the same time we want to live with youthful hope and openness. The cruelty and carelessness of others is something to be rejected. Even the Underground Man knows we do this and calls it out as he speaks with us. What makes her so different? For one thing she is in a lowly position and has no filter. By this I mean she is not in a place to ignore others. Because of this her reactions gain an admirable quality. The dignity she shows is the last thing she has to lose.
The Underground man also clings to what he is at risk of losing as well. His view of himself is the only thing he regards. How he looks to others and his superiority is what his focus is on. He cannot see others without forming an opinion they must hold about him. He cannot see others only versions of himself in them.