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Notes from Underground
Dostoevsky used the Underground Man, a forty-year-old, intellectual man who
lives in the outskirts of St. Petersburg, throughout the Notes from the Underground Man
to project-specific societal ideologies. The Underground Man metaphorically refers to
himself as “underground” when realistically it refers to the fact that he feels inferior to
everyone and everything around him. The narrator attacks the idea of selfish acts
whereby one selects the best available choice that is most beneficial to them. Dostoevsky
criticizes this rational egoism, including normative and psychological egoism, and
maintains that selflessness is the basis of a perfect society. The Underground Man
presents the idea of determinism and utilitarianism in which he argues that free will is
vague and the notion that all choices ought to create happiness for more people.
Dostoevsky’s primary idea was utopianism where he believed in the possibility of
creating an ideal society in which all individuals will live harmoniously.
The narrator opposes the possibility of creating Utopia because he believes that
Utopia underestimates an individual’s yearning for free will. He claims that every person
values their ability to exercise their will more than logic and reason. The narrator’s
masochistic tendencies demonstrate this idea. Instead of submitting to logic which
dictates that it is the doctor or dentist who can cure a toothache and liver disease, the
narrator opts to suffer even though the choice brings him a lot of pain (Levitas 23). This
illustration is almost parodic but it proves the narrator’s point about human behavior and
how the attempt to create utopia could easily result in dystopia. Dostoevsky was very
apprehensive of utopian socialists and worried th...