The Struggle to Achieve Dominance

Within the first few sentences of Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s Notes from Underground, Dostoyevsky introduces the protagonist of the story, an unnamed man who narrates his life, as a bitter and emotionally distant man. These long-standing feelings and self-isolation are in part a result of the man’s rejection from society. However, his isolation comes largely as a result of misanthropic mindset and superiority complex. Throughout much of Dostoyevsky 19th century text, the man portrays himself as an intelligent man who rises above others. Combining a sense of superiority with a lack of reasonable self-analysis, the man develops himself in relationships as the dominant one. Through both his inner monologue and conversations he has with other characters, the man attempts to create dominance over the reader, his coworkers, and even his school day friends by formulating a majority of conversations around his esoteric ideas and values.

As the primary narrator, the man establishes an intimate relationship with the reader. By recognizing the reader’s involvement in the novel, the man establishes a preaching role as he begins to share his stories, anecdotes, and jokes with the audience. Throughout the beginning of section four, the man begins to establish a rapport with the audience as he states, “Why, it’s a calling, a vocation, a career, ladies and gentlemen! Don’t laugh, it’s the truth” (Dostoyevsky 98). As the underground man addresses the audience, he is formulating a one sided relationship in which he holds the upper hand. By addressing the audience one on one, Dostoyevsky makes it apparent that the man recognizes his influence on others and their inability to respond. By formulating an upper hand with the readers, Dostoyevsky begins to establish dominance the man holds throughout his life, evident in the dominance he holds over us all, his readers and servants to his word.

In addition, Dostoyevsky begins to establish the man’s character through his workplace habits and position. After detailing his physical ailments and characteristics, the man begins to touch upon his professional life over two decades prior. Towards the very first two pages of Dostoyevsky’s classic novel, Notes from Underground, the man begins to detail his prior experience as an officer worker. He states, “I used to be in government service, but I’m not anymore. I was a nasty official. I was rude and enjoyed being rude…I felt indescribably happy whenever I managed to make one of them feel miserable” (Dostoyevsky 85). The man makes it clear that despite his prolonged solitude, he often worked to provide financial assistance, however, as dancers continued to find comfort in a solo or a duet number, many felt at ease with the notion of dancing.

Towards the middle of Dostoyevsky’s novel, the underground man begins to tell a story about an experience he had when rekindling a relationship with his school day friends. The underground man invited himself to his “friend’s”, Zverkov, farewell dinner at Simonov’s, another schoolmate, house. From the moment the man walked into the party, the power dynamics had already been established as the man states, “I was something like a housefly in their eyes” (Dostoyevsky 133). However, the underground man does not respond well to being the man of lower rank within a crowd. This immediate establishment of the underground man as lesser than his former classmates served as a catalyst for his disruptive behavior throughout the dinner. For example, amid cheers and toasts, the underground man states, “I want to make a speech of my own, then I’ll drink it” (Dostoyevsky 147). By projecting his thoughts upon the crowd of unwilling audience members, the man proves himself to be the man in power. He overrides their evident unhappiness with his presence and unwillingness to communicate with him by forcefully placing his ideas upon the crowd of old friends. This instance serves to prove that the underground man must always maintain a position of power in order to come out of solitude and communicate openly with others.

The underground man suffers from emotional distress and prolonged isolation, which both leads to and are contributing factors to a worsened case of uneasiness and daily trepidation. After undergoing social rejection for years, if not decades, the man is tired of being marginalized by a select few, thus prompting his desired rise about to power and express his superiority to others. Through distinct word choice and actions, the man finds comfort in garnishing power as a result of relationship with others. The man finds favor as he rises above the hectic matters of life around him to rise into his own world: the world inside his mind. Alone, the man has all the power he may ever need and it comforted by his own actions.

Leave a Comment