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Notes from the Underground

Notes from the Underground


by Fyodor Dostoevsky

Notes from the Underground Theme of Revenge

Much of Notes from the Underground has to do with thwarted attempts at revenge. The Underground Man argues that revenge is more difficult – impossible, actually – for an intelligent and conscious man than it is for a normal "man of action." The reason is this: men of consciousness can't justify their need for revenge. They understand that it cannot be explained in a rational way, so they are paralyzed with inaction. Revenge, then, is portrayed as an outlet for spite. Without an external outlet like revenge, the Underground Man suffers inner anguish for decades when the smallest of offenses are done to him.

Questions About Revenge

  1. Why does the Underground Man feel that he needs a primary cause (like a desire for justice) in order to exact revenge?
  2. If the Underground Man can't identify a primary cause for revenge, as he explains in Part I, then what explains his repeated attempts at revenge in Part II? Is his stance on revenge as a forty-year-old at odds with his younger self, or can we reconcile the two?
  3. The Underground Man plotted revenge for decades simply because a man moved him out of the way in a tavern. Why does the Underground Man take offense so easily?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

Notes from the Underground argues that revenge is always trivial and destructive to both parties involved.

Notes from the Underground argues that revenge is a necessary outlet for spite. Without it, we would all suffer like the Underground Man.

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