Notes from the Underground
by Fyodor Dostoevsky
Notes from the Underground Principles Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Part.Chapter.Paragraph). We used Constance Garnett's translation.
But the reason why he wants sometimes to go off at a tangent may just be that he is predestined to make the road, and perhaps, too, that however stupid the "direct" practical man may be, the thought sometimes will occur to him that the road almost always does lead somewhere, and that the destination it leads to is less important than the process of making it. (1.9.2)
The best evidence for this particular principle is the Underground Man's notes, which he can never finish.
Perhaps the only goal on earth to which mankind is striving lies in this incessant process of attaining, […] not in the thing to be attained, which must always be expressed as […] twice two makes four, and such positiveness is not life, […] but is the beginning of death. 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, […] but to […] really to find it, he dreads. He feels that when he has found it there will be nothing for him to look for. When workmen have finished their work they do at least receive their pay, they go to the tavern […] – and there is occupation for a week. But where can man go? (1.9.2)
This quote helps to explain the Underground Man's circular and irrational reasoning, as in, he doesn't ever want to arrive at certainty.
You see, if it were not a palace, but a hen-house, I might creep into it to avoid getting wet, and yet I would not call the hen-house a palace out of gratitude to it for keeping me dry. You laugh and say that in such circumstances a hen-house is as good as a mansion. Yes, I answer, if one had to live simply to keep out of the rain.
But what is to be done if I have taken it into my head that that is not the only object in life, and that if one must live one had better live in a mansion? That is my choice, my desire. You will only eradicate it when you have changed my preference. Well, do change it, allure me with something else, give me another ideal. But meanwhile I will not take a hen-house for a mansion. (1.10.2-3)
This example of stark idealism is where the Underground Man comes closest to filling the role he ascribes to the Russian romantic.